Sopa Tarasca – A Flavourful Ambassador for Mexican Cuisine

Sopa tarasca (Tarascan Soup), refers to an illustrious dish created by the owners of “La Hostería de San Felipe” in Patzcuaro – a quaint little town in the Mexican state of Michoacan – when they were designing the menu for their new restaurant, back in 1966.  This soup was served as a first course on their opening day; it amalgamated several truly Mexican ingredients (corn, beans, tomatoes and peppers) while adding the richness of herbs and dairy products, brought from Spain during colonial times. The story says that the restaurant was very close to a tour-bus stop, so people would go in for a break, and order a light meal, such as Sopa Tarasca; it managed to hoard so much attention, that even a few American magazines reviewed the establishment and its unique soup, making them famous internationally.  The name comes from the pre-Hispanic Tarascan Civilization, which started to develop as early as the XII century around Lake Patzcuaro; also known as Purépecha (from their language), the Tarascos remained independent and strong until the fall of their capital, TzinTzunTzan, in 1522, with very little resistance against the Spanish conquerors.  Today, there are still some Purépecha groups, trying to preserve their language and culture.

Tarascan Soup – Sopa Tarasca

Printable recipe: Tarascan soup


3 ancho peppers
8 corn tortillas; cold
4 tbsp oil
½ onion
1 clove garlic
1 cup cooked bayo or pinto beans (I used canned and drained pinto)
4 cups water or broth, or more, if needed
2 cups tomato sauce (the original recipe calls for canned)
¼ cup tomato paste
1 bay leaf
½ tsp dry thyme
½ tsp dry marjoram
1 tsp salt, or to taste
½ tsp pepper, or to taste
1 cup cubed fresh cheese, such as panela, or feta
¼ cup Mexican cream (I used a mix of equal parts of sour cream and whipping cream)
Fresh epazote, to garnish, if available (I did not use)

Remove seeds and stem from ancho peppers, and cut into thin strips; reserve:

001 ancho peppers

Cut tortillas in half, then slice into narrow strips; reserve:

002 prepping tortillas

Peel onion and garlic, and cut into pieces (photo below, left); in a large pot, warm up two tablespoons of oil over medium heat; add onions and garlic, removing garlic as soon as it starts to brown, and reserve (photo below, right):

Continue cooking onions until translucent; remove from the pan and reserve. In the same pot, fry pepper strips just until crisp, careful not to burn them (photo below, left); remove and reserve. Add one tablespoon of oil to the pot, and fry tortillas until crisp; remove and reserve (photo below, right):

Remove pot from heat, and reserve.

In the blender, process onion, garlic, about 1/3 of the peppers, and 1 cup of water (or broth, photo below, left); add about ½ cup of tortilla strips, the beans, and another cup of liquid, then blend until smooth; reserve (photo below, right):

Place reserved pot over medium heat again; add the remaining one tablespoon of oil; pour tomato sauce, and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes (photo below, left). Add the remaining two cups of liquid to the pan, scrapping any burnt bits from the bottom (photo below, right):

Add bean mix from the blender (photo below, left), the herbs, salt, and pepper, stirring to incorporate everything together (photo below, right):

Add tomato paste (photo below, left); stir to incorporate and add more liquid, if needed.  Bring to boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for fifteen minutes (photo below, right):

Adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper, to taste. To serve, place some cheese in bowls, then ladle the hot soup onto bowls (photo below, left); drizzle with cream (photo below, right):

Top with pepper and tortilla strips; sprinkle with chopped epazote (if using), or more cream:

018 top with peppers and tortilla strips.jpg

By using water or vegetable broth, this soup becomes a great option for Lent or vegetarian menus.  Regardless of location, Sopa Tarasca captures the feeling of a hearty meal by the country side, creating an inviting rus in urbe both in Mexican homes, and in many restaurants around Mexico and the United States.

I am joining What’s for Dinner? Sunday Link-up #192 with Helen @ The Lazy Gastronome.

I am also sharing my recipe at Tummy Tuesday with Mary @ Cactus Catz; she has a soup theme this week, so this post fits perfectly!

I am joining Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop #320 co-hosted by Colleen @ Bakes and Blunders, Beverly @ Eclectic Red Barn, Sinea @ Ducks in a Row, Tammy @ My Life Abundant, Jennifer @ Engineer Mommy, Cindy @ Simple Steps for Living Life, Penny @ Penny’s Passion, Tara @ Stilettos and Shiplap, Brittany @ The Snyder Family, and Emily @ Le Cultivateur

24 thoughts on “Sopa Tarasca – A Flavourful Ambassador for Mexican Cuisine

  1. Very similar to sopa Azteca–my favorite in spite of the fact that I have always hated tomato soup. Those Mexican flavors just add the right zing! I always wondered how they prepared those ancho peppers! Alas, I grow steadily more lazy when it comes to cooking. Your recipes make me appreciate the labors others go to to satisfy my palate, however.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This looks very good. I don’t like the combination of feta with a chiles-based sauce (tried your recipe for enchiladas with guajillo sauce), so I’ll have to look for another type of cheese that is available here. Or perhaps I’m too accustomed to the type of cheese used in Tex-Mex?!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It might be the kind of feta; Greek feta tends to be stronger than Canadian “feta-like” cheese. Before using Tex-Mex options, I would suggest an unripen Middle Eastern cheese, or an Indian paneer. A fresh Mozzarella would be my next suggestion. The Tex-Mex options would be my last resort, maybe a Monterey Jack, or a very mild white cheddar. Let me know what worked for you, Stefan!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi Irene, we tried mozzarella and a mild feta and a mixture of them. All of them too mild compared to the gaujillo sauce. Perhaps it is authentically Mexican to use cheese that mild, but for me it doesn’t seem to work. Please note that I have never been to Mexico and that the Mexican restaurants I’ve eaten at were probably all Tex-Mex.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, the guajillo flavour is supposed to be the dominant flavour. However, If you want a stronger cheese tone, try parmesan or Romano, it might be a surprisingly good pairing.

        Liked by 2 people

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