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Sopa de Lima (Sweet Lime and Chicken Soup)

Servings: 6

To say this chicken soup is a signature dish of the Yucatán is an understatement. What makes it uniquely Yucatecan is not just the sweet lime (known as lima), the variety of lime that is used there and gives the soup its name as well as its unmistakable perfumed aroma and intriguing—almost floral—flavor, but also the harmonious combination of bell pepper in the sofrito base, roasted garlic in the broth, and fragrant dried oregano. You can find lima citrus in specialty stores and online, or substitute regular limes or lemons.


  • 5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1-1/2 lb.)
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil, plus more for frying the tortilla strips
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 lb. ripe tomatoes, chopped, with their juices, or half of a 15-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 green or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
  • 6 to 8 corn tortillas, cut into 2×1/2-inch strips and fried or baked until crisp (see Tip, below)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves; more for garnish
  • 1 sweet lime (or regular lime or lemon), thinly sliced, for garnish, plus 2 to 3 sweet limes (or regular limes or lemons) for squeezing
  • 1 fresh habanero chile, thinly sliced, for garnish (optional)


Preheat the broiler with the rack 2 to 3 inches from the heat. Place the unpeeled garlic cloves on a small baking sheet under the broiler, and broil, turning occasionally, until the skin is completely charred and blackened and the garlic is soft and mushy, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, set aside to cool slightly, and peel when cool enough to handle.

Place the chicken in a large pot, and cover with 10 cups of water. Add the charred garlic cloves, the oregano, thyme, bay leaves, 2 tsp. of the salt, and the black pepper, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Skim off the foam, cover partially, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through but still moist, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Remove the chicken from the broth, and set aside until cool enough to handle, then shred along the grain into thin pieces. Strain the broth into a large bowl, and add the shredded chicken.

Rinse and dry the pot. Add the oil, and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onion, tomatoes, bell pepper, and the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are very soft, almost a mash, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the chicken broth and chicken, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover, and simmer 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves.

Ladle the soup into bowls, and top each with a handful of tortilla strips. Garnish with some of the cilantro, lime or lemon slices, a squeeze of juice, and, if using, some sliced habanero for added flavor and heat.


To fry tortilla strips: Heat 1/4 cup corn oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, about 4 to 6 minutes. Add tortilla pieces (they should immediately start to bubble), and fry, stirring and flipping occasionally, until golden tan and slightly brown in color and are hard and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt while still hot.

To bake tortilla strips: Preheat the oven to 350°F with racks in the middle and lower third. Oil two baking sheets, lightly brush or spray the tortilla strips with oil, and place in a single layer on the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn. Return to the oven, and bake until tan and crisp, 5 to 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with salt, and let cool before serving.


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Reviews (2 reviews)

  • dougnbec2 | 12/28/2021

    The broth is amazing...I could just drink it and be happy, although my family wished for more chicken. Fantastic and simple soup.

  • user-363816 | 12/19/2021

    Absolutely delicious with these simple ingredients. Better than chicken noodle soup (oh my!) for a cold day.

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