Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

5 from 45 votes

This Vegetarian Tortilla Soup is just as hearty & flavorful as the chicken version. It's spicy and full of plant-based protein like quinoa & black beans!

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Making a filling and tasty soup doesn’t always require meat. This Vegetarian Tortilla Soup is a testament to that. Using fresh veggies paired with quinoa and beans, this tortilla soup will fill you up without feeling heavy.

Two bowls of vegetarian tortilla soup topped with cheese, onions, avocado and tortilla chips

I first started making this tortilla soup when I saw it shared on New York Times Cooking. While I’m not vegetarian, I’m always experimenting with more vegan and vegetarian recipes and finding fun ways for the kids to eat them. Over multiple servings, I’ve discovered that the core of this tortilla soup remains consistent, yet each time, there’s room to make it slightly different.

Why You’ll Love This Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

  1. Protein-Packed: With the goodness of quinoa and black beans, this soup provides a substantial amount of protein, making it a complete meal in itself.
  2. Burst of Flavors: A symphony of spices, from chili powder to cumin, ensures that each bite is a delightful taste adventure.
  3. Texture Galore: The combination of crisp tortilla strips, soft quinoa, and creamy avocado slices offers a variety of textures that keep your palate engaged.
  4. Nutrient-Rich: Brimming with wholesome ingredients, this soup not only satisfies your taste buds but also nourishes your body.
  5. Customizable Toppings: Whether you love a sprinkle of cheddar, a squeeze of lime, or a dash of red onions, the toppings can be tailored to suit everyone’s preference, ensuring a personalized bowl of deliciousness.

INGREDIENTS TO MAKE VEGETARIAN TORTILLA SOUP

Don’t be intimidated by the size of the ingredient list. A lot of what you see below are pantry staples, and the rest is really easy to find in a local grocery store.

For The Crispy Tortilla Strips

  • Corn Tortillas: These are sliced thinly to ensure maximum crispiness when baked.
  • Chili Powder: Adds a touch of warmth and spiciness to the tortilla strips.
  • Seasoning: A simple dash of salt and pepper enhances the flavor profile.

For The Soup Base

  • Olive Oil: This serves as our cooking medium and also imparts a rich flavor.
  • Aromatics: Onions, green bell peppers, and jalapeños make the base of our soup, providing a depth of flavor.
  • Garlic: An essential flavor booster in many dishes; it brings a certain zing to the soup.
  • Tomato Paste: This ingredient offers richness and depth to the broth.
  • Spices: The combination of chili powder and cumin gives the soup its distinctive Southwestern flavor.
  • Vegetable Broth: Serves as the liquid foundation, and when combined with the other ingredients, it makes for a hearty soup.
  • Crushed Tomatoes: Adds a tangy undertone and gives a thicker texture.
  • Cilantro: Its aromatic freshness perfectly complements the spiciness of the soup.
  • Quinoa: A great protein source that makes the soup hearty and filling.
  • Legumes & Corn: Black beans add a meaty texture without the meat, and corn kernels give a sweet contrast.

For Assembly & Serving

  • Avocado: Its creamy texture perfectly contrasts with the crispy tortilla strips.
  • Cheddar Cheese: Melts beautifully into the hot soup, adding a savory richness.
  • Toppings: Fresh cilantro, red onions, and lime wedges allow everyone to customize their bowl to their preference.

Using Chili Powder vs. Dried Chilis for tortilla soup

In this Tortilla Soup recipe, I’ve opted for the convenience and accessibility of chili powder, making it easy for you to recreate this dish at home. However, if you’re aiming for an authentic flavor that transports you straight to a local cantina in Mexico, consider grinding your own chili powder from dried chili peppers.

This not only gives you control over the heat level but also provides a depth of flavor that’s hard to replicate with store-bought versions. To do this, simply dry roast the dried chilis of your choice and then grind them into a fine powder using a spice grinder. The resulting homemade chili powder will elevate your soup to a whole new level.

How to make vegetarian tortilla soup

To start, saute chopped onions, green peppers and jalapeños. I only use one tiny jalapeño pepper and my kids can’t even taste it. If you like more of a punch, add some extra jalapeños, some green chile peppers or even adobo peppers.

When they soften, add garlic, tomato paste and spices. I use cumin and chili powder for the perfect sweet and smoky flavor.

Collage showing ingredients in a pot ready to cook

When all those flavors are mixed well, add the vegetable broth and some of the tortilla strips and let it all simmer. The baked tortilla strips get super soft and essentially just dissolve into the tomato broth and help to thicken the base of the soup. The tortilla strips not only give it the thickness, but also the unique flavor.

Next comes the chunky part of this vegetarian tortilla soup recipe. I use quinoa, black beans and corn and cook it again for 15 minutes until the quinoa becomes tender. You’ll notice that the soup will get pretty thick and you can add 2-4 cups of water before or after the quinoa cooks, depending on how thick you like it. I love how chunky it is!

Collage showing how to make the soup before and after the quinoa is added

The soup takes about an hour to cook from start to finish, but most of that time is just letting it simmer so that it absorbs all the wonderful veges and spices in there. It’s the type of soup that tastes better when it sits for a while or even the next day!

What toppings to add to the tortilla soup

If you ask me, the toppings are quintessential to this vegetarian tortilla soup. It allows for customization and adds a variety of textures and tastes to be mixed with the soup that’s been cooking for a while. I love to keep the toppings fresh and bright.

Here are some ideas for toppings you can add to your tortilla soup. You can create a toppings bar with these ideas and let everyone pick their favorites.

  • Tortilla strips – this is essential to the recipe, so don’t skip it!
  • Avocado
  • Radishes
  • Jalapeños
  • Red onion
  • Sour cream
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Lime wedges
  • Pico de gallo
  • Hot sauce
Close up shot of vegetarian tortilla soup with all the toppings

Tips for making the best vegetarian tortilla soup

  • Finely chop the vegetables. It helps to finely chop the onions, green peppers and jalapeños so that they all cook consistently but also so that they dissolve well into the soup without any large chunks.
  • Add the spices from the beginning. The timing of when you introduce the spices in cooking this vegetarian tortilla soup matters a lot! For the best flavor, add the spies immediately in the beginning once the vegetables have slightly softened. If you wait until the end, you’re missing out on a lot of flavor.
  • Blend the soup before adding the protein. For enhanced flavor, you can blend the soup with an immersion blender right before adding the quinoa, beans and corn. This allows the tortilla strips to really get mixed into the broth. But it’s an optional step and not necessary.
  • Don’t skip the toppings. The toppings for serving this tortilla soup are just as important as the ingredients you used to make it. These toppings all help enhance the flavor of the tortilla soup. Plus it makes it that much for fun!
  • Swap the Tortillas: Flour tortillas can replace corn tortillas. They might offer a slightly different crunch, but will still be delicious once baked.
  • Change the Bell Pepper: Try using a red or yellow bell pepper instead of green for a slightly sweeter taste.
  • Adjust the Grains: Instead of quinoa, consider using rice. Do note the cooking time might vary.
  • Different Beans: If black beans aren’t available, kidney or pinto beans will do the trick. They’ll change the texture slightly but keep the soup hearty and filling.
  • Alternate Heat Sources: Not a fan of jalapeños? Switch it out for milder green chilies, or amp up the spice with serrano peppers.
  • Tomato Base Variations: Instead of crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes can be used for a chunkier texture. If you’re looking to add more depth to the flavor, consider roasted tomatoes.

HOW TO STORE & REHEAT TORTILLA SOUP

Storing the Soup: After letting the soup cool to room temperature, transfer it to airtight containers. Remember to store any toppings (like tortilla strips, avocado, or cheese) separately to maintain their freshness and crunch.

Reheating: To reheat the soup, pour the desired amount into a pot and warm it over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s heated through. If you’re using a microwave, transfer the soup to a microwave-safe bowl and heat in short intervals, stirring in between, until warm. Before serving, toss the tortilla strips in the oven for a few minutes to crisp them back up, and add fresh toppings as desired.

HOW LONG WILL TORTILLA SOUP LAST IN THE FRIDGE?

Your soup should stay fresh for up to 4-5 days when stored properly in the fridge. Just make sure it’s in an airtight container to keep it tasting its best.

CAN I FREEZE TORTILLA SOUP?

Yes, this soup freezes beautifully! However, if you’re planning to freeze it, do so without the toppings. When you’re ready to eat, thaw the soup overnight in the refrigerator or using the defrost setting on your microwave. Heat it up on the stove, and then add your toppings.

Frequently asked questions

Can I use store-bought tortilla strips instead of making them?

Yes, store-bought tortilla strips can be used as a time-saving alternative. However, baking them fresh at home provides a crispier texture and allows you to control the seasoning.

I don’t have quinoa on hand. What can I substitute it with?

You can substitute quinoa with rice or barley. Adjust the cooking time based on the grain you choose. Rice typically takes a similar time to cook as quinoa, while barley might take a bit longer.

The soup feels bland. How can I intensify the flavors?

Seasoning is key. If the soup feels bland, you might want to adjust the salt and pepper levels. Additionally, a splash more of lemon juice or a touch more of the spices, like cumin or chili powder, can enhance the depth of flavor.

Vegetarian tortilla soup made with quinoa, corn and black beans

I hope you give this vegetarian tortilla soup a try. It’s a hearty soup that is so filling and satisfying it is essentially a meal on its own. And the best part is that it is customizable with the vegetarian protein you use and also the toppings you add on top. It’s protein packed, nutrition packed and flavor packed! Is that perfectly packed enough for you? hahaha

For more soup recipes, check out:

If you’ve tried this healthy-ish feel good Vegetarian Tortilla Soup recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

This Vegetarian Tortilla Soup is just as hearty & flavorful as the chicken version. It’s spicy and full of plant-based protein like quinoa & black beans!
5 from 45 votes
Servings 8 servings
Course Soup
Calories 241
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Video

Ingredients
  

For the tortilla strips

For the soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped
  • 1 jalapeño seeds removed, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic clove minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 28 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves chopped
  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 15 ounces canned black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup corn kernels

For assembly

  • Sliced avocado
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Finely chopped red onions
  • Lime wedges

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Place the tortilla strips in a single baking sheet; season with chili powder, salt and pepper, toss to combine, then arrange in a single layer. Bake until crisp and golden, about 10-12 minutes, tossing halfway through; set aside.
  • Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Cook the onions, green pepper and jalapeño until tender, about 5-7 minute.
  • Add the garlic, tomato paste, chili powder and cumin and continue to cook until garlic and spices are fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  • Stir in vegetable broth, crushed tomatoes, 2-4 cups of water, cilantro and half the baked tortilla strips. Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.
  • Stir in quinoa, black beans and corn. Simmer uncovered, until quinoa is cooked, about 15-20 minutes.
  • Divide soup among bowls and serve with avocado, cheddar cheese, chopped cilantro, red onions, lime wedge for squeezing, and the remaining baked tortilla strips.

Notes

Recipe: This recipe was adapted from New York Times Cooking
Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last about 4-6 days in the fridge.
Freezing Instructions: You can also freeze the soup in for up to 3 months. I recommend freezing it individual portions but easier thawing. To re-heat, thaw in the fridge overnight and and microwave until heated through. Or simply microwave straight from the freezer until heated through.
Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. However you can omit some vegetables as you see fit and add others you enjoy.
* Please note the nutrition label does not include any toppings.

Nutrition

Calories: 241kcal, Carbohydrates: 40g, Protein: 9g, Fat: 5g, Sodium: 162mg, Potassium: 707mg, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 850IU, Vitamin C: 27.3mg, Calcium: 84mg, Iron: 3.9mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Cuisine American
Course: Soup

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Comments

  1. super delicious, hearty, tasty, healthy, nourishing soup! great option for meatless monday or a vegetarian meal. can’t wait to make this again!

  2. Love it. Packed with flavor. Would definitely make it more often with the variety of toppings you suggest.

    1. This was sooo flavorful! Thank you for the recipe…. Going to add it to soups that I make every year in the fall and winter months. Also added a little cornmeal mixed with water (remember doing that for another recipe once before) and gave it a nice texture. I didn’t have any quinoa, but I didn’t miss It.

      1. So glad to hear it! And I love the tip about the cornmeal mixed with water to thicken it up. Thank you!!