Not sure what to make for dinner this spring? We suggest whipping up this Mexican tortilla soup, courtesy of Chef Azizi Tookas of Brandywine Kitchen in Bellingham. It’s comforting enough to warm you up on chilly April evenings, but its bright flavors and spicy kick prevent it from becoming too heavy. Best of all, the options for toppings are practically limitless: You can keep things simple with cilantro and tortilla chips, or go wild with cotija cheese, avocado, and whatever other Mexican garnishes you might find in your pantry. 

Meet the Chef

Tookas is both owner and chef at Brandywine Kitchen, a Commercial Street institution with deep roots—literally and figuratively—in the Bellingham community. It’s an offshoot of Brandywine Gardens, which began as an heirloom tomato farm and has since grown to include a variety of produce. Tookas and Co-founder Chris Sunde then took their dual passion for locally sourced cuisine a step further by opening a full-fledged restaurant in 2011. More than a decade later, Brandywine Kitchen continues to be a reflection of their passion for farm-to-table food and sustainable agriculture.


¼ cup canola oil 

3 yellow onions, diced

4 celery stalks, diced

2 sweet peppers, diced 

¼ cup minced garlic

 ¼ cup New Mexican chili pepper powder

 1 tablespoon chipotle powder 

1 tablespoon cumin

 1 teaspoon coriander 

1 teaspoon celery salt

8 ounces tomato paste 

4 quarts chicken stock

1 14-ounce canned diced tomatoes

 1 14-ounce canned black beans, drained 

2 cups frozen corn 4 chicken breasts, precooked and diced 

Sliced avocado (optional, for garnish) 

Cotija cheese (optional, for garnish) 

Lime wedges (for garnish)

 Cilantro (for garnish) 

Tortilla chips (for garnish)

 Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions (Serves 8–10)

  • Heat oil in a stock pot on medium heat.
  • Add onions, celery, peppers, and garlic and saute until soft (about 7 minutes). 
  • Turn to low heat and add in the spices. Cook for 5 minutes more.
  • Whisk in tomato paste, then slowly add stock and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat.
  • Add diced tomatoes, black beans, corn, and chicken and simmer for 10 minutes on medium low heat.
  • Garnish soup with cilantro, limes wedge, and tortilla chips (avocado and cotija cheese optional).