Chicken Tortilla Soup

chicken tortilla soup with fritos
621 calories
137 grams

4.55 cal/g

35gdehydrated chicken or freeze dried chicken126 cal
25gdehydrated black bleans or dried black beans73 cal
4gdehydrated green bell pepper or dried mixed bell peppers13 cal
4gdehydrated red bell pepper14 cal
5gdehydrated corn or freeze dried corn26 cal
5gdehydrated onion or dried chopped onion22 cal
10gdehydrated salsa30 cal
2gdehydrated tomato paste or tomato powder6 cal
1gdehydrated jalapenos or dried jalapenos4 cal
1 tbspolive oil123 cal
1/8 tspcumin0 cal
1/8 tspchili powder0 cal
1/4 tspgarlic powder0 cal
1/4 tspcoriander0 cal
1/4 tspTrue Lime0 cal
1 tspchicken bouillon10 cal
30gFritos corn chip171 cal

Serving Size: 

ONE Adventurer


Bag 1:

  • All ingredients except Fritos corn chips and olive oil

Bag 2:

  • Fritos corn chips

There are few, if any, feelings like having a hearty bowl of soup on a cold evening after a long day of backpacking.

So indulge me for a second here. Imagine yourself sitting on a partially decaying fallen tree along a pristine lake. Your tent is setup on a patch of dirt nestled beside the once towering pine and your sleeping bag is lofting up within. You remove your shoes and slowly peel back your socks. A wave of relief washes over you as the cool evening breeze dances across your feet, swirling around your toes just long enough to let you forget that those blisters are turning into calluses very nicely.

You start to wiggle and stretch your toes, they slide past each other as if they’ve been buttered. But soon your feet are dry and a strange smell climbs toward your nose. You wonder to yourself, “... is it athlete’s foot?” The thought fades away just as quickly as it appeared as you realize it’s not your feet that smells, but that your chicken tortilla soup is ready.

Alright… chicken tortilla soup definitely doesn’t smell like funky feet, but it undoubtedly has a unique smell. The combination of cumin and chili powder are a wonderful if not strange aroma. And while the smell might not be the most appetizing, the taste is out of this world. Like an army of magical elves dancing on your tongue stomping out any possible food fatigue. If this doesn’t restore your love of eating on the trail, then all hope might be lost.

While it’s not exactly authentic, it’s incredibly tasty and packs a pretty hefty caloric density. The best part is that a significant number of ingredients can be purchased already dehydrated or freeze dried. So if you’re in a time crunch, or need to crank out a large number of meals and your dehydrator can’t pump out that kind of volume it’s not a problem.

On the topic of authenticity, this really should be called chicken Frito soup because there are no tortillas in this recipe. I could make the argument that Fritos are a form of tortilla, but that’s not quite true either. If you want to use tortillas that’s certainly an option though. They pack very well for life on the trail and they have a rather long shelf life without refrigeration. However, my underlying motivation for using Fritos is calories. At 5.71 calories/gram it’s about the most calorically dense carby food you can eat. On top of that, because it’s so heavily processed it’ll last you until the end of time.

chicken tortilla soup backpacking recipe ingredients

Besides the chicken, this meal is basically vegetarian. So my animal-friendly friends can just substitute the chicken for some textured vegetable protein to feast like royalty. And if you like it particularly spicy, then you ought to know what to do with the jalapenos—add more. If Fritos aren’t your thing and you still want that calorie bump just add more corn, next to the chips, it’s the second most calorically dense ingredient in this recipe.

So pack your stove and cookset, grab a sweater, and bundle up on a mountaintop somewhere as you watch the sunset. Oh, and remember, your feet are doing just fine.

Update: May 18, 2015

frontier soup tortilla soup mixI was doing some grocery shopping yesterday when I noticed this product in the organic aisle. It's a south of the border tortilla soup mix by Frontier Soups and was among one of many instant soup mixes.

It's possible that this is a really popular common product and I'm late to the party, but it seems like a good option if you don't want to spend time dehydrating a bunch of invididual ingredients or don't have a dehydrator at all. It claims to be 4-5 servings but that doesn't look right to me, considering it's freeze dried. Probably more like 1-2 servings for a hungry backpacker.

And if you can't dehydrate chicken, just use chicken in foil pouches or buy some freeze dried chicken (be sure you're not buying pet treats!) If you go the foil pouched chicken route it obviously won't be as light as dehydrated or freeze dried, but the meal should rehydrate super quickly and only weigh marginally more.

While a really neat idea, my only hang up is the price. At $6 a packet it's up there with Mountain Houses and the like, and you still need to provide your own protein. I haven't actually tried this product so I can't vouch for the taste, but it gets surprisingly positive reviews on and is a good option if you're without a dehydrator and want to add some variety to your trail meals.


  1. Empty contents of Bag 1 into a pot and fill with enough water to submerge approximately one inch.
  2. Cover and heat to a simmer.
  3. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. For fuel savings, simmer for 2 minutes and keep covered in a coozy for 10-15 minutes.
  4. If using dehydrated chicken, check chicken for doneness. If using freeze dried chicken, check corn and beans for doneness.
  5. Add more water to reach desired consistency.
  6. Add olive oil and Fritos.
  7. If necessary, add salt, but remember the Fritos will add some salt as well.