We think our Tortilla-less Mexican Soup will taste better than any other crock pot (or Dutch oven) Mexican soup you’ve made, even without the corn or the tortillas.
The reasons? First off, we use a whole chicken, but then halfway through the cook time (about 2.5- 3 hours) the breasts are removed, sliced, seasoned, and then roasted for ten minutes before rejoining the soup right before serving. (Or you can even reserve that white meat for other meals, like lunch salads, and not mix it in since the crockpot is cooking the rest of the whole chicken.) No overcooked rubbery chicken breasts.
And then there’s the robust stock–made possible by continued cooking time with all the flavorful dark meat that can hold up to more hours in the crockpot.
The bones are still in there for the last two hours which add more flavor and nutrition. During the remaining time you can cut up your vegetables and give them a quick sauté or roast, adding when you incorporate the chicken just before serving, so they retain their texture. This step eliminates mushiness and is key to a memorable soup. If you want to skip the fuss, however, then just throw the chopped vegetables in the crockpot in the last hour of cooking (except for zucchini–those need only about a half hour).
Turn Crockpot on HIGH and place whole chicken, breast side down, directly into the bottom of the crock pot. Pour in ½ box of store-bought broth.
Cut the yellow onion, ½ of a red onion, and one green pepper into pieces, and place around the side of the chicken. Add the hot peppers, either whole or sliced (I did not remove the seeds, and used 2 red fresno peppers). Peel cloves from ½ head garlic and place cloves around outside of the chicken with the onions and green pepper.
Add salt and pepper on top of the bird.
Put lid on crock pot and cook for 2 ½ -3 hours. At that point, turn chicken over and make a small slice into the thickest part of the breast meat to see if it is very close to being done or is done. If so, remove entire chicken from crock pot and rest on cutting board (if not let cook for another ½ hour breast side up). Cut away the chicken breasts and remove the skin from them. You can easily remove the skin from the rest of the chicken at this point too. Put the remaining parts of the chicken, on the bones, back into the crock pot. If it is easiest for you to remove the legs or thighs when carving off the breast, that is perfectly fine since all the meat will eventually fall off the bones.
Set chicken breasts aside to cool a bit. Add the tomato compote or canned diced tomatoes to the crock pot and another box of broth. You should leave enough room for the chicken to be added back in along with more vegetables and a can of beans. Give the soup in the crock pot a stir and replace lid and continue cooking on high. At this point the soup in crockpot will need another 2 hours to cook, but can go longer. Refrigerate your chicken breast in zip lock bag or sealed container to keep from drying out.
One Hour Before Serving Time:
Turn on oven to 375 degrees. Remove chicken from refrigerator and set on cutting board.
On a plate or in a separate small bowl, mix spices together to coat the chicken: Cumin, lime chili powder, regular chili powder, Aleppo, garlic powder, oregano (or any combination of Mexican spices you like). Also add salt–I used about a teaspoon of Maldon flakes with the chicken spices. Slice chicken and place in a good-sized bowl with several tablespoons of olive oil and toss. You want enough oil for the spices to adhere to the chicken. Add all the spices together and toss again.
Cut up the remaining vegetables you want to add and cook: I did my zucchini and some of the peppers in a skillet with a tiny bit of olive oil, being careful not to overcook.
The rest of the vegetables were done in the oven. Cherry tomatoes do best there.
(Note: Peppers and onions can go on stove top or oven, and I think zucchini is best on stove top so doesn’t get soggy).
Once the oven is hot, cook the spiced chicken slices for about 10-15 min until the seasonings are baked on and the chicken is done and warm. Remove from oven. Add the tray of cherry tomatoes and quartered medium hot pepper (as pictured above–mine was a poblano) and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Cook diced green bell peppers and onions on sheet pan in oven for ten minutes (or on stove top in skillet).
Take the lid from the crockpot and stir the soup. Using long-handled forks or spoons, remove the pieces of bones you will find when stirring–they should be fairly large; there will also be several pieces of joint cartilage from where the leg was attached and perhaps a piece of skin, remove those. You may miss a few small pieces of bone, so advise your guests accordingly.
Drain the can of black beans.
Add in all the breast meat (unless you choose to reserve for another use or meal), the vegetables, the drained black beans, and delicately incorporate. Taste and adjust the seasoning. It may need more salt or cumin or chili powder. I usually add a few more cloves of pressed garlic to mine. Let these ingredients rewarm in the crockpot for a few minutes, without the lid. The soup should be very very hot. Turn the crock pot to off.
Prepare your garnishes, if desired. I use grated cheese to serve on the side (or mix in ⅓-½ cup of grated cheese to the entire crock pot and stir–that’s my method–it will thicken the soup), coarsely chopped cilantro, and cut lime wedges. Place them on the table for guests to serve themselves.
The soup is ready, eat up. This recipe will make a very big batch of yummy comfort food for the week. Leftovers are delicious.
If someone still wants tortillas: My son likes to have a few fresh corn tortilla slices on top the way traditional tortilla soup is served. The slices can also be dry crisped and added. In my opinion (as a native of San Diego where good tortillas are a staple), the very best tortillas are Trader Joe’s white corn–about $1.29 for a package of 12; they come in fresh daily and are never frozen or refrigerated.