Caldo de Pollo, or Mexican Chicken Soup, is a light and flavorful soup made with homemade chicken broth, juicy shredded chicken thighs, and fresh vegetables including cabbage, carrots, and zucchini. Gluten-free, dairy-free, and guaranteed to warm you from the inside out.
Caldo de Pollo Recipe
No week is complete without a big pot of hot soup simmering on the stove. I love soup of any kind, but this delicious Caldo de Pollo is one of my favorites. Made entirely from scratch, this simple and satisfying Mexican chicken soup is there to warm you from the inside out and help you feel better when you’re feeling crummy.
What is Caldo de Pollo?
Have you ever heard of Caldo de Pollo? Despite my less-than basic level of Spanish, I do remember that Caldo means “broth” and Pollo means “chicken” when translated to Spanish. Put the two together and caldo de pollo literally translates to “broth of chicken” or “chicken broth“.
For us and this soup, Caldo de Pollo (also known as “soap de caldo”) basically refers to a chicken broth-based soup loaded with chicken and vegetables. Sometimes made with potatoes, while other times served over rice, there are several versions of this popular Mexican chicken soup.
This one is my favorite. Now, let’s make some.
RELATED: Homemade Chicken Soup Recipe
Ingredients in Caldo de Pollo
- Bay Leaves
- Olive oil
- Fresh lime juice
Unlike many Mexican-style soups, this recipe calls for NO cheese, NO cream, and NO tomato-based sauces (enchilada sauce, for example). Feel free to add one (or all) if desired, but the flavor is so beautiful without it that I strongly recommend that you try it first.
You may use chicken thighs or chicken breasts, however, bone-in chicken thighs, legs, or breasts will result in the juiciest shredded chicken and best tasting broth – when compared to simply poaching chicken breasts in water. Traditionally, caldo de pollo would have been made using a whole chicken, but I wanted something a little faster and less time consuming for this batch of soup. I compromised with,
- 1 bone-in skin-on chicken breast
- 2 whole bone-in skin-on chicken legs
- 6 bone-in skinless chicken thighs
This came to roughly 4 pounds. Feel free to use whatever combination of chicken you’d like, keeping in mind that chicken breasts will dry out and become somewhat chewier if they simmer for much longer than 25 minutes.
How to Make Caldo de Pollo
1. The first step is to make the broth. Sometimes I will sear the chicken first, but this time I just dumped the chicken, smashed garlic, bay leaves, salt, and water into my favorite heavy-bottomed Dutch oven and let it come to a boil. You guys get to decide if you want to take the extra time to sear the chicken. Will it add extra flavor? Maybe a little. Enough to make a huge difference? Not really.
2. Once everything is boiling, cover your pot and reduce heat to low. Simmer for at least 45 minutes to an hour, but no more than 2 hours. Now, if you are using boneless skinless chicken breasts, reduce time to 30 minutes.
3. Skim off any foam and remove the chicken pieces to a clean plate. You’ll want to let your chicken rest for a few minutes before you start shredding (it will be super hot!) Don’t let it sit out all day though – chicken is easier to shred when it is warm. Meanwhile, strain your homemade chicken broth through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean pot or large bowl. Set aside.
4. Return the large, heavy-bottomed pot that you used to make the broth back to medium heat. Add the olive oil and diced onions and cook until onions are softening and garlic is fragrant (approximately 3-4 minutes).
5. Next, add the celery, carrots, potatoes, corn, and lime juice. Add the homemade chicken broth to the pot and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until carrots are tender.
6. Once your carrots are tender, add the shredded chicken back to the pot and mix in the zucchini, cabbage, and cilantro. Season with additional salt, to taste and continue to simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until zucchini is tender.
7. Serve and enjoy.
How to Serve Caldo de Pollo
You’ll want a big bowl to serve this delicious soup because it is loaded with all kinds of veggies that you don’t want to miss out on. I like to leave the corn on the cob and take a bite whenever I want something on the sweeter side, but feel free to cut the corn from the cob if you prefer not to get your soupy.
Here are a few of my favorite toppings and garnishes,
- Sliced jalapeño or serrano chilies
- Fresh cilantro
- Lime juice
- Shredded cheese
- Tortilla chips or corn tortillas
Can you freeze Caldo de Pollo?
This Mexican chicken soup freezes incredibly well. To do so, allow your soup to cool in the refrigerator completely before transferring to freezer-friendly containers or double-bag in freezer-friendly zip-lock bags. Remove most of the air, leaving just a small amount of space to allow the liquid to expand as it freezes.
To reheat, allow your frozen soup to thaw in the fridge overnight. Transfer to a pot and cook until heated through then garnish with all of your favorite toppings.
Leftovers are best enjoyed within 4-5 days, thoroughly reheating each time.
More Mexican Soup Recipes,
If you try making this Caldo de Pollo Recipe (Mexican Chicken Soup), please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
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Caldo de Pollo Recipe (Mexican Chicken Soup)
For the Chicken and Broth
- 4-5 lbs chicken pieces (I added a mix of bone-in skinless and skin-on chicken)
- 6 cloves garlic (peeled and smashed)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp salt
- 10 cups water
For the Caldo de Pollo
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion (diced)
- 3 ribs celery (chopped)
- 5 carrots (peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces)
- 3-4 Yukon gold potatoes (chopped into equal-sized segments)
- 4 ears corn (cut into 2-3 inch pieces)
- 2 limes (juiced )
- 4 small zucchini (halved and chopped)
- 1 small green cabbage (cored and chopped)
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (chopped)
- Optional toppings/garnishes (avocado, Jalapeño or serrano peppers, chopped cilantro, fresh lime juice, shredded cheese)
For the Chicken and Broth
- Transfer the chicken, garlic, bay leaves, salt, and water to a large heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for at least 45-60 minutes, until the chicken is tender.
- Skim off any foam that may have formed on the top of the broth and use kitchen tongs to carefully remove the chicken from the pot. Transfer to a clean bowl or plate and set aside until cool enough to handle.
- Meanwhile, strain your homemade chicken broth through a fine-mesh strainer. Discard any solids or impurities left behind in the strainer and reserve the chicken broth for later.
- When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred or chop into small pieces. Set aside.
For the Caldo de Pollo
- Return your large, heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven to medium heat. Add the olive oil and diced onions. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the celery, carrots, potatoes, corn, and lime juice. Add the homemade chicken broth to the pot and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until carrots are tender.
- Add the chicken back to the pot and mix in the zucchini, cabbage, cilantro. Season with salt and pepper, to taste and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until zucchini is tender.
- Serve garnished with all your favorite toppings including avocado, sliced jalapeño or serrano peppers, cilantro, lime wedges, or shredded cheese.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)