This creamy chicken enchilada soup is inspired by bold Mexican flavors. The soup reminds me of my favorite red enchilada sauce with a spicy tomato and ancho chili base. Chicken, corn, and beans add substance while cream and cheese give it a dreamy texture.
Serve the soup with all the fixings laid out on the table and let folks pick and choose their garnishes. Now that’s festive and fun!
The Enchilada Sauce
The soup base is inspired by a traditional red enchilada sauce, with deep red ancho chilis as the hallmark. Ancho chilis are dried green poblanos. It has a smoky flavor and a little heat, but it’s not hair-on-fire spicy.
For this recipe I use ground ancho chili powder as a shortcut. Add the ancho chili powder with some oregano to the sautéed onions and garlic and cook for a minute to let the spices bloom. Start with 1 tablespoon (mild with a little kick) and add more if you like heat.
Cream and Cheese
The inspiration for this soup comes from enchiladas Suizas (Spanish for Swiss, so named for the addition of dairy). Enchiladas Suizas swim in a green sauce made with tomatillos and a hefty amount of crema. For this recipe, I’m using a red sauce with heavy cream.
It’s important to use heavy cream, not milk or half-and-half. The extra fat in heavy cream keeps the soup from curdling when added to the acidic tomatoes.
For a subtle taste of cheese, I add Monterey jack to the soup.
I also use dairy as a pretty and tasty garnish to drizzle over the soup. Crema is another Mexican treat akin to crème fraîche. It is naturally sour and has the consistency of thick cream. You can make a substitute by thinning sour cream with a little milk or heavy cream.
For garnish, you could use crumbled cotija cheese. It is a cow’s milk cheese with a salty punch.
- Look for fire-roasted canned tomatoes for the base, but don’t worry if you can’t find them. Even with regular canned whole tomatoes, your soup will still have plenty of flavor.
- If you can’t find cotija cheese for garnish, you could substitute feta or ricotta salata.You could bump up the cheese factor by using sharp cheddar instead of the Monterey jack.
For the soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium white onion, halved and sliced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 (28-ounce) cans whole, peeled tomatoes with juice, preferably fire roasted
4 ounces (about 1 heaping cup) Monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 cups cooked chicken, shredded
3 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen (no need to defrost)
1 (14.5-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
For the crema
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
Thinly sliced jalapenos
Crumbled cotija cheese (or feta)
Warm corn tortillas
Diced white onion
Shredded Monterey jack cheese
Cook the onions and spices:
In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often, until soft and golden. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, oregano, brown sugar, and salt. Cook, stirring often, for 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes and the cheese:
Stir in the tomatoes and bring the mixture to a simmer. Break up the tomatoes—I use a potato masher, but you could do it with a wooden spoon—and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Stir in the shredded cheese.
Blend the soup until smooth:
Carefully, ladle the soup into a blender. Cover the blender with a lid and cover the lid with a folded dish towel. Starting on low speed, purée the soup for about 30 seconds. Gradually increase the speed to medium-high and blend for another minute, until the soup is smooth. You may need to blend the soup in batches or you could use an immersion blender to blend the soup directly in the pot.
Add the stock and the cream:
Return the soup to the pot and set it over medium heat. Stir in the stock, cream, chicken, corn, and beans. Bring to a gentle simmer, stirring often. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt if you’d like.
Make the crema:
In a small bowl, stir the sour cream and milk or cream together until smooth. The consistency should be pourable, like thick cream.
Garnish and serve:
Ladle the soup into bowls and spoon some homemade crema over each. Lay out the garnishes on the table in small individual bowls and let everyone top their soup to their liking.