Chicken tortilla soup ranks right near the top of my favorite soups. If a restaurant has it on the menu, I have to, at minimum, order a cup of it. When the On The Border chain opened a restaurant in St. Charles and I tried a bowl of their offering, I knew I had found the version. Following my standard operating procedure, I went home and started googling for a clone but had no luck in finding one. I did, however, start a Word doc with an embarrassingly large number of chicken tortilla soup recipes to try. After several attempts at recreating OTB’s version without even coming close, I was stymied.
Some months went by and I was once again searching online for a clone or a clue when I hit pay dirt! On a recipe forum, someone said that she had seen the recipe on the label for OTB’s salsa in 2003; and she listed the recipe on the forum board—score! After doing a jig, I realized that while I had been trying all manner of complicated recipes, the actual OTB recipe was simplicity itself. Not counting toppings, there are only five ingredients—chicken broth, salsa, onion, rice and chicken. The secret is using purchased salsa along with the chicken broth and a chopped onion to get the most flavorful soup this side of the Rio Grande.
To add to my delight, I discovered that my local supermarket actually carries the On The Border salsa in mild, medium (my preferred choice), and hot. I immediately bought some and looked at the back of the jar but didn’t find the original recipe. Since then, they have their website which features recipes using their salsa printed on the back of the jar, www.otbsalsa.com, so I was able to confirm that I had the official restaurant recipe. I made an easy recipe even easier by using a store-bought rotisserie chicken (doesn’t everybody?) so that all I have to do labor-wise is chop an onion and de-bone the chicken. Everything else is just opening, measuring, and pouring. My supermarket actually offers rotisserie chicken breasts so, for me, it gets beyond easy to throw this soup together. I can come home after work and have it on the table is 30 minutes or less. But, honestly folks, if this soup took a lot longer, I’d enthusiastically make it because it’s that good.
As is my fashion, I tweaked this super easy recipe to my preference. I know, I know—you’re asking what could I possibly tweak with so few ingredients? I switched from cooking the chicken in the broth to buying a rotisserie chicken as previously mentioned. I added some water to dilute the chicken broth’s sodium, and I increased the amount of rice called for. I also adjusted the heat of the soup by using medium salsa. Though I absolutely loved OTB’s version, it’s clear they use the hot salsa version; and it’s a bit hotter than I prefer. Now I like my version even more than the restaurant’s!
If I were rating this soup on a 1-to-10 scale, I’d rate it an 11. To have a soup be this tasty and this easy to make definitely qualifies it to be categorized as frantastic!
- 1 cup “On the Border” salsa (or your favorite salsa)
- 2 (48 oz.) cans College Inn chicken broth
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 to 1 whole rotisserie chicken, deboned – quantity depends on how meaty you prefer your soup, estimate 1 to 1 1/2 lbs. of chicken
- 3/4 cup uncooked rice
- 1/2 to 1 cup finely chopped cilantro
- Avocado, cubed
- Shredded Mexican cheese blend of your choice
- Tortilla chips (I like the tri-colored tortilla strips)
Bring chicken broth, onion, 3 cups water, and salsa to a boil in an 8-qt. saucepan. Lower heat and simmer for 5 or 10 minutes before adding rice to broth. Cook about 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Add chopped chicken and cilantro.
College Corner Notes
Students–it doesn’t get any easier than this as long as you can get to a supermarket and pick up a rotisserie chicken. This recipe is easily halved; but, if you’re cooking for roommates and you want lots of leftovers, then make the original. Keep in mind that you will need a large pot, preferably an 8-quart.
Source: Adapted from an On The Border recipe