If you have a weekly taco night, this family favorite is a nice way to shake things up. Taco soup is versatile, quick to make, and customizable to your family’s tastes. This recipe requres little more than browning some meat and onions and opening a whole lot of cans. Growing up, my kids loved taco soup night. They got to choose their favorite toppings and I was treated to a no-fuss, easy-prep weeknight meal. Everyone was happy…not always an easy feat at dinnertime.

Six Servings…More or Less

Adding an exact number for servings is difficult for this recipe because the volume will fluctuate depending on what you add or subtract. This recipe is about starting with a simple base of ground beef, onions, tomatoes, beans, and taco seasoning, and then experimenting with the ingredients you and your family prefer.

image of possible additions to taco soup

Taco Soup = Endless Variations

While this recipe calls for ground beef or turkey, you can easily omit the meat for a vegetarian dish without skimping on the protein. If you have someone who doesn’t like olives, plop them in whole so they can be easily picked out or just serve them as a topping. As an aside, I think kids who don’t like black olives are weird, and yet, I ended up with two of them. Go figure.

Many of the ingredients listed in the recipe are optional. Much like a taco, the best thing about taco soup is the endless variations. You can make a basic soup and let your diners customize to their own taste. Here are some of my favorite toppings and additions:

  • cilantro
  • chopped red onion
  • diced avocado
  • shredded cheese
  • sour cream
  • diced jalapenos
  • fresh diced bell pepper in any color
  • tortilla chips
  • chili powder
  • cayenne (just a dash)
  • splash of lime
  • beans, beans, beans – this one deserves its own section

Beans, beans, beans

The main component in Taco Soup is the beans. My original recipe called for kidney beans and pinto beans. But after a while, I tired of kidney beans and experimented with other types…black beans, small red beans, chickpeas. I don’t think I’ve ever cut the pinto beans though; for me they’re a must have.

Canned vs. dried

For most varieties, you can purchase either canned or dried beans. So what’s the difference? Canned beans were once dried but have now been cooked and canned for you. There’s no need for an overnight soak or endless simmering. The downside to canned beans is that the liquid in the can cause the beans to be less flavorful.

If you opt for dried beans, an overnight soak will help in softening the bean and leach out some of the flatulent elements. Skipping the soak is fine but will increase the amount of time it takes to get them softened up. You can also cook the beans in a pressure cooker.

And if you’re watching your budget, dried beans are much more economical than their canned counterparts.

Should I salt?

Adding salt to your beans while cooking helps further break down the outer skin of a bean and produces a smoother, more flavorful dish.

What type should I add to Taco Soup?

What type of bean to use is up to you and your taste buds. I say experiment until you find the perfect combination.

  • Pinto beans are the most widely produced and eaten bean in the U.S. and the most popular in the Americas. They do a great job of taking on the flavors of the ingredients they’re cooked with.
  • Black beans are mild, slightly sweet and become smooth and creamy when cooked.
  • Navy beans have a mild, delicate flavor and, like pinto beans, are great at absorbing the flavors of other ingredients.
  • Kidney beans have a firm texture and hold up well in soups or other dishes that cook for a long time. Their dark red color adds visual appeal to a dish.
  • Cannellini beans are essentially white kidney beans and the two can be interchanged in recipes. I had no idea until I started researching beans!
  • Great northern beans also have a mild, delicate flavor.
  • Lima beans or butter beans are reported to be smooth, creamy, and a little sweet. But who eats them? They seem to be a bean that a lot of people claim to hate. Where did lima beans get such a bad reputation?
  • Chickpeas or garbanzo beans are thought to have been cultivated in the Middle East as far back as 3,000 BC. Chickpeas are starchy and have a creamy, nutty flavor. They are also quite versatile and one of my favorites. In addition to adding them to your soup, try coating in a little olive oil and taco seasoning and roasting until they have a little crunch. They make a great topping!
image of taco soup

Taco Soup

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Soup
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb ground beef (or ground turkey)
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • 2 16 oz can chopped tomatoes with liquid
  • 1 16 oz can kidney beans
  • 1 16 oz can pinto beans
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 pkg taco seasoning mix
  • 1 small can green chilies (mild or hot to your taste)
  • 1 dash hot sauce (optional)
  • 1 16 oz can corn (optional) (frozen will work too)
  • 1 16 oz can whole black olives (optional)
  • 1 bunch cilantro (optional)
  • diced avocado for serving
  • shredded cheese for serving
  • sour cream for serving
  • tortilla chips for serving

Instructions
 

  • In a large pot, brown ground beef or turkey.
  • When meat is browned, add chopped onion and continue cooking until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add all canned ingredients and taco seasoning mix.
  • Bring to a boil then let simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Serve hot with desired toppings (avocado, shredded cheese, tortilla chips, etc.).
Keyword avacado, taco, taco soup

When you’re ready to step up to next-level taco soup, check out Mexican Coconut Chicken Soup.