Creamy Toasted Red Chile Soup

Creamy Toasted Red Chile Soup

Nearly a year ago now I stumbled upon the tortilla soup that changed everything – Rick Bayless’ version of Tortilla Soup with Swiss Chard. It was and still is unlike any tortilla soup I’d had before.

You’ve tasted the insipid can-see-clear-to-the-bottom-of-the-bowl versions of tortilla soup, I’m sure. This recipe is based on a very opaque foundation of red chile – that was a big ah-ha moment for me, and one of many I’m ever grateful to Bayless for.

Since first finding and trying it, I’ve made and remade this recipe a few times, further simplifying and modifying as I go. Last May, my initial thoughts about this soup were: “such a revelation! Thanks to Food52 for bringing this into my life and mouth. Not your run of the mill tortilla soup. Wonderful depth of flavor from a meatless soup. I added a can of black beans just to bulk it out a bit, tripled the amount of tomato, skipped the chard, and uh…needless to say I did not make my own tortilla chips.”

Anyone know if quotes are appropriate when quoting oneself? Or ones former self – so much changes in a year around here, I’m hardly that same person anymore! 😉

Anyhow – I was definitely on the right track with adding the beans. AND with skipping making my own chips! (Sheesh! As if.) My latest and favoritest iteration involves the addition of just a touch of cream, putting this soup well into the Party in My Tummy category of things.

Creamy Toasted Red Chile Soup from

Creamy Toasted Red Chile Soup

Serving Size: about 4 servings


  • 2 Tablespoons oil, divided
  • 4-5 dried pasilla chiles (or sub another mild, fruity dried red chile)
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
  • 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 15oz can black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1/4-1/2 cup cream (add more or less to your taste)
  • salt to taste (depends on the saltiness of the broth)
  • optional toppings:
  • tortilla chips (this is a great way to use up the broken chip bits in the bottom of the bag)
  • queso fresco crumbles
  • ribbon-cut chard leaves
  • sliced or diced avocado


  1. Use kitchen scissors to cut the pasillas into roughly 1" squares. Discard the stems, remove as many seeds as you like (more seeds = more heat).
  2. Toast the chile pieces carefully in small pan with about 1 T oil over moderate heat until they change to a very brown-red, almost black (but not blackened!) - like dark mahogany.
  3. Place the toasted chile squares in a bowl, and add hot water just to cover. Place a second, smaller bowl onto and within that bowl to submerge the chiles. Let them soak for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Add another tablespoon of oil to that same pan and lightly fry the onion and garlic. You don't want them overly soft, just want to get a bit of color on them but not all the way to sweet and caramelized.
  5. Once the 30 minutes is up, place the re-hydrated chiles & their soaking water, onions & garlic, canned tomatoes, and 1 cup chicken broth in a blender. Blend until smooth.
  6. Pour the blender contents through a sieve (to catch any big chile pieces) and into a soup pot or dutch oven.
  7. Add the rest of the chicken broth, black beans, and cream. Stir, warm, and salt to taste.
  8. Serve with optional toppings.


* If you're into doing less dishes, all the steps can be accomplished in one single pot - a dutch oven would work nicely, or any pot you usually use for soup.

* In the summer you could use fresh tomatoes for this recipe - place the tomatoes, garlic, and onion under the broiler for about 10 minutes until they get a good bit of color.

Do you have a favorite tortilla soup recipe or memory? We’d love to hear about it!

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