Cinco de Mayo—beyond the taco!

The White House is very much the “peoples house,” and not just a place for diplomatic receptions and state dinners. Throughout the year the President and First lady play host to a continual stream of awards ceremonies and celebrations that span all walks of life and bring together many people from across the country.

One celebration that has gained in popularity across the country in recent years is Cinco de Mayo—the day when General Zaragoza, with chick tortilla soup the support of local civilians and Zacapoaxtla Indians, led his poorly equipped Mexican soldiers to victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

At the White House, we were always looking for ways to combine traditional ingredients and flavors in new ways, and the characteristic flavors of Mexico and the Southwest gave us a great opportunity to experiment with something new for the annual Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

I created my interpretation of Chicken Tortilla Lime Soup that became a great favorite of President George W. and Mrs. Laura Bush. It is hearty, but still light with complex flavors. So mix up that pitcher of margaritas, gather some friends and celebrate the day!


Chicken Tortilla Lime Soup

Serves 6 Preparation Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 3 hours


Canola Oil

4 corn tortillas cut into thin strips

1 (3 ½-pound) chicken

½ cup rough cut carrots

½ cup rough cut celery

1 cup rough cut onions

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 cups small dice onions

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon chipotle purée

2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and small dice

½ cup lime juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (for garnish, optional)

Salt and fresh milled black pepper


Heat 3 inches of canola oil in a heavy pan to 325°F. Stirring constantly, place tortilla strips in hot oil, and fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels, season with fine salt, and set aside.

Place the chicken in a medium stockpot, and cover with water. Add carrots, celery, onions bay leaves, and peppercorns. Bring to boil, decrease heat, and simmer for 1 ¼ hours.

Transfer chicken to a sheet pan, split in half and set aside to cool slightly. Remove chicken from bones, tearing into small pieces, place in a bowl and refrigerate until needed. Return bones to simmering pot and simmer for another 1 ½ hours.

Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, and set aside. Discard solids.

Heat oil in medium stockpot over medium heat. Add onions and sweat for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sweat for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and stir in chipotle purée. Return stock to pot and bring to a simmer, skimming the top as needed. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in chicken and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in lime juice just before serving.

To plate:

Ladle soup into warm bowls and top with crispy tortillas and cilantro.