Jake’s Southwestern Chicken Soup (for Atlanta Bread Company nostalgics)

Do any of our American readers remember Atlanta Bread Company’s Southwestern-style chicken soup served in a bread bowl? I barely do, that is until I made this dish and memories of ABC came flooding back with Proustian intensity…

The Atlanta-based café and sandwich shop quit making the dish when I was like 8 years old, which proved to be a watershed moment for the franchise, as they subsequently fell apart, their CEO was arrested for fraud in South Africa, and they became a case study on restaurant franchise failures.

The Merrimon Avenue location in Asheville — a staple of the Rickster weekend lunch circuit from c. 2000 to 2008 — finally closed their doors for good in 2016, breaking my father’s heart in the process. Of course by that point, I had long since given up on the chain, though as I recently discovered my subconscious apparently had not, but in fact had been craving it for all these years.

So here it is: reconstituted, reformed, made better: chicken, peppers, chilis, corn, etc… the real key is roasting the bell peppers under a broiler (poblano peppers would be even better). Be sure to add 3-4 crumbled tortillas on top of it, along with the holy trinity of Mexi-Cali ingredients: avocados, cilantro, and lime juice.

On more reminiscing and variations on this soup, catch me on the other side of this recipe. You’ll also find the recipe of our homemade chilli paste.

As a side note, this would probably be better in a pressure cooker (which might be our next purchase*). Certainly, the chicken would be pulled and tender. You could sub thighs as well.

Cocko’s Southwestern Chicken Soup

A done-up take on a Southwest American classic. Tender chicken breast with beans, corn, and roasted peppers in a rich broth. Not as heavy as a chilli or stew, this dish is great on the side or as a main.
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Main Course, Side Dish, Soup
Cuisine American, Mexi-Cali, Mexican, Texmex
Servings 6 big ass portions


  • Dutch Oven
  • Chef's Knife


  • 1 tbsp veggie or olive oil
  • 1 kg chicken breasts, cut into hearty chunks (2.5 lbs)
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, diced
  • 2-3 poblano or bell peppers, roasted then sliced see step 1
  • 3-4 jalapeño peppers (or any other mildly spicy pepper), seeded and chopped Add a habanero if you want some extra heat
  • 2 chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup chili paste See notes for instructions; can just chili powder if you want to be boring
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 5 cups chicken stock (2.5 cubes of stock)
  • 1 400 g canned tomatoes (~14 oz can)
  • 2 400g canned corn, drained and rinsed frozen corn or freshly cooked corn off the cob works as well
  • 1-2 400g canned black and/or kidney beans
  • 1-2 limes juiced for garnish
  • 1-2 avocados, sliced and diced
  • Cilantro ("coriander") for garnish
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  • To roast the peppers, I put them in the oven under a broiler under max heat for 5-8 mins. Rotate them and roast for another 3-5 mins.
    Take them out and let them cool for 5 mins before cutting the stem out and let the juices drain out. Then cut them into thick julienne slices. Set aside.
    If you have a gas stove top, you can also roast them directly over the flame. This is a more intensive way to cook, but the benefit is that it will have more of a charred flavour. Just put them over a medium high flame for a couple of minutes, rotating them with some tongs.
    You can also use a charcoal or gas grill.
  • The next step is browning the chicken. Add half the oil to the dutch oven and let it heat up over medium-high heat. Add a generous dose of salt and pepper to the cubed chicken and add to the pot. It's important to leave some space in the dutch oven so that the chicken browns and doesn't steam. I had to do it in three batches, 3-5 min each side. This can take a bit of time.
    Transfer to plate and let cool.
  • Add the other half of the oil back to the dutch oven and heat to medium-low. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 mins. Stir regularly. Add the jalapeños and cook for another 3 mins.
  • Add garlic, roasted peppers, chili paste (or powder), tomato paste, chipotle peppers, and cumin. Stir it up and let it cook for 1-2 mins.
  • Stir in the chicken stock, canned tomatoes, corn, and beans. Give it a healthy stir and then add the chicken back in. Bring the mix to a boil and then reduce to a simmer with the lid on for 20-30 mins, stirring occasionally.
  • Once everything is nicely cooked, serve with cilantro/coriander, a few slices of avocado, and lime juice to taste. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
Keyword Atlanta Bread Company, Chicken Soup, Mexi-cali, Mexicali, Mexican, Southwestern Chicken Soup, Southwestern-style Chicken Soup, Tex-Mex, Texmex

Post Southwestern Chicken Soup Thoughts (even if you’re not American)

As you might’ve realized by now, this is not your standard soup. The chillis, the avocado, the cilantro, and the lime give this southwestern chicken soup a freshness that you wouldn’t expect. The corn gives it a nice crunch. The beans… Well, we all know what our thoughts are on beans. And on Texans.

For absolute freshness, we’d recommend to also use fresh sweetcorn and just boil it in plenty of salted water for 6 mins before cutting the corn out and add it to the soup. This is not only gonna be good for the environment (more tips here!) but will also make a major difference on the final dish. Plus, we love to shuck corn.

southwestern chicken soup

On chile paste

The chilli paste is the same one I use in our turkey chili dish, which we owe to Kenji over at Serious Eats.

For your convenience, I’ve reposted it here:


  • 4 Dried Dark and Mild Chiles (e.g., Mulato or Ancho) seeded and cut into small pieces
  • 4 Dried Red and Spicy Chiles (e.g., Arbol, Cascabel) seeded and cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups Chicken stock (a whole cube of chicken stock for UK cooks)


  1. After you’ve deseeded and dismembered your dried chilis, you need to toast them.   In a dry pan over medium heat, place your chilis in it. Let them roast for 3-5 mins until browned. Stir them around to ensure they are evenly roasted and roast for another 2-4 mins. It should smell quite fragrant.
  2. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 8 mins until chiles are nice and soft.
  3. If using an immersion blender to blend, transfer to a bowl and puree the mixture with the wand. Don’t worry about getting it completely liquified.  If using a traditional blender, you’ll probably need to let the mixture cool before you add it to avoid any mess. When cool, blend for a while.   As long as most of the chilis are blended up, you’ll be good to go. It will be a liquidy, highly fragrant mix.
  4. Portion out half a cup and freeze the rest by spooning the mixture into an ice tray. You should be able to get 3-4 tbsp per slot. Next time you want chilli or southwestern chicken soup, use two cubes.