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Caldo Tlalpeño

Perfectly spicy and filling, Caldo Tlalpeño is a Mexican chicken soup with lots of veggies and lots of protein. Serve it with arroz rojo (Mexican rice) and a warm tortilla filled with melty cheese.

Caldo tlalpeño is like chicken soup’s cooler, Mexican cousin. It gets its signature redness from lots of chipotle and tomatoes, making it spicy and smokey at the same time.

Served with avocado, crema, and cheese, this soup is packed with enough creamy richness to balance out the heat. Tender veggies like potatoes, carrots, and zucchini provide a heartiness that melts in your mouth and fills your belly.

One of my fondest memories as a teen is eating big bowls of this soup with my Nana. She would spoon Mexican red rice into each bowl, then grab a warm tortilla and fill it with cheese so that she could snag a cheesy bite between spoonfuls of soup. Especially during the colder months of the year, this soup really hits the spot.

Bowl of caldo tlalpeno with cilantro, avocado, and crema.

Why You’ll Love This Mexican Soup Recipe

Besides being extremely flavorful, here are more reasons to love this easy Mexican recipe:

  • Family-friendly. With 8 hearty servings, a potful of this soup is more than enough for a family dinner.
  • Uses leftover veggies. You don’t have to only use leftover veggies but the soup is a great way to use them up and avoid waste.
  • Easy. All you have to do is make the broth and blend the sauce. It’s easy!
  • Healthy. This soup is packed with vitamins, minerals, and protein from veggies, chicken, and chickpeas.

What Is Caldo Tlalpeño?

Caldo tlalpeño is a popular Mexican soup from the Tlalpan neighborhood in Mexico City, where it is thought to have first originated in a street stall. It is basically chicken soup with chipotle for a bit of spiciness and redness. It is also commonly served with chickpeas but some recipes don’t call for it, so it depends on the chef.

Ingredients for caldo tlalpeno.

Recipe Ingredients

As long as there’s chipotle in your pantry, you’re going to nail the flavor. Check the recipe card at the bottom of the post for full ingredient amounts.

For the Soup

  • Chicken thighs and drumsticks – Make sure they’re bone-in and skin-on.
  • Water
  • Roma tomatoes – You can also substitute them for heirloom tomatoes if you remove most of the seeds.
  • Garlic cloves
  • Chipotles in adobo – It’s the flavor base so don’t skip it.
  • Potatoes – Use your favorite kind. They can be peeled or unpeeled.
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini – You can also use yellow summer squash.
  • Chickpeas – Use homemade or canned ones. If you’re using canned, make sure to drain and rinse them.
  • Cilantro
  • Salt

For Serving

  • Mexican red rice – You can use my Instant Pot Mexican Rice recipe for easy prep!
  • Chihuahua cheese – Oaxaca cheese works too.
  • Avocado
  • Mexican crema – Sour cream thinned with a bit of milk will do in a pinch.

How to Make Caldo Tlalpeño

The secret to this soup is in the blended sauce, so don’t skip this step.

  • Make the broth. Place the chicken in a large pot and cover it with water. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Let the chicken cook for 30-40 minutes. Add more water as needed so that the chicken is always covered. Remove the scum with a spoon. When the chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the pot and set it aside.
  • Shred the chicken. Cool the chicken down by rinsing it under cold water. Discard the skin. If you’re not in a rush, you can just let the chicken come down to room temperature on its own. Use two forks to carefully shred the chicken. Set it aside.
  • Blend the tomatoes. Scoop about 1 cup of chicken broth into the blender. Add the tomatoes, garlic, and chipotle. Process until you get a smooth mixture. Strain it into the pot.
  • Simmer the broth. Place the pot back on the stove over medium heat. Stir to combine. Add the potatoes and carrots. Let the soup simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  • Add the zucchini. Throw the zucchini, chickpeas, and cilantro into the pot. Stir and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Once the potatoes and carrots are fork-tender, the soup is ready.
  • Season and serve. Season with salt to taste. Remove the pot from the heat. Add shredded chicken, red rice, and Chihuahua cheese to each serving bowl. Ladle hot soup into the bowls. Top with diced avocado and a swirl of Mexican crema.

Tips for Success

Follow these tips for an excellent caldo tlalpeño:

  • Store the rice separately. While you can definitely throw the rice into the pot, don’t do it. It’ll absorb all the soup, so always store it separately.
  • Use good quality store-bought stock. There are great low-sodium chicken stocks in the market, so get a high-quality one for the best flavor.
  • Use leftover rotisserie chicken. When you’re not in the mood to boil chicken, shred leftover rotisserie chicken and use that.
  • Drizzle lime juice. Add a bit of lime juice to taste right before serving and enjoy!
Bowl of caldo tlalpeno.

What To Serve with Tlalpeño Soup

This Mexican soup is often served as a main dish because of how filling it can be, but a smaller serving is the perfect opportunity to pair it with refried beans, taquitos, chiles rellenos, and quesadillas.

For extra topping ideas, I recommend crushed chicharron or pan-fried guajillo chile.

How to Store & Reheat Leftovers

Refrigerate any cooled leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Reheat it by popping it into the microwave for 1-2 minutes or until warm.

If you prefer to do it on the stove, pour it into a small pot over medium heat and let it heat for 4-5 minutes or until warm.

Make sure you store the Mexican rice separately from the soup. You can heat them together in the microwave, but if you store them in the same container the rice will absorb most of the liquid.

Can I Freeze This?

Yes, however, be aware that the texture of the veggies will change when the soup is thawed. Place the soup in a freezer-friendly container to freeze it for up to 3 months. Make sure you leave 1″ of headspace so that the soup has room to expand as it freezes.

More Easy Soup Recipes

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Caldo Tlalpeño

Landscape photo of caldo tlalpeno.
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Perfectly spicy and filling, caldo tlalpeño is a chicken soup with lots of veggies and chickpeas. Temptingly red, the only secret to the flavor is in smokey chipotles.

  • Author: Rustic Family Recipes
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stove-top
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Ingredients

For the soup:

  • 2 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks
  • Water, for boiling
  • 3 medium Roma tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 24 chipotles in adobo
  • 23 medium unpeeled potatoes, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium green zucchinis, cut into half moons
  • 1 cup chickpeas, cooked
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
  • Salt, to taste

For serving: 

  • Mexican red rice
  • Diced Chihuahua cheese
  • Diced avocado
  • Mexican crema

Instructions

Make the broth. Place the chicken in a large pot. Cover it with water. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat and let the chicken cook for 30-40 minutes. Add more water as needed so that the chicken is always covered. Use a spoon or strainer to remove the scum from the top. Once the chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the pot and set it aside. Remove the pot from the heat and set it aside.

Shred the chicken. Rinse the chicken under cold water to remove any curdled blood or scum. Discard the skin and carefully use your hands or a fork to shred the chicken. Set it aside.

Blend the tomatoes. Carefully scoop about 1 cup of chicken broth into the blender. Add the tomatoes, garlic cloves, and chipotle. Process until you get a smooth mixture. Strain it into the pot and discard the pulp.

Simmer the broth. Place the pot back on the stove over medium heat. Stir to combine and add the potatoes and carrots. Let the soup simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Add the zucchini. Throw the zucchini, chickpeas, and cilantro into the pot. Stir and cook for another 10 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots have softened and are fork-tender.

Season and serve. Season with salt to taste and remove the pot from the heat. Add shredded chicken, red rice, and Chihuahua cheese to each bowl. Ladle hot soup into the bowls. Top with diced avocado and a swirl of Mexican crema. Enjoy!

Keywords: Mexican soup recipe, tlalpeno soup, Authentic Mexican recipes

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