If you have 10 minutes, you have enough time to prep this Slow Cooker Three Bean Taco Soup that is vegetarian, gluten-free, and freezer-friendly. Just combine everything in the slow cooker and let it do its thing. Serve with your favorite taco toppings like cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips / strips, and green onions.
My friend Amy used to make this flavorful, hearty vegetarian soup in big batches on cold winter nights when we were living in Washington, D.C. She made it in just a few minutes on the stovetop, but it freezes so easily that it’s become one of my favorite slow cooker meals. Just pour everything into the slow cooker and let it go.
I like to serve this soup like you would a taco bar – set out toppings and let everyone pile them on. For extra crunch, top the soup with homemade tortilla strips.
Why Make Taco Soup In the Slow Cooker
This pantry-staple soup can absolutely be made on the stovetop, but by letting it simmer on low in the slow cooker you allow the flavors from the spices to fully develop. You get a similar effect when you make chili a few hours ahead of time and let it simmer very lightly on the stovetop. The spices get a deep, satisfying flavor that is simply better than when you eat it after just 30 minutes or so.
How to Bloom Spices for Slow Cooker Meals
To bring out the best flavor in spices, bloom them before adding them to the slow cooker. Blooming is the process of heating the spices in oil just until they are fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. This gives them a head start on cooking and gives them a more round, full flavor.
The book The Complete Slow Cooker from America’s Test Kitchen (which is a great and super comprehensive book) taught me two great ways to do this:
- Heat oil in a skillet. Add spices and saute them until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Combine oil and spices in a bowl and microwave until fragrant, ~1 minute.
If a recipe uses onions, you can just cook them in the oil first and add the spices. Blooming the spices is not necessary, but will maximize the flavor in the dish.
Freeze This Meal
This meal can be frozen in any freezer-safe bag or airtight container. To save freezer space, I prefer to freeze my slow cooker meals with just a portion of the liquid. (Add the rest of the liquid later, in the slow cooker.)
To Freeze Slow Cooker Three Bean Taco Soup: Saute or microwave the onions and spices until onions are soft and spices are fragrant (Step #1 below). Combine onions, spices, tomato paste, garlic, corn, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, black beans, kidney beans, and 2 cups of chicken / vegetable stock in a freezer bag or airtight container.
To Reheat: Can cook right from frozen, defrost in the refrigerator overnight, or defrost at room temperature for 1 hour. Pour all ingredients into the bowl of a slow cooker with 4 cups of chicken / vegetable stock. Cook on low for 3 to 6 hours. (Note: the flavors will be well-developed after 3 hours, but if you prefer to have the soup simmering all day, you can let it simmer for 6 hours and then hold on the warm setting for up to 2 more hours.)
Be sure to print the recipe below for a label you can attach to the top of the meal. That way the instructions are right at your fingertips!
Other Tex Mex Slow Cooker Meals
Slow Cooker Turkey, Quinoa, and Sweet Potato Chili – Every year when the weather cools off I hear from many of you who are fans of this healthier slow cooker chili. The secret is the quinoa. It gets super tender and absorbs the flavorful cooking liquid. You almost can’t tell it’s there but it works a special kind of magic on the texture of the dish.
Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili – This is a lighter version of white chicken chili that doesn’t use the cream of chicken soup that many recipes use. It’s still fast and easy thanks to a jar of salsa verde which gives it a rich, smoky flavor.
The Best Slow Cooker
KitchenAid Slow Cooker (6 quart) – When I was testing slow cooker recipes (using many slow cookers!) for this fall season, I got a lot of questions about the “best” slow cooker. The truth is, I just followed the advice of other experts (including America’s Test Kitchen and Food and Wine). These kitchens found that the KitchenAid did the best job at maintaining a consistent, low temperature ideal for slow cooking. I found this to be true in my own kitchen too. While other brands (including Crock Pot brand) would get so hot that soups would visibly boil even on the low setting, the KitchenAid kept things at a nice, steady, low simmer.
Slow Cooker Three Bean Taco Soup
- 4-quart or 6-quart Slow Cooker
- 1 Tbsp Cooking Oil
- 1 Yellow Onion, chopped
- 2 tsp Ground Cumin
- 2 tsp Chili Powder (sub Paprika if you don’t want any spice)
- 1 tsp Dried Oregano
- 2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
- 4 cloves Garlic, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups Frozen Corn
- 1 15-oz can Petite Diced Tomatoes
- 1 15-oz can Garbanzo Beans / Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 15-oz cans Black Beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 15-oz can Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
- 6 cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock
- 1 tsp Lime Juice
- Sour Cream
- Tortilla Strips or Tortilla Chops
- Chopped Green Onions
- Lime Wedges
- Combine oil, onion, cumin, chili powder, and oregano in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 2 minutes until the onions soften and the spices are fragrant. (This is just to get the onions and spices started cooking so they don’t go into the slow cooker raw. If you prefer, you can also saute all of these ingredients on the stovetop for 4 to 5 minutes.)
- Transfer onion and spices to the bowl of a slow cooker. Add tomato paste, garlic, corn, tomatoes (including liquid), garbanzo beans, black beans, kidney beans, and stock. (Note: To freeze, combine all ingredients except 4 cups of stock in a large freezer-safe plastic bag or container.)
- Cook on low for 3 to 6 hours. (Note: the flavors will be well-developed after 3 hours, but if you prefer to have the soup simmering all day, you can let it simmer for 6 hours and then hold on the warm setting for up to 2 more hours.)
- When soup is done cooking, stir in lime juice. Taste and season with some salt and pepper.
- Serve soup with any toppings you’d like.
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