The Classic Dip Bobby Flay Uses To Elevate Tortilla Soup

Tortilla soup isn't quite as classic as chicken noodle or split pea, but it's still easy to find restaurants serving it and online recipes you can make at home. Many of these, however, are only vague interpretations of the Mexican dish, which is traditionally called sopa Azteca or sopa de tortilla. Rather than a combination of beans and corn, sopa Azteca gets its flavor primarily from tomatoes, onion, chili peppers, epazote or cilantro, and Mexican oregano. It's topped not only with crushed up tortilla chips but also with diced avocado.

Compared to sopa Azteca, Bobby Flay's tortilla soup, originally published in the "Beat Bobby Flay" cookbook, is actually pretty authentic. The broth is flavored with tomato paste, onions, and both chipotle and ancho chili peppers. However, the celebrity chef's recipe deviates from the classic in an interesting way. Instead of garnishing the soup with fresh avocado, he uses something called avocado relish.

What is avocado relish?

According to Bobby Flay, avocado relish can best be described as a "cousin of guacamole." As he explained on an episode of the Rachael Ray Show, in addition to avocado, it calls for many of the same ingredients as guacamole, such as cilantro, lime juice, onion, and salt. The main difference is that instead of mashing the avocado, it gets diced up along with the other ingredients. This texture, along with the use of pickled jalapenos instead of fresh ones, is precisely what classifies it as a relish and not guacamole.

The recipe for avocado relish that Bobby Flay once served at his now-closed Las Vegas restaurant, Mesa Grill, doesn't call for pickled jalapenos, but it does use jicama and cucumber that is quick-pickled for 30 minutes in lime and orange juice. For his tortilla soup, however, Flay uses avocado salsa that leaves out these two ingredients, making it a lot closer to guacamole.

Can you substitute guacamole for avocado relish?

Because of its ingredients and how they are prepared, avocado relish tends to be a lot crunchier and tangier than guacamole. Therefore, it's often used on grilled meats, in the same way chimichurri sauce is, or as a condiment for burgers and hot dogs, much like pickle relish. Bobby Flay also uses it in his grilled fish tacos.

When it comes to tortilla soup, however, avocado relish functions in a similar way that guacamole might by adding a bright, fresh element to the rich, spiced soup. As Bobby Flay shared in an Instagram video demonstrating how to make his tortilla soup, he sometimes substitutes regular guacamole for the avocado relish his recipe calls for. If you do decide to use guacamole instead, just keep in mind that it may sink to the bottom of the soup, so Flay recommends suspending it on top of a piece of chicken.