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Easy Taco Soup with Ranch

~ This Easy Taco Soup with Ranch is full of pantry staples you can keep on hand for a cozy, burbling pot of chili-like soup in no time flat … any time! And it’s got a fun little “secret” addition that makes it extra, uniquely flavorful (hint: ranch dressing is right in its name)! ~

This Recipe Is:     Ready in 30 Minutes or Less    Freezable    Make Ahead    Gluten Free (depending on your chosen brands; see note)  

Closeup flatlay of one bowl of taco soup surrounded by whole chips, spoon and second bowlful.

You know those best-ever recipes, given to you by a great friend who swears, “You have to try this … everyone goes crazy for it, every time I make it!”???

Yeah. This is one of those recipes.

Straight from my dear friend, Lynne … to me … to you. Because one of Lynne’s friends had given it to her (after getting it from her sister-in-law … and so on and so on …), and Lynne just absolutely had to share it. And now, so do I!

It’s that good.

Why You’ll Love This Taco Soup

  • This magical concoction is part chili, part Mexican-vibey soup. It’s thick and hearty and super-satisfying, and turbo-loaded with big, beefy, taco-y, yummy flavors.
  • And what makes it even better is that it’s basically a dump-and-go, pantry staples recipe. Keep the ingredients on hand, and you’re good to go in a jiffy (aka under 30 minutes). Easy, easy, easy!
  • Plus it also just happens to be loaded with protein and LOTS of nutritious veggies. The kind of veggies we all truly want to have jam-crammed into a taco soup. (So we don’t actually even feel like we’re eating veggies at all!) Tomatoes, onions, corn, chiles, three kinds of beans … yes … YUM!
Overhead of two enameled yellow bowls full of taco soup, with black-handled spoons, tortilla chips, a little bowl of shredded cheese and a glass of beer surrounding.

Oh, and while we’re swooning about how fantastic this easy recipe is, in basically every single respect, let me throw one more bonus at ya …

  • It freezes great, too!


It makes a gloriously gi-normous batch that reheats beautifully all week long (hellllllo, weekend meal prep!), and freezes well for meals later on, too.

The Fun {Not-So-Secret} Addition

Since this recipe is specifically called Taco Soup with Ranch, you’ve probably already guessed where I’m going here.

A packet of powdered ranch dressing mix makes an unexpected appearance … with delicious results.

Intrigued?? I sure was the first time I read through the recipe ingredients!

The great thing is that it doesn’t taste like you glugged a bottle of ranch salad dressing in there.

Nope. The ranch dressing mix doesn’t actually announce its presence loud and clear – not at all. It just sort of whispers hello, and hangs out in the background, adding wonderful flavor notes that would never make anyone guess “Ranch?!?” … but that you also will never want to leave out once you’ve tasted this.

Closeup overhead of finished soup in pot, sprinkled with cilantro, with spoon dipping in and taco chips nearby.

But here’s the dilemma (and how I fixed it) …

Choosing the Right Ranch Dressing

Whenever you see “ranch dressing packet” on a recipe’s ingredient list, you probably think of Hidden Valley Ranch brand.

But I never feel awesome grabbing one of those. I always wish the ingredients were a bit cleaner. So, I did some researching, shopping and testing.

And it turns out, there are great alternatives! You’ve got options.

Option #1

Of course, I’ve tested this Ranch Taco Soup with Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix (as specified in Lynne’s original recipe – have to start with the original, right??). In a pinch, you can always turn to that.

Option #2

But then Lynne and I stood in my kitchen and did taste tests, looking for a better option …

Packet of McCormick Just 5 Homestyle Ranch dressing mix.

We tasted her Easy Taco Soup made with a McCormick Just 5 Homestyle Ranch packet I’d bought, instead of with a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch like she’d always used.

We agreed: you couldn’t tell a difference. Not one bit.

And the ingredient list on the “Just 5” was much cleaner!

Option #3

I can’t always find the McCormick Just 5, though. But not to worry!

Plastic jar of McCormick 3-in-1 Seasoning Ranch dressing.

Another great option is the McCormick Ranch 3-in-1 Seasoning you see in the larger plastic canister in my photos.

(Hey hey! It says “Simple and Clean” right on the label – a good sign!)

Bonus: it’s even lower in sodium than either of the two options above.

But again … you won’t taste the difference.

Adjusting the Amount of Ranch Dressing Mix (Depending on Brand)

So … I thought I’d found some great ranch dressing alternatives that I’d feel really great serving my own family, and recommending that you feed yours.

Things got a little tricky, though, when I noticed that different brands come in slightly different amounts.

What I mean is, the Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix comes in a 1-ounce packet, but the McCormick Just 5 Homestyle Ranch seasoning packets are 1.25 ounces. (Although they both surprisingly measure out to roughly 8 teaspoons. Yes … I actually measured them to check).

And, complicating things further, an equivalent amount of McCormick Ranch 3-in-1 Seasoning (in the plastic canister) is only 6 teaspoons, instead of 8.

So, how do you decide how much ranch dressing powder to use, depending on what brand you happen to buy??

Easy, actually.

One enameled yellow bowl of soup with black handled spoon, surrounded by chips and a glass of beer.

On the back “instruction panel” all the brands tell you an amount of ranch dressing powder that you would mix into 16 ounces of sour cream if you were making a bowl of ranch dip. Whatever that amount is … whatever measurement your brand of ranch says you need for 16 ounces of sour cream … THAT is the amount you mix into this soup.

If you grab a 1- or 1.25-ounce packet, you’re probably just gonna use the entire packet.

But, if you’re using a big canister like the McCormick Ranch 3-in-1, or maybe an oversized jar of ranch dressing mix that you bought at Sam’s Club … simply check the instructions for how much ranch powder you’d mix into 16 ounces of sour cream. That’s your magic number!

Ok, I hope that didn’t sound more complicated than it is. Because, really, nothing else about this soup is one bit tricky at all. Not one bit!

Here’s what I mean …

How to Make Your Taco Soup with Ranch

As easy recipes go, this one’s truly, ridiculously, delightfully easy!

Unopened cans and containers of soup ingredients, stacked two-high, with ground beef, unpeeled onion and taco chips.

Lots of pantry staples and canned goods mean you can keep most of the simple ingredients you need on hand at all times. So you’re armed and ready for a fast dinner on even a busy, busy night!

(But you KNOOOW I’ve got some handy tips for you along the way, learned through all my testing and tasting … and testing again … and again.)

Ingredient Tip: “Ranch” Beans vs. “Chili” Beans

Lynne’s original Taco Soup recipe calls for a can of Ranch Style Beans (which you can see in my ingredient photo). It’s basically a can of chili beans that happens to have “ranch” in the name. It’s kind of an obscure brand, which I can find at Walmart grocery, but not at some of the other stores I tend to frequent.

No problem if your store doesn’t carry that specific brand – I also tested this recipe for you, using the more commonly available Bush’s Chili Beans. Works just fine (Lynne and I put them through a head-to-head taste test).

I do, however, try to find a can of chili beans where the beans are specifically pinto beans (instead of black beans or kidney beans). It really doesn’t make that much difference, but since you’re already using kidney beans and black beans, too, I like the variation of having a third type of bean coming from the can of “ranch” or “chili” beans.

Ingredient Prep

Soooooo … spoiler alert: most of what you have to do here is operate a can opener … and dump stuff into a pan.

There basically is no prep, except for chopping up some onion and tomatoes.

And I’ve even got an easy, *cheater* tip for chopping your canned, stewed tomatoes! Check this out …

Hand using kitchen scissors to chop tomatoes still in can, with other cans of ingredients, soup pot and taco chips surrounding.

Stewed tomatoes have terrific flavor and texture, but they’re canned in big chunks, often with entire, whole tomatoes.

The easiest way I’ve found to cut them up?

Grab some {clean} kitchen shears and chop, chop, chop around, right inside the can!

Alternately, you definitely can scoop the tomatoes out and chop them with a knife on a cutting board, but that tends to get juicy and messy.

My little cheater version is so much tidier – try it!

Hand using kitchen scissors to chop stewed tomatoes in soup pot, with taco chips and other cans of ingredients nearby.

But what if you happen to see that you missed a couple tomatoes, once you dump ’em into your soup pot?

No problem!

Grab those kitchen shears again, and cut the stragglers down to size before you stir them in with everything else.


Now that we’ve opened our cans and got those tomatoes taken care of, let’s get cookin’!

Step #1

Grab a large pot or a dutch oven.

Cook a pound of ground beef (preferably extra lean) and some chopped onions over medium heat, stirring everything around to crumble up the beef as it cooks.

This will probably take about 7-10 minutes, until the beef is browned and the onions are a bit softened.

And, if you’re using really lean ground beef, there shouldn’t be a need to drain excess fat.

Step #2

Next, add all the rest of the ingredients (except for the tortilla chips and toppings).

Just dump ’em on in there. How easy is that?!?! When it comes to soup recipes, this really is a simple soup!

Taco seasoning, Ranch dressing mix, corn, tomatoes and beans added to soup, with wooden spoon to stir.


Remember: DO NOT drain your cans of beans, tomatoes and corn. You’re adding the entire contents of the cans (including the liquids) to your soup.

Notice that you’re not adding extra water or beef broth? That’s why.

Step #3

Cover your pot of soup and bring it to a simmer.

Cook it for at least 15 minutes, and up to about 45 minutes to an hour.

Finished taco soup still in pot, with hand scooping some up on wooden spoon.

Ideally, you want to simmer your soup for at least 15 minutes so the flavors have some time to blend. But, you can let it cook longer if your family isn’t quite ready to eat yet. Super flexible!

How to Make Your Soup Spicier

If you’re a heat lover, there are definitely options for working in a little extra kick.

  • Instead of mild Ro-Tel, choose “original” or even “hot.”
  • You can also add a small (usually 4.5-ounce) can of hot diced green chiles. I’ve tested adding a can of mild green chiles (in addition to the chiles already in the Ro-Tel), and the addition makes virtually no difference at all to the taste or heat level. So, if you’re looking to pump up the spiciness, be sure to reach for a can labeled “HOT”.
  • You can, of course, also add a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce at the table. That’s a great way to let everyone tweak the heat level exactly how they like it.

How to Serve Your Fabulously Easy Taco Soup

Tortilla Chips

Because this is “Taco” Soup, you’ve gotta have tortilla chips! Kind of like broken-up bits of taco shells, making your soup seem extra taco-y!

In her original recipe, Lynne likes to break some tortilla chips into the bottom of each bowl, before ladling the soup on top. But I’m here to tell ya … there’s basically no wrong way to add those chips. Toss some on top, use them for dipping … it’s all good!

Of course, I always reach for multigrain chips. They taste great and have a hearty texture that can stand up to everything else goin’ on in your bold, flavorful soup. Plus they add a nice little extra boost of nutrition.

Side view of one bowlful on wooden board, with chips and bowls of toppings in background.


Besides those {basically mandatory} corn chips, you can add whatever favorite taco toppings you and your family like.

Maybe set out a whole tray of toppings – like a fun taco night DIY bar – so everyone can customize their own. (Hint hint … that’s a great idea for game days, big family parties, or even a unique twist on Taco Tuesday!)

Good bets are cilantro, shredded (reduced-fat) cheddar or Mexican cheese, and a reduced-fat dollop of sour cream.

You could also try chunks of avocado or a dab of guacamole, some sliced fresh green onion or minced red onions, or a bit of hot sauce. Basically, anything you like on tacos. Get creative!

Side Dishes

This Easy Taco Soup recipe is really a complete meal in one pot, with protein and plenty of veggies. So you don’t really HAVE to worry about additional side dishes unless you want to.

But, a fresh, crisp green salad is always fabulous alongside a warm, cozy, hearty soup. Our Easy 7-Layer Chicken Taco Salad fits the taco-y vibes perfectly! Or, this Mexican Street Corn Salad would be fun. Or maybe a dish of pico de gallo to dip extra chips.

And, this refreshing Grape Salad would be a terrific way to add a sweet, juicy counterpoint to the zesty flavors of the soup.

Plus, we’ve actually put together a huge, mouthwatering list of “What to Serve with Taco Soup,” if you need even more ideas!

FAQs At-a-Glance

Can I Use Ground Chicken or Turkey, Instead of Beef?

Sure! Of course, the flavor might not seem quite so (ahem) beefy … but you’ve got so many other big, bold flavors happening in this recipe, that I don’t think you’ll notice a big difference. Just remember that ground turkey, in particular, is not necessarily leaner than very lean ground beef, so be sure to check the nutrition panel if your goal is to swap for a leaner ground meat, to be sure you’re actually getting LEAN ground turkey.

Can I Double the Recipe?

You can – but note that this recipe, as written, already makes a pretty large amount (about 16 cups). If you’d like to double the recipe (maybe for a tailgate party … FUN! … or to freeze and prep meals ahead), be sure you have a large enough pot, or use two pots to avoid messy boil-overs.

How Long Is Taco Soup Good For?

Properly cooled and refrigerated, any leftover Taco Soup should keep in your fridge for up to about 5 days. You can also freeze it for longer storage (see tips below). It’s a great way to cook ahead for busy weeknights!

How Do I Freeze Taco Soup?

You can certainly freeze a large batch all together in one big container. But, I actually prefer measuring out 1-cup, individual servings into sandwich-sized zipper bags. Seal them tightly and allow them each to freeze flat, then pop them all into a couple of large, gallon-size freezer bags (just to keep them all together, so they don’t get lost in your freezer). Then you can pull out just a portion or two or three at a time … whatever precise amount you need.

How Do You Thicken Taco Soup?

I see this question out there, but I don’t think you’ll really find that this particular recipe needs thickened. That’s one of the benefits of using the bean liquid instead of water or broth. In fact, when this soup cools, it thickens up quite a bit, and then thins back out a little to a more soup-y consistency when you reheat it. If you really do want it even thicker, though, you could puree or mash some of the beans to add body without needing to add any other ingredients.

Can I Make This in the Crock Pot?

If you’d like to adapt this easy stovetop Taco Soup for your crock pot, I recommend basically following the steps we use to make our Classic, Healthy Crock-Pot Turkey Chili: Cook your meat and onions in a large skillet before adding them, along with your other ingredients, to your slow cooker. Cook on high for about 4-5 hours, or on low for about 6-8 hours. Presto … now you’ve got an EASY slow cooker Taco Soup!

From my beloved, dear friend Lynne … to me … to you. That’s the way family favorite recipes travel. Friend to friend to friend, on and on.

I hope you’ll love this easy soup as much as Lynne did when she texted me, raving about a favorite recipe I just HAD to try. And as much as my family did, from the very first time we tried it – so much that we immediately knew we had to share it with all of you.

Overhead of 1 handled bowl of soup on wooden board with spoon, taco chips, and garnishes nearby.

I guess the question is: where is this yummy, easy Taco Soup recipe headed next? Who are YOU gonna share it with? I can’t wait to hear all about it! 🙂

~ by Shelley

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Please leave a star-rating in the recipe card below – I truly appreciate all your wonderful feedback!

Closeup flatlay of one bowl of taco soup surrounded by whole chips, spoon and second bowlful.

Easy Taco Soup with Ranch

This Easy Taco Soup with Ranch Dressing leverages pantry staples for a cozy, burbling pot of soup in no time flat … ANY time!
•  Ready in 30 Minutes or Less  •  Freezable  •  Make Ahead  •  Gluten Free (depending on your chosen brands; see note)  
4.60 from 5 votes
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Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 23 minutes
Total Time: 26 minutes
Yield: 16 cups


  • 1 pound extra-lean ground beef (we use 96% lean)
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 3 cans (14.5 ounces each) stewed tomatoes, undrained and chopped (see note)
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can kidney beans, undrained (either light or dark red)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, undrained (preferably organic or reduced-sodium)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can Ranch Style Beans or chili beans (such as Bush's; see note)
  • 1 (15.25-ounce) can corn, undrained
  • 1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chilies, undrained (we use mild Ro-Tel)
  • 1 (1- or 1.25-ounce) packet ranch dressing mix / seasoning (or equivalent; see note)
  • 1 (1- or 1.25-ounce) packet reduced-sodium taco seasoning mix
  • for serving: multigrain tortilla chips and optional toppings such as chopped cilantro and reduced-fat sour cream and cheddar cheese


  • In a dutch oven or large soup pot, cook beef and onions over medium heat, stirring to crumble beef, until the beef is browned and the onions are softened, about 7-10 minutes.
    Cooked ground beef and onions in pot with hands using wooden spoon to stir.
  • Add all other remaining ingredients (except tortilla chips and toppings), remembering NOT to drain the tomatoes, beans, and corn.
    Taco seasoning, Ranch dressing mix, corn, tomatoes and beans added to soup, with wooden spoon to stir.
  • Cover, bring to a simmer, and cook for at least 15 minutes, and up to 45 minutes – 1 hour. (You want to simmer the soup for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld, but can allow the soup to cook longer if your family isn't quite ready to eat yet.)
    Finished taco soup still in pot, with hand scooping some up on wooden spoon.
  • Crumble a few tortilla chips in the bottom of each bowl (if desired) before ladling in the soup, and serve with additional tortilla chips and optional toppings.
    Overhead of 1 handled bowl of soup on wooden board with spoon, taco chips, and garnishes nearby.


Chopping stewed tomatoes: Stewed tomatoes are canned in big chunks, sometimes with entire whole tomatoes. Although you can chop them with a knife on a cutting board, that tends to be messy (and you'll likely lose some of the juice). As illustrated in photos in the article above, I recommend using clean kitchen scissors to cut them up while they're still in the can. If you dump them into your soup pot and happen to see that you missed a couple tomatoes, simply use the kitchen shears to cut them then, before you stir them into the soup.
"Ranch Style Beans" / chili beans: Ranch Style Beans (which you can see in my ingredient photo in the article above) are basically a specific brand of chili beans that happen to have “ranch” in the name. Bush’s Chili Beans also work just fine. When possible, I do try to find a can of chili beans where the beans are specifically pinto beans (instead of black beans or kidney beans), since we're already using kidney beans and black beans in the recipe, too … but the precise type of bean really doesn’t make that much difference. Use whatever you can find.
Ranch dressing mix / seasoning: As discussed in depth in the post above, this recipe was tested with a variety of different ranch dressing mix brands, including Hidden Valley Ranch, McCormick Just 5 Homestyle Ranch, and McCormick Ranch 3-in-1 Seasoning. I prefer to choose one of the cleaner ingredient lists, rather than Hidden Valley Ranch. However, the various brands come in slightly different amounts (Hidden Valley Ranch is a 1-ounce packet; McCormick's Just 5 is a 1.25-ounce packet, etc.). Use whatever amount is in your packet. Alternately, if you have a larger, multi-serving packet or a big jar of ranch dressing mix (like the one in my photos above), simply read the directions on the package for how much ranch dressing powder you would mix into 16 ounces of sour cream if you were making a bowl of ranch dip. Whatever that amount is … whatever measurement your brand of ranch says you need for 16 ounces of sour cream … THAT is the amount you mix into this soup. (It will probably be about 6-8 teaspoons.)
Make-ahead and freezing: This recipe makes a big batch of soup, which is great because it reheats well for meal prepping or a quick dinner all week long. It also freezes nicely, either in individual portions, or in a large, single-batch, airtight container.
Gluten free tip: In general, the ingredients for this soup should be available in gluten free varieties. (McCormick Just 5 Ranch is labeled as gluten free, for example.) But, with so many pre-packaged items on the ingredient list, the key to ensuring that this soup is gluten free will be in checking the labels to be sure all the various brands you choose to purchase are, in fact, gluten free.


Serving: 1 cup | Calories: 221 | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0g | Unsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 25mg | Sodium: 676mg | Carbohydrates: 34g | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 8g | Protein: 17g

* Nutrition information should be considered an estimate only, and may vary depending on your choice of ingredients or preparation. No guarantees are made regarding allergies or dietary needs. Always consult a physician or dietician for specific advice and questions.

Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Diet: Low Fat
Author: Shelley © Two Healthy Kitchens LLC at www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com
Tried this recipe?We’d LOVE to hear … please leave a star-rating!


  1. This soup is super delicious! My husband seldom requests anything specific for dinner. But he keeps asking for this! And it really does freeze well. I will keep making it because I love it too! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi, Theresa! You can definitely substitute either ground turkey or ground chicken in this Taco Soup. Of course, the flavor won’t be as “beefy.” But with all the bold flavors this soup’s got, I don’t think you’ll notice much of a difference. Let me know what you think – I really hope you’ll adore it as much as we do! Have a great weekend! 😀 ~Shelley

4.60 from 5 votes (5 ratings without comment)

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