Game Bird Tortilla Soup Recipe

Game Bird Tortilla Soup Recipe

Back when we lived in North Dakota, my husband and I did a lot of pheasant huntingSome days we would sneak out of work early, run home to change, grab the dog, and make it to the nearest PLOTS field just in time for a quick push before sundown. 

I call this the North Dakota happy hour. 

Sometimes we left empty handed, but we’d often end up with a mixed bag of pheasants, huns and rabbits. The fun part was not knowing what kind of protein would cross our kitchen table.

I’d store the thighs of all of our birds until I had collected about a pound, or roughly two limits of pheasants. The thigh meat from game birds is usually pretty tough, so slow cooking it is a great way to tenderize the meat and warm your bones on cold weather days. 

This recipe is one of my favorites to make. It’s adapted from a basic chicken tortilla soup with the addition of extra veggies to insure leftovers. I often use pheasant, but any game bird or cottontail will work just as well.

Serving size


Time to make

2 1/2 hours


1 lb. breast/thigh meat from any game bird

1/2 large onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 celery stick, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeno, deseeded and chopped

1 roasted poblano, chopped

1 qt. poultry stock

1 lime, juiced

1 can (14 oz) fire roasted diced tomatoes

1 t. cumin

1 t. oregano

1 t. ancho chili powder

2 small zucchinis/yellow squash, chopped into 1” pieces

Corn tortillas/tortilla chips

Cilantro, avocado, cheese, sour cream, etc.

Oil/ butter/duck fat for cooking

Salt & pepper

Also works with

rabbit and squirrel


Season the meat with salt and pepper in advance, up to 24 hours if possible. Pat dry with paper towels and chop the meat into smaller pieces for quicker cooking.

Heat a large dutch oven or pot over high heat and pour about a tablespoon of oil. Swirl to coat the pan. Once hot, use tongs to lay the pieces of meat down and brown each side. Work in batches to avoid overcrowding pan.

Reduce heat and add additional oil if needed. Sauté the onion, carrot and celery until they begin to soften. Add the garlic, jalapeño and poblano. Cook for an additional minute.

Slowly pour in the stock, scraping up the food at the bottom to deglaze. Add the lime juice and diced tomatoes. Season with cumin, oregano, and ancho and stir to combine.

Bring the liquids to a gentle boil and turn the heat down as low as it can go. Place the lid on and allow to cook for roughly 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until the meat is fork tender but hasn’t shred apart. Remove the lid at this point to let liquids reduce.

Add the chopped squash during the last 20-30 minutes of cooking to avoid over-cooking and getting mushy. By the time the squash is cooked through, the meat should start to shred. Taste and season if necessary with salt or pepper.

Serve the soup with thin tortilla strips or chips and garnish with cilantro, avocado, cheese etc.