Delish & Low-Cal: Joy’s Vegetarian Tortilla Soup


As fall arrives, it’s cold and rainy here in Mexico City (seriously, it’s 55 degrees and raining heavily right at this moment). Meaning, I want soup. Steamy, spicy soup.

But because I try to cook vegetarian at home, my options are limited. Mexico is a meat-lover’s paradise (and trust me, I’m not judging: I’ve partaken of the cooked animal flesh many ‘o times here). But one fail-safe at home dish is tortilla soup, using Mexican ingredients.

Truth be told: I’ve been making this recipe for years now, borrowing heavily from this Epicurious recipe that was printed in Bon Appetit in 1997 – wow! The way I prepare it is really a hybrid between tortilla soup and sopa de lima. And it’s my favorite of any I’ve tried…


  • glug of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (or more)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (I use ketchup)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (I use a lot more plus at least 2 tsp of chili powder)
  • 4 cups canned vegetable broth, adding more water if needed
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (again, I use liberally)
  • bag of good tortilla chips (totopos en espanol), crush some to sprinkle on top of finished soup
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (I use canned whole tomatoes, a pantry item that’s always usable)
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed, drained
  • at least 1 cup chopped zucchini — or more depending on how much you like this veggie. I chop it into fourths.
  • At least one jalapeno pepper (with seeds — we like spice, take ’em out if you don’t) or any other spicy chile
  • Can throw in a cup or so of frozen or fresh corn kernels
  • Can throw in a 1/2 cup or so of fresh chopped carrots
  • Limes — lots of em. I like the small sweet kind
  • Shredded cheddar cheese to sprinkle on top (if you’re a bad girl)
  • salt and pepper, claro

Pour glug of olive oil onto large nonstick saucepan. Add onion, cover and cook over medium-low heat until almost tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, stir 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste or ketchup, cumin and chili powder. Add broth and 2 tablespoons cilantro; bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until flavors blend, about 15 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to simmer before continuing.) Can add water if this is too thick for your taste.

Add tomatoes, beans, zucchini, extra veggies (if desired) and chile pepper to soup. Cover; simmer until zucchini is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. If broth is too laden with veggies, add little bits of water until you reach desired soup consistency. Add more spices if you wish to avoid diluted taste.

Squeeze in juice of 1 lime. Add desired amount of salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle with remaining extra cilantro. Squeeze a bit more lime (depending on your lime preference — I like a lot). And you may want to shred a little Manchego cheese on top.

Tastes great as leftovers, btw. (I don’t know the exact nutrition breakdown, pero,  black beans have fiber, limes have vitamin c, carrots have vitamin A and fiber, tomatoes have vitamin C and lycopene, garlic is always good for you….and this has just a teensy bit of olive oil. So, it’s low-fat, low-cal, vegetarian and nutrient-dense. AND TASTY.)


9 thoughts on “Delish & Low-Cal: Joy’s Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

  1. Lesley says:

    Yum! I just realized while reading the recipe that I usually have most of those ingredients on hand. (Except now, when the fridge is empty because we’re leaving in two days.) Have to remember to make this when I get back!

  2. chappy81 says:

    Just tried to make it, and it turned out good! Thanks for the receipe, I have always liked tortilla soup, but never really thought to make it until I saw the recipe on your blog!

  3. Nancy says:

    Joy, I need to get some totopos before I make this but I plan on making it this week, even though it is 90 degrees here… but when do you put them in? Right before serving?


  4. Nancy says:

    Joy, I just wanted to let you know that I made your soup tonight and it was a huge hit. I used blue corn totopos from Mega and a couple of us used a bit of crema on top. The flavor was excellent, and I loved the lime. This will be a mainstay soup for me, it was very easy and made a real splash. Thank you!

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