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March 29, 2010

Recipe for sopa de lima (Mexican lime and tortilla soup)

Sopa de lima (Mexican lime and tortilla soup)

My first encounter with this soup happened in the perfect setting: a small roadside restaurant in a small roadside village in central Mexico, on a hot, dusty afternoon. The sour flavor of the lime surprised my taste buds; I was expecting tomato and chile pepper, but what I got was an amazing explosion of citrus-salt-heat. This is the soup that will cure your head cold. And maybe it will remind you of Mexico, too. Though the soup sounds exotic, all of the ingredients are available in the grocery store. A rotisserie chicken makes it easy. You can prepare the soup base far ahead of time, and store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Sopa de lima

A slightly different version of this recipe, adapted from Latin & Carribbean Stores Demystified, by Linda Bladholm, first appeared on The Perfect Pantry. Serves 10-12.


6 corn or whole wheat or oat bran tortillas
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced, plus 1/2 tsp adobo sauce
2 tsp dried Mexican oregano (or regular oregano)
2 bay leaves
1 28-oz can chopped tomatoes (I use Pomi chopped tomatoes, in a box)
10 cups chicken stock (homemade or low-sodium canned)
Juice of 4 limes, plus the rinds (8 halves of squeezed lime)
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded (or 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast)
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Chopped garnishes (use some or all, to your taste): diced red onion, chopped avocado, crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese, cilantro leaves


Preheat oven to 425°F. Slice tortillas into thin matchsticks, 2-3 inches long and 1/4-inch wide (try to make them somewhat irregular in shape; it will look better), and spread on a cookie sheet. Leave out on the countertop to get a bit stale while you prepare the soup.

In a stockpot, heat the oil. Sauté onion until soft, 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and chipotles, and stir for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, and stir 2-3 minutes. Add the 1/2 tsp adobo sauce, stock, lime juice, lime halves, oregano and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Add shredded chicken, and season with salt and pepper. Remove lime rinds. Set soup aside, covered. (If making ahead, cool soup completely, and refrigerate or freeze. Reheat before serving.)

Bake the tortilla strips for 10 minutes, or until crisp and browned. Stir half of the tortilla strips into the soup, and let sit for 5 minutes. Ladle soup into individual serving bowls, and garnish with more crispy tortilla strips and your choice of garnishes. 

Print recipe only.


Posted by: Kalynskitchen | March 29, 2010 at 11:44 AM

I love tortilla soup, but never thought of making it with wheat or oat bran tortillas; great idea!

Posted by: T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types | March 29, 2010 at 11:25 PM

Soup for a crowd! I've got to find those oat bran tortillas!

Posted by: Cookin' Canuck | March 29, 2010 at 11:26 PM

How I love the smokiness of chipotle peppers and they pair really nicely with the brightness of lime juice. My husband loves tortilla soup, but I have never made it for him. Now's the time!

Posted by: Maria | March 30, 2010 at 09:43 AM

I love all of the fun toppings.

Posted by: tasteofbeirut | March 30, 2010 at 10:08 AM

Ever since I saw the recipe in a Food& Wine years ago, I have been wanting to make it!
I found some Persian limes (that we eat in Lebanon) and my lady -helper friend who is from Mexico thought they were so similar to the lemons used in that soup; in any case, thanks so much for publishing a simplified version of this soup which I will bookmark!

Posted by: Kath | March 30, 2010 at 10:39 AM

That looks delicious! I'm going to bookmark this to try it.

Posted by: Lydia | March 30, 2010 at 10:58 PM

Kalyn, I use those oat bran tortillas for everything, and they make a wonderful crunchy topping for this soup.

TW, great for a crowd, or frozen in smaller portions to have when you feel like taking a bit of a Mexican holiday!

Cookin' Canuck, the chipotles really add zing to this soup. I love them, too.

Maria, so do I. My favorite is chunks of avocado, some queso, and tortilla strips, but if you like cilantro and raw onions, pile those on, too.

Taste of Beirut, the Persian limes would be delicious in this soup. I do hope you'll try it.

Kath, hope you like it!

Posted by: Biz | May 30, 2010 at 12:53 PM

We are doing a Mexican themed Memorial Day tomorrow - its supposed to be cooler and rainy so I may make this as our appetizer - love all the lime!

Posted by: Andrew | February 5, 2013 at 02:10 PM

Looking forward to trying this recipe! Just a quick question. What's the garlic-chili puree, and how much adobo sauce is needed total? Is it 1/2 tsp in addition to the sauce the chipotles are in?


Posted by: Lydia (Soup Chick) | February 5, 2013 at 02:15 PM

Andrew, good catch! I am correcting the recipe immediately! No puree. And the 1/2 tsp of adobo sauce is not in addition -- you add the peppers first, then the sauce.

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  • I'm Lydia Walshin, a longtime food writer who lives and cooks in a real log house. If I could, I'd eat Chinese noodles, grapes, ice cream and soup every day.
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