Mexican chicken- black bean- tortilla soup and an Iron Primer.

Complete meal in a bowl: This soup combines tangy with spicy, and the richness of cheese with the crunch of tortilla chips to make a hearty broth that is practically a complete meal in a bowl! The soup supplies protein from chicken and cheese, carbs and fiber from the beans, healthy, mono-unsaturated fats from the olive oil, vegetables from onions and peppers, not to mention powerful antioxidants from garlic and tomatoes. This recipe highlights the importance of whole and fresh ingredients in creating dishes that please the palate, add eye-appeal and are nutritious to boot! Be sure to scroll to the bottom to find out all about the all important trace mineral iron, and ways to increase it’s absorption from the foods you eat.

© Copyright, January 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

Mexican chicken-bean tortilla soup. © Copyright, January 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.


© Copyright, January 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

This post is at least partly inspired by my daughter, an avid cook herself with her own blog, Tang and Spice. She has made this soup for us before, and had us slurping out of the bowl in no time!

Servings: 7-8, 1 cup servings

Ingredients for the marinade: 

  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

To prepare marinade:  

  1. Mix all the above ingredients until combined.
  2. Set aside.

For the garnish:

  • 1/2-3/4 cup shredded, Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped or mashed ripe, avocado, tossed with 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1 cup plain, tortilla chips
  • 1/4 cup, freshly chopped cilantro (optional)

Ingredients for the soup:

  • 1 lb skinless, boneless, chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp peanut or olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped garlic
  • 1 small, red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder or to taste
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 can ( 28 oz.), diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups low sodium, chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1 can black beans, thoroughly rinsed, and drained
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped cilantro

Method for the soup:

  • Wash the boneless chicken breasts, and pat dry.
  • Transfer to a medium bowl, toss with the prepared marinade, cover the bowl with a saran wrap and allow to rest for about 30-45 minutes.
  • Add the oil over medium heat to a thick bottomed saucepan.
  • Add the chopped garlic to the hot oil until the garlic begins to sizzle, and turns a light golden brown.
  • Add the chopped onions to the garlic in the pan, stirring for about 5-7 minutes until they become soft and translucent.
  • Stir in the chili powder and cumin.
  • Add the chicken to the onions in the pan, tossing gently, until it gets coated with the onion-garlic mixture, and turns opaque.
  • Add the diced red pepper, stirring  for a couple more minutes.

© Copyright, January 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

  • Now stir in the black beans and cilantro.

© Copyright, January 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

  • Add the diced, canned tomatoes, chicken stock and salt to the saucepan, turn up the heat and bring the mixture to a vigorous boil for a minute or two.
  • Turn down the heat, close the lid tightly and allow the mixture to simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Season to taste, adjusting as required.
  • To serve, ladle soup equally among 8 bowls.
  • Break up the tortilla chips into smaller pieces and sprinkle into each bowl.
  • Put a dollop of the mashed avocado on the top of the soup, garnish with the cheese, scallions and cilantro (optional) and serve piping hot.

© Copyright, January 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.


© Copyright, January 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

A Registered Dietitian’s tip:

Nutrient Spotlight-Iron: Iron is a trace mineral, and as such, is an integral component of the protein hemoglobin, that transports oxygen to all the cells and tissues of your body. Iron deficiency symptoms can lead to fatigue, reduced physical fitness, reduced learning ability and lowered  immunity1

Iron is also a component of the protein myoglobin, which supplies oxygen to muscles, and in this form supports metabolism as well.

Significant sources of iron come from red meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, legumes (beans), and spinach.

Ironing out the difference: Heme and non-heme sources: Iron is found in 2 forms, heme iron and non-heme iron. While meat, fish and poultry contain both heme and non heme iron, the iron in plant based products is non-heme iron only. About 40% of the iron in meat, fish and poultry is heme iron, while the other 60% is non-heme iron.  While heme iron is the most readily absorbed form of iron, non-heme iron is poorly absorbed by the body.

How can you maximize iron absorption? :

MFP factor: The iron in meat, fish and poultry is a highly bio-available form of iron. (Bio-availability is the extent to which a nutrient or substance can be used by your body).  In addition, these foods contain a factor called MFP factor that facilitates increased absorption of non-heme iron from foods that are paired with them1

Vitamin C:  Most of us know that vitamin C is a potent antioxidantHowever, did you know that vitamin C also enhances non-heme iron absorption from foods eaten with a source of Vitamin C? It does so by converting the iron to a soluble form, thus enabling absorption to take place. On the flip side, tannic acid, a polyphenol in tea and coffee can bind iron, creating an insoluble complex, and preventing absorption.

This soup supplies a fair amount of non-heme iron from the beans. However, given that this is poorly absorbed, pairing the beans with chicken provides the aforementioned  MFP factor. Furthermore, the diced tomatoes and lime juice in the recipe provide Vitamin C, which in turn, helps enhance iron absorption from the beans.

Beans are an inexpensive source of nutrients. © Copyright, December, 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

Although beans are a good source of iron, they contain substances called phytates and polyphenols that  inhibit iron absorption. © Copyright, January, 2016, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE.

  1. Whitney and Rolfes, Understanding Nutrition. Sixth Edition.
Nutrient Analysis:, is an independent website that is not affiliated with this blog in any way.

Nutrient Analysis:, is an independent website that is not affiliated with this blog in any way. Diabetic exchanges : 2.5 protein exchanges, 1 carb exchange and 1 fat exchange.

Disclaimer: This blog is strictly for informational purposes and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your personal physician or registered dietitian for recommendations tailored to your specific needs.

About Sangeeta Pradhan RD, CDE

Hi there! Welcome to my blog! If you are confused with all the conflicting messages you get bombarded with every day on carbs, fats, proteins, gluten and anything you can think of related to nutrition, look no further! The purpose of my blog is to cut through all this clutter, utilizing scientific, evidence based guidelines to help you, the consumer, navigate the complex, dietary landscape, and thus empower you to make informed decisions.
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21 Responses to Mexican chicken- black bean- tortilla soup and an Iron Primer.

  1. This looks so delicious! The perfect winter soup. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Ronit. Yes, heart warming and just right to beat the winter chills:)). Have a great week ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. leggypeggy says:

    Oh my goodness, what a gorgeous-looking and delicious-sounding soup. Will try soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Miss10 would love this!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks, Peggy, appreciate the kind feedback😊. Let me know how it turns out!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Many thanks for stopping by. Let me know how it turns out😊!


  7. This soup sounds delicious. I have had soups similiar to this before and I love them. Very nice post. Thanks for the tips on iron and calcium.


  8. Such deliciousness here Sangeeta… Love that your daughter is such a wonderful cook.. 🙂 Following in her Mum’s footsteps 🙂
    Loved all the delights offered here .. My mouth is watering 🙂


  9. balroop2013 says:

    I love this recipe Sangeeta…a combination of so many things, a wholesome soup! Thanks for sharing. 🙂


  10. Roos Ruse says:

    I can hardly wait to try this spin on one of my favorites! Thanks for the extra information on iron also.


  11. Hi Lizzie,

    My pleasure! Thank you for your kind words. Hope you try out the soup.
    Cheers! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Sue,

    Thank you so much for the kind compliments. Glad you enjoyed reading this. Hope you try it.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. My Pleasure, Balroop! Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I try to combine key nutrients as and when I can. Hope you try it. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. You are more than welcome! I should have mentioned specifically in the post that the slow simmer is to allow the soup to reduce a little bit, to concentrate and seal the flavors. Will update soon, but just a heads up. Thanks for the kind feedback. 😊


  15. dgkaye says:

    Mmm, your recipes always make me hungry Sangeeta, Thanks for differentiating between heme and non-heme iron absorption. 🙂


  16. Always you are so welcome.. and there are Lots of things I have ear-marked to try upon your pages dear Sangeeta 🙂 Thank YOU.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. You are more than welcome, Debbie! Just trying to show that healthy can be delicious too! Glad you found the iron absorption info helpful. Thanks for stopping by. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. So happy to hear that, Sue! Take care:)

    Liked by 1 person

  19. dgkaye says:

    Cheers! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. mitchteemley says:

    Perfect winter meal!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Thank you so much! Hope you get to try it. Cheers! 😊


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