Max & Erma's Tortilla Soup copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur
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Max & Erma's Tortilla Soup

Score: 4.14. Votes: 14
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After years of fielding requests to clone the delicious signature soup from this 100-unit chain, I was finally able to secure a couple carry-out samples from Max & Erma's at the Cleveland airport while I was there on biz trip. Wrapped in a bundle of napkins and tucked into a carry-on bag, my samples arrived home in Vegas still warm and ready for analysis. For this one you'll need some white and dark fillets of chicken and a half pound hunk of cheese to shred. It's all that Cheddar cheese that makes this tortilla soup so good. And you'll definitely want to shred your own, since the pre-shredded stuff—while also more expensive—just doesn't melt as well in the chicken broth as cheese that's been shredded just before it goes into the pot. 

Update 2/8/17: This recipe may work better if you first make a sauce with the cheese before adding it to the soup. After step #2, combine 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of flour in a medium saucepan. Whisk in 1 cup of milk until thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove it from the heat and stir in the cheese until it's melted. Keep the cheese sauce warm over low heat until you need it. Reduce the cornstarch to 1 tablespoon and dissolve it into the chicken broth in a large saucepan. Add the chicken, sauteed vegetables, and remaining ingredients for the soup (except the cheese sauce) and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in the cheese sauce and simmer the soup for another 10 minutes while you bounce to step #4.

Find more of your favorite famous soup recipes here.

Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • 1 skinless chicken breast fillet
  • 1 skinless chicken thigh fillet
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup minced white onion
  • 1/4 cup minced Anaheim pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 8 ounces shredded mild Cheddar cheese
  • 3 6-inch corn tortillas, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (approx. 2 limes)
  • 1/4 cup canned diced tomato
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground Mexican oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Crispy Tortilla Garnish
  • 2 to 3 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 6-inch flour tortillas, thinly sliced
  • Do This
    • Restaurant/Brand
      Max & Erma's
    • Instructions

      1. Cook the chicken in a saute pan with a little oil on medium heat for 4 or 5 minutes per side. You won't need to cook the chicken all the way through, since it will finish cooking in the soup. When chicken is cool, chop it into bite-size pieces. 

      2. In a large saucepan, heat vegetable oil over medium/low heat. Add onion, minced pepper and garlic and sweat (cook slowly) for 15 minutes or until the minced onion begins to turn translucent. 

      3. Dissolve the cornstarch in the chicken broth, then add the mixture to the pan, along with the remaining ingredients. Bring heat to medium while stirring constantly to help the cheese melt. When the soup begins to bubble, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

      4. While the soup simmers, heat 2 to 3 cups vegetable oil to 325 degrees F in a medium saucepan or deep fryer. Drop the thinly sliced flour tortillas in the oil and fry for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

      5. Serve 1 1/4 cups of soup in a bowl with crispy tortillas on top.

      Makes 4 servings.

Average rating:

Score: 4.14. Votes: 14
Rating of votes (14)
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Melinda Beggrow
Sep 6, 2014, 22:00

This is better than Max & Ermas

Feb 6, 2009, 22:00

I love this recipe! I use salsa con Queso instead of grated cheese. It helps to save a couple of steps and tastes just like Max and Erma's!

I'm Todd Wilbur,
Chronic Food Hacker

For 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

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