I didn’t realize how much I loved vegetable tortilla soup until I started making it on my own. You know I’ve mentioned that I wasn’t really a soup person up until the last year or so. And since then, I’ve been creating vegetarian soup recipes full of flavor and texture that I cannot get enough of.
So, not to toot my own horn, but this vegetable soup is one for the books. Not only is it super easy to make, but it’s got texture (a must!) and complex flavors. It’s slightly earthy, a little spicy (but overall pretty mild, which can be adjusted), and has a depth that leaves you coming back for more.
Even if you’re used to enjoying the more commonly found Tex-Mex style chicken tortilla soup, I promise you are going to love this vegetarian version even more… and hey, if you want to add some meat-like texture to this meatless soup, go ahead and shred in some shredded jackfruit.
While meatless tortilla soups are common in Mexico (Sopa Azteca), this version cannot be called authentic per se; it’s a recipe that fits the bill when you have the craving but need a quick weeknight recipe.
Vegetable Tortilla Soup Ingredients
You’ll love that this recipe uses simple ingredients, many of which are pantry staples, and fresh ingredients that can be found in any grocery store. As always, please see the full recipe card below for details.
- Yellow Onion – base of flavor! You could substitute a red onion, too.
- Jalapeno – a little spice and depth of flavor come from this little pepper; as long as you deseed the pepper, you will have a very mild spice. If you want it spicier, leave a few seeds in.
- Red Bell Pepper – texture and flavor! You can substitute another bell pepper if needed.
- Garlic – oh but of course! Mince it for the most flavor throughout.
- Chipotle in Adobo Sauce – a little can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. They’re smoky and rich with very complex flavors and can be used in a variety of ways! Start with just 1 pepper and add more if you want it extra smoky or spicy. Then, store the rest of the peppers and sauce in the fridge (or freezer) for later use – like in a chipotle dressing.
- Dried spices and herbs – we’ve got some chili powder, cumin, oregano, and of course salt and pepper.
- Fire-Roasted Tomatoes – they add an extra smoky flavor, but you can use regular diced tomatoes if you can’t find fire-roasted ones.
- Black Beans – add heartiness to this vegetable soup along with protein.
- Corn – throw in frozen corn to make this super easy!
- Vegetable Stock – the liquid base, using broth adds a lot of flavor to the soup.
- Fresh Lime Juice – taste test the soup before and after adding the lime juice and notice the flavor that develops once it’s added. The acidic addition takes the soup from meh (feeling like something is missing) to WOW…so don’t skip it!
How to Make Mexican-Inspired Vegetable Soup
Have I mentioned how easy this soup is to make? Honestly, whether you need an easy lunch or a quick dinner, this soup is ready for you!
You will want to prepare the tortilla strips ahead of time if you know you’ll be in a hurry, or you can buy store-bought ones, too. But never fear, if you don’t do either, they are still quick and easy to make either on the stovetop or hands-off in the oven.
Make Homemade Tortilla Strips
Ok, so you’re making your own tortilla strips, but you’ll have to decide if you want to fry them up on the stovetop or in the oven.
Typically, soup is poured over the tortilla strips, and the strips have been dried out over a few days so they hold their texture under the hot soup. However, in this version of tortilla soup, I usually just add them on top of the soup. I do find that the baked version stays crispy longer, but feel free to use whichever method works best for you.
Gluten-free? Use corn tortillas and make sure they’re certified GF to keep this soup gluten-free!
Fried Tortillas on the Stovetop
To fry tortilla strips on the stove, heat a high-heat oil in a large skillet. I use my heavy-duty 12-inch cast-iron skillet for this job.
Then, spread the cut tortillas around the skillet, making sure each strip has enough room to fry up. Cook for a few minutes until golden brown, then flip until the other side turns golden brown.
Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and immediately sprinkle salt on them so it sticks.
Tortilla Strips in the Oven
Making them in the oven is pretty hands-off. Once you’ve cut the tortillas, toss them in a little oil until coated, along with some salt.
Spread them evenly across a large sheet pan, then bake for about 10 minutes, flipping halfway through. They’ll be golden and crisp.
Prepare the Soup
Now, for the soup! Which, if you’re using storebought tortilla strips or have already pre-made them, then this is a one-pot recipe, my friends!
Start by sauteeing the onion, jalapeno, and red bell pepper over medium-high heat. This is similar to starting with a mirepoix, letting the veggies sweat out and develop a deep flavor.
Be sure to add a pinch of salt here, too, to begin layering in the flavor!
Then goes in the next layer of flavor: the garlic, spices, and chipotle peppers along with some adobo sauce. Allow them to cook for a few minutes to release their aromas, then stir in the remaining ingredients. So in goes the tomatoes, beans, corn, and vegetable stock.
Simmer away so the flavors develop, and taste test for salt levels. Remember, it might taste like something is missing at this point…that you need just something else… squeeze in some fresh lime juice and POW! Watch the flavor transform.
Once everything is to your liking, it’s time to serve and garnish.
Garnishes for Tortilla Soup
I absolutely love adding garnishes and toppings to soups, and tortilla soup is the perfect soup to do so. There are so many options for what to serve with this soup:
- Tortilla strips – as discussed above – are a must for this soup. In a pinch, use tortilla chips.
- Avocado – slice it or dice it
- Jalapeno – if you want extra spice, add fresh slices or use pickled jalapenos for a more mild addition
- Fresh Cilantro – a perfect garnish for freshness
- Sour Cream – a wonderful creamy addition; you could also use Greek yogurt or Mexican crema
- Cheese – add some shredded cheese or cotija crumbles
- Green Onions – thinly slice any or parts of the scallion for a bright onion addition
If you want to keep this soup vegan, simply do not use sour cream or cheese or use vegan versions.
If you’re looking for more to serve with this tortilla soup, I have a few Mexican-inspired favorites that you might enjoy!
- Southwest Salad
- Cheesy Mexican Rice
- Black Bean Nachos
- Vegetarian Enchiladas
- Jackfruit Tacos
- Margarita Lime Bars – a must for dessert!
Mild or Spicy?
As written, as long as you have removed the seeds from the jalapeno, this soup is pretty mild in spice level. Unless you’ve got an extra spicy jalapeno, this should be the case.
If you want a spicier soup, I recommend leaving the seeds in the jalapeno or adding more, just like we do in this vegetarian chili. You can also add additional chipotle peppers or adobo sauce for additional spiciness and additional smoky flavor.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
Get the Recipe 30-Minute Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil, or oil of choice
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 Tablespoon jalapeno, seeds removed, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-2 chipotle peppers (in adobo sauce), finely chopped (see note for substitutions)
- 2 teaspoons adobo chile sauce
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 15-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 4 cups vegetable stock, more to taste
- Fresh lime juice
- Cut the corn tortillas into strips, halving them if desired (otherwise many of them will naturally break when tossed, which is totally ok and gives it a rustic feel).
- Stovetop: Coat the bottom of a large skillet with a neutral oil and heat over medium-high to high heat. Once hot, add tortilla strips in an even layer and cook for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Flip, and continue to cook on the other side until golden. Remove and place on a paper-towel-lined plate and immediately sprinkle with salt. Continue working in batches until all strips have been cooked.
- Oven: Preheat oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, toss the tortilla strips in 1 ½ tablespoons of oil and a generous pinch of salt, until coated. Spread in an even layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, tossing halfway through, until stirps are golden brown and crisp.
- In a large dutch oven or stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, jalapeno, and red bell pepper; saute for about 3 minutes with a generous pinch of salt.
- Add the garlic, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, and spices, along with another pinch of salt. Stir to coat, and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the diced tomatoes, black beans, frozen corn, and vegetable stock. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, being sure to taste test for salt levels and desired spice. Stir in a squeeze of half of a fresh lime. Don’t skip this step, the acid brings out so much flavor (taste test before and after, you’ll be amazed!).
- Serve the soup over the tortilla strips, or garnish them on top. Add additional toppings as desired and enjoy!
- Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce: I highly recommend using these peppers because they add such a depth of flavor and smokiness to the soup. If you do leave them out, add an additional 1/2 tablespoon of chili powder (more to taste).
- Store leftover chipotle peppers in a jar in the fridge for up to 1 month (sometimes 2) or place them in the freezer.
- Storage & Freezing: store leftover soup in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days. You can also freeze the soup for up to 3 months; thaw in the fridge, stovetop, or microwave.