Chicken Tamale Soup, photo by Yvette Marquez-SharpnackPhoto by Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack

Chicken Tamale Soup

Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 8-10 servings

Sometimes the most delicious recipes are sitting right in front of your nose. For years I've enjoyed countless hot, homemade tamales and homemade caldo de pollo (chicken soup). One day, while browsing through Pinterest during my morning routine, I came across a recipe for chicken tamale soup. My two favorite foods in one bowl, I had to check it out!

The recipe posted included ground beef and tamales out of a can, what? Nothing against tamales out of a can, but growing up with my mom’s homemade tamales really leaves no room for any substitutes. I knew I had leftover tamales in my freezer and I knew it was a must to prepare a homemade caldo de pollo to really make it extra special.

The soup is very similar to my chicken tortilla soup recipe, with a few added ingredients, like corn and beans. If you are fortunate enough to live in an area where tamales are readily available, I suggest trying out this recipe.


  • For the Chicken Stock
  • 3 pieces chicken bone in, skin-on (thighs, breasts or drumsticks)
  • 2 carrots roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery roughly chopped
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoon chiles de árbol or 1/2red pepper flakes
  • Handful of cilantro washed
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • You Will Also Need
  • 8 California chiles or guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
  • olive oil
  • 6 corn tortillas diced
  • 1/2 cup white onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, minced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper or red bell pepper, diced
  • 4 Roma tomatoes diced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 6 cupe chicken stock strained, or more as desired
  • 2 teaspoons chicken base or bouillon granules
  • 2 teaspoons chile ancho powder or any mild dark chile powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Mexican oregano crushed
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 cups pinto beans or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups corn frozen or fresh off the cob
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 10-12 cooked tamales of your choice
  • For the Garnish:
  • avocadoes diced
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Lime wedges
  • tortilla chips

More like this


  1. Add the chicken to a large pot and cover with water, at least 3 inches above the chicken. Add all of the ingredients listed for chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Skim off the top when needed and continue cooking for a good 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  3. While chicken is cooking, add the dried chile California or guajillos to a pot. Cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the chicken from pot and shred all the meat from bones and transfer to a bowl until ready to use.
  6. Strain the chicken stock into a large bowl and discard all of the solids. Drain all the liquid from chiles, transfer to the blender and add 1 cup fresh water. Blend on high until smooth, set aside.
  7. In that same large pot that you cooked the stock in, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil to medium. Add the tortillas, onions, garlic, serrano and bell pepper. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for another few minutes.
  8. Strain the chile sauce from blender through a wire-mesh strainer to remove any remaining skins or seeds and add to pot. Add the strained broth and all of the remaining ingredients listed for soup, plus two cups of water or low sodium chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. Taste for spices.
  9. A few minutes before serving the soup, slice the tamales into thirds and fold into the simmering soup. You could also add a few tamale pieces to the bottom of the bowl and ladle soup over the top if you prefer. The tamales will break down the longer they sit in the soup.
  10. Garnish soup with avocado, crushed red pepper flakes, lime and tortilla chips.

Chef Notes

My suggestion would be to prepare the stock or caldo de pollo the day before. Remove the chicken, shred the meat and store until the next day. Strain and discard the solids out of the stock and refrigerate overnight. Next day, remove the fat layer from stock before using in the recipe. The great thing about most soup recipes is that you can add different ingredients depending on what you like. Add your favorite beans, hominy or even garbanzo beans and fresh corn off the cob is a must if you get the chance. It stays crisp even after cooking and makes for a tasty soup. If you're using frozen tamales, let them defrost overnight in the refrigerator. I keep the corn husk on and reheat them on a hot comal or griddle until the corn husk start to char a little. This adds a great smoky flavor to the tamales. Reheating in the microwave can make them too soft sometimes.

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