Easy Chicken or Turkey Tortilla Soup

It's crazy, isn't it, how all the food people are telling us how to cook our turkeys? tempting us with perfect sides? getting us to rethink dessert a dozen times? wondering whether you should offer an appetizer?

Well here's my simple advice. Make soup. Yes, you read that right, MAKE SOUP. Not for Thanksgiving dinner itself but so that before you start cooking for the big day, there is something in the fridge that can be eaten on Wednesday night or a light lunch, all before everyone sits down to the table to give thanks.

Easy Chicken or Turkey Tortilla Soup Recipe

American Thanksgiving is next week, my food world is all a-flutter but I’m hoping for low-key this year, something simple.

But one thing I know? The first thing I’ll make on Wednesday, before gearing up for all the day-before Thanksgiving cooking? A big pot of hearty soup.

SLOW COOKERS I know, I know, you’d like to know if this soup can be made in a slow cooker. It just might – I’d recommend 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. But the honest answer is that I’m tired of slow cookers not saving but sabotaging dinner.

UNRELIABLE HEAT, HOT & COLD For 20 years, I loved a West Bend slow cooker – a smallish slow cooker with a stovetop-safe nonstick cooker for browning – but it went kaput awhile back.

I bought two or three slow cookers in quick succession – one lid broke; one was just too hot. I bought a promising set of three stackable cookers (medium, large, huge) with a single base, all of them run hot.

Then I learned West Bend still sells a version of my long-time favorite slow cooker and ordered one on the spot. Acck – what a disappointment: the base got warm but not hot, nothing would cook. West Bend replaced the base and the new one seems to work fine. But I remain wary, one eye on the slow cooker, another on the pizza delivery number.

TEXTURE One more thing. I sense a texture and “layers of flavor” difference between slow cookers and stovetop or oven cooking. Slow cookers seem to just meld everything together into a kind of messy one-ness. Convenient? Sure. But with a notable loss in good food.

GIVING UP? But I haven’t given up. Last spring I bought two highly vaunted slow cooker cookbooks and vow to keep trying new recipes throughout the winter. If you have one you love, I’d sure appreciate it if you’d share the recipe.

ALANNA’s TIPS If you don’t have cooked chicken or turkey on hand, just bake 1-1/2 pounds chicken breasts on a baking sheet at 350F for 25 minutes or until the juices run clear. Let cool, then cut into bite-size pieces.


Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Time to table: 3 hours
Makes 9 cups
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 ribs celery, trimmed & diced
  • 15 ounces canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 15 ounces canned corn
  • 15 ounces canned diced tomatoes
  • 15 ounces (2 cups) chicken stock
  • 8 ounces canned mild green chiles
  • 1 cup mild salsa
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons cumin
  • 4-1/2 cups cooked chicken, rotisserie chicken or cooked turkey
  • Baked Corn Tortilla Strips
  • Grated cheddar cheese, sour cream or guacamole

In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt butter until shimmery. Add celery and cook just until soft. Add black beans, corn, tomatoes, stock, chiles, salsa, garlic and cumin. Bring to a boil, add the cooked chicken or turkey.

STOVETOP Let simmer on the stoveop for 2 hours, adjusting heat as necessary to maintain a slow simmer.

OVEN Place in a 225F oven for 2 hours.

TO SERVE Spoon soup into bowls, top with a sprinkle of cheddar, a dollop of sour cream and guacamole and a few corn tortilla strips.

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cup, Soup Only/Garnished Soup (assumes 1/2T cheddar and sour cream, Baked Tortilla Strips): 180/223 Calories; 4/7g Tot Fat; 1/2g Sat Fat; 24/30mg Cholesterol; 674/701mg Sodium; 23/25g Carb; 4/5g Fiber; 4g Sugar; 14/15g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 3/4, PointsPlus 4/6 This recipe has been Alanna-sized with reductions in fat and protein.
Adapted from a recipe from Chez Marilyn in Alton, Illinois, an old river town upriver from St. Louis. I first made this soup last spring when I made it for my column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, serving it for friends for dinner. Ever since, it’s been a go-to hearty soup.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite pre-Thanksgiving recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

This Week, Years Past 2002 - 2011

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This Week, Elsewhere

Highway 61 Roadhouse Green Beans from Highway 61 Roadhouse
~ more St. Louis Restaurant Recipes ~
My Column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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A Veggie Venture

More Hearty Soup Recipes

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© Copyright 2012 Kitchen Parade

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Karen G11/19/2012

    Got your column about the slow cooker as I was preparing for Thanksgiving, which prompted my email. I love your column! Staples at our house include Oven-Baked Brown Rice, One Pot Chicken with Beans and Vegetables, and Asian Chicken Salad.

    I've had the same problem with the slow cooker - sometimes it works, sometimes it just muddles the flavors. The best cookbook I've found is Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. They have several cranberry sauce recipes in there, which led me to adapt my own (below). The recipes for Overnight Steel-Cut Oatmeal, Ratatouille, several chili recipes, Applesauce, and Easy Cheesy Ravioli Casserole are all great. (That last one works well in the 2 quart slow cooker for the one that has 3 inserts - I have that one, too. Just cut the recipe in half - it's better than when cooked in the oven, believe it or not.) The Salsa Chicken is pretty good, too - lime brightens the flavor at the end.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. I cannot believe my luck for accidentally tripping over your website. I am starting WW AGAIN for the nnnth time. I have been desperately seeking a website with healthy options that LOOKED GOOD TOO!!! Your site is awesome ... thank you, thank you, thank you !!

  3. I didn't think about crockpots heating differently till I read your post.

    We had a pot luck Saturday evening and I took mushrooms in the crock pot. Put 4 or 5 pkges of cleaned button mushrooms in pot. Melt one or two sticks of butter - recipe calls for two, I usually use one. Mix in one pkge of dry ranch dressing and pour over mushrooms. Cook on high for 5 hrs., according to recipe. At home, I follow recipe; here in our winter place, the lid was practically bouncing off the pot before two hours, so I finished it on low.

    This is so easy and I never bring any home.


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna