Here’s a tried and true recipe that we teach at the De La Tierra cooking school in Oaxaca. As we try to teach the history of the cuisine as well as the dish itself, I’ve spoken to many people, searched the net and scoured cookbooks to discover the origins of this soup, but to no avail.

Recently, the most frequently mentioned bit of information I hear is that Sopa Azteca is Obama’s favorite Mexican first course. We can speculate from this that it nourishes the body sufficiently to sink some pretty nice three pointers, but we can’t know for sure. What we can know is that this is a sublime dish. The rich broth, smoky Pasilla chile, tender chicken, crisp tortillas and smooth avocado all help to explain it’s prominence on Mexican menus the world over.

  • Yield: 4 portions
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Total: 1 hour
  • Active: 40 mins

Ingredients (14)

  • vegetable oil for shallow frying
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 1/2 small white onion, sliced
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 corn tortillas, cut into strips
  • 6 dried pasilla chiles, stemmed, seeded then pressed flat
  • 6 oz shredded chicken*
  • 3 oz queso fresco, diced*
  • 1 large ripe avocado, diced
  • 2 limes, halved
  • chopped cilantro
  • 2 oz white onion, finely diced
  • salt


  1. Fill a wide-base pan with enough oil to create a depth of around 1cm, and heat on a medium flame. The oil is hot enough when the corner of a tortilla strip sizzles when introduced. At this point, add half the tortilla strips to the oil and gently fry until crisp and lightly golden. Remove and drain on paper towel, then repeat the process with the remaining tortilla.
  2. In the same oil, fry the chile Pasilla briefly until it changes colour and puffs up. Be sure not to fry any longer than required: 5 seconds on each side will do, much more make the chile bitter.
  3. Reduce the heat slightly, then add the onion and garlic and fry gently for 4-5 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent. Remove, let cool slightly then place in the blender with the chopped tomatoes and process to a smooth paste.
  4. Take a small amount of the oil from the pan (about 2 tablespoons), and heat it in a medium size pot. When hot, add the pureed tomato paste and fry, stirring all the while. When the paste has has reduced to half, add the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Season and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. To serve, fill each bowl with the prepared garnishes of tortilla, chicken, chile Pasilla, queso fresco and avocado. Prepare a plate of the halved lime, chopped cilantro and finely diced onion for the table. Pour equal portions of soup into each bowl and serve immediately.
  6. Notes: For the best and truest preparation of the chicken, gently poach 2 de-boned thighs in the chicken stock for 40 minutes. Let cool, then slice or pull apart. If queso fresco is unavailable, a young cow’s milk feta is a fair substitute.