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How do I thicken my chicken tortilla soup?

Chicken tortilla soup is a delicious Mexican-inspired soup made with chicken, tomatoes, corn, beans, and tortilla strips. It’s full of flavor but light enough to enjoy year-round. While authentic chicken tortilla soup has a brothy consistency, many people prefer a thicker, stew-like texture.

The good news is that it’s easy to thicken up chicken tortilla soup in several ways. With a few simple ingredient swaps and cooking techniques, you can give your soup a richer, heartier texture in no time.

Thicken with Instant Masa

One of the easiest ways to thicken chicken tortilla soup is by using instant masa. Masa harina, or masa for short, is a corn flour made from dried and ground corn kernels. It has a rich, nutty flavor and can act as a thickening agent.

When hydrated with hot liquid, masa becomes thick and doughy which helps bind the ingredients and give body to the broth. Instant masa is masa harina that has been pre-cooked and dehydrated into a quick-mixing flour.

To use instant masa, whisk 2-3 tablespoons into the hot soup a little at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. It will thicken up quickly as it hydrates and absorbs liquid. Too much masa can make the soup overly thick and gritty, so add it slowly and taste as you go.

Benefits of Thickening with Masa

  • Adds a subtle corn flavor
  • Thickens without altering texture
  • Easy pantry ingredient

Puree Some of the Soup

Another simple way to thicken chicken tortilla soup is by pureeing a portion of it. This breaks down some of the ingredients and releases starches and natural thickeners.

After simmering your soup, carefully transfer 2-3 cups into a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth, then stir the pureed soup back into the pot.

For best results, focus on pureeing vegetables and beans rather than meat and whole grains. The starch from tomatoes, onions, beans, and corn will help add body.

Tips for Pureeing Soup

  • Let soup cool slightly before pureeing
  • Puree in batches to prevent overflow
  • Start with less and add more as needed
  • Stir frequently as puree may separate

Mix in Cream or Half-and-Half

For a richer, creamier chicken tortilla soup, stir in some heavy cream, half-and-half or whole milk after cooking. The fat and dairy solids in these ingredients can help create a smooth, luxurious texture.

Start by adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cream or half-and-half and adjusting to taste. For a lighter option, whole milk can also work well. Just note that it may thin the soup slightly.

If you want to avoid dairy, coconut milk is a plant-based alternative that can provide a similar velvety texture.

Tips for Adding Cream

  • Add slowly and taste frequently
  • Use full-fat dairy for best results
  • Coconut milk works for dairy-free diets
  • Stir well to evenly incorporate

Increase Starchy Vegetables

Another way to thicken chicken tortilla soup without drastically changing the flavor is to increase the amount of starchy vegetables. Potatoes, corn, peas, winter squash and root vegetables contain starch that can help bind and thicken the broth.

Try adding an extra potato that’s been diced small, a cup or two of extra corn kernels, or a handful of diced carrots or parsnips. You can also use puréed winter squash as a flavorful thickener.

As the starch from these vegetables simmers in the soup, it will help create a thicker consistency and texture. Focus on vegetables that complement the flavors already in your soup.

Best Vegetables for Thickening

  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Squash

Mix in some Mashed Beans

Beans are a key ingredient in chicken tortilla soup, and mashing some of them is an easy way to thicken it up. Black beans, pinto beans, and other varieties will break down and release starch.

After simmering the beans, use a potato masher or fork to mash about 1 cup. You can mash them separately and then stir them back into the pot, or mash them right in the soup.

Mashing only a portion of the beans will thicken the broth while still leaving some whole beans in every bite.

Tips for Mashing Beans

  • Make sure beans are fully cooked and tender
  • Use a potato masher or fork for easy mashing
  • Mash beans right in the soup pot
  • Add more mashed beans if needed

Simmer the Soup Longer

For a natural thickening method, simply simmer the soup longer. The longer a soup cooks, the more moisture evaporates and the more the flavors concentrate. This causes the soup base to thicken gradually over time.

After bringing the soup to a boil, reduce to a low simmer. Let it bubble gently for an extra 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep tasting until it reaches your preferred thickness.

As water evaporates, keep an eye on the soup level and add a splash more broth or water as needed to prevent burning on the bottom of the pot.

Tips for Thickening via Simmering

  • Stir frequently to prevent scorching
  • Watch soup level and add liquid as needed
  • Use a heavy bottomed pot for even heating
  • Let flavors concentrate as liquid reduces

Add Cornstarch or Flour

For an instant thickening effect, turn to a classic starch slurry with cornstarch or flour. Starches swell and absorb liquid, rapidly transforming a brothy soup into a thick stew.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together 2-3 tablespoons cornstarch or flour with an equal amount of cold water or broth. Slowly stir this slurry into the simmering soup.

Bring the soup back to a simmer for 1-2 minutes to activate the thickening power. Check thickness and repeat with more slurry if desired.

Tips for Using Cornstarch and Flour

  • Start with less for mild thickening
  • Whisk slurry well to prevent lumps
  • Add slowly while stirring soup
  • Simmer briefly to fully thicken

Blend in Crushed Tortilla Chips

Since tortilla chips are a key component of the classic recipe, crushing some into the soup is a great way to thicken it. The starch from the corn chips will dissolve into the broth for a thicker texture.

After simmering the soup, stir in a handful or two of crushed tortilla chip pieces. Use your spoon to mash them against the side of the pot to release their starch.

For best results, use thicker, sturdier tortilla chips rather than thin, crispy ones. The more surface area the better to thicken the soup efficiently.

Tips for Thickening with Chips

  • Use thick, sturdy tortilla chips
  • Crush into small pieces before adding
  • Mash chips into side of pot to dissolve
  • Add more crushed chips if needed

Try Adding Some Potato Flakes

Instant potato flakes are made from dehydrated mashed potatoes, so they can rapidly thicken up soups and stews. Keep in mind potato flakes have their own flavor that can alter the soup.

For best results, use potato flakes sparingly. Start with 1-2 tablespoons sprinkled into the simmering soup while stirring constantly. Let cook for 2 minutes to fully hydrate and thicken.

Since the potato flavor can get strong fast, add flakes slowly and taste as you go until the soup is your desired thickness.

Tips for Using Potato Flakes

  • Start with a small amount and adjust
  • Sprinkle into simmering soup slowly
  • Stir constantly to prevent lumps
  • Let simmer 2 minutes to fully thicken

Finish with Heavy Cream

For the quickest way to thicken and enrich chicken tortilla soup, stir in some heavy cream just before serving. The high-fat content of heavy cream makes it extremely effective at thickening soups and sauces.

After turning off the heat, stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream until fully incorporated. You may need less depending on the volume of soup.

The cream will instantly cool and thicken the soup thanks to its emulsifying properties. It also adds a luxuriously silky texture and richness.

Tips for Finishing with Cream

  • Turn off heat before adding
  • Start with 1/4 cup and adjust amount
  • Stir thoroughly to evenly thicken
  • Provides rich texture and flavor


With so many easy options, you can easily customize the texture of chicken tortilla soup to suit your preferences. Whether you want to highlight the natural corn flavor, make it creamy and indulgent, or simply concentrate the broth, there are many ways to adjust the thickness.

From blending and simmering techniques to handy pantry thickeners, you can find the right method to give your chicken tortilla soup that perfect hearty consistency. Adjust to your taste and enjoy a bowl of rich, comforting soup anytime.

Thickening Method Amount to Add Notes
Instant masa 2-3 tablespoons Adds corn flavor
Pureed soup 2-3 cups Puree vegetables only
Cream or half-and-half 1/4 – 1/2 cup Use full fat for best texture
Starchy vegetables 1-2 extra cups Potatoes, corn, peas work well
Mashed beans About 1 cup Fully cooked and tender
Simmering 10-15 extra minutes Stir frequently to prevent scorching
Cornstarch slurry 2-3 Tbsp cornstarch + water Whisk well before adding
Crushed tortilla chips 1-2 handfuls Use thick, sturdy chips
Potato flakes 1-2 Tbsp Sprinkle slowly and stir constantly
Heavy cream 1/4 – 1/2 cup Add just before serving