Sopa de Lima Recipe

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Categories: Chicken, Hot and Spicy, Mexican, Poultry, Soup

Submitted By: Jim from Chicago.

Sopa de Lima Notes

If there is one traditional dish in the Yucatan Peninsula, this is it. Literally translated as “lime soup”, this is more of a spicy chicken with tomato soup. Contrary to the name, limes are not the major ingredient in this savory and standard soup. It is basically a chicken or turkey vegetable soup flavored with limes and made nicely hot with a touch of habanero peppers. A wonderfully different soup which can be served with dinner or by itself.

The unique bittersweet limes of the Yucatan, variously referred to as “lima agria,” are hard to find in Chicago, but you can usually get them at Hispanic food markets. It is a kissing cousin to the Key Lime of Florida, but since even that is often hard to come by, I’ve made it with regular old Persian limes.

I first had this soup at a little restaurant (more like a glorified kitchen) in the back streets of Cozumel in the late 80s. We befriended the owner and, after several return trips to Mexico, I asked him if I could talk to his chef about their preparation. This recipe is a combination of that recipe, my own experimentation and some tidbits I picked up in some old Mexican cookbooks.

This seems like a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

  • 2 turkey or 4 chicken wings
  • 1 turkey or 2 chicken carcasses
  • 2 tablespoons cooking salt
  • 1/2 sweet lime (substitute Persian lime if not available)
  • 1 spring fresh mint (or dried equivalent)
  • 8 whole allspice berries
  • 15 black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano (or dried equivalent of 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 2 medium heads of garlic (about 20 average sized cloves)
  • 2 medium yellow onions, peeled, cut and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • some cheesecloth
  • some wire bag ties or string
  • 2 quarts salpimentado broth
  • 1 turkey or 2 chicken breasts
  • 3 sweet limes
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 guero or chilaca chili (pepper), veins & seeds removed
  • 1 habanero chili (pepper), veins & seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
  • 1/2 cup chopped epasote (wormseed)
  • 6 tortillas
  • 1 lemon
Serves / Yields

8 to 12 servings (depending on your appetite!)

Preparation Instructions


Place the wings and carcasses in four quarts of cold water. If they are not covered, add water to cover. Season with the salt, more or less depending on your personal taste, and boil. Remove the scum as it forms on the surface of the broth.

Three ways to prepare the spices (garlic, peppercorns, allspice, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, and cumin seeds). If you are using dried oregano no need to roast or toast.

  1. Toast lightly in a toaster oven or regular oven, taking care not to burn them. Toast the garlic with the spices. It is done when the garlic is a light to medium golden color.
  2. Roast them in a cast iron skillet. You will know they are done when the cumin seeds begin to pop and a delicious aroma is wafting off them. Take care not to burn or over-roast.
  3. I own a spice roaster. Basically a mesh basket which I can hold over an open flame and shake to roast the spices.

Grind the spices, without the garlic, until you have a medium powder. You can use a spice grinder, I prefer a mortar and pestle. If you are using dried mint you should add it to this spice bag as well. Put into a 4” square of doubled cheesecloth and tie off with the bag ties or string.

At any time, add the onions, garlic, spice bag, lime and mint to your broth. Reduce over a low heat to about 10 cups. This should take about one hour.

When done, strain the entire mixture through a sieve or cheesecloth. Discard the bones, spice bag & vegetables. Cool and skim grease from surface. You now have salpimentado broth! This can be kept and served as a broth or used for the second half of our menu...


Roast the tomatoes in the oven at about 400 degrees. When the skin begins to split and the tomato smokes a bit, pull away the skin. Remove the seeds with the aid of a teaspoon, fry the tomato into a puree and season with salt and pepper.

Peel and section the limes.

Toast the habanero and guero / chilaca chilies in the oven until the skin is a medium brown. The best habaneros are orange, they are riper.

Boil the turkey or chicken breasts in the broth with the lime sections, the guero/chilaca chili, tomato puree, cilantro and epasote. Dried ingredients are okay to use, just reduce the amounts accordingly. Fresh epazote is almost impossible to buy in the US.

When the meat is cooked, remove from the broth and allow to cool. Reduce the heat on the other ingredients and allow to simmer.

While this is boiling, cut the tortillas into strips and either fry in a bit of oil to make them crispy or bake in the oven.

When the meat is cool to your touch shred into small strips and add back to the broth. Bring back to a boil.

Add the tortilla strips to the soup just prior to serving.

Helpful Hints

Instead of starting the broth from scratch you can use regular old chicken or turkey stock.

Be careful when handling habanero chiles! They are the hottest in the world and the oil from them can burn your skin. Wear protective gloves, or make certain to wash your hands well before doing anything else!

Serve this with plenty of hearty beer. Superior, Modelo or Bohemia is recommended.

Quick Shopping List

Spearmint Leaves, Organic
Broken Leaf, in a resealable bag
1 oz.
Allspice Berries, Whole or Ground
Whole, in a glass shaker jar
In a 1/2 cup shaker jar, net wt 1.5 ounces
Tellicherry Black Peppercorns
Whole, in a glass shaker jar
1/2 cup shaker jar, net wt. 2 oz.
Greek Oregano
Broken Leaf, in a glass jar
In a 1/2 cup shaker jar, net wt. .5 oz.
Cinnamon, Whole Stick Indonesian Korintje Cassia
2 3/4" (Bulk Only)
1 oz.
Cloves, Whole or Ground
Whole Spice Islands, in a glass jar
1/2 cup shaker jar, net wt. 2 oz.
Indian Cumin Seed, Whole Or Ground
Whole Seeds, in a glass jar
1/2 cup shaker jar, net wt. 2 oz.

Submit Comment

Jayson O. Said:

To Joseph E --- For someone who professes to have grown up speaking Spanish, & can say with pretty good authority that "lima" translates as "lime" and "limon" as "lemon", at least in Mexico, you might want to read the following.

Morton, J. 1987. Mexican Lime. p. 168–172. In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.

Of the two acid, or sour, limes in world trade, the one longest known and most widely cultivated is the Mexican, West Indian, or Key lime, Citrus aurantifolia Swingle (syns. C. acida Roxb., C. lima Lunan; C. medica var. ácida Brandis; and Limonia aurantifolia Christm.). It is often referred to merely as "lime". In Spanish it is, lima ácida, lima chica, lima boba, limón chiquito, limón criollo, limón sutil, limón corriente, or limón agria. In French, it is limette or limettier acide; in German, limett; Italian, limetta; in Dutch, lemmetje or limmetje. In East Africa, it is ndimu; in the Philippines, dalayap or dayap; in Malaya, limau asam; in India, nimbu, limbu, nebu, lebu or limun. In Papiamento in the Netherlands Antilles it is lamoentsji or lamunchi, in Brazil, limao galego, or lintao miudo. In Egypt and the Sudan it is called limûn baladi, or baladi, in Morocco, doc.

If you're the least bit interested, here's the link.

By the way, if you've eaten a million portions of sopa de lima with regular limes, and not Limas, you've been eating a whole lot of non authentic sopa de lima.

Make it Again? Jayson O. would make this recipe again.

Mary ellen S. Said:

I am sorry to disagree with all of you: LIMA is a mexican fruit that is grown in the southeast of Mexico and is neither a lemon nor a lime it is a diferent sweetish fruit with a very nice odor. Lemon is limon, lime is limon criollo or mexican limon and LIMA IS LIMA..and it is used in this traditional recipie.. I have lived in Mexico my whole lif and know this for sure so to make this wonderful soup it is necesary ti have limas this recipie is OK but it coes not use epazote and the chile is served apart as a seperate garnish. You chop the habaneros with onion (preferably red onion), and you add lime juce (LIMON), and a bit of olive oil and plenty of oregano.

Make it Again? Mary ellen S. would make this recipe again.

Marilyn T. Said:

The reason I would not make this recipe again, is that I have quite a few other versions that I prefer. I I would not ever add epazote to this soup, nor cookl it with the chile habenero, instead adding it as a salsa to taste when serving it. Although this is probably considered the most representative soup of Yucatan, it seems to have been an invention of Chef Katun in 1946, in his restaurant in Merida.

Make it Again? Marilyn T. would not make this recipe again.

Joseph E. Said:

To the previous commentator -- as someone who grew up speaking Spanish, I can say with pretty good authority that "lima" translates as "lime" and "limon" as "lemon", at least in Mexico. And I've eaten a million portions of Sopa de Lima, and never seen it made with lemons, Yucatan or otherwise.

Make it Again? Joseph E. would make this recipe again.

Jim M. Said:

Just a thought or two from someone who lived in the Yucatan for a few years and ate Sopa de Lima many times while living there (including visits to Cozumel, where the contributor got the recipe). I suspect that there was a minor error made when translating the instructions. The word "Lima" in spanish is translated as "Lemon", and the word "Limon" in spanish is translated as "Lime". In reality...Sopa de Lima is "Soup of Lemon" and Lemons should be used instead of Limes for the recipe to be authentic to the region. Although the use of limes would produce a tasty citrus flavor similar to the original, this recipe as published should actually be called, "Sopa de Limon".

Make it Again? Jim M. would make this recipe again.