Sopa de Lima

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In the days before social media really took off, I used email to keep in touch with a friend from my Community College days. She was in Colorado, and I was in Nashville at the time. Over our many emails, we often traded recipes. Sopa de Lima was one of her favorites, and she sent me her recipe. She had made more than one trip to Mexico and this was something she picked up along the way. Sopa de Lima happens to originate in the Yucatan Peninsula. I truly do not know why this is not on the menu at more Mexican restaurants!

Over the years, I lost track of the email with the original recipe but I was able to memorize it because I have made it so many times. Her recipe used skin on and bone in chicken breasts, but in this version I am using boneless skinless chicken thighs. 

I absolutely love this soup. It’s hearty and comforting without being heavy, and fresh without being too light. This recipe is great for meal prep because it’s even better after a day or two in the refrigerator. It’s healthy, and a great option for those watching their carbohydrate intake. Low Carb options are often hard to find when it comes to Mexican cuisine. The flavor profile of this soup is nothing short of genius. The brightness of the lime, the depth from the cinnamon stick, the heat of the poblanos. It’s magic. If you are on a budget this is not a terribly expensive soup to make, and it’s delicious. 

photo of soup with ingredients

Recipe Tips and Tricks

Could chicken stock be used instead of water? Will it add more flavor?

In this case, it really won’t because you are simmering the chicken for a period of time that will allow flavor to develop so it’s not needed.

Can any part of this recipe be done in advance?

Yes! You could roast the poblanos ahead of time and place them in a gallon freezer bag to sweat, remove the skin, chop them and put them in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator until you make the soup. Just be sure to take them out of the fridge when you start making the soup so that the chiles can come to room temperature before adding them.

What is the difference between using boneless skinless chicken thighs and bone in skin on breasts?

Using boneless skinless thighs cooks down a little on the cooking time, as well as not having to worry about pulling skin off and removing bones when it’s time to shred the meat. I think chicken thighs hold up very well to braising, and if you prefer you can certainly use bone in skin on thighs here. 

Would boneless skinless chicken breasts work in this recipe?

You can use them, but there is more risk that the chicken will turn out a bit rubbery. If you want to use them here I advise trying to avoid leftovers, because the chicken will toughen when you reheat the soup. If you want to use breast meat you are better off going with bone in skin on.

I don’t care for cilantro or cinnamon. Can I leave them out? 

You certainly can! The soup will not have quite the same flavor but if there are ingredients you don’t like, it’s ok to omit them here.

photo of soup with wooden spoon

Serving Suggestions

This is great on it’s own, but my favorite way to eat this is with a cheese quesadilla for dipping! In the Yucatan, Sopa de Lima is typically served as a side or appetizer and often includes fried strips of tortilla. Personally, I love it as a main dish. It’s a fabulous accompaniment to Slow Cooker Beef Tacos and Homemade Toppings. If you would like to know more about traditional dishes of the Yucatan Peninsula, this article from Yucatan Today has a great list!

I would like to note that traditionally, this soup uses fresh tomatoes as opposed to the canned used in this recipe. If you want to try this using fresh tomatoes instead, a pound of fresh chopped tomatoes could be used. Simply add them in at the same point in the cooking process that you would add the canned tomatoes. The soup will not have the same red color pictured here.

I hope you love this soup, and that it becomes a regular in your dinner rotation. If you made this recipe, please leave a comment or a rating below, and share with your friends on social media. Happy Cooking!

close up photo of sopa de lima
Yield: 8 Servings

Sopa De Lima

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Additional Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless skinless Chicken Thighs (about 2 pounds)
  • 2 1/2 tsp Salt, divided
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper, divided
  • 1 Tbsp Oil
  • 4 large Poblano Chiles (about a pound)
  • 3 large Yellow Onions, sliced very thin
  • 3 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 6 cups Water
  • 2 whole Cinnamon Sticks
  • 2 28 ounce cans Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 bunch Cilantro, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • Juice and zest of 2 Limes

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. While the oven heats, chop the stem end off the poblano chilies and remove the seeds and cut them in half lengthwise. Put them on a baking sheet skin side down.
  2. Roast the chilies on the bottom rack of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until the skin is charred and pulling away, turning them over halfway through cooking. Once the chilies are done roasting, put them in a gallon freezer bag and seal. Leave the chilies in the bag to sweat for about 10 minutes. This will help the skin come off the chilies more easily.
  3. While the chilies are roasting, heat the tablespoon of oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat to begin cooking the chicken.
  4. While the pot warms up, season the boneless skinless chicken thighs with 1 tsp of the salt and 1/2 tsp of the pepper.
  5. Add the chicken to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes on each side until nicely browned. While the chicken browns, peel and slice the onions very thinly.
  6. Remove the chicken thighs from the pot and place on a plate. Add the onions, remaining 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper, and chopped garlic to the pot and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes, until the onions soften and begin to brown.
  7. While the chicken rests and the onions cook, remove the chilies from the bag and peel the skin off and chop into half inch square pieces. Then, remove the zest from the limes and juice them and chop the cilantro.
  8. Place the chicken thighs back in the pot and add the 6 cups of water and the 2 cinnamon sticks to the pot and bring to a boil.
  9. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 30 minutes. After about 30 minutes, pull the chicken thighs back out of the pot and return to the plate.
  10. Discard the cinnamon sticks and add the canned crushed tomatoes and chopped poblanos to the pot and stir to combine.
  11. Using two forks, shred the chicken and return it to the pot. Add the chopped cilantro and lime juice and lime zest. Serve all by itself or with warm tortillas, or a quesadilla.

Notes

You can use bone in breasts or thighs, just be sure to simmer them for about an hour to ensure doneness before removing them from the pot to shred the meat.

For extra heat, substitute some of the black pepper for cayenne pepper. Start with about 1/8 of a teaspoon and slowly increase over the course of cooking.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 226Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 68mgSodium: 1226mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 6gSugar: 16gProtein: 18g

All information presented and written within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist or registered dietitian and any nutritional information should only be used as a general guideline. Statements within this site have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is provided for recipes contained on this site. This information comes from online calculators. Although The Copper Table attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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