This Mexican chicken soup is authentic Yucatan fare that’s simply broth, avocado, lime, tortilla, and rice. The sum is far more than the parts. And it’s comforting as heck.
Mexican Chicken Soup
- Quick Glance
- Quick Glance
- 30 M
- 3 H
- Serves 8 to 10
Line a plate with a paper towel or a cotton kitchen towel. Set a medium-ish skillet, preferably cast-iron, over medium heat. Spoon enough lard or coconut oil into the skillet so that it reaches about 1⁄2 inch (1 cm) up the side of the skillet when it melts.
Once the fat has melted completely and begins to shimmer, test the oil by dropping a tortilla strip into the hot fat. The oil is ready when the tortilla immediately sizzles and then crisps and turns a golden brown in about 60 to 90 seconds. Working in batches so as to take care not to crowd the pan, fry the tortilla strips, turning as necessary, until crisp and golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tortilla strips to the towel-lined plate and let them cool. Turn off the heat.
Nestle the whole chicken in a large stock pot and pour enough water into the pot to cover the chicken by 2 inches (5 cm). Bring the water to a gentle boil over medium-high heat and then immediately reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover, and very gently simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the meat shreds easily with a fork, about 2 hours.
When the chicken is cooked through, turn off the heat. Remove the chicken from the pot and plonk it on a plate to rest until it’s cool enough to handle. Remove and discard the skin. Pull the meat from the bone and shred it with a fork.
Strain the cooking liquid, or stock, through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the solids. Wipe out the pot and then return the strained stock and reserved chicken meat to the pot. Stir in the onion, rice, and 2 teaspoons salt and then bring to a simmer over medium heat. While the soup warms, squeeze the juice of 1 to 2 limes into the pot. Continue cooking until the onion is soft and translucent and the chicken is warmed through, about 10 minutes. Taste the finished soup and if it tastes bland add a little more lime juice and salt as needed.
While the soup is cooking, finely chop the remaining 2 limes, peel and all. [Editor’s Note: If the only limes you can find have thick peels, simply juice the remaining 2 limes rather than chop them.] Ladle the soup into bowls, being certain to scoop some rice from the bottom of the pot, and serve with the lime, sliced jalapeño, crumbled Cotija cheese, sliced avocado, and tortilla strips on the side for each person to add to his or her bowl as desired.
Recipe Testers' Tips
I really love this soup. It’s everything a simple chicken soup should be—comforting and soothing and perfectly balanced in its flavors. I loved how easy it was to customize your bowl to your own taste with the various toppings. The soup itself is very subtle in flavor but the addition of the lime juice rounds it out nicely. I think there needs to be some leeway on the amount of lime juice. My chicken was on the larger side (3 1/2 pounds) so I needed a lot of water to cover it. As such, after I added the juice of 1 lime to the finished soup, there was absolutely no taste of lime at all. However, I juiced a second lime and added it (1/4 cup lime juice total) and all of a sudden everything came into balance. It was a subtle but lovely lime flavor. Perhaps with a smaller chicken and less water, I may not have needed 2 full limes. The chicken shredded easily with a fork after 2 hours and was meltingly tender.
The smallest chicken I could find was a 5.98 lb organic roaster, so I just doubled the recipe. From there, we added two medium onions and juice from two limes and simmered for another 15 minutes. As this was a BIG pot of soup that would take several nights to consume, I didn't want the rice soaking up all the liquid and getting soggy so we decided to serve the soup buffet-style. Once the soup was done, each person portioned out the amount of rice, shredded chicken, avocado, cheese, and cilantro that they wanted. We served with additional limes wedges, and the result was stupendous. It was filling, nourishing, and the scent of lime and onion made it just different enough to be interesting, without losing the comforting feeling of having chicken soup and rice for dinner. My husband commented that it almost tasted like good pho. This is definitely going into the permanent rotation with a few minor tweaks. First off, the stock is much too single-dimensional for me. Without roasting the bones or adding even a carrot to the stock, the liquid that resulted was anemic in flavor. Yet. I recognized that the intent of this recipe was for pure, bright flavors, so adding a whole bunch of aromatics to the stock wasn't exactly the right way to go either. Besides, with the lime and cilantro, there would be plenty of aromatics at the end. I think using a rotisserie chicken or adding roasted bones of some sort to the soup would go a long way. Our fix was to add a tablespoon of Penzey's chicken stock. It instantly boosted the chicken flavor without overwhelming it with other aromas that would have detracted from the final result.