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Sep 23

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

There’s a chain of casual dining restaurants in the Midwest called Max & Erma’s, and when visiting my brother in Ohio I discovered their sinfully good Chicken Tortilla Soup. I came home desperate to find a knock-off recipe, but since much of their soup’s deliciousness presumably comes from creamy cheese and fried tortilla strips I was doubtful I was going to find one that could be lightened up. Luckily, I stumbled across a recipe on food.com that used a lot of cream based soups and I knew I could easily substitute the light versions. The recipe originally served 15 but I halved it and made a few other changes/substitutions. It turned out great. It’s creamy and has just the right amount of kick for me. I never would have guessed I could get so close to the restaurant flavor using canned soups, but it’s really similar!

2012 Update: This was originally one of the first recipes I posted, and as it’s perfect for Fall football-watching, I wanted to encourage readers to dig through the archives and make it this season. The problem was that the photos I took of it back in December 2010 were just plain awful. I decided to make it again and take new photos, and while I was at it, I tweaked the recipe a little to improve it overall. After receiving a few reader comments that the soup was too thick, I thinned it out a bit by adding a cup of water which made it enough for 8 servings. This allowed me to add tortilla strips to the recipe while keeping it at only 4 Green, 3 Blue or 3 Purple myWW Weight Watchers SmartPoints and 160 calories per cup. To view your WW PersonalPoints for this recipe and track it in the WW app or site, click here!

This is a great recipe for football season and also for potlucks, because you can easily heat the soup up in a crock pot rather than on the stove top. I brought it to work back in 2010 for just such a potluck and it was a huge hit. Don’t forget to check out my Easy Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken post- the perfect way to make shredded chicken for this recipe!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This creamy lightened up Chicken Tortilla Soup is satisfying and full of flavor!


  • 6 oz cooked chicken breast, shredded or chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 (15 oz) can fat free, low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can Campbell’s 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 can Campbell’s 98% Fat Free Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 1 can Campbell’s 98% Fat Free Cream of Celery Soup
  • 1 can Campbell’s Healthy Request Cheddar Cheese Soup
  • ½ can of Rotel Tomatoes & Green Chiles
  • ½ cup chunky salsa, I used Medium
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 12 tablespoons of tortilla strips, the type found in bags by the salad toppings – I prefer New York Texas Toast brand in Chili Lime, but Fresh Gourmet also sells something similar


  • In a large pot, combine all ingredients except the tortilla strips and stir until mixed. Bring to a boil and then simmer covered for one hour. When serving, sprinkle 1.5 tablespoons of tortilla strips over each cup of soup.


To view your WW PersonalPoints for this recipe and track it in the WW app or site, click here!
Nutrition Information:
160 calories, 19 g carbs, 3 g sugars, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 9 g protein, 2 g fiber (from myfitnesspal.com)
MyWW SmartPoints per (1 cup) serving: (SP calculated using the recipe builder on weightwatchers.com)
Green: 4 SmartPoints/ Blue: 3 SmartPoints/ Purple: 3 SmartPoints
Weight Watchers Points Plus:
4 per serving (P+ calculated using the recipe builder on weightwatchers.com)
Adapted from Food.com


89 comments on “Chicken Tortilla Soup”

  1. This soup is incredibly good!

  2. I love this soup and am so glad to have the recipe. All of the Max and Erma’s near me have closed!

  3. I live in Buffalo and don’t have any Max & Erma’s near me either! I was so happy to find I could make something so similar right at home – and light too! Glad to hear you agree. 🙂

  4. I made this soup and the whole family loved it! I will def make this again!

  5. I just made this today and WOW! Sooo good and so easy! I used canned chicken, 3 cloves of garlic, and a tsp of cumin to modify it and it was delish! I’ll definitely be making this again!

  6. I didn’t have chili powder so I used a little bit of crushed red pepper. Now it’s quite spicy! haha But I love the texture and it tastes delicious. I also used chicken thigh instead of breast and it doesn’t change the WW points+ value.

  7. I’m making this to go with tacos tonight… I’m going to add a can of black beans for added protein and fiber, which adds another WW point, but I’m thinking will be worth it.

  8. Made this today and its pretty tasty!! I forgot rotel at the store so I just added more salsa.

  9. I made this recipe earlier this week and loved it. It was really thick.. any suggestions on how to thin it out a little and make it a tinch more soupier? (My husband keeps calling it cheese dip)

  10. Haha, cheese dip! I love it creamy, but if you want to thin it out a little you could probably just add some chicken broth while it’s cooking until it reaches your desired consistency. Hope that works! Glad you liked it. 🙂

  11. This looks amazing! Silly question from a novice here but do you simmer it covered or uncovered?

  12. Love this recipe! Just got it from my sister and I have already made it twice! I did double the chicken broth to thin it out a little!

    Thank you! 🙂

  13. I just made this today. Really good. Except I agree with everyone else on thickness. I’ll add an extra can of chicken broth next time. I also LOVE spicy food so I added a bottle of “hot” taco sauce at no added points. Im also thinking I’ll add a can of green chilies. This recipe is a keeper either way!

  14. I currently live in Columbus, OH, the home of Max and Erma’s. So, when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it. I made the soup today and it is terrific! I agree that it was a bit thick, so I added 1.5 C of water. I also added the entire can of Rotel Tomatoes and Chiles and about 1 C of Mild Salsa. It’s chilly outside, so this soup will be a great for dinner. Thanks for the recipe, Emily.

    • My brother lives in C-bus! That’s where I first fell in love with this soup. I’m so glad you liked the soup. Definitely perfect for a chilly day! 🙂

  15. Do you think I could put this in the crock pot? If so any idea what temp and how long?

    • I’m sure you could since you’re just heating it until it’s hot and all the flavors mix together. I’ve never made it in the crock pot so I don’t have time/temp info but I’m sure you can play around with it and make it work!

    • We are preparing it now for the crock pot! I will let you know hot it goes 🙂

  16. Do you have the nutritiona; information for this soup? I have went back to doing the old plan. It just works for me so stick with what works right?? Anway I made your lemon blueberry muffins and they had the nutritional info. Just wondering if I am missing something.

    • I started calculating the nutrition information for all my recipes at the beginning of the new year and have slowly but surely been working my way backward through my older recipes and adding it. It’s time consuming since I have so many recipes, so I haven’t gotten through all of them yet. I use the recipe calculator on myfitnesspal.com to figure out the nutrition information, so if you want it before I get to this recipe, feel free to plus in the ingredients there and figure it out!

    • Thank you! I just LOVE your blog! So far I have made your Chicken tortilla soup, French dip cupcakes, Deep dish pizza, sausage egg and cheese hashbrown cups, lemon blueberry muffins and tonight I made your chicken parmesan. This week im also going to be making your spinach bread bowls (which my husband is at the store picking ingredients up for right now due to me being a little under the weather)! And I have not figured out what else I’ll be making this week. To many choices! Any suggestions as to what I should serve with the bread bowls? Im at a loss!

  17. Not sure if someone already asked this, but do you know the calories per serving without adding the tortilla strips? Thank you!

  18. I am BEYOND excited to have found your blog from the WW Boards!

  19. yum- looks great! i like the 3 soups you used to make this recipe!

  20. I made this after reading your football post. My husband and I loved it! This updated pic is better. When I made it I added more broth because of the thickness comments people made. I also added water. I will make this again!! Thanks!

  21. I saw your link on Pinterest. I went to Max and Ermas last night and was craving this soup again… so I made your recipe.. and it was so good!! I tweaked some of the ingredients (just used different brand names based on what I had on hand). It was very similar tasting the soup at Max and Ermas, and very delicious. Thank you for posting the recipe!

  22. this soup is delicious!! my husband even liked it…told me to check and see whether it can be frozen! so, can this soup be frozen?

  23. I had no problem with the consistency of the soup and I didn’t add any water. It was AMAZING. So simple. I’ll always have these ingredients on hand from now on!

  24. I add milk to mine, and i love the creamy texture. I’ve been making this since your original recipe and everyone always raves over it. I also go to the grocery late when the rotisserie chickens are marked down and buy one just for this!! I use half and save the other half for later 🙂

  25. I add milk to mine, and i love the creamy texture. I’ve been making this since your original recipe and everyone always raves over it. I also go to the grocery late when the rotisserie chickens are marked down and buy one just for this!! I use half and save the other half for later 🙂

  26. oh my goodness…this looks delish! Can’t wait to try it!!
    I eat the Chicken Tortilla soup at McAlister’s but some day its way too spicy!
    I don’t like mushrooms, can I substitute something else?

  27. My husband and I have made this twice since in the last 2 weeks!!! Yes, it is THAT good!! 🙂
    Emily, you ROCK!!
    Thank you for your continued posts of AMAZING recipes! 🙂

  28. This was BEYOND delicious!! I added a can of corn and a can of black beans. FABULOUS!!!! Thanks so much for sharing this! 🙂

  29. This is a new favorite in our house! Trying the cheesy chicken and stuffin tonight. Wondering if I can freeze the leftovers – if there are any!

  30. I made this last night and it was amazing! I love Max and Erma’s tort soup and this is very much like it! Thanks for sharing, counting down to lunch for leftovers right now!

  31. Have this on the stove right now and it smells delicious!! Can’t wait to eat it all weekend at work. One question: is the cheddar cheese soup you used the regular or the healthy request version? The healthy request one saves about 3.5g of fat and several calories. But I wasn’t sure if it would take away from the taste. Never used cheese soup before…had no idea it existed lol!

  32. I’m lucky enough to live near a M&E’s and can’t wait to try your version…THANK YOU.

  33. HUGE hit with my husband and I. I used a rotisserie chicken and it definitely added to it. Next time I am making a double batch!!

  34. if you leave out the tortilla strips how many carbs can you cut out?

  35. if you leave out the tortilla strips how many carbs can you cut out?

  36. Holy sodium! No wonder it’s not included with the nutrition information. I didn’t put in the mushroom or cheese soup and did the low sodium Campbell’s version. I added a whole can of Rotel because we love spice. Turned out nice. Will definitely make again.

  37. Made this today for my family for a snowy holiday week lunch! It was delicious and I loved the consistently as prepared by your recipe. Everyone loved it! Thanks for once again coming through with an awesome recipe.

  38. So good! Made this for dinner tonight. I added black beans and frozen corn to add a little more substance to it. It made 8 large servings at 5 PP. Thanks!

  39. WOW, lots of soup to make soup, super high sodium. Crazy. I didn’t add all the soups and I added a whole pound of chicken, why only 6 ounces? That’s silly. More protein is always better and keeps you fuller longer.

  40. I made this soup last night and used campbell’s healthy request soups, less sodium i omitted the mushroom soup because my husband doesn’t like them and it still turned out great. Thanks Emily for this recipe.

  41. OMG, this was delish! My boyfriend loved it too 🙂 thanks for all of your hard work on the site!

  42. Loved it! Made it exactly as you wrote it and I wouldn’t change a thing!

  43. Omitted cup of water and added whole can of Rotel and a Cup of Salsa. Also, added extra cilantro and chili powder for extra bite. DELICIOUS! This is my first time trying one of your recipes. The hubby was delighted that I made his favorite soup from Max n Ermas. Thank you for creating a recipe in which I can still keep on my WW plan and enjoy something usually so decadent that I would not typically order on the menu. Making a crockpot full of your Buffalo Chicken recipe,too. Snowy weekend + Emily’s Bites = Happy Household. =)

  44. This is uncanny. Max and Erma’s Tortilla soup is AMAZING, but so high in fat that it is really not worth eating. I admit I was a little skeptical using these various cans of campbell’s that it would taste anything like the Max and Erma’s soup, but I was dead wrong. This tastes almost exactly how I remember it. Awesome. Thanks so much.

  45. how much sodium per serving? Thanks 🙂

    • I’ve never calculated the sodium as I don’t track that for any of my recipes. You can put all the ingredients in the nutrition calculator on myfitnesspal and figure it out!

  46. This is the best site ever since i just joined weight watchers!! making this soup tonight super excited! 🙂

  47. Making this tonight for dinner!! So excited, looks good!

  48. I used 4 cups of homemade chicken stock and left out the chicken (subbed a can of black beans and a can of pinto beans.) I also added about a cup of frozen corn. It was awesome. Thanks for the great recipe! I love your site, I use it every week when I make my weekly menu. Great stuff. Thanks!

  49. I just wanted you to know, this has become one of my families favorite meals! My husband asks for it, and even my 2 kids ages 3 and 7 love it! Tonight Im making it for the kids in homemade bread bowls! Thanks for all your ideas! I have tried many!!

  50. I heart this recipe the first time I made it. I froze some…well I just had the bit that was frozen and have to say it is just as good. I’m a huge fan that it was freezer friendly (I’m very picky about what comes from the freezer).

    Can’t wait to make more!

  51. I made this for dinner tonight. It was delicious! I put it all on the crock pot and left it on low for 2 hours.:) I love all of your recipes!!

  52. DId you count the tortilla strips in your points calculations?? I cant wait to try this next week!!! 🙂

  53. I made this in the crock pot on low with raw chicken breasts (trimmed) in there for the whole time I was at work. Was able to easily shred the chicken… Worked out wonderfully! And was really tasty 🙂

  54. This soup is simply amazing! I personally add 1 cup of black beans to the dish as well which makes a 1C serving 5PP or you can have a 3/4C serving and keep the 4PP. I also top it with diced scallion and a little red bell pepper. It really is one of may favorites dishes to make!

  55. This is just about the best soup recipe I’ve ever made! My husband and I love it! We are huge fans of Max & Erma’s tortilla soup so this recipe was perfect for us. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  56. Quick Question… when you add the soups, do you also add 1 can of water for each soup, as per the campbell’s instructions?

  57. Made this last night for the first time and it was de-lish! Thanks for all the great recipe inspiration, Emily 🙂

  58. I made this tonight and it was delicious! I thought I had a can of cream of celery in my pantry so didn’t get one when I was buying the ingredients…but I did have a can of cream of onion so I used it instead and omitted the chopped onion. I also left out the cilantro because I don’t like it. So good and has a nice kick to it. I was wishing I’d bought some fat free sour cream to add a dollop on top. Thanks Emily for a great soup!

  59. Do you think this could be made in an instant pot. Just got one for Christmas and would love to try it, but am worried about the dairy component. Thoughts/Advice?

  60. At first I thought the recipe had too many canned ingredients to be tasty and always omitted a few of the soups. But, I revisited this site and decided to try it exactly to a T (except cream of mushroom soup since I’m allergic to them). It was sooo yummy! I’m originally from Michigan and have been to Max & Ermas and this is spot on. It’s delicious!!

    • Right?? I understand because looking at the ingredients you’d never think it would work but it does! I’m glad you liked it 🙂

  61. This is almost perfect like McAllister’s Chicken Tortilla soup. I substituted Golden mushroom for cream of mushroom though because I like the taste better, and added a little can of green chiles and a long squirt of lime juice, REALLY good tastes almost exactly like it, thanks! So much better than the ones you have to make not out of a can that don’t really come close.

  62. This soup was AMAZING!!! After taste-testing, and knowing my family’s tastes, I doubled the rotel and the salsa, but it was perfect!!! I am already planning on making this again!

  63. I just made this soup, and its AMAZING! Thank you for posting!

  64. This is now my husband’s favorite recipe! I added more broth and water and it was delicious. Thank you so much love your recipes 

  65. I just had this for dinner and to be honest I’m a bit disappointed…. that I didn’t make it sooner!  This soup is delicious. I did top mine with a small amount of reduced fat cheddar. One serving is plenty. Thanks for wonderful recipe. 

  66. Can you please provide a handy dandy link to the ww my points app for finding points? I know you mention creating the recipe but the app doesn’t list out the condensed soups in can size 

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