Here is a recent addition to our repertoire of favorite dishes that are quick to make. But first, a quick digression on my relationship with soup.
Soups are a huge part of my heritage. It’s the first part of every main meal. I didn’t particularly appreciate this custom growing up because, as picky as I am about food in general, I’m even pickier about soup. I was happy to eat it if it was made by my mom or grandma and even then, it couldn’t be just any soup. It basically had to be either strained chicken noodle soup with thin, homemade noodles or fresh bean soup with a tomato base.
And then I had a version of this soup in Nicaragua. It’s a tomato base soup with avocado and cheddar and, the best part, crispy tortilla strips. No, wait, the best part might be how quick it is to make.
It’s slightly tangy, likely from the tomatoes we use, and I’ve made it spicy enough to require some nose-blowing mid-meal. We add fried black beans for some extra protein because we have it as a single dish meal. Make it vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and make it vegan by skipping the cheese.
Part of what makes eating this soup so fun to eat is that you continually replenish the toppings and can have crispy tortilla strips with every bite. I like letting some of the tortilla strips soak slightly, so parts are crispy and parts are soft. My partner like to eat them before they have a chance to soften.
We generally snack a lot during the day so eat relatively small meals. But serial snackers as we are, this soup that’s supposed to serve at least 5 people is only enough for two meals for the two of us.
A website update: I added a favorite tools section to the website which features some of our favorite kitchen things. The products link to the site where we bought them (or had bought from us from our registries). You’ll notice that currently everything that’s on there is from Amazon. That’s in part because I’m only an affiliate there, but in larger part because I actually do buy almost everything from them. They got me hooked, the tricksters, with a free prime account when I was a student living in a city that had no home goods stores within waking distance and I had no car. If you are a human (i.e. not a spam bot), feel free to suggest your must-haves on that page, and not just from Amazon. I look forward to any recommendations!
Low-sodium Aztec Soup (Spicy Tortilla Soup)
Adapted from Alan Jackson & JoAnn Cianciulli’s The Lemonade Cookbook recipe ‘Tortilla Soup’
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon (1.25mL) cayenne pepper (or less if you’re sensitive to heat)
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5mL) crushed red pepper flakes (or less if you’re sensitive to heat)
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5mL) ground cumin
- 1 28-ounce (794g) can crushed tomatoes, no salt added
- 1 1/2 quarts (1419mL) low sodium chicken broth
- 1 onion, peeled and cut in half
- 2 small bay leaves (or 1 regular-sized one)
- 1 teaspoon (5mL) dried oregano
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 15-ounce (425g) can black beans
- 6 corn tortillas (141g), cut into thin strips
- 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into thin slices
- grated cheddar cheese, to taste
- sour cream, to taste (optional)
- fresh lime, to taste (optional)
- Heat the olive oil in a medium or large saucepan on medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic and cook until it begins to color, about 1 minute.
- Add the cayenne pepper, red chili pepper flakes, and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, onion, bay leaves, and dried oregano. Bring to a boil then simmer, uncovered, until the soup thickens slightly, about 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the toppings.
- Heat up the beans by frying them with a small amount of oil over medium-high heat. Alternatively, if you’d like them to retain their shape, heat them up in a saucepan over water or using a microwave.
- Fry the tortilla strips over high heat, stirring occasionally, until crispy and slightly browned, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the tortilla strips from the heat and place on paper towels to drain.
- Keep the toppings and the soup separate. Serve the beans, tortilla strips, avocado, and cheddar, in their own bowls. Serve sour cream and lime wedges on the side as well, if desired.
- Once the soup has reduced, discard the onion and bay leaves. Season with freshly ground pepper to taste.
- Divide the soup into bowls and allow each person to serve themselves with the toppings and replenish them as needed.
Sources of sodium
- Low sodium chicken broth
- Black beans
- Crushed tomatoes
- Cheddar cheese
Approximate sodium intake per serving: 251 mg
- 93 mg from the low sodium chicken broth, which has 70 mg per 1 C (240mL) serving
- 92 mg from the black beans, which have 125 mg per 1/2 C (130g) serving
- 59 mg from the crushed tomatoes, which have 20 mg per 1/4 C (61g) serving
- 7 mg from the tortillas, which have 10 mg per serving size of 2 tortillas
- These values are calculated from the nutritional labels of the ingredients I used
Further reduce the sodium
- Make your own low sodium chicken broth.
- Use ‘no salt added’ canned beans or replace the canned beans with beans you soak yourself.
- Replace the canned tomatoes with fresh tomatoes you roast, peel, and crush yourself by hand.
Make it vegetarian
Replace the chicken broth with low-sodium vegetable broth.
Make it vegan
Replace the chicken broth with low-sodium vegetable broth and do not top with cheddar or sour cream.
We use organic low sodium chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, and black beans because they have significantly less sodium than their non-organic counterparts.
Keeping the onions
If you like small pieces of onion in the soup, dice them and add them in after the olive oil is hot. Cook until they are soft, about 5 minutes, before adding in the garlic and continuing with the recipe.
Pureeing tortillas in the soup
Some tortilla soup recipes call for pureeing fried tortilla strips into the soup. We tried this and we ended up with a horrible orange puree. It might work better if you use a smaller amount of tortilla strips, even if it might not end up as bright and appetizing as it does in the pictures. Maybe we’ll give it another try with a smaller amount of tortilla trips after we overcome the trauma our first attempt caused us. Should you want to try it, the original recipe calls for frying 3 cups of tortilla strips and adding them in to the soup after it simmers for 15 minutes. Continue to simmer until the strips soften and break down into the soup, another 15 minutes. Puree until smooth using a hand blender or by ladling into a blender in batches. The soup can be served straight from the blender or strained through a fine-mesh strainer.