Home >> Recipes >> Max & Erma's® >> Max & Erma's Tortilla Soup Copycat Recipe  
Max & Erma's Tortilla Soup Copycat Recipe
Max and Erma's Tortilla Soup
By Todd Wilbur

Recipe Type: Soup
Calories: 460
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Recipe Rating: 4.1 (15 reviews)
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.

Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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.

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

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.

Submitted on: 03/31/17
I always use one or two small cans green chilis and I mix the tortillas warm milk and cheese in a separate pan then blend it in a blender then add to broth mixture. Green chili gives it a nice heat, hotter with two cans. Hard to find a creamy tortilla soup recipe.
Melinda Beggrow  
Submitted on: 09/07/14
This is better than Max & Ermas
Submitted on: 05/12/09
I did not think this was as much like M & E's soup as it should have been. 1) It wasn't thick enough. 2)It wasn't spicy enough. 3)It wasn't 'stringy' like M & E's Tortilla Soup. First, I followed the recipe. Then made these additions. I added the following ingredients to thicken, enrich, and spice up the soup. More Cornstarch, 1/4 cup Creme Fraiche for richness, and about 1 1/2 oz of Monterey Jack Cheese w/ Jalapeno. I would suggest using a processed sharp cheese for the cheddar as it is less likely to curdle. You aren't familiar with Creme Fraiche? It's a French preparation you can make at home. Use 1 cup heavy cream and 3 tablespoons plain yogurt. Let sit in a warm 100 degree oven or any place you can keep it warm for 8 hours. Then refrigerate. It will thicken as it chills. It has a slight sweet-tart flavor and will not curdle under heat (but do not boil).
Submitted on: 02/07/09
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!
Submitted on: 11/21/08
I've never tasted the real the thing but find it hard to believe it could possibly taste any better then this! My family LOVES it!!!!
Submitted on: 09/01/08
I make M&E tortilla soup and use Campbells cheddar cheese soup. It mixes in well and doesn't coagulate.
Submitted on: 08/29/08
I did not like the taste of this soup as a comparison to Max & Erma's. Nothing like it!
Submitted on: 01/11/08
I think this recipe is excellent and taste like Max & Erma's Tortilla Soup. I bought my cheddar cheese from the deli and shredded it my self and I used a wisked it in until it was melted.
Submitted on: 10/13/07
This soup was great It was almost exactly like the Max and Erma's recipe.
Submitted on: 09/28/07
Turned out sooooo good! I have never eaten their recipe, so I cannot compare, but it is good. I just put tortilla chips on top with cheese and cilantro, instead of making the chips. Also I seasoned the chicken with a dry chalula seasoning before browning in the pan.
Submitted on: 06/20/07
It is one of the best soups i ever had.
Submitted on: 04/22/07
The soup tasted very good, however it was not at all like Max & Erma's tortilla soup.
Submitted on: 04/17/07
This soup is awesome! The best soup I have ever tasted.
Submitted on: 04/09/07
This recipe is fantastic. I've been searching for years for a really great chicken tortilla soup recipe and this is definitely it.
Submitted on: 04/05/07
The soup had the taste of M&E's Tortilla Soup, but the consistancy was all wrong. The mild cheddar cheese conglomerated on the bottom of the pan, it did not incorporate within the soup.