Yucatán Chicken and Lime Stew (Sopa de Lima)

Absolutely delicious, this Sopa de Lima is a classic Mexican soup from the Yucatán Peninsula. Brothy, spicy and usually chicken-based, the juice of limas counts as a key ingredient, or Mexican bittersweet limes, a variety of citrus that is difficult to find here in the U.S.

So in a clever twist to approximate the flavor of limas, Milk Street used a combination of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and standard lime juice. They tell us the credit for this substitution goes to J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats. To keep the flavors clear and bright, add the citrus juices at the very end after cooking is complete. Warm spices add complex flavor and aroma to this version using cinnamon, allspice and cumin, along with dried oregano.

Simmering bone-in chicken thighs in store-bought chicken broth yields a deeply flavorful base for the soup, however, we included our homemade chicken stock which amped up that flavor base even more! But before simmering, you need only to brown the skin side of half of the chicken thighs; which will develop enough caramelization to build depth of flavor but spares the time and mess of browning both sides of all 3 pounds of thighs.

Once the requisite amount of chicken thighs were browned, we chopped them in half. This multi-pronged approach released the marrow from the bones, plus quickened the heating process once in the pot, then the cooling down process just before shredding the meat.

Sopa de lima is garnished with strips of fried corn tortillas that, when lightly soaked with broth, take on an appealing chewy-crunchy quality that adds textural appeal to the soup. For simplicity, however, we used tortilla chips.

Yucatán Chicken and Lime Stew (Sopa de Lima)

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

NOTE: It is highly suggested that you don’t use grapefruit juice that’s not freshly squeezed. Pasteurized juice or juice from concentrate lacks the peppiness that the soup requires. (Although since we had some already on hand and opened, we did use it.) Any variety of grapefruit—pink, red or white—works well. You will likely need 1½ grapefruits to get ¾ cup juice.


  • 2 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 3 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry
  • 2 large white onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 jalapeño chili, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. ground allspice
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stems minced, leaves roughly chopped, reserved separately
  • 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 qts. low-sodium chicken broth
  • ¾ cup grapefruit juice
  • 3 Tbsp. lime juice, plus more as needed
  • Tortilla chips, to serve


  1. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat the oil until barely smoking. Add half the chicken, skin side down, and cook without disturbing until well browned on the bottom, 8 to 10 minutes, then transfer to a plate. Pour off and discard all but 2 tablespoons fat from the pot.
  2. Chop both the browned and and raw chicken thighs in half, set aside.
  3. Return the pot to medium-high, add the onions and ½ teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeño, oregano, cumin, allspice, cinnamon and cilantro stems. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Stir in the tomatoes with juices, then the broth. Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Add the raw chicken and the browned chicken, along with any accumulated juices, then bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce to low and cook, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a simmer, until a skewer inserted into the chicken meets no resistance, about 45 minutes.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a large plate and set aside. When cool enough to handle, use 2 forks or your hands to shred the chicken into bite-size pieces; discard the skin and bones. Add the shredded meat to the pot and bring the soup to a simmer over medium, stirring occasionally.
  6. Off heat, stir in the grapefruit and lime juices, then taste and season with salt, pepper and additional lime juice (if desired). Ladle into bowls and top with tortilla chips and cilantro leaves.


Original recipe compliments of Milk Street


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