I first became obsessed with tortilla soup while living in LA. I loved the textural components of the dish—crunchy tortilla strips, creamy avocado, tangy cheese, the smooth silkiness of puréed chilies and tomato—and ate it for lunch almost every day.
Making this soup in a single pot seemed tricky at first, since most recipes will have you using dried chilies and puréeing the soup in batches. I decided to use some quick cheats to pack in flavor and cut down on time, while still ending up with a soup that delivers those same textural elements I love.
The first step was replacing the traditional chilies with chipotles in adobo, to give the soup a concentrated complexity without expending time or effort. Cooking onions and poblanos with aromatic spices like cumin and oregano further enhanced the dish, while frozen corn and chicken stirred in at the end bulked up the soup and gave it a sweet bite.
Finishing the soup can be a matter of debate. Feta, though clearly not Mexican, has similar qualities to a queso fresco and makes an easy substitute. If you prefer something less creamy, you can try a ricotta salata instead. I also offer two different ways of making the tortilla strips—both are quick, but one is a non-fried alternative that I've become especially fond of.
For cold, wintery days (and yes, even when the sun is shining in southern California), this flavorful soup can be put together in just 20 minutes for a filling and delicious meal.