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Yucatecan Chicken and Lime Soup (Sopa de Lima)

6 Servings

1½ hours 45 minutes active

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Sopa de lima is a classic Mexican soup from the Yucatán Peninsula. Brothy, spicy and usually chicken-based, it counts as a key ingredient the juice of limas, or Mexican bittersweet limes, a variety of citrus that is difficult to find here in the U.S. To approximate the flavor of limas, we use a combination of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and standard lime juice; credit for this substitution goes to J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats. Adding the citrus juices at the very end, after cooking is complete, keeps the flavors clear and bright. The broth for sopa de lima is sometimes infused with warm spices for complex flavor and aroma. Maricel Presilla’s recipe from “Gran Cocina Latina” informed our version, which includes cinnamon, allspice and cumin, along with oregano. Simmering bone-in chicken thighs in store-bought chicken broth yields a deeply flavorful base for the soup along with an ample amount of tender meat to shred and add back to the pot. But before simmering, we brown the skin side of only half of the chicken thighs; this develops enough caramelization to build depth of flavor but spares the time and mess of browning both sides of all 3 pounds of thighs. 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 use tortilla chips.




Don’t use grapefruit juice that’s not freshly squeezed. Pasteurized juice or juice from concentrate lacks the peppiness that the soup requires. Any variety of grapefruit—pink, red or white—works well. You will likely need 1½ grapefruits to get ¾ cup juice.

1½ hours

45 minutes active


  • 2

    tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil

  • 3

    pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry


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Karen K.
March 5, 2023
a big hit
We loved this. Question: any reason why you shouldn't brown all chicken pieces?
Laura W.
December 6, 2022
This was great- easy to make, fragrant and complex. I was skeptical about the grapefruit juice, but it added depth and tang without sweetness. It was better when I made it with homemade stock
Celeste J.
June 17, 2023
Added fresh rhubarb
Excellent soup. Have made it several times. I add a tablespoon of honey and this time two stocks if fresh rhubarb. I smashed the stocks and added them at the end. I let them soften and remove before they fall apart (about 5 minutes). The flavor works well with the grapefruit and line.
Wendy W.
September 18, 2022
Amazing flavors and very easy
I loved this soup. Soooo fresh and vibrant with the addition of grapefruit juice. So easy to make with simple ingredients.
Linda Marie D.

Because of medication, I cannot eat grapefruit. Do you have a recommendation for a substitute for the grapefruit? I live in California, San Francisco Bay area. Would the small mexican lemons work in this recipe? Thanks

Lynn C.

Hi Linda Marie -

You could substitute with orange juice, it's common to use a combo of lime and orange juice to replicate the lima ágria. We just found that the grapefruit-lime combo was a little bit closer but either should work.

The Milk Street Team

John M.

A deeply delicious and satisfying recipe, and so easy to prepare. The mix of spices and citrus was perfect without being overpowering. With a couple of exceptions, I made this one as written. I had a large enough Dutch oven to brown all of the chicken thighs, and I went ahead and fried up some corn tortilla strips in oil with a cast iron skillet rather than use tortilla chips. A crusty ciabatta roll for dipping and a salad complemented the soup perfectly. The next time I make this (and there will be a next time!), I'll probably add more chicken. Thanks again Diane & Milk Street!

Michael S.

I am in the middle of making this the first time and had to hold myself back from grinding up some annatto seeds and adding them - haha. When putting everything together part of my brain asked about 20x if I was sure. Since this is a Yucatan recipe and annatto is used in many Yucatan recipes, I just had to ask if annatto is used in the version cooked in Mexico and left out of this translated recipe for some reason. Thanks!

Lynn C.

Hi Michael -

Our version is inspired by the one from Maricel Presilla and did not include annatto nor did others we found during our research. Cinnamon - specifically Mexican cinnamon - and allspice were almost always included, however. Feel free to experiment and add annatto seeds if you'd like!

The Milk Street Team

Mary O.

Followed this recipe exactly and it was delicious! Everyone raved about it. The citrus just takes it to another level of flavor. A keeper!

Kathleen S.

WOW! It was cold yesterday and snow was predicted. I agree with Mary O. - the combination of flavors is wonderful. My grapefruit was not large enough, so I used only 1/2 cup of juice. It was still wonderful.

Anjie C.

Made this today... Followed instructions exactly and it was sooo good. Honestly though, I like the flavor better before adding the grapefruit/lime juice. I felt that it drowned out the complexity of the broth. Either way was good, but next time I’m leaving out the citrus and maybe squeezing a bit of like in my bowl.

Sally T.

I thought it was ok. I’m not a huge chicken fan so maybe that is why. I wonder if there is a vegan alternative. I liked the grapefruit and am having that for dessert. It is definitely brothy and spices smell good. Maybe I need to freshen my spices. I learned if you buy chicken like this you should use in 2 days FYI. I’m always up for something new so this was good for that. Was not too citrusy or spicy. Note maybe you steam jalapeño before you start cooking chicken. Note outside stray cat thought it smelled good when I was cooling pot down outside in snow. lol

Sally T.

I always read “ STEMMED” as Steamed lol.. ignor that part. Maybe that is where I messed up for jalapeños lol.. I still think about that cat... haven’t seen since. It was so strange.. he was a black cat and walked very slowly toward me down the snowy hill like I know your a stranger but that smells like chicken. Except he crept like a blank panther so I yelled No.

Cheryl P.

I added a can of white beans to soak up the delicious broth.

Shawn O.

I found a recipe on-line at seriouseats from a colleague of J. Kenji López-Alt, mentioned above, for 'masa ball soup.' (Get it? Get it?) Included chips for texture anyway. This soup is better the next day. so don't eat it all at once. There is no substitute for time in most food preparation.

Jennifer B.

Totally agree with all the positive reviews and the dogs loved the excess chicken skins. Really tasty and I loved the citrus. Great blend of spices.

Sona E.

Just made this and it was ok. The broth I felt lacked enough flavor perhaps due to 2 quarts of chicken broth. I felt it needed something more. I added cooked rice separately to bowls and ladled the soup over the rice.