Sacramento Digs Gardening logo
Sacramento Digs Gardening Article
Your resource for Sacramento-area gardening news, tips and events

Articles Recipe Index Keyword Index Calendar Twitter Facebook Instagram About Us Contact Us

This veggie-forward soup warms without weighing you down

Recipe: Vegetarian tortilla soup adaptable to all tastes

This vegetarian tortilla soup can be spiced from mild to hot and garnished to taste.

This vegetarian tortilla soup can be spiced from mild to hot and garnished to taste.

Kathy Morrison

Vegetables for soup and some uncooked tortillas
The tomatoes were frozen last summer.

It’s Jan. 1, and I’m just about done with elaborate, heavy food. But we still have a few months until spring, so I’m looking for dishes that are warming without being heavy.

Good news, tomato growers: I found the perfect recipe to use those frozen or preserved tomatoes that we labored over last summer. And what better time to use them: It’s six months yet until the next crop comes in. (Big sigh here.) Yes, tomatoes can be frozen – I usually toss them into plastic bags, half or quartered depending on size. And the skins come off beautifully when they’re defrosted.

I had a few mixed peppers that survived the pre-Christmas freeze, so I was able to use those, too. And some homegrown garlic, hooray!

I’d used up the most recent batch of homemade vegetable broth (recipe in link), so resorted to packaged low-sodium broth, which worked well. That’s the general guidance with this recipe, which is adapted from The New York Times: Use fresh or homegrown or homemade where you can, but the soup will be just fine if you shortcut the broth, the (optional) beans or the tortilla chips. Toss in some shredded rotisserie chicken or cooked chorizo if you’re not vegetarian and want to boost the protein. 

Note: I have a large spice collection, so I blended several for the chili powder, but if you have a commercial blend you like, go ahead and use that. (For the record, I used smoked paprika, sweet paprika, cayenne, ground aji amarillo, ground New Mexican green chili and a dash of Penzey’s medium-hot chili powder.) And those canned chipotles are crucial to flavor – they give the soup a delicious kick.

Spiced a little or lot, this soup will definitely warm you up.

Vegetarian tortilla soup

Serve 4 to 6


Triangles of tortillas in a cast iron skillet
Baked tortilla chips -- no oil needed.

4 to 8 small corn tortillas, cut into triangles or strips (commercial chips are OK as an alternate but will be saltier)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 or more small to medium fresh chili pepper, such as jalapeño, seeds removed, minced 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1-½ teaspoons or more chili powder or a mix of spices (see note above)

4 cups frozen or canned tomatoes, crushed (remove the skin if the tomatoes were frozen with it on)

2 chipotles in adobo, finely chopped

4 cups vegetable broth

One 15-ounce can of beans, such as black beans or white kidney beans, drained and rinsed (optional)

2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (thawing not required)

4 tablespoons chopped cilantro, divided

A red oval plate containing bowls of garnishes
Let everyone add their own garnishes.


3/4 cup crumbled queso fresco or grated cheddar cheese

3/4 cup crema, crème fraîche or sour cream

1 firm but ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed

2 tablespoons of the cilantro that was chopped for the soup

About one-third of the tortilla strips or triangles


If making your own tortilla chips: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the tortilla triangles or strips randomly on an ungreased heavy baking sheet or cast-iron skillet. Bake until the tortilla pieces are crispy but not browned, turning frequently so they crisp evenly. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, using a large soup pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the onion, garlic and minced peppers, plus a bit of salt and pepper. stirring until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. 

Add the chili powder or spice blend and stir, cooking on medium for about 2 minutes, then stir in the chipotles, the tomatoes and any collected liquid from the tomatoes. Heat through before adding the broth, the beans (if using) and the corn.

Tortilla soup being stirred in a large pot
Gently stir some chips into the soup.

Let the soup simmer for at least 15 minutes, and stir in 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro. Correct the seasonings with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

 Once the tortillas are ready, gently stir a little more than half the chips into the soup, allowing them a minute or 2 to soften in the broth.

To serve: Place a few more chips in individual bowls and ladle the soup over them. Pass the garnishes at the table, along with the remaining chips.


0 comments have been posted.

Taste Summer! E-cookbook


Find our summer recipes here!

Newsletter Subscription

Sacramento Digs Gardening to your inbox.

Local News

Ad for California Local

Thanks to our sponsor!

Summer Strong ad for

Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

Taste Spring! E-cookbook


Find our spring recipes here!