Chicken tortellini soup is easy to make, delicious to eat, and perfect for busy weeknights. Baby kale and pesto guarantee plenty of nutrition and flavor!
Why you’ll love it: Just a short list of simple ingredients is all you need to make this flavorful soup for dinner. It’s quick and easy!
How long it takes: 40 minutes
Equipment you’ll need: large soup pan
Servings: 4 hearty servings
Have you all been busy harvesting your basil and making lots of pesto? If you haven’t tried making your own pesto, be sure try my basil pesto recipe. It’s really quite easy and nothings beats fresh homemade pesto.
I like to make my own pesto for a couple of reasons:
- I can use the excess basil in my herb garden. My basil plants always have a huge growth spurt mid-summer. (Basil is really the only thing I can grow successfully.)
- I can tailor the pesto recipe to make it the way we like it. I like to go a little light on the garlic. Because of food allergies with my kids, I also omit the pine nuts. Sometimes I add spinach to supplement the basil leaves if I don’t have quite enough. Often I make a super basic pesto with just basil leaves and olive oil.
- Pesto freezes really well. Make your pesto with the extra basil you have and get it in the freezer. You’ll be so glad come February when we’re all desperately craving summer. Check out how to freeze basil.
And why all this chitchat about pesto? It’s what makes this chicken tortellini soup recipe really special. You’ll be amazed at how much flavor a dab of pesto adds. Your homemade soup will taste like a classic Italian-style soup you order in a restaurant. It’s easy, comforting, and satisfying.
Why You’ll Love This Soup Recipe
This is one of my favorite soups, and after you’ve tried it, I’m sure you’ll be making it again and again. Here’s why:
- It’s nutritious and filling. Each serving has 40 grams of protein, ensuring that you won’t be getting hungry an hour after dinner. Lean tender chicken breast and cheesy tortellini pack a protein boost. Baby kale is a nutritional powerhouse, too, with lots of health benefits. Mayo Clinic describes it as a “nutrition superstar.” Basil contains antioxidants and anti-bacterial properties.
- The ingredient list is short and simple. You won’t need fancy ingredients to make this soup. Prepared pesto and boxed tortellini streamline the prep work. Baby kale comes pre-washed and ready to go.
- The soup has amazing flavor. The simple addition of pesto really amps up the flavor of this soup. I think I’ll be adding a spoonful of pesto to all my soups from now on!
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts: You’ll need about two chicken breasts, or about one pound, more or less. Chill or lightly freeze the chicken before cutting it into bite-size pieces. You’ll find that it cuts much more easily.
- Yellow Onion: These small cooking onions store well in a pantry and are less expensive than sweet onions. They have a finer texture which works well for soups. If you happen to have a different kind of onion, don’t worry, it will be fine.
- Garlic: Start with one clove of fresh garlic. This soup could easily benefit from more garlic if you happen to love it but remember that pesto contains a fair amount of garlic as well so don’t get too carried away.
- Baby Kale: I like to use baby kale for this soup because it comes pre-washed in a container so there’s no prep involved. If you prefer, substitute curly kale or lacinato (Tuscan) kale and chop or shred it. You could also use spinach.
- Chicken Broth or Stock: Keep a carton or two of chicken broth or stock in your pantry and you’ll always have the foundation for a nutritious soup. Look for unsalted or low sodium.
- Packaged Dry Tortellini: Another pantry item, dried cheese tortellini has a long shelf life. You’ll need an 8 oz. package or about 2 ½ cups. If you like the idea of soup with tortellini, be sure to try my crockpot tomato soup with cheese tortellini, too.
- Basil Pesto: Buy a jar of pesto to keep in your pantry so it’s handy for soups and sandwiches (or make a quick pesto mayo – it’s so good on our roasted vegetable wraps). You can also make your own pesto and freeze it. There’s no need to thaw it first, just drop the frozen pesto into the soup and it will dissolve quickly.
How To Make Chicken Tortellini Soup
You’ll need a large pan, such as a stock pan or Dutch oven.
Brown the chicken. Over medium-high heat, heat a splash of oil and then add the chicken in a single layer; season it with salt and pepper. Add the salt with a light hand especially if you aren’t using unsalted chicken broth.
Brown the chicken on all sides. It doesn’t have to be cooked through.
Reduce the heat and add the chopped onions to the pan. Cook them until they are softened, then add the garlic, cooking and stirring for a minute or so until it smells really fragrant.
Add the package of kale to the pan. It will look like a lot but it wilts quickly. Cook the kale mixture for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until the kale is wilted.
Add the broth and water, turn the heat to high, and bring the contents of the pan to a boil. Add the dried tortellini.
Once the soup comes back to a boil, turn down the heat so that the tortellini are just simmering in the liquid. Follow the package directions for cooking time; it’s usually about 10 minutes.
Once the tortellini have cooked, turn the heat off and stir in a few tablespoons of pesto.
Your soup is ready to serve!
What to serve with Tortellini Soup
Wondering what to serve with tortellini soup?
- Bread/Crackers: Like most soups, crackers or bread go well with tortellini soup. Try my Dutch oven bread or easy beer bread. Make this fantastic restaurant style bread dipping oil to go along with it.
- Salad: A simple salad would be welcome, too. Arugula salad with lemon basil dressing is always a good choice.
- Dessert: Finish the meal with blueberry crumb bars or a honey lemon shortbread cookie.
Change It Up
Like most soup recipes, this soup is quite versatile. Feel free to try out the suggested changes below.
- Substitute spinach for the kale. Since spinach has a shorter cooking time, stir it in right before adding the pesto. It will wilt almost instantly once it hits the hot broth.
- Make it vegetarian. Omit the chicken and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Substitute a can of cannelini beans, rinsed and drained, adding them in with the tortellini.
- Add more veggies. I purposely kept this soup recipe simple but it’s so easy to add extra veggies and I almost always do. Finely diced carrots and/or celery always go well in soup. Diced red peppers are really great, too.
- Like creamy tortellini soup? You can easily adapt this recipe to make a creamy version. Add ¼ cup all-purpose flour to the pan after the garlic. Cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly, until the flour coats the veggies and chicken. Proceed with the recipe as directed. Remove the pan from the heat, slowly stir in ½ cup heavy cream, and then the pesto.
- Food prep idea: If you like to food prep, you may have precooked chicken breasts in the freezer that you can substitute for the chicken in this recipe. That will save you at least 10 minutes prep time. Rotisserie chicken is another easy option.
Storage & Reheating Tips
- Refrigerate: Cool leftover soup slightly and store in airtight containers. It will keep in the refrigerator for three to four days.
- Freeze: The soup can be frozen for up to three months in freezer-safe containers or resealable freezer bags. Freezing will affect the texture of the tortellini and tends to make the pasta a little soft (although most people aren’t bothered by that). Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
- Reheat: Gently microwave individual portions in a microwave safe bowl until warm. Larger amounts can be reheated in a saucepan on the stove. If the pasta has absorbed some of the liquid and the soup seems too thick, add a bit more water or broth.
Interested in a weekly meal plan (it’s free!) that includes this soup recipe? Take a look at my Meal Plan #25 or Meal Plan #44 – Quick & Easy. You’ll find a wholesome recipe for each weekday plus a categorized grocery list. Let me do the planning for you this week!
We’ll be adding a new meal plan weekly. If you’re interested, browse all of our meal plans.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 16 oz. boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2), cubed into bite-sized pieces
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt (omit if you use salted broth)
- ½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 1 small yellow onion, diced (½ to ¾ cup)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 4 cups tightly packed baby kale, roughly chopped (about 5 oz.)
- 4 cups chicken broth or stock (low sodium if possible)
- 3 cups water
- 8 oz. dried cheese tortellini (2 ½ cups)
- 3 tablespoons pesto
- In a large pan over medium-high heat, add oil. Add chicken, season with salt and pepper and cook until browned on all sides.
- Reduce heat to medium and add onions; and saute until translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add kale and cook until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add broth and water. Increase heat to high and bring soup to a boil. Add tortellini and cook at a medium boil for as long as directed on package, usually about 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat, stir in pesto, and serve immediately.
- Make it vegetarian: Omit the chicken and substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth. Add a can of cannelini beans, rinsed and drained.
- Leftover soup will keep for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. Add broth or water when reheating if soup seems too thick.
- Baby spinach can be substituted for the kale. Add spinach right before the pesto as it cooks more quickly than kale.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.