Friday, October 29, 2010

Max & Erma’s Chicken Tortilla Soup- Sue’s Version


Sister Saturday Button

It’s  Vanessa’s and  Heather’s first annual Soup Exchange and I’m sharing  my version of  Max & Erma’s Chicken Tortilla Soup. Max and Erma’s is a  popular chain restaurant in our area, with locations throughout the country. Most of you know that when someone attempts to clone a recipe, it is not always an exact duplicate. I don’t claim to have perfectly replicated Max & Erma’s chicken tortilla soup. In actuality, I think my recipe has much more flavor to it.  And a lot more chicken!


Every time I make this recipe, people love it and I never have left-overs.  It is a rich, creamy soup flavored with the southwestern touches of salsa, garlic, and both red and green chiles.  It can be seasoned to make it as spicy as you want it. I also use New Mexico red chile pepper powder instead of ordinary red chili powder.  Note the way I’m even spelling the word,  “chile.”  Currently, the consensus is that the correct spelling  is actually with an “e” at the end of the word instead of an “i,” which is the anglicized version. 

For those of you who may not have access to Hispanic foods, either in a specialty store or in the specialty foods department of your grocery store, you can substitute ordinary chili powder, which is a mixture of chile powder and other spices.  The soup  just won’t be quite as flavorful.   You  will also need  to add much more of it than the New Mexico red chile powder.  And if you are concerned about sodium when making this soup, you may use low sodium varieties of the canned soups and the chicken broth, with no consequences.


Max & Erma’s Chicken Tortilla Soup

- Sue’s Version       



2  (10 3/4 ounce) cans Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup

2  (10 3/4 ounce) cans Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup

2  (10 3/4 ounce) cans Campbell's condensed cream of celery soup

2  (10 3/4 ounce) cans Campbell's cheddar cheese soup

2  (15 ounce) cans chicken broth

1  (15 ounce) can  diced tomatoes -  I use petite

1 cup picante salsa -  I use Pace brand- medium hot        ( because I like a lot of flavor, I often use the entire jar of the picante sauce)

1 (4 1/2 ounce) can green chiles (Ortega brand)

1 medium onion, chopped fine

4 fresh garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon red New Mexico Chile Powder

NOTE -- This is not the same as ordinary red chili powder.  Red New Mexico chile powder can  be found  in specialty foods stores or often in the specialty area of your supermarket- sometimes in the produce department with the dried chiles) 

******   If you use ordinary chili powder,  you can start out using approximately  2 Tablespoons of it.   Then add more to your taste!

1 /4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

4 large cooked chicken breasts, cut into small chunks

salt and pepper, to your taste

10 flour tortillas

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

1/2 lb.  Colby cheese



  1. In a large (10-12 quart) stockpot combine and whisk together all eight cans of soup until smooth.
  2. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, salsa, green chiles, onion, garlic, chile powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Bring all ingredients to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour.
  4. Add chicken breast chunks. Simmer another hour.
  5. Add cilantro  during the last 15 minutes of cooking time.
  6. While soup is simmering, make your soup toppings:
  7. Cut flour tortillas into small, thin strips. Heat oil  to 325 degrees and fry tortilla strips in batches until lightly browned.  Be careful- it’s easy to burn them if you aren’t careful.  
  8. Shred cheese.
  9. To serve: Ladle soup into bowls, top with shredded cheese and fried tortilla strips.  You can top it with additional sprigs of cilantro, as well.

I’ve changed the recipe directions just slightly from the published versions listed at the end of this post and have clarified the difference between “ red chile powder” and ordinary “chili powder.” 



I’m having a nice chilled mug of Dos Equis beer with my bowl of soup!



I originally submitted this recipe to Recipe Link in 2000.  It is also listed at Copykat Recipes, Recipe Goldmine,  and  Someone on the site  “borrowed” my recipe and submitted it as her own. If she had just said she was inspired by me, then changed the recipe, I could see saying it was hers; but the recipe is identical, right down to the order that I listed the ingredients.  Coincidence???   She did, however, change the  spelling of the word chile- probably because she thought I misspelled it. And she didn’t list the brand names I preferred. While I know that there was no copyright infringement involved with her claiming my recipe as her own, it just amazes me as to how rude some people can be!  Okay, no more griping… 

But let me tell ya-  I DO believe in Karma! 


Glenda/MidSouth said...

First YOUR soup sounds and looks wonderful. Wish I had a big bowl right now. I do have to watch my salt intake, so thanks for the suggestions.
Shame on the person who is claiming your recipe. :( I believe in Karma also! :-D
Have a great weekend.

Randy said...

Sue, Your soup sounds yummy. Of course I'll use the chile that I roasted and froze this fall. With the cold windy fall weather will be having your soup will be perfect to enjoy in form of a roaring fire in the fireplace. Nothing like the fragrance of chili and pinon to make you feel nice and cozy.

Kim @ Savvy Southern Style said...

Sue, that soup sounds yummylicious! I love chicken tortilla soup anyway and will have to try this version. I should be able to find that chilli powder here.

Erin@likegrandmas said...

I have never had that soup, but the recipe seems easy enough and it sounds and looks delicious. Glad to have something new to try, thanks Sue!

Miss Char said...

Well I thank you very much for the recipe Sue, I got it from Copykat and people always rave when I make it. Glad to know who the original source was, this is a yummy soup and I also believe what goes around comes around.

Jo said...

Looks great I will have to make it - perfect for the winter nights!

Lindy said...

I wish I could cook! But I still love to look at food pictures and read good recipes! Yours looks and sounds great!

Sharing with Sherri said...

Hey there Sue,
Oooo I love making a big pot of soup when the weather is "chilly" out! I have to admit that I didn't realize that there was chile powder AND chili powder. I'll have to go look in my cabinet to see which kind I have!
YOUR recipe sounds delish, and I'll have to try it sometime! I love mexican food!!

Have a nice weekend!! It's a perfect soup weather here this weekend!

Hugs, Sherri:)

Edie Marie's Attic said...

MMMMMmmmmm! looks delicious!! I'm gonna be tryin' this soon. I remember having it previously and it WAS good!

Have a great weekend!!
Hugs, SHerry

Debbie said...

This is a recipe that I can definitely make. What's more, it's a way that my husband, who doesn't always like chicken soup, would like it because of the flavors.


Dishesdone said...

Your soup sounds (and looks) delicious!

Sheri said...

So funny - i'm visiting from Southern In My Heart - and i did a knock off of a chain restaurant here too - kindred spirits! This looks divine - saving this one for my file!

Heather said...

First off Sue, thanks for the cold Dos Equis when I walked in the of my favorites! ;o) I could smell your wonderful soup all the way over from my blog. It looks so good! I find that when I "copy" a soup from a favorite establishment it seems to ALWAYS turn out better, I think it's the homemade touch we can give it. I can't wait to write this one down and make it...and I will give you all the credit. ;o) Thanks for participating in Sister Saturday!

Heather@Gourmet Meals for Less

Karen said...

Dropping by from Vanessa's. Sounds really yummy. I will have to come back by and write it down.
Thanks for sharing.

Vanessa said...

Oh Sue! It just kept getting better and better as I scrolled down and then I saw that "cold one" sitting there waiting for me and I could picture myself just sitting there with you eating ourselves silly! :-) I LOVE tortilla soup and this looks waaaayy better than the recipe I have used in the past so it is for sure coming home with me! Do you think you could use Ancho Chili Powder instead? Thank you so much for joining in this party and for being such a good friend here in blogland! :-)

Lori E said...

May her soup pot boil over and make a mess...shame on her.

Ethel I expected a long complicated recipe when you were describing it then I saw how simple it would be when I saw the ingredients.
Oh it must be so good.

Lynn Richards said...

I agree-when I saw the picture, I thought it would be a long, hard recipe! Looks great and so fast!

michelle said...

Your soup looks so yummy!!! I cant wait to try it! I saw the pic at Soup Exchange and I had to come see!!

Sorry about the person that did that to you, I really don't know what is wrong with people sometimes.

High Street Cottage said...

Hi Sue, thank you so much for stopping by the High Street Cottage, and for your nice post! I love tortilla soup, for me it spells comfort. Living in California we certainly have much access to hispanic/latin flavors and seasonings. So I'll have to try it. I know how you feel about your recipe being copied. The wonderful thing about blogging is can inspire someone, I think the issue comes in when the person as you said do not give credit where credit is due. I am new to blogging , and still saw someone post nearly the same thing, without one mention she saw it on my blog first, and even commented on it in my post. It happens, I just say to myself, she must have really liked what I did. Someone even posted to her saying oh, tami did that last week, so this type of thing certainly happens and part of blogger etiquette is crediting ideas and pictures to whom it's owed. You blog is just lovely, and your home looks very unique, I love all the vintage items you have adding charm.

Pat said...

Looks yummilicious, Sue. Right down to the beer!

La said...

I love M & E's Chicken Tortilla Soup! I will definitely give this recipe a go, Happy Halloween! La

Penny @ The Comforts of Home/Lavender Hill Studio said...

Yummy! This sounds amazing. I will definately have to try this. Thanks for stopping by my blog for my recipe. I linked to a post I had done over a year ago. Come visit me on my current post. I am having a giveaway for a brand new Krups Espresso/Coffee machine valued at $155.00!

Penny @ The Comforts of Home/Lavender Hill Studio said...

p.s. I live in Asheville NC and I saw the post you did on your trip to High Point. I love living here in the NC mountains! If you come through here again, let me know and we can meet for lunch!

Secret Garden Cottage said...

Sue, your soup sounds delicious! My hubby would think it a perfect meal with the beer... lol!
Happy Halloween! ~ Jo :)

Jemsmom said...

I love love love Max and Erma's Chicken Tortilla Soup! I have a recipe for it to that is very close! We don't live near a Max and Erma's now so I have to make some. I can't wait to try yours! I will have to send you my recipe and let you see! Thanks!

janet said...

Hello Sue...We are huge soup people and I will be making this wonderful recipe. I love the creaminess of it and I still have cilantro growing on my deck. Thanks for sharing and Booooooooooooo to the copycat demon ;-(
Happy Halloween!

Janet xox

Southern Queen Bee said...

Looks Yummy...I could use that beer too.
I just wish it would be cooler here for us to need soup. Hopefully some rain and cooler temps will head our way.

Country Wings in Phoenix said...

Good Morning Sue Sweetie...
Now doesn't that just beat all? Someone who would go out and actually steal a recipe. I too believe in Karma. She will see won't she.

I love the read of the recipe, and even though we haven't been really cool here in the desert, this is one recipe my dear husband would love. I will let you know what the family thinks when I give it a try. It smelled wonderful when I opened up the page. I just knew there wasn't something great in here. Looks wonderful sweetie. I thank you SO much for sharing it will us this morning.

Hope you had a beautiful weekend. Can't wait to see what you share next sweetie. Many hugs and much love, Sherry

Chari at Happy To Design said...

Hi Sue...

I'm just coming over from Vanessa's soup party! Girlfriend, your Creamy Chicken Tortilla soup looks and sounds divine! I will definitely be giving your recipe a try...thanks for sharing it with us! I love soup...I think I could live on the stuff! Hehe! You know, I have never heard of Max & Erma. Ohh...and I'm so sorry that someone stole your recipe and put it off as their own! That's just wrong! Sorry!

Warmest autumn wishes,
Chari @Happy To Design

laurie @ bargain hunting said...

Yum! I'm stealing this recipe for sure (but I'm NOT going to publish it as my own-how rude!). I think my family will love this. Thanks for the recipe. laurie

Lou Cinda @ Tattered Hydrangeas said...

This looks DELISH! I have printed it out and plan to make it! People can be so rude and they think that no one will ever find out! Yeah right! If I were you I might have sent her a little message and just tell her you are "on to her". LOL Giver her a little jolt!

Have a great day!

Lou Cinda :)

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Sue, I try to stay away From canned soups because of all the sodium in them, but I bet this tastes sooo good! A soup party meme sounds like fun! I love home made soup.

Miss Char said...

Sue, I have to tell you about my friend Joan. She was in love with Max and Erma's soup, she would drive about 20 miles out of town to go there and enjoy a big bowl. I had taken her some of your soup and she loved it, this was last year some time. Anyway....she called me up yesterday and said "I NEED that recipe"! Like she was just not going to rest until she had a big pot of the soup going on the stove. Our last M&E closed and she needed her "fix".

Rettabug said...

Sue, I could NOT copy this recipe fast enough!! Afraid it might disappear before I captured it. LOL

I ADORE Chicken Tortilla soup ever since I had the bestest bowl ever at the Hilton hotel while attending the Houston Quilt Show years ago. I can't wait to try your sounds even more delicious.

A friend in FL gave me some NM red chilE powder & I cherish & parcel it out very carefully. Used some just yesterday in homemade chilE over baked potatoes for supper. Yummo!

Thank you SOOOO much for sharing your version. Yes, I will use low sodium soups where I can, due to DH's ♥ issues but otherwise I have everything in the house to make it except the fresh cilantro.

Oh & POOP & MEGA Karma turn around on that stinky copycat!!!!! She'll get her just desserts in due time!

Kathleen said...

It looks delicious, Sue, but my Irish tummy would revolt. I am allergic to garlic! I love it, but can't eat it, literally makes me ill!

Rettabug said...

Sue, I just had to pop back in here to tell you how much we LOVED your soup!!!

I made it right after posting that I had all the ingredients. Took some to my smocking group, where 3 people LOVED it, too. Took some more to DD...everyone there loved it except Ms. C. (She's a very picky eater & doesn't do *sfiscy*...her pronunciation, not my spelling)

I also sent it on to my sisters in Canfield, OH, Coitsville, OH & Gilbert, AZ as well as my brother in TX. Its really making the round!!!
Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I did the low sodium versions of the soups that I had in the house. The only thing I didn't have was the fresh cilantro & I'm sure it would have been even more authentic. Next time!

The two of us will probably enjoy the leftovers tomorrow night. :D