Easy Taco Soup brings the flavors of the popular Mexican-American street food to soup and is simple to make, even on a weeknight.
I have seen versions of this that call for doing the recipe in a crock pot. Now I have nothing against crock pots although I do have some friends who eschew them, despise them and generally look down on those who use them.
But I am someone who uses one and see nothing wrong with that, except maybe if you do pork or chicken breasts in there and overcook it (which is so easy to do) or my biggest crock pot pet peeve is cooking chicken on the bone in there, then finding little bits of bone from the underside in my food.
So I won’t go there anymore. But- I do think cooking things like chuck roast in a crock is great- and I love a good machaca that I can turn into almost *anything* Tex-Mex. I’ll post that recipe later. But for now, we are on to Taco Soup since it’s cold outside (and baby is it ever cold!) But let’s get real about the crock and taco soup. This recipe does not NEED to cook for 8 hours- there is just no point or advantage. It does NOT make the beef more tender. The only thing I can see that it does is keep you waiting if you happen to want it earlier than you had planned.
The total time it takes to make taco soup really IS very short- 5 minutes to chop an onion, 5 more to brown the beef and drain it, then add the rest and simmer thirty minutes- which if I have to be honest it really is NOT a necessity to do that much. You could get away simmering for 15 minutes- but thirty lets the seasoning get into the meat a bit more, but really, debating 15 or 30 is really splitting hairs on the subject. The only cooking time that is absolutely essential is softening the onion (so they are not crunchy) and heating after you add the masa (so it has time to thicken up) and really, if you don’t care if it’s brothy, you could forego that as well.
One bit about the end- make sure you turn the heat off before you add the sour cream or cheese. Something weird happens to both under higher temperatures- the sour cream *could* curdle (yucky!) and the cheese, if heated too much can start breaking down and becoming stringy. I can’t say using pre-grated cheese or grating it yourself makes that big of a difference since the pre-grated is just tossed with a bit of cellulose to keep it from sticking together, which might make it a tiny bit thicker, but again, it’s splitting hairs. The cheese and the sour cream you can vary the amounts a bit if you like- just make sure you taste afterwards, and if it doesn’t taste taco-ish enough after adding more, you can adjust that with some extra taco seasoning. For taco seasoning you can do yours homemade or if you get lazy and buy it as I occasionally do, you can get the seasoning in a shaker can now and use what you want instead of being trapped to an amount in an envelope. I do think the envelope amount is about 1/4 cup, in case you are forced to buy those, but you can measure it out if a different brand uses a different amount.
The masa harina I keep around and I do tons of things with it besides thickening taco soup, chili, making tamales or other Mexican things. It also is wonderful as a part of a seafood coating and even works in corn bread. If you don’t want to use that, the regular corn meal might be a bit grittier and not thicken as well, so flour is probably a better choice. Or you could make a cornstarch slurry. But masa gives that great corn flavor like a taco shell and if you don’t use all your masa at once, keep the extra in a freezer ziplock in your freezer. Christmas is coming up- did you know making tamales with masa is a traditional Mexican Feliz Navidad food? It’s a thought.
One last thing- don’t season this with salt and pepper if you are accustomed to just doing that while you are cooking- at least not until you find out how salty your taco seasoning is. You can always add more at the end, but once in, you can’t take it out.
I do hope you enjoy- this is not highbrow eating, but it is fun, and something kids and adults will enjoy. Home cookin’, if you will.
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 tbsp. chopped garlic or garlic paste
- 1 can chili beans in sauce (15 ounce)
- 1 can pinto beans (15 ounce)
- 2 cups frozen corn (or 1 15-ounce can kernel corn, drained or 1 15-ounce can hominy, drained)
- 1 can diced tomatoes in juice (15 ounce)
- 1 quart beef broth
- 1 cup tomato juice
- 1 small can chopped green chillies (4 ounce)
- 1/3 cup taco seasoning
- 1/4 cup masa harina
- 3-3.5 ounces finely shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- handful tortilla chips, crushed (optional)
- Brown the ground beef, onions, and garlic in a soup pot until the onions soften, then drain off any excess fat or drippings.
- Stir in both cans of beans with their liquid, the corn, diced tomatoes with their liquid, beef broth, tomato juice, green chillies and taco seasoning.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about thirty minutes.
- Whisk in the masa harina; bring to a boi and continue stirring until it thickens (about 5 minutes).
- Turn off heat, then whisk in the sour cream and cheese until the cheese melts and all is mixed. Do not let the sour cream or cheese boil.
- Serve hot with a few crushed tortilla chips as a garnish if you like.
Makes 10-12 servings or so
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