Ground beef, pinto beans, diced tomatoes, taco seasoning and a few other simple ingredients combine to create an easy dinner that looks like a soup, but tastes like a taco. Packaged seasoning and canned tomatoes make this a recipe that comes together quickly. Customize your soup with additions such as cilantro, corn, jalapenos and olives.
Ground beef serves as the base for the taco soup. Use extra lean or lean to avoid the extra fat that can rise to the top of the finished dish. Sauté the beef with chopped onions in a little oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot. Break up the meat with a spoon as it browns. Add canned, whole or diced tomatoes – with or without added green chiles – and tomato sauce for body as well as a salsa-like flavor. Stir in cooked kidney beans and homemade or packaged taco seasoning. For a quick homemade seasoning, blend together cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, dried oregano, salt and a bit of brown sugar. Transfer the soup to a slow cooker and cook on low for several hours, or leave it in the pot and simmer for about 30 minutes for the flavors to meld.
Green chiles, black and green olives, chopped bell peppers and diced jalapenos are other flavor elements to include as the soup simmers. Frozen corn added in the last few minutes of cooking gives a little sweetness to the soup. Drained, canned corn is another option. Some recipes call for the addition of a dry packet of ranch dressing mix along with the taco seasoning.
Serve the taco soup topped with chopped cilantro, sour cream, shredded cheese and slivers of green onion. You may also serve the soup ladled over the top of corn tortilla chips or rice. Leftover soup keeps well in the refrigerator for several days or may be frozen for a few months.
Diced or ground skinless chicken breast or ground turkey could be swapped for the ground beef. Leave out the meat all together or use soy crumbles for a vegetarian version. Although kidney beans are most often called for in taco soup recipes, almost any type of bean can be used. Try pinto beans, a chili-bean mixture, white beans or black beans.
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.