Paleo Chicken Tortilla Soup – Instant Pot and Slow Cooker

Growing up in the great state of Texas, I quickly learned everyone has their own treasured recipe for quintessential chicken tortilla soup – a Tex-Mex staple! My fondest comfort food memories trace back to high school Wednesdays rushing with friends after the final bell to indulge in El Fenix’s famous enchilada specials. However, as much I loved those enchiladas swimming in red sauce and melted cheese, I almost always opted for their heavenly chicken tortilla soup instead.

There’s just something so warm, soothing, and utterly satisfying about a spoonful of the perfectly seasoned, tomato-y broth pouring down the back of your throat. Pieces of tender shredded chicken, bright cilantro and lime garnish, crunchy broken tortilla chips, subtly spicy chile peppers…I can practically taste it now! After going paleo, I was determined to continue enjoying all of these nostalgic flavors and set out to find an equally delicious paleo version of this delicious soup.

Soup is such a great way to pack whole foods into your diet. This soup is naturally low carb – the perfect addition during soup season or any season. With minimal meal prep, I can have this delicious recipe on the table in under 30 minutes. It’s really the easiest thing to throw together when hosting a crowd for game nights or the Super Bowl. With just a few simple ingredients, this favorite soup of mine comes together in no time. It’s one of those classic comfort foods I crave during cold weather.

As a recipe developer, I was determined to craft a version of this soup that I could actually eat on my paleo diet. This delicious meal packs tons of flavor with such little prep time, it’s such an easy meal too. I hope this soup transports you right back to your most comforting memories too! 

display of soup

Paleo Tortilla Soup Ingredients and Substitutions

  • Shredded chicken – See my recipe for shredded chicken here! For other protein options use shredded rotisserie chicken, bone-in chicken thighs, or spicy ground turkey instead of chicken breast. Although the recipe would no longer be paleo, vegetarian options include: white beans, black beans, chickpeas, or lentils.
  • Oil – Instead of avocado oil,  you could use olive oil, ghee, or coconut oil.
  • Onion – This recipe works with a white or yellow onion. You could also use part onion and part leek or shallot.
  • Garlic – I would not recommend using a substitute like garlic powder or jarred garlic here.  There’s really no substitute here.  But feel free to add extra minced garlic if you love tons of garlicky flavor.
  • Bell Peppers – I personally love the taste of the diced bell peppers.  You can sub an equal amount of mini bell peppers for a sweeter flavor, use some chipotle peppers or poblano peppers for some heat, or add some mushrooms.
  • Arrowroot starch – The only substitute I would recommend here to keep the recipe paleo is tapioca starch.
  • Broth – I used boxed chicken broth to save time.  However, you could certainly use homemade boosting bone broth or chicken stock instead. For a vegetarian option, swap in mushroom or vegetable broth.  For a creamy texture, you could replace one cup chicken broth with coconut milk or even better, coconut cream.  If you make this change, you may want to add a little bit extra lime juice to balance out the subtle sweetness the coconut milk will add.
  • Tomatoes – You can replace half the tomatoes with roasted red peppers or an equal amount of tomatillos.
  • Green Chilies – Use roasted Hatch chiles or diced jalapeños instead for more heat.
  • Seasonings – In addition to the cumin, salt and chili powder, if you would like, add extra spice with smoked paprika, oregano, ground chipotle powder or ancho chili powder.
  • Lime – The lime juice adds such a tasty brightness.  If you don’t have any limes on hand, fresh lemon juice would be the perfect substitute.
  • Nutritional Yeast – I think this recipe tastes amazing as written.  However, if you are wanting to impart a cheesy flavor, you could sprinkle in 1-3 TBS of nutritional yeast depending on your desired level of “cheesiness”. 
ingredients of soup

Serving Suggestions

There are countless combinations to top this paleo chicken tortilla soup.  Below are a few topping ideas for inspiration.  You can get as creative as you want!  Note: Not all of these recommendations are paleo, as everyone’s eating protocol varies.

  • Cheese – If tolerated, top with a little cheese – shredded dairy-free cheese, queso fresco, or Manchego cheese.
  • Avocado – There’s really no replacement for this tortilla soup staple.  I highly recommend serving with fresh slices of avocado.
  • Crunch – For some added crunch, toasted pumpkin seeds, grain-free tortilla chips, or plantain chips would be perfect.  You could even make your own tortilla strips using any tortilla that suits your dietary needs, spraying with some avocado oil, toasting the air fryer for a few minutes and then hitting with some fresh sea salt at the end.  That’s taking the soup up an entire level!
  • Fresh herbs – Fresh cilantro is a fabulous topping option.  I also like to add diced green onion in there as well.
  • Lime wedges – Perfect for that extra hint of citrus.
  • Sliced red onions – These always make a nice, colorful addition to the toppings station.
  • Fresh jalapeño slices – For the person that likes that added heat, this is a must.

How to Make Tortilla Soup Using Different Cooking Methods

Dutch Oven

  • Heat avocado oil in large Dutch oven (or large pot) over medium heat. 
  • Add diced peppers & onions; cook for 5 minutes.
  • Stir in garlic, salt and pepper, cumin, chili powder; cook 30 seconds.
  • Whisk in arrowroot powder until full distributed.  
  • Pour in chicken broth, tomatoes, green chiles.
  • Add shredded cooked chicken.  
  • Simmer soup for 15-20 minutes.
  • Stir in juice of 1 large lime.
  • Taste and season additionally if desired.  
  • Serve soup with desired garnishes.

Instant Pot

  • Turn instant pot to Sauté setting and heat avocado oil.
  • Add diced onion and bell peppers, cook 5 minutes.
  • Stir in garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder – cook 30 seconds.
  • Whisk in arrowroot starch until fully combined.
  • Pour in broth, tomatoes, and green chiles.
  • Add shredded cooked chicken.
  • Seal instant pot lid, ensure valve is set to Sealing.
  • Cook on Manual/Pressure Cook mode on High for 5 minutes.
  • Let instant pot naturally release for 10 minutes, then quick release.
  • Remove lid carefully to avoid steam.
  • Stir in fresh lime juice.
  • Adjust seasonings to taste.
  • Serve topped with desired garnishes.

Slow Cooker

  • Heat avocado oil in skillet over medium heat.
  • Add onion and bell peppers, cook for 5 minutes. 
  • Add garlic and spices, cook 30 seconds more.
  • Transfer onion mixture to slow cooker.
  • Whisk arrowroot starch into chicken broth.
  • Pour broth mixture into slow cooker.
  • Add tomatoes, green chiles and shredded chicken.
  • Cook on Low for 6-8 hours.
  • If soup is too thin after cooking, whisk in more arrowroot starch. 
  • Stir in lime juice.
  • Taste and season with more salt/pepper if needed.
  • Serve soup topped with desired garnishes.
close up of a bowl of soup
bowl of soup

How to Store Paleo Chicken Tortilla Soup

Refrigerator: Store paleo tortilla soup in an airtight container or mason jars in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Be sure the container or jars are covered tightly before refrigerating. The soup should be safe to eat for 5 days when stored properly in the refrigerator.

Freezer: Paleo tortilla soup can be frozen for long term storage. Allow the soup to cool completely before transferring to airtight freezer containers or mason jars, leaving about 1 inch of headspace to allow for expansion. Seal the containers tightly. Label the containers with the soup name and freeze date. Paleo tortilla soup will last for 2-3 months in the freezer when stored in airtight containers at 0°F or below. When ready to eat, thaw the soup overnight in the refrigerator before reheating on the stovetop or microwave until steaming hot, at least 165°F.

tortilla soup pot and bowl

Paleo Chicken Tortilla Soup – Instant Pot and Slow Cooker

Sarah Erickson
One of the easiest soups to make that comes together in under 30 minutes! Lots of whole foods and fresh ingredients makes this a great healthy option and accommodates various dietary restrictions.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Course Soup
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 8


  • Shredded chicken – 3 cups cooked and shredded chicken about 1 1/2 boneless chicken breast or thighs
  • 2 TBS avocado oil
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion diced
  • 2 medium bell peppers diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1-3 tsp chili powder
  • 2 TBS arrowroot starch
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1-14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 oz can diced green chiles
  • 3 cups cooked and shredded chicken
  • juice of 1 large lime

Optional Garnishes:

  • avocado slices
  • sliced jalapenos
  • sliced green onions
  • fresh cilantro
  • grain-free tortilla chips
  • lime wedges
  • sour cream


  • Add avocado oil, bell peppers and onions to a Dutch oven.
  • Once the bell peppers and onions have softened (3-5 minutes), add garlic, salt, pepper, cumin and chili powder and saute for 30-60 seconds being careful not to burn the garlic.
  • Add arrowroot powder and stir to fully combine.
  • Add in broth, tomatoes, green chiles and shredded chicken.
  • Simmer for 15-20 minutes to allow the flavors to come together.
  • Add the juice from one lime. Give it a taste test and adjust seasonings if need.
Keyword chicken tortilla, dairy free, gluten free, mexican, paleo, soup, whole foods

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply