Sabrina has always loved tortilla soup. For years, though, every time she ordered it, I always kind of wondered why she’d waste her valuable stomach space on a bowl full of what appeared to be…watered down tomato sauce? I couldn’t figure it out. But then again, I hadn’t ever actually tried it. That’s how good belief systems are made, though, you guys! Don’t try it, judge it!
When I finally ordered my first bowl, it was because I came to my senses. Hello! Tortilla soup could offer me the same thrill that nachos and tacos do: toppings. So as long as I didn’t hate the base (and how could I? I love tomatoes, cumin, chili powder…), it couldn’t be a stretch to love. Who wouldn’t love something you can top with fried tortilla strips, cheese, diced avocado, and sour cream? Exactly—my mom. But other than her, there’s no one.
Of course it was great. The soup base alone—toppings aside—was like the best, most flavorful tomato soup I’d ever had. After I ate it, I came home, made a note to make my own version, waited two good years, and here we are: the perfect vegetarian tortilla soup!
Do you see how easy things can be with me?
From cutting board to soup bowl, it takes under an hour. It’s warm, spicy, and smoky with Mexican flavors like chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika. It gets a kick of heat from jalapeños and just a little sweetness from brown sugar and tomato paste, which always helps deepen and intensify tomato flavor.
Using really good canned tomatoes is essential here, because the tomato flavor is prominent. My recommendation is Tuttorosso pureed tomatoes. I’m telling you, every variety of Tuttorosso canned tomatoes just blows the doors off of the other brands I’ve tried. This is going to sound strange, I know, but…they truly taste like tomatoes. Having lived on two coasts and cooked for well over a decade now, I’ve tasted the same products in about 8 other brands and I was always a little turned off by the acidic, tinny taste most brands have. But I just assumed that when you taste tomatoes out of the can, they taste bitter and metallic. When I discovered Tuttorosso, it was night and day. Straight from the can, their tomatoes were so good that I’d eat them on their own. Finding a canned tomato brand is oddly special, isn’t it? Because your marinara sauce matters more than anything. Your chili recipe matters, too. Hey your tortilla soup matters! Give Tuttorosso a try and let me know what you think.
Now: toppings! Instead of going with crispy tortilla strips, which maybe aren’t the lightest things around (I still love you, tortilla strips!), I made crispy spiced chickpeas using my favorite roasted chickpea recipe. The coating on these beans is a super flavorful mix of garlic powder, chili powder, dried oregano, and sea salt. Once roasted, they turn into these crispy, golden kernels that taste great while also adding protein and fiber to the soup for some staying power!
Consider making this ahead of time, because the flavor only gets better the longer it sits and it reheats well. The chickpeas won’t stay crispy for more than a day, but no one minds once they’re floating in soup anyway. Just make a pot of and go to town with toppings — add cheese, scallions, or even chopped avocado. The sky’s the limit — or, really, your fridge is the limit, but you probably have cheese at the very least, right?