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How to Make Mexican Chicken Soup: Caldo de Pollo Recipe

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 2 min read

Caldo de pollo is a Mexican chicken soup that’s the ultimate comfort food.



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What Is Caldo de Pollo?

Caldo de pollo is Mexican chicken soup. It starts with a flavorful chicken broth (the word “caldo” means broth) that is topped with pieces of chicken and veggies, such as zucchini, chayote, radishes, and avocado. Caldo de pollo is often served with fresh cilantro on top and lime wedges on the side.

Common Ingredients for Caldo de Pollo

The beauty of caldo de pollo is that it can be made so many different ways. Here are the basic ingredients you’ll need to get started.

  1. Chicken: You can use almost any type of chicken to make caldo de pollo, but keep in mind that you’ll need it for two things: the flavorful chicken stock that forms the base of the homemade soup, and the shredded chicken meat that floats in it. You’ll want to adjust the cook time and seasoning based on the type of chicken you use. A whole chicken will yield the most flavorful and gelatinous stock. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts produce a low-fat, mild-flavored broth but take care not to overcook it. Bone-in chicken legs (or chicken thighs or drumsticks) can stand up to longer cook times, giving you the best of both worlds: a rich stock and tender meat. You can even use a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken: Shred the meat off the bones, and use the bones to make stock, adding the cooked meat back in at the last minute.
  2. Garlic and onions: Garlic cloves, white onions, and serrano and/or jalapeño peppers form an aromatic base for the soup.
  3. Tomatoes: You can use fresh, diced tomatoes (such as Roma tomatoes), canned diced tomatoes, or even tomato sauce.
  4. Cumin, pepper, and chile: Season your caldo de pollo with salt, ground cumin, black pepper, chile powder, and Mexican oregano.
  5. Vegetables: You can use almost any vegetables in caldo de pollo. Try quartered potatoes, thinly sliced celery and zucchini, or carrots.
  6. Cream and cilantro: A dollop of sour cream or Mexican crema added just before serving (optional) will add both fat and acidity. Sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro and serve with warm corn tortillas or tortilla chips.
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Caldo de Pollo Recipe

Prep Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr
Cook Time
30 min


  • 1 whole chicken
  • ½ white onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, chopped (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 15-ounce can corn, rinsed
  • ½ cup crema or sour cream, to serve (optional)
  • 1 avocado, sliced, to serve (optional)
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Warm corn tortillas, to serve
  1. In a stockpot or large Dutch oven, combine chicken, onion, garlic, jalapeño, cumin seeds, carrots, and celery and cover with water. Cook over high heat until the broth starts to boil, then reduce to a simmer, skimming any foam that comes to the surface.
  2. While your broth is simmering, add tomatoes and zucchini. Season with salt, pepper, chile powder, and oregano. Continue to cook the soup until the zucchini is cooked through, the chicken is tender, and the broth is very flavorful, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and take the chicken out.
  3. Shred the meat off the chicken bones, discard the bones, and return the meat to the soup. Add corn and heat until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  4. Serve the soup with avocado slices, crema, cilantro, lime wedges, and tortillas.

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