Sopa de Lima

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After I got my first-ever chachalacas in Texas, I went looking for a recipe that would highlight these amazing chicken-like birds: Classic sopa de lima from the Yucatan fit the bill.

Sopa de lima is essentially a hybrid between chicken soup and tortilla soup, spiked with the zest and juice of limas, which are themselves a hybrid of a citron and a lime. Yes, real deal sopa de lima is not a lime soup, but limes are a good substitute.

A bowl of sopa de lima
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

It can be very hard to find real limas. My advice is to use the smaller key limes if you can, and if not, a mix of Meyer lemons and regular limes is another good choice. Failing that, just use a regular lime.

You will almost always see sopa de lima as a chicken soup, but I happened to have a rare alternative: chachalaca. Wha? You heard me, chachalaca. It’s a cousin of a chicken that is native to the Yucatan, so I am guessing that somewhere, someone has made sopa de lima as a chachalaca recipe.

I chose sopa de lima because you can really taste the bird in this recipe, as opposed to some dish where the meat is covered up in chiles. The best way to make this soup is to cook a whole bird gently in water, vegetables and some herbs, then pull the meat off the bones, strain the stock and make the soup from there.

You can make things a lot faster by using shredded leftover chicken (or any other white meat) and pre-made chicken broth. But you will notice the difference, so if you have time, it’s better from scratch.

My recipe for sopa de lima is an amalgam of one I found in David Sterling’s excellent book Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition and another from a Spanish language cookbook called La Cocina Familiar en el Estado de Yucatan.

Once made, this soup keeps for a few days in the fridge, but if you want to freeze it, leave out the garnishes and add them when you thaw and reheat it.

I cook quite a lot of Yucatecan food, so if you like this recipe, you might want to try my rendition of cochinita pibil, poc chuc, which is grilled pork, dzik, which is a shredded venison salad, a stew called ajiaco, or a braised Yucatecan turkey dish I like to make with turkey thighs.

If you liked this recipe, please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below; I’d love to hear how everything went. If you’re on Instagram, share a picture and tag me at huntgathercook.

A bowl of sopa de lima
5 from 8 votes

Sopa de Lima

This is normally a chicken dish, but I used chachalaca. Any white meat will work, and I can recommend quail, grouse, partridges, pheasants, rabbits or squirrels as alternatives.
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 6 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients 

SOUP BASE

  • 3 pounds white meat, chicken, grouse, quail, turkey, etc.
  • 1 quart chicken or other light stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, Mexican if possible
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns, cracked
  • 8 allspice berries, or 1/4 teaspoon ground
  • 8 whole cloves, or 1/4 teaspoon ground
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped

SOUP

  • 2 tablespoons chicken fat, olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 poblano or green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 habanero chile, minced (optional)
  • 3 paste tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • Zest from 2 limas or limes
  • 1/3 cup lima juice (see above for options)
  • Cilantro and tortilla chips for garnish

Instructions 

SOUP BASE

  • Either put the chicken into a large soup pot whole, or cut it into pieces. Your choice. Add the remaining soup base ingredients plus enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring this to a simmer and cook gently until the meat is tender, anywhere from 30 minutes for quail to 3 hours for an old rooster or turkey legs.
  • Remove the bird and strip the meat from the bones. Reserve the meat and discard the bones — unless you have lots of time, in which case return the bones to the pot and keep cooking for another hour. Whenever you are ready, strain the soup base into a large bowl through a strainer lined with a paper towel. Discard the solids and reserve the broth.

TO FINISH THE SOUP

  • Heat the chicken fat or olive oil in a clean pot over medium heat. Add the onions and stir to coat with the oil. Cook until soft and translucent, but not browned, about 5 minutes. After about 3 minutes of cooking, add the diced poblano or bell pepper.
  • When the onions are soft, add the garlic and habanero, if using. Let this cook for a minute or two, then add the shredded meat, the tomatoes and the broth. Bring this to a simmer and add salt to taste. Let it all cook for 20 minutes, then add the lime zest and juice. Turn off the heat, and serve the soup with the tortilla chips and cilantro.

Notes

NOTE: This will take a lot less time if you use leftover chicken and pre-made chicken broth. 

Nutrition

Calories: 341kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 82mg | Sodium: 140mg | Potassium: 589mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 571IU | Vitamin C: 32mg | Calcium: 61mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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10 Comments

  1. Delicious! The broth is a wonder (and I make chicken broth all the time). Just as Hank says, this soup really features the bird. Use the best quality chicken you can find, if you’re using chicken.

  2. Could you please explain 3 paste tomatoes, seeded and diced. I am not familiar to this term.

  3. I didn’t have everything suggested here, but I did have homemade chicken broth and it was A+. Even in hot weather this was wonderful.

  4. Hank,

    Just made my version of this soup two weeks ago. Very similar to your recipe – but I use no tortilla chips and instead more avocado and cilantro on top.

    Have a great week!

    Tad

  5. I did my thesis work in Yucatan and for the last three or more decades have been missing sopa de lima (a staple), chicken wrapped in banana leaves (forgot the name), and Leon Negra beer (have never seen it exported). Didn’t know the soup was so easy to make.

  6. Sopa de Lima is a hit – I made with rotisserie chicken and broth from the bones, boiling the broth again with ingredients you list, then straining. No fresh chilis on hand so threw in some dried ones.

  7. Hello to Hunteranglergardenercook,

    I saw a pice posted by you about making sausage from scratch. My family used to make a simple “german sausage” recipe. It consisted of fresh pork, fresh beef or fresh venison, fresh garlic, salt and black pepper. This mixture was then placed in an old-fashioned sausage stuffer, using hog casings. It was cast iron. I have lost the measurements of the ingredients. Would you be able to help me with the amounts of each item so that I might be able to share this long-time family treat with my mother and daughter. Thank you ahead of time for considering my request.

    Sincerely,
    Betty Jo Burgess
    bettyjoburgess0@gmail