Do you enjoy soup with tortillas? It’s a perennial favorite of mine. The flavor of tortilla soup is earthy, slightly spicy, and fresh and tasty. It makes a simple but filling lunch or dinner when topped with a generous amount of crispy tortilla strips. The next day, it tastes even better, which is a bonus.
Although shredded chicken is typically used in Tex-Mex tortilla soups, vegetarian tortilla soups are common in Mexico. However, I can’t say that this dish is entirely authentic. It’s a delectable twist on traditional tortilla soup (Sopa Azteca) that you can prepare at home whenever the urge strikes.
There are a ton of regional variants and personal preferences for tortilla soup throughout Mexico. I included black beans to give the dish some weight and a red bell pepper since I adore the flavor and texture it adds. To be honest, I have more personal experience with the Tex-Mex varieties I’ve had over the years. Nevertheless, I made an effort to maintain the remaining ingredients in line with what you might get in Mexico.
The old tortilla soup recipe from the site was completely revamped for this dish. Maybe you’ve made that recipe and liked it, but I recently gave it another shot and just knew I could add more flavor as I went. I’ve kept a PDF of the recipe right here if you’d like a copy of the original.
This soup is more akin to the version of tortilla soup I included in my cookbook, Love Real Food, which combines sweet potatoes and jalapenos in an enticing sweet-and-spicy way. Try that one as well!
Various Chili Peppers
When creating this soup, you have a few options, which vary somewhat in terms of authenticity, simplicity, and ingredient accessibility. You can follow the recipe either way because I’ve included steps one and three in the instructions below. These are them:
Option 1: Blender and chili peppers (most authentic)
To bring out the taste of the peppers, we’ll first roast them in a dry skillet. After that, we’ll cut the peppers roughly and remove the stem and seeds. We’ll proceed after blending the roasted peppers with the canned tomatoes. This choice is excellent since it is the most realistic and gives the soup considerable body in addition to a magnificent, fiery red color.
Alternative 2: peppers + no blender (my least favorite)
The peppers can also be toasted before being added to the pot with the liquid ingredients to simmer. This is the way I used for my old recipe, although I prefer the other choices more. Although it doesn’t flavor the soup as much as any of the other two, the chili pepper does add some taste. Simply toss the chile peppers before serving if you go this route.
Option 3) No blender plus chili powder (easiest option)
The flavor is great and this is the simplest option. All you’ll need to do is utilize flavorful, fresh chili powder. The chili powder from Frontier Co-op has worked well for me. A fun speciality chili powder, like chipotle or ancho chili powder, would also be a nice addition at this time. If desired, you can control the level of heat by starting with less chili powder and gradually adding more to taste.
Also read: Caprese Sandwich
- 2 mild dried chili peppers* or 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder, to taste
- 1 can (15 ounces) diced or crushed tomatoes, fire-roasted if possible
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow or red onion, chopped
- 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt, more to taste
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained, or 3 cups cooked black beans
- 4 cups (32 ounces) vegetable broth
- 4 corn tortillas, cut into 2-inch long, ¼-inch-wide strips
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
- 1 to 2 tablespoons lime juice, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Garnish options: Thinly sliced and roughly chopped radish, diced ripe avocado, crumbled feta cheese or drizzle of sour cream
- If using dried chili peppers, toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat or directly over a gas flame with tongs, turning as needed. Toast until fragrant and turning darker all over—this can happen quickly, in just a minute or two. Set aside until the peppers are cool enough to handle, then roughly chop them, discarding the seeds and stem. Combine the canned tomatoes (along with their juices) and chopped peppers in the blender, and blend until smooth. Set aside.
- In a medium Dutch oven or soup pot, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender and turning translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cumin (and chili powder, if using) and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the tomato-chili pepper blend (or just plain tomatoes, if going the chili powder route) and cook for a minute, while stirring, to bring out its best flavor.
- Add the beans and broth, and stir to combine. Raise the mixture to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit to make the crispy tortilla strips. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup. On the baking sheet, toss the tortilla strips with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil and a sprinkle of salt until lightly and evenly coated. Bake until the strips are crisp and starting to turn golden, about 8 to 12 minutes, tossing halfway. Set aside.
- Stir most of the cilantro into the soup, reserving a bit for garnish. Stir in 1 tablespoon lime juice. Carefully taste the soup, and add more salt if the flavors don’t quite sing (I often add up to ¼ teaspoon salt). Add more lime juice if you’d like a little more zing.
- Divide the soup into bowls. Top with crispy tortilla strips, the reserved cilantro and any additional garnishes of your choice. Leftovers will keep well for up to 5 days; rewarm individual servings and top with garnishes when serving. Or freeze individual portions for several months and add toppings after reheating.