This Southwest Chicken Soup is packed with juicy chicken, veggies, black beans, and a flavorful blend of Mexican spices. A bowl of this smoky and hearty soup is perfect for lunch and dinner, and will keep you satisfied all day long.
There’s a soup for every season: Chicken Tortilla Soup to celebrate summer, Butternut Squash Soup when the leaves change color, and Lentil Soup when the cold weather rolls in. But this Southwest Chicken Soup is great for any time of year! The hearty chicken and smoky enchilada sauce in each bowl are warming while the fresh vegetables and lime juice are so light and zesty.
Enjoy this soup solo for lunch or serve it with jalapeno cornbread and avocado salad for a well-rounded dinner. Whatever way you decide to enjoy this dish, you’ll end the meal feeling full and with a smile on your face.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to how you choose to build and garnish this southwestern soup! Not a fan of black beans? Substitute pinto, great northern, or garbanzo beans instead. Got some soup snobs in your family? Top this soup with Mexican crema, cheese, avocado chunks, and tortilla strips to make everyone happy.
Ingredients you’ll need
- Chicken thighs – A juicy and flavorful source of protein, chicken thighs are sauteed with aromatic veggies to bring a sense of warmth to this comforting dish.
- Enchilada sauce – Take this dish from good to amazing by using my easy enchilada sauce for the soup base. Trust me, it’s worth the little bit of extra effort! If you don’t have time to make your own enchilada sauce, you can use your favorite store-bought brand instead.
- Onion, bell pepper, and garlic – These aromatic veggies are a must in almost every soup. They’re sauteed to golden perfection to give the soup a great flavor base.
- Diced tomatoes – For a little brightness and sweetness. I used the canned and fire-roasted variety for extra flavor.
- Black beans and corn – These soup fillers give each bite lots of texture and make it extra satisfying.
- Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce – These peppers add a wonderful, smoky spice to your dish. You can usually find a can in the international aisle in grocery stores or online in my shop!
- Herbs and spices – A handful of spices, including ancho chili powder, bring a traditional southwestern flavor profile to this soup. If you don’t have ancho chili powder, you can use regular chili powder.
- Lime juice – For a pop of bright acidity!
- Garnish – These are optional, but I highly recommend topping your soup with cilantro, shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla strips, diced avocado, or lime wedges to really make each bowl finger-licking good.
How to make southwest chicken soup
- Saute the veggies and chicken: Cook the onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a large soup pot with some oil. Once they’re tender, add the chicken, salt, and pepper.
- Add additional soup ingredients: Add the tomatoes, black beans, corn, chicken broth, enchilada sauce, chipotle peppers, paprika, coriander, and the bay leaf to the pot. Stir until combined.
- Let the flavors simmer: Bring your soup to a boil. Afterward, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid, and cook for 15 minutes.
- Garnish and enjoy: Stir in the freshly chopped cilantro and lime juice. Give it a taste and add more salt if needed. Spoon the soup into individual bowls, top with the garnishes of your choice, and enjoy!
Can it be made in the Instant Pot?
This slow-simmering soup can easily be turned into a quick and easy weeknight dinner in the Instant Pot. Keep the chicken thighs whole so they don’t overcook or stir in pre-cooked shredded chicken after the soup is ready. Here’s how to make southwest soup in the Instant Pot:
- Use Saute mode on the Instant Pot to cook the onion, bell peppers, and garlic in oil. Next, stir in the paprika, coriander, salt, and pepper.
- Add the chicken broth and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Deglazing the pot will prevent the Instant Pot from giving you a burn notice or malfunctioning.
- Lastly, stir in the enchilada sauce, tomatoes, black beans, corn, chipotle peppers, and a bay leaf. Submerge the whole chicken thighs, set your pressure valve to seal, and pressure cook on high for 14 minutes.
- When it’s done, remove the chicken and use 2 forks to shred the meat. Add it back into the Instant Pot along with the cilantro and lime juice. Spoon into a bowl with your garnishes and enjoy!
Tips and substitutions
- Want to make dinner time a little less chaotic? Pre-measure, chop, and prepare all the ingredients before you begin the cooking process. Just keep everything in sealed containers in the fridge until you’re ready.
- Want to make this recipe even simpler? Replace the chicken thighs with some pre-cooked shredded chicken, any leftover chicken you have in the fridge, or a shredded rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Just stir it into the soup when you add the black beans and corn.
- For a stew-like texture, spoon some soup over cooked rice to make it extra filling.
Storing, freezing, and reheating
To store, keep the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
To freeze, place the soup in an airtight container or a sealed freezer-safe bag. It can stay frozen for 4 to 6 months. Let it thaw completely in the fridge before reheating.
To reheat, simply place the soup in a pot and heat it on the stovetop until warmed through. Alternatively, you reheat a bowl of soup at a time in 1-minute intervals. It should be heated through after 3 minutes or so.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, diced into small bite-sized chunks
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15-ounce) can yellow corn, drained and rinsed
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup easy enchilada sauce
- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
- 2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
- Optional garnishes: shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla strips, diced avocado, lime wedges
- Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
- Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until onions and peppers begin to soften.
- Add chicken and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
- Add diced tomatoes, black beans, yellow corn, chicken broth, enchilada sauce, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, paprika, ground coriander, and bay leaf. Stir to combine.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
- Add in chopped cilantro and the juice of 1 lime. Stir together, give it a taste, and add more salt if necessary.
- Serve in bowls topped with a dollop of sour cream, some cilantro sprigs, tortilla strips, and a lime wedge.
- Enchilada sauce: I highly recommend making my easy enchilada sauce to use in this recipe. It’s much more flavorful than most store-bought enchilada sauces. However, if you don’t have time to make your own enchilada sauce, you can use your favorite store-bought brand.
- Don’t have ancho chili powder? You can use regular chili powder instead.