This cheesy vegetarian tortilla soup recipe is rich and creamy with tons of spicy flavor. This is a perfect side dish for tacos or enchiladas—and it only takes a few minutes to prepare!

Cheesy tortilla soup
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There’s a restaurant chain in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, called Max and Erma’s. It’s nothing too out of the ordinary with burgers and salads and a hot fudge sundae bar. But I remember going to Max and Erma’s in high school and loving their chicken tortilla soup (this was just before I became a vegetarian!). It was creamy and spicy with plenty of cheesy flavors. I started thinking about this soup a few weeks ago, and I realized it couldn’t be that hard to make a vegetarian version!

cheesy tortilla soup

I love the way the tortillas help thicken the soup and make it feel really hearty. This is a great soup for a chilly day! I used diced tomatoes with green chilies and cayenne pepper to give this soup a spicy kick. But if you prefer more mild flavors, you can use plain diced tomatoes and/or skip the cayenne pepper/

How to Make Tortilla Soup

Tips for Making Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

  • Be sure to dice the corn tortillas into small pieces, about 1/2″ square. This gives the soup lots of texture.
  • Use freshly shredded cheddar cheese from a block, rather than pre-shredded cheese. Pre-shredded cheese contains anti-caking agents, which can prevent it from melting smoothly.
  • This soup is spicy. To tame the heat, skip the cayenne pepper or reduce the amount to 1/4 teaspoon.

How to Store Leftovers

This soup will keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave, stirring frequently. Do not try to freeze this soup. Dairy-based soups tend to separate when frozen and the texture won’t be the same.

tortilla soup

Substitution Ideas

  • Cornstarch helps thicken the soup, but if you don’t want to use cornstarch, you can substitute an equal amount of arrowroot powder instead.
  • I used sharp cheddar cheese, but you can also try a combination of different cheeses. Try 6oz of cheddar and 2oz of pepper jack cheese for an even spicier flavor.
  • For a more mild flavor, use regular diced tomatoes instead of diced tomatoes with green chilies.

Topping Ideas

Have fun with topping ideas! Here are some of our favorites:

  • Sour cream
  • Avocado
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Crushed tortilla chips
  • Crispy chickpeas
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cheesy tortilla soup

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 5 reviews
  • Author: Liz Thomson
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6 cups 1x
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Mexican


This cheesy vegetarian tortilla soup is rich and creamy with tons of spicy flavor. This is a perfect side dish for tacos or enchiladas—and it only takes a few minutes to prepare!


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 corn tortillas, diced
  • 1 10oz can diced tomatoes with green chilis
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or less if you don’t like it spicy)
  • 1/4 teaspoons oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • Tortilla chips and avocado for topping


  1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook for 8 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning.
  3. Add the garlic and continue to cook for 3 minutes.
  4. Whisk the cornstarch into the vegetable broth and then add the broth mixture to the pot.
  5. Increase the heat to medium and add the cheddar cheese, tortillas, tomatoes, cumin, cayenne, and oregano.
  6. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook on low heat for 15 minutes.
  7. Divide into bowls and top with additional tortilla chips and chopped avocado.

More Soup Recipes

This soup is very rich, so I would recommend serving it as a side dish rather than the main dish. Try it with this easy Quinoa Taco Skillet, or pair it with a Tempeh Taco Salad for a lighter, protein-packed meal.