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Best Slow Cooker Taco Soup with Ground Beef

Looking for an easy dinner recipe tonight? Slow cooker taco soup with ground beef is your answer.  Features ground beef, 3 kinds of chiles, 2 kinds of beans, and fresh herbs and spices. Quick prep, easy meal.

bowl of taco soup with title

Throw the ingredients into the slow cooker before you leave for the day. Have a hearty soup ready for dinner when you come home.

What is Taco Soup?

Taco soup combines all the ingredients that make a good taco into a spicy flavorful broth.

Use ground beef (flavored with jalapenos and onions), pinto and kidney beans, corn, green chiles, and tomatoes. Top with cheese, sour cream, green onions, guacamole, and tortilla chips.

And just like that, a taco becomes soup.  

Tasty History of Taco Soup

Is taco soup a Mexican dish or American-made?  That is a complicated question.

Indigenous people of Central and South America have been making spicy tomato-based soups topped with cheese and chips for hundreds of years.  Busy moms are everywhere. Nothing is easier than making a big pot of soup to feed your family.

So the idea of a spicy broth was not born in America.

Delicious food migrated with people as they came from south of the border into America.  Immigrants brought their soups, along with other food, like tortillas served with meat.

At first Mexican food was viewed as lower-class street food, found only in poor neighborhoods.

However, street vendors began selling Mexican food at festivals and in pushcarts in populated cities such as Los Angeles and San Antonio.  As Americans saw these food vendors every day, they began sampling and then developing a taste for Mexican food.

In the early 1900’s tacos appeared in America … or rather the food eaten for decades by Mexican migrants began being called tacos by the non-Mexican population in America.  

Restaurateurs only called their food “tacos” when they wanted to sell tacos to non-Mexican customers.  However, when Glen Bell opened the Taco Bell franchise after owning several other taco stands in California, the name “taco” became mainstream.   

A New Recipe

bowl of taco soup with ground beef

So how did the spicy tomato-based soup of South America get blended with the new tacos of America?

That answer is simple — food industry marketers.  Taco soup is Americanized Mexican food and commercialized food product, married in an industrial test kitchen.

As with many popular quick and easy dinner recipes in the United States, the first recipe for taco soup was likely created in the Campbell’s Soup test kitchen.

Campbell’s Soup has historically developed recipes to make shortcuts or speed up cooking time, and they market these recipes to busy moms.

Earliest Taco Soup Recipes

The earliest recipe for taco soup (found in 1993) called for a can of Campbell’s condensed tomato soup and taco sauce, topped with taco fixings (cheese, tortilla chips, and sour cream).  No ground beef in that recipe.  

Southern Living magazine published a taco soup recipe a year later, calling it a “can-do soup” easy enough for anyone who could operate a can opener.  

Ground beef is the only ingredient not found in a can or packet.  Along with beans, tomatoes and green chiles, a packet of taco seasoning and a packet of ranch dressing flavor this version of the soup.

A short prep time is the best feature of this recipe.  Open a few cans and packets, brown some ground beef, heat it all up, and you are ready to go.  Garnish with all the taco fixings and you have a complete meal, finished in under 30 minutes. Great for a quick lunch.

Pretty good taste for just opening a bunch of cans and a couple of packets.  But we can do better.

Quick and Easy Taco Soup Recipe from Scratch

2 bowls of taco soup

There are five ways I make a better slow cooker taco soup than any recipe developed in a food lab.  Follow these tips for the best taco soup you’ve ever eaten.

  1.  Throw out the seasoning packets.  I don’t like to rely on seasoning packets if I can help it.  For this recipe, I use fresh herbs and spices, chile peppers, and aromatics to make a soup base layered with flavor.  Don’t worry. It only takes 5 minutes to make the base.
  2. Cook the ground beef with fresh jalapeno and onion.  Jalapeno and onion add flavor to the beef as it cooks.  
  3. Use three kinds of chile pepper.  First, cook the ground beef with jalapenos.  Next blend mild diced chiles and chipotle chile powder together in a broth.  Something about three layers of chile (each with a unique taste) makes this soup unbeatable.
  4. Use pinto and kidney beans.  Cook them fresh if you have the time.  If not, open a can. Two types of beans add even more flavor and interest to the taco soup.  
  5. Garnish with taco toppings.  Use chips, cheese, sour cream, guacamole or avocado, olives, salsa, and red or green onions.

This is a quick and easy taco soup recipe.  It is delicious and you can customize it to your taste.  Make slow cooker taco soup, cook it in an electric pressure cooker, or on the stove top.

Slow Cooker Taco Soup Ingredients

taco soup ingredients in slow cooker
  • Ground beef: Not all ground beef is created equally.  To get the best taste and nutrition from your ground beef, choose the best cut.  Ground chuck is the best choice, but sirloin will give you good results too.
  • Beef broth:  This is the base into which herbs, spices, tomatoes, and chile peppers will be blended to create a mouthwatering, spicy, flavorful soup base.
  • Beans: Use a combination of beans for interest and flavor.  I prefer pinto beans and kidney beans. However, substitute black beans for either one of these beans if you prefer.
  • Diced tomatoes and broth:  I prefer canned tomatoes because of all the juice in the can.  
  • Corn: Use canned or frozen corn, whichever is easiest.
  • Herbs and spices: Fresh cilantro, cumin, smoked paprika, chipotle chile powder, salt, and pepper add a rich flavor.
  • Chile peppers: Fresh jalapeno, chipotle chile powder, and diced green chiles in a can (or homemade) go into this recipe.  

Chipotles are smoked, dried jalapeno peppers.  The chipotle chile powder adds a new layer of flavor on top of the fresh jalapeno cooked with the ground beef.  Diced green chiles are often a mild pepper, such as the Anaheim chile pepper.  

You can omit one or more of the chile peppers if you want, but to get the full flavor, I highly recommend using all three.

How to Make Slow Cooker Taco Soup with Ground Beef

cooked taco soup in slow cooker

  1. Brown the ground beef.  When it is almost finished cooking, add diced onions and diced jalapeno.  Add a half or a whole jalapeno, depending on how spicy you like it. Or go crazy and add two. 

    Cook about 5 minutes or until onions and peppers are soft and ground beef is completely cooked.

  2. Make the soup base.  Pour beef broth, tomato juice plus 2 tablespoons of diced tomatoes, garlic cloves, ¼ cup diced onions, 2 tablespoons green chiles, cilantro, cumin, paprika, chipotle chile powder, salt, and pepper into a blender.  Puree for 30 to 45 seconds.
  3. Add all ingredients to the slow cooker.  Pour in the soup base broth, the ground beef, beans, corn, tomatoes, and green chiles.  Stir to combine.
  4. Cook for 2 to 3 hours on high or 4 to 6 hours on low.  As the ingredients heat up, the flavors marinate together.
  5. When the soup is finished, add the lime juice.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. I usually add an additional teaspoon of salt and sometimes the juice from the whole lime.  
  6. Serve with taco garnishes.  What toppings do you like on your taco?  These are the ingredients to use for the taco soup.  Grate cheese, shred lettuce, slice olives, chop avocados or use homemade guacamole, and pull out the sour cream and chips.

Taco Soup with Ground Beef in an Electric Pressure Cooker

Alternately, you can cook the soup in an electric pressure cooker, such as the Instant Pot or the Fagor pressure cooker. See my review of the Fagor multi cooker to see why it is my go-to pressure cooker.

  • Brown the ground beef in the pressure cooker pan on the brown setting.  Add diced onions and diced jalapeno and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Make the soup base according to the directions for slow cooker taco soup. 
  • Pour the soup base and the rest of the ingredients into the pressure cooker with the ground beef.  Stir to combine.
  • Pressure cook the soup for 10 minutes.  Place the lid on the pressure cooker. Pressure cook on high and let the soup release naturally.
  • When the soup is finished, add the lime juice.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. I usually add an additional teaspoon of salt and sometimes the juice from the whole lime. 
  • Garnish with your favorite taco toppings.

Taco Soup Recipe on the Stove

If you prefer cooking your soup on the stove, here are the instructions.

  • Brown the ground beef in a stockpot on the stove.  Add diced onions and diced jalapeno. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Make the soup base according to the directions for slow cooker taco soup. 
  • Pour the soup base and the rest of the ingredients into the stock pot with the ground beef.  Stir to combine.
  • Cook covered for 20 minutes, or until soup is heated through.  Place the lid on the pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. When it begins to boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • When the soup is finished, add the lime juice.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Add additional salt or more lime juice. 
  • Garnish with your favorite taco toppings.

What Do You Eat With Taco Soup?

spoon of taco soup

In addition to taco toppings (cheese, olives, sour cream, guacamole, etc.), here are some ideas for food to eat with taco soup.

  • Tortilla chips.  Add salsa if you want.
  • Tortillas — homemade if possible.  Tear the tortillas into pieces and add them to your soup.  Or simply eat the tortilla on the side.
  • Quesadilla.  Change up the tortilla idea by toasting it with cheese.  A quesadilla is dippable. Perfect for soup.
  • Dinner Salad.  Cold salad + hot soup = complete meal.
  • Coleslaw.  If your taco soup is especially spicy, serve it with coleslaw to cool things down.
How long is taco soup good for?

Taco soup is best eaten within three days.  If you don’t think you will eat it that quickly, try freezing it and then eating it later.

Can you freeze taco soup?

Taco soup freezes very well.  It can last up to 3 months in the freezer.

How to Freeze Taco Soup

  • Cool soup completely.
  • Place soup in freezer zip top bag or another freezer-safe container.
  • Put soup container in the freezer near the back.
  • Keep in the freezer up to 3 months.

How to Thaw and Reheat Frozen Taco Soup

  • Take taco soup out of the freezer and place it in the refrigerator.
  • Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Heat the soup in a pan on the stove over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the soup is heated through.

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Yield: 8 cups

Easy Slow Cooker Taco Soup with Ground Beef

bowl of taco soup with ground beef

Make an easy dinner recipe tonight. Slow cooker taco soup features ground beef, 3 kinds of chiles, 2 kinds of beans, and fresh herbs and spices. Quick prep, easy meal.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef (ground chuck is best)
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 can (or 1 ⅓ cup) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (or 1 ⅓ cup) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (or 1 ⅓ cup) corn, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (or 1 ½ cup) diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 can (or ⅓ cup) diced green chiles
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped and seeds removed
  • ½ cup white or yellow onion, diced
  • Juice from ½ a lime

Seasonings for Broth

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons white or yellow onion, diced
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 peppercorns (or ⅛ teaspoon ground pepper)

Toppings

  • sour cream
  • cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • red onion, diced
  • black olives, sliced
  • tortilla chips
  • avocado, sliced or diced or guacamole

Instructions

  1. BROWN ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks until it is in crumbles.
  2. MINCE onion, jalapeno, and garlic. Wash and chop cilantro.
  3. ADD ½ cup cup onion and the minced jalapeno to the ground beef. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion and jalapeno start to get soft.
  4. BLEND beef broth, the tomato juice, plus 2 tablespoons of diced tomatoes, garlic, 2 tablespoons diced onions, 2 tablespoons green chiles, cilantro, cumin, smoked paprika, chipotle chili powder, salt, and peppercorns in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  5. MIX the remaining ingredients into a slow cooker. Add the broth. Stir to combine.
  6. COOK in the slow cooker for 2 to 3 hours on high or 4 to 6 hours on low.
  7. PREPARE toppings and set aside while the soup cooks.
  8. STIR lime juice into the soup when it has finished cooking.
  9. TASTE and adjust seasonings (add more salt or more lime juice if needed).
  10. SERVE immediately with your choice of taco toppings.

Notes

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Nutrition Information

Yield

8

Serving Size

1 cup

Amount Per Serving Calories 270Total Fat 12gSaturated Fat 5gUnsaturated Fat 5gCholesterol 43mgSodium 452mgCarbohydrates 23gFiber 7gSugar 4gProtein 17g

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  • 15 Bean Soup: Craving a hearty meal? How about a soup stuffed with protein? Wholesome beans and savory meat crammed into one soup bowl. That is what you get with this colorful, scrumptious 15 bean soup recipe.
  • Vegetable Soup with Ground Beef: Combine tender vegetables and savory ground beef in a flavorful broth to get a mouthwatering vegetable soup with ground beef, packed with vitamins, minerals, and protein.
  • Pumpkin Soup: Blend fresh herbs and spices with pumpkin puree, coconut milk, red lentils, and apples in this seasonal soup, ready in 30 minutes.
  • Turkey Soup: Use leftover turkey, along with potatoes, onions, leeks, celery, and fresh seasonal herbs for a true comfort food experience. Don’t have turkey? Substitute chicken instead.

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