This ancho chile soup is a breathtaking bowl of authentic Mexican-inspired magnificence. The broth, made from charred ancho chiles and vegetables, is simple to make yet complex in taste with incredible depth of flavor and a noticeable but not overwhelming ancho heat. The chile-spiked broth is balanced with crumbled salty cheese, creamy avocado, and sour cream and makes an incredibly satisfying soup.–Angie Zoobkoff
Ancho Chile Soup
For the ancho chile broth
- 3 dried ancho chiles (about 25 grams)
- Boiling water
- 4 medium plum tomatoes, cored
- 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 1 small white onion, halved and unpeeled
For the fried tortilla strips
- 1/2 cup mild vegetable oil
- 8 corn tortillas, cut into strips
For the fried pasilla chiles (optional)
- 8 small dried pasilla chiles (aka chile negro)
Make the ancho chile paste
- Heat a 6-quart (5.7-liter) Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high. Cook the ancho chiles, flipping once, until lightly toasted and more pliable, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Transfer the ancho chiles to a bowl and add enough boiling water to cover. Let the ancho chiles soak, weighting them if necessary with something to keep them submerged, until softened, about 30 minutes.
- Drain the ancho chiles, reserving the soaking liquid. Remove and discard the stems and seeds and toss the ancho chiles in a blender.
- Return the Dutch oven to medium-high heat and add the whole cored tomatoes, whole garlic cloves, and onion halves. Cook, turning with tongs as needed, until each ingredient is blackened all over, about 10 minutes for the garlic and 15 to 20 minutes for the onion and tomatoes. As each ingredients is done, transfer it to the blender.
- Purée the ancho chiles, tomatoes, garlic, and onion until smooth. (It’s okay, go ahead and keep the skins on the tomatoes and garlic. You’ll strain the sauce later.) If the purée seems incredibly thick, you can add a little of the reserved chile soaking liquid, a spoonful at a time, to thin it slightly. Pour the purée through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.
Fry the tortilla strips
- While the ancho chiles soak, place a wok or deep saucepan over medium-high heat, add the oil, and heat until hot but not smoking. Add a handful of tortilla strips, being careful not to crowd the pot. Fry the tortilla strips, turning as necessary, until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the crisped tortillas to a plate lined with paper towels or a brown paper bag. Repeat with the remaining tortilla strips.
Fry the pasilla chiles (optional)
- Return the wok or pan with the oil from the tortilla strips to medium-high heat. Fry the pasilla chiles, flipping once, until puffed and crisp, about 5 minutes total. Watch the pasilla chiles carefully as they go from toasted to scorched in seconds and since they’re already dark in color it’s easy to burn them. Transfer the fried pasilla chiles to a brown paper bag to drain.
Make the ancho chile soup
- Clean the Dutch oven or pot from the ancho chile paste and place over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat until hot but not smoking. Add the reserved ancho chile purée and cook, stirring constantly, until reduced slightly, about 6 minutes. Add the broth or stock as well as salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. Divide the queso fresco and cilantro among the bowls and then ladle the ancho chile soup on top. Crumble 1 fried pasilla chile over each bowl of soup and garnish with cilantro, a dollop of crema or sour cream, sliced avocado, and tortilla strips.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Wow! This ancho chile soup turned out to be much more than just the sum of its parts! The ancho chili soup broth is thin and light with just a touch of heat—mild ancho chiles bring more sweet than heat in this case. Combined with the salty pop from the cheese hiding at the bottom of the bowl, the crisp tortilla strips on top, the smokiness from the fried pasilla peppers, the creamy texture from the avocado and sour cream, and the herbal notes from the cilantro, it all came together to build a surprisingly complex and satisfying bowl of delicious Southwest flavor.
I used a homemade broth, so the soup was very lightly salted and tasted a little bland to begin with, but the salt from the cheese balanced the final dish nicely. I prefer a little more heat so added some hot sauce at the table.
I served the garnishes on the side and let each guest dress their bowl—do encourage everyone to add a generous amount of the crisp fried pasilla peppers. I served one on the side of each bowl and let everyone crumble it in as they pleased. The peppers look hot but are actually very mild, adding a smoky dark note that beautifully balances the creamy cheese and avocado.
It seems like a lot of components, but each one brings something different to the party, so do offer them all! I also put some hot sauce on the table for those who wanted to add a little more heat. I was really surprised at how lovely this dish was. I added this to a taco night dinner and it was the surprise hit of the night.
I’ll be making this again and again. It served 6 people—with not a drop left! I served 1 pasilla pepper to each guest, and after we had fun rattling them around a little—they had puffed up and the seeds inside made them sound like little Mexican maracas—we crumbed them into the soup. If you added some shredded chicken or pork, this would easily serve as a light entree.
This ancho chile soup turned out to be a well-balanced broth base for a weeknight pozole or chickpea soup. The soup itself resembles the method for making a chile sauce for tamales but the addition of tomato and stock easily takes it to soup realm.
I used a stainless steel Dutch oven and NOT my enameled cast iron Dutch oven. The scorching of the tomatoes, onions, and garlic is much easier to clean off metal.
While the stock is coming to a boil, you have time to fry the tortilla strips if you didn’t do so earlier. Toasting the anchos just takes a few minutes and they soak while you proceed with the rest of the recipe. Charring the pasillas (aka chile negro) happens very quickly and since they’re dark it’s easy to miss if you overdo it. They seem to be a garnish rather than integral to the soup. I didn’t think the pasilla chiles added that much.
I used 3 small corn tortillas cut into strips for two people (will fry fresh ones for additional servings later). The thin soup works well with the queso fresco and fresh cilantro, avocado and tortillas. I used thick yogurt in place of the crema or sour cream.
It’s a good recipe for a dinner party as you could make it ahead and it looks dramatic. Overall, this was a little over an hour, start to table. It’s easy, just takes a little patience. I will use the leftover soup with some hominy or chickpeas to make it a more complete single course meal. Charred corn could also be added to the bowls.