Tennessee Taco Soup to savor or share

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My car smelled good, like Mexican spices, for days before I actually stepped up to the stove to prepare this Tennessee Taco Soup.

That’s because this hearty, comfort-food soup came from a mix prepared by a church that likes to help people. When I went to Concord United Methodist Church to ask for help in feeding more than 200 people in a drive-thru meal ministry, the mission director gave me 25 bags of this aromatic soup mix.

25 bags = 200 servings of soup = a chili-scented car that makes you hungry when you’re driving.

A few times a year, volunteer teams at Concord assemble these 8-serving bags including elbow macaroni, crushed tortilla chips, brown gravy mix, chili powder, oregano, cumin, minced onion and garlic salt.

Jane Currin, mission director, says the bags of soup mix are given away at local food pantries as well as other missions supported by the church. Concord United Methodist Church is located in Knoxville, Tennessee.

A Concord team assembles taco soup mix during a mission trip to Elk Garden School Community Ministry in Rosedale, Virginia, in August 2021.

For each bag of soup mix, all you have to add to the pot is ground beef, canned corn, canned tomatoes, and water for a stick-to-your-ribs meal.

“We look around for things that are inexpensive and easy to make,” says Jane, adding that her teams also make a delicious mix of chicken noodle soup to give away. “Everybody can adjust the recipes however they want.”

That’s true. When I made taco soup for the 224 who came through Norwood United Methodist Church’s free meal ministry on January 15, I opted for plain canned corn but added chopped fresh green bell pepper for extra color and nutrition. I also made a small batch for vegetarians, substituting canned black beans for the ground beef.

We also gave our drive-thru guests shredded cheddar and corn chips to top off their soup, with a home-baked corn muffin on the side. (Some of our guests opted for hot dogs instead, which is how we served 224 total at our monthly meal giveaway in Knoxville.)

I asked Jane for the recipe to share, so here you go! Maybe your group is interested in preparing the soup mix in bulk and sharing with a food pantry or meal ministry. They will surely feel as blessed as we did.


1 package (1/3 cup) brown gravy mix
2 tablespoons mild red chili power
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
½ teaspoon garlic salt
12 tortilla chips, coarsely crushed
1 ¼ cup elbow macaroni

1 pound ground beef
1 can corn with red and green bell peppers, drained
1 can chopped tomatoes

Brown ground beef in a large saucepan. Drain grease. Add mix contents and 8 cups water. Heat to boiling. Stir in corn and tomatoes. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add additional water and salt as needed.

Write to me at annettespence@holston.org.

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