September 16, 2012

Copycat Cafe Rio Tortilla Soup

If you live by a Cafe Rio, then you will already know what I am talking about.  If you do not live by a Cafe Rio (I am so sorry), I am telling you, it is my all-time favorite Mexican food place EVER.  I can eat it, eat it and eat it some more!  One of the things I had never tried was their tortilla soup.  I was told so many times how good it is, but in my mind, I am thinking a brothy soup vs. a tostada?  Huh?  Tough choice - NOT - I am getting a tostada.  A brothy soup just didn't sound appealing to me.  
I finally decided to get the soup one afternoon.  OMG! Let's just say, I am OBSESSED now.  Why did I ever doubt that I wouldn't absolutely love this soup?  It is not JUST a brothy soup.  It is loaded with hearty ingredients and packed with an amazing flavor.  It leaves you feeling full and satisfied and thinking about the next time you are going to eat it.  It is so good that it doesn't matter if it's the middle of July and 100 degrees outside, you WILL still want this soup.

Of course, I had to search for a copycat recipe.  I found quite a few, but this one sounded most promising.  There are a lot of steps involved.  None of them are hard, but it will take some time.

It turned out great.  There are a few differences, but overall I thought it was a pretty good copycat recipe.  The broth was not quite as flavorful as Cafe Rio's and next time I will up the spices.  Also, Cafe Rio's seemed to have more corn flavor.  Some of the copycat recipes I found said to add torn up corn tortillas to the broth and cook it long enough so they disintegrate.  Maybe that is something to try next time?

Here is how you serve the soup exactly like Cafe Rio:

1.  Put chicken in your bowl
2.  Top with Pico
3.  Top with a scoop of Guacamole
5.  Add shredded cheese (I'm not sure what kind of cheese Cafe Rio uses, but this recipe called for Pepper Jack)
6.  Add the flavorful broth
7.  Garnish with crunchy corn strips, cilantro and lime wedges.  DO NOT skip the crunchy corn chips on top.  They soak into the broth and when they soften, they are almost like noodles.  Oh my gosh - so good.  If you don't want to deal with making your own tortilla strips, you could always try using store-bought, corn flavored, tortilla chips.  Just make sure to add some kind of crunchy corn flavored goodness.  Serve with a flour tortilla on the side for dipping.     
Copycat Cafe Rio Tortilla Soup
slightly adapted from: Favorite Family Recipes

1 c. onion, finely chopped
1/2 c. carrots, finely chopped
1 tsp. cumin
dash of cayenne
1 tsp. chili powder
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 Tbl. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
juice of 1/2 lime
pepper, to taste
Pepper Jack cheese, shredded
cilantro, for garnish
lime wedges, for garnish
shredded chicken, recipe below
pico de gallo, recipe below
guacamole, recipe below
tortilla strips, recipe below
warmed flour tortillas, for serving

Make sure you already have your chicken cooking.  In a small skillet, saute onion and carrots in 1 Tablespoon oil until slightly tender.  Stir in cumin, cayenne and chili powder and saute an additional minute or two.  Transfer seasoned vegetables to a small-medium crockpot (or medium-sized saucepan).  Add chicken broth, cilantro, lime juice and pepper. Cook on low (or simmer on stove) for at least 2-3 hours.  

To serve: In individual bowls, layer chicken, pico, a scoop of guacamole and shredded cheese.  Ladle about 1 - 1 1/2 cups of broth directly over layers.  Garnish with crunchy tortilla strips, cilantro and lime wedges.  Serve with warmed flour tortillas for dipping.  Serves: 4-5   

Copycat Cafe Rio Shredded Chicken
slightly adapted from: Cooking Classy
1 1/2 Lbs. chicken breasts
1/4 c. + 1/8 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 c. Italian salad dressing
1/2 Tbl. chili powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cumin

Place chicken breasts in crockpot.  Combine remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.  Cover and cook on low until chicken is done, about 4-6 hours.  Shred chicken in whatever sauce is remaining.  (You could always cook this in the oven if you need it to be done sooner).      

Pico de gallo (or use your favorite recipe)
tomatoes, diced
onion, finely chopped
cilantro, finely chopped

I chopped up a few tomatoes, added slightly less onion and some cilantro.  I figured the measurements didn't matter that much, since you will be adding it to the soup and it will mix with all the other ingredients. 

Guacamole (or use your favorite recipe)
1 ripe avocado
a few Tbl. of the pico de gallo
salt and pepper

Mash up avocado and stir in a few Tablespoons of the pico de gallo.  Season with a little salt and pepper.

Crunchy Tortilla Strips
**If you don't want to deal with frying tortilla strips, you could try using store-bought corn tortilla chips and crush those up in the soup.  I like the crunchy strips, because they soften and end up tasting like noodles, but using store-bought chips would save a lot of time and effort.  

1 pkg. soft corn tortillas, 
    cut into small strips using a pizza cutter
vegetable or canola oil

Add enough oil to a medium-sized saucepan to go about 2-3 inches up the side of the pan.  Heat over medium-high heat.  Carefully add some of the tortilla strips to the hot oil and fry until crisp, this will only take a few minutes per batch.  Using tongs, carefully remove to a paper-towel lined plate and season with salt.  Repeat with remaining strips.  Make sure you fry the strips in a few different batches, so they will cook right.   

Jenn's Notes: Make sure to taste the broth before serving and adjust the seasonings to your desired taste. 


  1. This looks so yummy! I just love tortilla soup. Please stop by and link up at our Wednesday LINKY party! It is really growing fast.

  2. i am, mostly, a rather incompetent cook, but, i think i could actually get this one! and i love anything involving pico or guacamole or corn chips. yum. i have a soft spot for xochitl chips, and they would be delicious on top of this!

  3. Amiga
    Thanks for the Cafe Rio Love! That's fantastic, and really, do we have anything that isn't good? Just saying.

    Keep up the good work!
    Cafe Rio Corporate

  4. I don't live near a Cafe Rio but I think I am going to be obsessed with this soup anyway!

    Erin -

  5. This sounds absolutely delicious! I have never been to Cafe Rio but I am positive I would love it after reading this.

  6. ok, YUM! can I come over and have some? :) Michelle W

  7. Although this soup does seem to have a bunch of steps, it sounds right up my alley! Look forward to trying one chilly weekend :D Pinned and will be following your blog! Thanks for sharing!!

  8. It looks sooo delicious! Soup is the perfect lunch/dinner now in Sweden when its getting colder...Cheers!

  9. Wow, there are SO many amazing looking recipes on here! I can't wait to give them a try!