Mexican shell soup is a simple but filling meal that is a staple in Mexican households everywhere. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to make!
This is, hands down, my family’s favorite soup. They ask for it at least once a week and I can never seem to make a big enough batch. Once you make it, you’ll find yourself coming back to this Mexican shell soup recipe again and again.
What is Mexican Shell Soup?
It’s a broth based soup that’s filled with tomato and shell pasta. It’s similar to a soup called fideo that’s made with tiny vermicelli pasta and potatoes, but this broth isn’t as viscous and we don’t add potato to it.
Normally, chicken broth is used. But since we are vegan, I use veggie broth instead.
What makes this soup special?
This soup is special for a couple of reasons.
- The pasta is lightly fried/toasted before being boiled. This gives it a nutty flavor and helps it from disintegrating in the soup.
- It’s made with very inexpensive ingredients. That means you can feed an army, fill them up, and only spend pennies doing so.
- It tastes AMAZING. Like I said, this is my family’s favorite soup and we can’t get enough of it!
The ingredients to make our vegan Mexican shell soup are stupidly simple.
Mini shell pasta. The cheap ones. Durum semolina and maybe a few vitamins and minerals are the only ingredients, and I get these bad boys for $0.65 a pound. You can use any smaller pasta shape you like, though. Alphabets and baby macaronis are some of our favorite alternatives.
Diced tomatoes. Canned ones. Yes, you can use fresh, but when I use fresh my family doesn’t like it as much. So canned diced tomatoes are what this recipe calls for.
Spaghetti sauce! Ok, so the traditional recipe calls for plain tomato sauce and some oregano, garlic, salt, onion, etc. WELL, WELL, WELL, it turns out pasta sauce HAS ALL THAT STUFF IN IT ALREADY. Once I started using our favorite pasta sauce instead of plain tomato sauce, my family went nuts for it. I use Hunts garlic and herb, by the way. $1 a can. Yeah, big ballers over here.
Dehydrated minced onion. You can use fresh onion if you’d like. I can’t grip a knife very well anymore (yay arthritis and EDS) so I use this stuff. It comes out just as great. 🙂
Broth! Veggie broth! Make sure it’s one you like. Lol. I use Better than Bouillon organic veggie broth and I also really like the H-E-B regular veggie broth.
A wee bit of oil. You only need a tablespoon or two, enough to coat the pasta pieces to pan fry them.
Salt and pepper to taste. Especially if you use a low-sodium broth, you’ll want to salt it generously.
For garnish: Fresh diced onion (I buy mine pre-diced), cilantro (I buy this pre-chopped!), and vegan mayo. Yup. Vegan mayo. Don’t argue, just accept it.
How to make Mexican shell soup:
Put a large stockpot over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon or two of your oil.
Throw in your pasta and stir constantly for around five minutes.
Keep doing this until most of the pasta has lighter spots and is nice and toasty.
Add in the broth, tomato, sauce, and onion. Stir it well, lid it, and let it boil for about 15-20 minutes or until the pasta is tender.
Remove from the heat, and serve. Add a spoonful of each garnish and stir it up before you eat it. Yum!
The soup will also thicken up a bit as it sits and become more viscous as the pasta starch in the water firms up.
What the heck is up with the mayo, really?
I get this question a lot, but I promise that once you try it you’ll be converted.
In Mexico, I was taught that adding mayo to soups and rice right before you eat it transforms it into the most tasty, rich, creamy thing in existence. The aerated fats work like adding concentrated heavy cream. If you’re dairy-free and have been missing cream soups, mayo is your ticket!
I also use mayo to add creaminess to my Easy Vegan Tomato Cream Sauce, Vegan Eggnog, and The Most Amazing Vegan Caramel Ever to Exist. Yes. Caramel. And once you try it you’ll freak out at how good it is – thanks to mayo!!
Can I make this gluten-free?
You can! Just make sure you don’t overcook the pasta, though – and use one you know stands up well. Many gluten-free pastas (especially rice-based ones!) dissolve easily and won’t hold their shape in the Mexican shell soup. You may also need to stop cooking a few minutes earlier to keep them from going mushy.
- 1-2 tbsps vegetable oil
- 8oz/225g dry small shell pasta
- 8 cups/2L vegetable broth
- 14oz/400g canned diced tomato
- 24oz/680g garlicky pasta sauce
- 2-3 tbsps dehydrated minced onion
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
- Diced white onion for garnish
- Vegan mayo for garnish
- Put a large stockpot over medium-high heat
- Add vegetable oil and pasta
- Stir constantly until the pasta is lighter and color and toasty in places, about five minutes
- Add the broth, tomatoes, sauce, and dehydrated onion
- Cover and let boil for 15 minutes or until the pasta is tender
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Remove from heat and serve
- Add a spoon each of cilantro, onion, and mayo
- Stir well until the soup is very creamy
Please see the blog post for additional notes.