Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup is classic Tex-Mex: bell peppers, jalapeños, black beans, corn, and of course, crispy corn tortillas.

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
Meatless tortilla soup in a bowl topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, and tortilla strips.
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup has all the components of classic Tex-Mex tortilla soup (Spice! Tomatoes! Black beans and corn! Tortillas!), but this version is meatless and made with vegetable stock.

This soup has a light tomato-based vegetable stock instead of the more classic chicken stock. It’s loaded with bell peppers, onions, jalapeños, black beans, and corn. Corn tortilla strips are used twice: Once in the soup as it simmers to give it body and also crispy baked ones on top for serving.  

This is warming comfort food perfect for the cooler autumn and winter months. Since the soup comes together in about 30 minutes, it’s also a staple busy weeknight favorite in my home.

What Is in Vegetarian Tortilla Soup?

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup starts with a base of sautéed onions, garlic, bell peppers, and jalapeños. Canned fire roasted tomatoes, black beans, and corn are added, along with store-bought vegetable stock and a blend of seasonings. It has strips of soft tortilla cooked in the soup; plus, crispy homemade tortilla strips are piled on top for crunch.

Meatless tortilla soup in a bowl topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, and tortilla strips.
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

What Does It Taste Like?

This soup is seasoned with warm spices like ground cumin, and dried oregano, a bit of smoke from chili powder, and a little extra heat from fresh jalapeños. The corn tortillas melt into the soup and add a little sweet nuttiness.

Tips and Tricks for Making Tasty Soup

This recipe comes together easily and, thanks to the use of store-bought pantry staples, there’s minimum prep work required. To make the best pot of soup possible, I have a few tips to share with you.

  • The best part of this soup are all the colors and textures of the vegetables and beans. Finely chop your vegetables into small pieces so that you get a little bit of each kind in each spoonful.
  • For a less spicy soup, cut back on the jalapeños. Instead, season it with chili powder to taste. Start with just a little and add more as you go. You can always add more heat, but it’s hard to take it away.
  • Remove the seeds and white veins in the jalapeño peppers to cut down on the amount of heat. Want it spicier? Leave them on.
  • Use a sharp chef’s knife or santoku knife to slice the corn tortillas into 1/8- to 1/4-inch strips. If you cut them too thin, they might burn in the oven while thicker parts take longer to crisp up. Keep a close eye on them while they bake. They can quickly go from crisp to burnt. If you want to make tortilla’s from scratch try our recipe for Corn Tortillas.
  • Season the baked tortilla strips with a generous pinch of salt or seasoning salt. Otherwise, they’ll taste bland.
Vegetarian-friendly tortilla soup in a bowl and topped with sour cream, avocado, and tortilla strips.
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Equally Delicious Swaps

This recipe is flexible and turns out tasty no matter what kind of vegetables, canned goods, or spices you add.

  • Bulk up the soup with more vegetables. Try sweet potatoes, fresh tomatoes, finely chopped cauliflower, green beans, baby spinach, parsley, or cilantro.
  • I use canned black beans in this recipe, but any type of canned or cooked dried beans like kidney beans, pinto beans, or cannellini beans works.
  • There are countless ways to season this soup. I used a blend of dried oregano, ground cumin, chili powder, ground coriander, and garlic powder. Chili powder is convenient, but the soup is traditionally spiced with fresh or dried chilies. For more mild heat, choose Poblanos or ancho chilies. Fun fact: Ancho chilies are dried Poblanos.

Spicier varieties like Anaheim or Fresno are options too. Roast or toast the fresh chilies until the skin is charred and then blend them with the canned tomatoes or the vegetable stock before adding it to the soup.

What to Serve with Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

While Vegetarian Tortilla Soup is delicious and filling on its own, there are endless toppings you can add for extra flavor and variety.

  • The crispy baked tortilla strips give it a little crunch. Add thinly sliced radishes for extra crunch and peppery flavor.
  • To counteract the spice and warmth, add a dollop of sour cream or diced avocado. They’ll add some creaminess and richness too.
  • For a melty cheese pull with each spoonful, top the soup with shredded Mexican-style cheese or use queso fresco for a more authentic Mexican flavor.
  • A wedge of lime and chopped fresh cilantro or scallions add a bright, fresh flavor.
  • A sprinkle of finely chopped dried chilies will up the heat if you crave extra spice.
Vegetarian-friendly tortilla soup in a dutch oven.
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

100 Percent Crispy Tortillas

You can make this soup entirely with crispy tortilla strips without adding any into the soup. Bake all the tortillas into crispy tortilla strips. When it’s time to serve the soup, place a handful of tortilla strips in the bottom of each bowl and reserve some for the top.

Need to Plan Ahead?

Like most soups, Vegetarian Tortilla Soup tastes even better the next day—a nice perk if you want to make it ahead of time. Prepare the soup as directed but leave out the tortilla strips. In fact, don’t bake them until you’re ready to serve the soup. They’ll become soggy and mushy.

Refrigerate the soup tightly covered if you plan to serve it within two to three days or freeze for up to three months. When you’re ready to eat, reheat the soup in a pot on the stovetop. While the soup warms, bake the tortilla strips. When the soup comes up to a simmer, stir in the unbaked tortilla strips.

Meatless tortilla soup in a bowl topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, and tortilla strips.
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Storage Instructions

The soup will keep up to a week in the refrigerator or up to three months in the freezer. Store it in an airtight container or a plastic zip top bag. Make sure the storage container or bag is freezer safe.

Leftover baked tortilla strips will stay crunchy for up to a week. Store them at room temperature in a paper bag or a lidded food storage container.

Mexican-Inspired Soup Recipes

Preheat the oven and bake the tortillas:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Working with two or three stacked tortillas at a time, place them on your cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut them into 1/4-inch strips. If you prefer smaller tortilla strips, you can cut them in half crosswise.

Set half of the tortilla strips aside. You will stir them into the soup later.

Place the remaining half on a large baking sheet. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt and use your hands to toss and coat the tortilla strips.

Spread them out into an even layer and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Keep a close eye on them starting at the 10-minute mark to make sure they don’t burn.

The tortilla strips are ready to remove from the oven when they are lightly golden in color and crispy. Set them aside to cool.

Tortilla strips to make quick and easy vegetarian tortilla soup
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel
Tortilla strips on a baking sheet to make quick and easy vegetarian tortilla soup
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Sauté the vegetables:

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and when it’s hot (glistening but not smoking), add the onions. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. The onions will not be soft yet.

Add the bell pepper and jalapeños and sauté until the onion and peppers begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute, until garlic is fragrant and onions are starting to turn translucent.

A dutch oven with ingredients sauteing inside to make vegetarian-friendly tortilla soup
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Add the remaining ingredients:

Add the diced tomatoes, black beans, corn, chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, garlic powder, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, black pepper, and bay leaf. Stir well to combine.

Stir in the vegetable stock and tomato paste.

A dutch oven with ingredients inside to make vegetarian-friendly tortilla soup
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel
Vegetarian-friendly tortilla soup in a dutch oven.
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Simmer the soup:

Increase the heat to medium-high heat. When it comes to a gentle boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients:

Stir in the reserved unbaked tortilla strips, scallions, and lime juice. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Vegetarian-friendly tortilla soup in a dutch oven.
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Serve:

Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Top with crispy tortilla strips and any of your favorite garnishes like cilantro, queso fresco, shredded Mexican-style cheese blend, sliced radishes, avocados, and sour cream.

Two bowls of meatless tortilla soup garnished with radishes, cheese, and sour cream and a plate of garnishes next to it.
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel