SOPA DE LIMA (Mexican chicken soup with lime, for six)


In the Yucatan this famous soup is made with the greenish yellow, thin-skinned, fragrant limes known as limas. They are more flavorful and less acidic than common American supermarket limes – though the latter will still make a good soup if they’re all that is available.

For the stock:

a whole roasted chicken carcass, meat removed and reserved

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup onion, peeled and roughly chopped

1 cup celery, washed and roughly chopped

1 cup carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1 jalapeno chile, halved, seeded and deveined

the peel of 1 lime

6 sprigs fresh coriander

6 sprigs fresh parsley


For the soup:

3 tablespoons butter

1-1/2 white onions, peeled and finely chopped

5 limes

8 cups chicken stock

3 cups chicken meat reserved from the stock

coarse salt

vegetable oil

3 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced

2 small mild green chiles, such as Italian frying peppers, seeded and diced

1-1/2 habanero chile, seeded and sliced

2 avocados and chopped cilantro for garnish

tortilla chips to accompany

1. Combine chicken or bones and scraps in a stockpot with salt and water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Skim any scum that rises to the surface of the stock.

2. Add the flavoring ingredients and simmer, the stock, partly covered, for 1-1/2 hours or more. Strain through a sieve into a bowl and discard the solids. Degrease the stock.

3. Melt the butter in the stockpot over medium low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the juice of 3 limes and the stock and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reserve stock.

4. Divide shredded chicken between 6 soup bowls. Reheat stock and adjust seasoning with salt. Place some tomatoes, peppers, chiles and fried tortilla chips in each bowl and cover with broth. Serve with lime wedges cut from remaining 2 limes, avocado slices and chopped cilantro.


  • You can serve commercially prepared tortilla chips with this, or you can make your own, smaller chips to accompany it. Cut tortillas into strips about 1 inch wide, then cut into small triangles. Heat 1 to 2 inches of oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, fry tortillas, in batches, until crisp and golden, 1 to 2 minutes per batch. Drain well on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.
  • If you want to make the soup with an uncooked chicken: Rinse the uncooked bird under cold tap water, remove any excess fat and and any giblets stashed in the cavity, and place the chicken in a pot with 1 tablespoon salt and water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, partly covered, for 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken from the pot to a plate (reserve the stock) and set it aside until it is cool enough to handle. Discard the skin, remove the meat from the bones and shred the meat. Once the meat has cooled completely, cover and refrigerate it until you’re ready to finish the soup. Return the bones to the pot and continue with the recipe at step 2.
  • If your leftover chicken carcass doesn’t have enough meat on it to finish the soup: Buy 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts from your grocery, salt them and add them to the degreased stock in step 2. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and poach the chicken until the juices run clear, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon to a plate to cool, then shred it. Proceed with step 3.

adapted from Saveur Magazine, November, 1997

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