Toasted Tortilla Soup with Fresh Cheese and Chile Pasilla

This Mexican chile pepper is called “Chilaca” when used fresh. In California the Poblano chile is often called Pasilla. Since most of these are bought and distributed from California this mislabeling often carries over into the supermarkets nationwide causing alot of confusion. This chile is very mild and is usually consumed in the dry form to make the famous Mexican ‘mole’ sauces.

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2 Tbsp. lard or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 ripe, medium-small tomato, roasted or boiled, cored and peeled
1-1/2 quarts of good broth, preferably poultry
salt to taste
4-6 corn tortillas, preferably stale, store-bought ones
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1-2 dried chiles pasillas, stemmed, seeded and deveined
8 oz. (about 2 cups) cubed Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese like farmer’s cheese, or even muenster or Monterrey Jack
1 large lime, cut into 4-6 wedges


The broth flavoring:

In a medium-size skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. of the lard or oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and whole garlic cloves, and fry until both are a deep golden-brown, about 12-15 minutes. Scoop into a blender jar or food processor, add the tomato and process until smooth. Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp. of lard or oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the tomato mixture and stir constantly until thick and considerably darker, about 5 minutes. Scrape into a large saucepan.

The broth:

Stir the broth into the tomato mixture, partially cover and simmer for 1/2 an hour over medium-low heat. Season to taste with salt.

The garnishing ingredients:

If the tortillas are fresh or moist, let them dry out for a few minutes in a single layer. Slice them in half, then slice the halves crosswise into strips 1/4″ thick. Heat the 1/3 cup vegetable oil in a medium-small skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the tortilla strips and fry, turning frequently, until they are crisp. Drain the strips on paper towels. Cut the chiles into 1″ squares and fry in the hot oil very briefly, about 3 or 4 seconds; immediately remove and drain, then place the chiles in a small serving bowl.

Assembling the soup:

Just prior to serving, divide the cheese among the 4-6 individual bowls, and top with the fried tortilla strips. Ladle on the hot soup and serve right away. Pass the toasted chile separately, along with the lime (the juice of which brings out the flavors of the soup).

Recipe from Authentic Mexican, by Rick Bayless with Deann Groen Bayless.