Oranges add a citrus sweetness to tangy tomatillo tortilla soup

A spoonful of sour cream enriches this tortilla soup.
Top with fried tortilla strips if you want extra crunch.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

As co-founder of the French Laundry, chef Sally Schmitt is a pioneer of California cuisine. Her tortilla soup, a version of which she served at the Napa Valley restaurant, reflects her place in the state’s culinary history. By swapping in tomatillos for the more common tomatoes and pairing them with citrus, Schmitt brings bright tangy notes to this simple soup. Its simplicity highlights the freshness of the produce and the warming comfort of tortillas that thicken and enrich the broth.

Chef Sally Schmitt’s French Laundry was an influential Napa Valley restaurant that pioneered California cuisine — and then it was eclipsed by the Thomas Keller-helmed establishment that took its place.

Tomatillo Tortilla Soup

45 minutes. Serves 4.



  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, very thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 tomatillos (1 ¼ pounds), husked, scrubbed, and cut into wedges (4 cups)
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • Roasted pepper strips, sour cream, toasted pepitas and cilantro leaves, for serving


  1. Put the cumin seeds in a large saucepan and set over medium heat. Toast, shaking the pan often, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the oil, onion, garlic, tortillas and a large pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and garlic soften a little, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatillos, orange zest and juice and chicken stock. Raise the heat to high to bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then simmer for 30 minutes. Season to taste again.
  3. Divide the soup among serving bowls and top with roasted pepper strips, sour cream, pepitas and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Sally Schmitt.