Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

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“Tortilla soup has a place, I feel, in practically every collection of Mexican recipes,” says Rick Bayless. This is a vegetarian version of the classic soup, usually made with chicken. Earthy dark pasilla chile flavors the soul-satisfying broth. (Recipe adapted from Rick Bayless.)

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
photographer: Ken Burris
Nutritionist Tested & Approved

Time: 90 minutes (60 minutes prep)

  • 3 large dried pasilla (negro), ancho or New Mexico chiles (see Note)

  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes , preferably fire-roasted

  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons canola oil or extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • 1 medium white onion , sliced 1/4 inch thick

  • 3 cloves garlic , peeled

  • 4 cups vegetable broth or “no-chicken” broth

  • 4 cups water

  • 1 large sprig epazote

  • 1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu

  • 4 cups chopped chard, spinach or kale leaves

  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 ripe large avocado , cut into 1/4-inch cubes

  • 2 cups roughly broken tortilla chips

  • 3/4 cup shredded Mexican melting cheese , such as Chihuahua or asadero, or Monterey Jack or mild Cheddar (optional)

  • 1 large lime , cut into 6 wedges

  1. Holding the chiles one at a time with metal tongs, quickly toast them by turning them an inch or two above an open flame for a few seconds until the aroma fills the kitchen. (Alternatively, toast chiles in a dry pan over medium heat, pressing them flat for a few seconds then flipping them over and pressing again.)

  2. When cool enough to handle, stem and seed the chiles, break them into pieces and put them in a blender along with tomatoes and their juice. (A food processor will work, though it won’t completely puree the chiles.)

  3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, 6 to 9 minutes. Scoop up the onion and garlic with a slotted spoon and transfer to the blender with the tomato mixture. Process until smooth.

  4. Return the pot to medium heat. When quite hot, add the puree and stir nearly constantly until thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 6 minutes. Add broth, water and epazote (if using). Bring to a boil, then adjust heat to maintain a simmer.

  5. Drain tofu, rinse and pat dry; cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu and cook in a single layer, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes, until beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes total. Add the tofu to the soup and simmer for 30 minutes.

  6. Add chard (or spinach or kale) to the soup and season with salt to taste, depending on the saltiness of the broth. Cook, stirring, until the greens are wilted, about 2 minutes, depending on the type of greens.

  7. Ladle the soup into 8 soup bowls. Divide avocado, tortilla chips and cheese (if using) among the bowls. Serve warm, with lime wedges.

Ingredient Notes: Pasilla chiles, sometimes called negro chiles, are medium-hot dried peppers with a flavor that defines tortilla soup in central Mexico. Find them and other dried chiles in the produce section of large supermarkets or online at

Epazote, an herb used in Mexican cooking, has a pungent, distinctive flavor unlike any other herb. Look for it fresh at farmers’ markets or find it dried at Latin markets or online from

Nutritional Facts

Serving Size
1 generous cup
18 g
13 g
Saturated Fat
2 g
7 g
0 mg
Dietary Fiber
5 g
400 mg
545 mg
8 servings
1 generous cup each
1/2 starch
1 vegetable
1/2 lean meat
2 fat
Vitamin A
44% daily value
Vitamin C
28% dv
16% dv

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