Shortcut Beef Vegetable Soup

By Ann Fulton

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent hours rolling dough for homemade dog biscuits, decorating gingerbread houses, and figuring out how to make homemade lotion. These activities are all lots of fun, but none will put dinner on the table—although our dog might argue otherwise!

Given all the festive things one can cook or craft during this busy season, not to mention the myriad of other distractions, weeknight dinner duty can feel uninspired, if not a little burdensome. The time seemed right for a tasty meal with a built-in shortcut or two.

My mother-in-law, Judy, is to thank for this easy soup that delivers filling protein and a hearty helping of vegetables. She received the recipe from a friend years ago, and it’s become one of her go-to meals when extended family congregates.   The beefy flavor is a consistent crowd pleaser, the yield can be doubled or tripled as needed, and it reheats well.


All of the ingredients are freezer or pantry staples, making this a convenient meal to have on standby. Canned tomato soup is one of the shortcuts; a bag of frozen vegetables is another.   At first glance, these might not seem like the most wholesome choices, but they may be better than you think.

Frozen vegetables are often perceived as a mushy, less healthy alternative to their produce aisle counterparts. However, most frozen vegetables are blanched or steamed and then flash-frozen shortly after harvesting, locking in both taste and nutritional value. In comparison, the time it takes for “fresh” fruit and vegetables to travel from the farm field to one’s dinner plate is often extended in the colder months, when produce is shipped greater distances.

As an interesting side note, it was Clarence Birdseye, of the eponymous frozen food company, who discovered the benefit of flash freezing after ice fishing in what is now Northern Canada in the early 1900s. He noticed how the fish he caught froze almost immediately, and then tasted better once thawed—far better than the frozen fish he was accustomed to eating at home.

Back in the states, he applied this newfound knowledge to seafood and later to vegetables. (The science behind it centers on the size of the ice crystal that forms during the freezing process. In a nutshell, faster freezing = smaller crystals = better taste once thawed.)

I make this hearty soup several times each winter, usually serving it with a side of crusty bread. Paired with grilled cheese sandwiches, it’s quintessential comfort food. Thought I usually whip up a pot for a quick dinner, it’s a welcome lunch on a cold day and leftovers improve with age.

For those looking for low-sodium, gluten-free, or all-natural options, I mention several soup tips in the notes section of the recipe.

Shortcut Beef Vegetable Soup
Yield: 4-6 servings
Everything for this hearty soup can be kept in your pantry or freezer for a speedy, well-rounded meal when needed.
  • 1 small onion or half a large, diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 (10-3/4-ounce) cans tomato soup plus 2 cans water*
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen mixed vegetables**
  • Optional: freshly ground black pepper, Italian seasoning, fresh parsley, and/or Parmesan cheese for serving

Sauté the onion and beef in a soup pot over medium heat, breaking up the meat as you go. (If you like to cook your onions down a little more—which helps to concentrate the flavor–start by sautéing only the onions in about 2 teaspoons of olive oil, cooking until softened and slightly golden, 5-7 minutes. Then add the ground beef and proceed.)

Add the soup, water, frozen veggies, several turns of the pepper mill and a 1/2 teaspoon or so Italian seasoning, if using. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a low simmer for 15-20 minutes. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh parsley and/or Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Like many soups, the flavor improves over time so feel free to make in advance and reheat. This soup freezes well, too.


*Use the concentrated soup that calls for adding a can of water, like Campbell’s. For those looking for a label with all-natural ingredients, there are good options in the natural foods aisle of many stores. Also note that Campbell’s contains wheat, so it’s not a gluten-free option. For those looking for low-sodium alternative, Hidden Valley Organics make a no-sodium brand. When using a no-salt variety, season the soup to taste.

**I often buy a brand of frozen veggies that’s sold in a 10-ounce bag that includes peas, carrots, green beans, and corn. Rather than saving part of a bag, I usually use two full bags and find that this higher amount of veggies works well.


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    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Bena, You could definitely experiment with another soup. I enjoy the tomato flavor and the thickness it provides. If using another, taste before adding any water – or maybe use vegetable broth or more of your chosen soup – since the tomato soup is concentrated. Plant-based meat could sub in for the ground beef as well.

  1. Marie LeFever

    Hi Ann,
    Loved this soup! I added diced tomatoes and V-8 juice so there would be extra broth. I also added a small amount of celery and cooked cabbage (from a previous meal). With the added ingredients, I had enough left over to freeze.

    1. Ann Post author

      I’m so happy you enjoyed! The additions sound perfect and how wonderful they allowed you to freeze a meal for later. Thanks for letting me know!

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Jennifer, I haven’t omitted the meat but really think you could, as the tomato soup provides a nice level of added flavor. If you like, you could replace it with extra veggies, a cooked grain, beans or even a vegan meat alternative.

  2. Linda

    This sounds like a pretty good, very quick and simple to make. I make my semi homemade vegetable soup somewhat different. When using ground beef I crumble and brown it slightly, add chopped onion. SAUTE until ground beef and onion are done. Add 2 cans of tomato juice, 2 cans tomato soup, 1 can fire roasted tomatoes, several Knorr beef bouillon cubes, garlic powder, sage, rosemary and thyme carrots, celery, 2 cans green beans, 1 can whole kernel corn, water. I simmer this until carrots are done. I most often add chopped cabbage to mine.

    1. Ann Post author

      Thanks for your comment and for mentioning your version, Linda. I make another vegetable soup that includes cabbage and it IS such a good addition. Might have to add it to this soup next time!

  3. Mary Post author

    Enjoyed this soup as a warm lunch on a cold day and it reminded me of my grandmother’s slow cooked vegetable soup, only it took a fraction of the time to prepare. Will make again soon!

    1. Ann Post author

      Speedy options that taste great AND remind us of our grandmother’s soup can’t be beat! Thanks for your comment, Mary!

  4. judy

    I loved my mother’s veg soup! One thing she would do is keep a container in her freezer. After dinner she would put any leftover veg in the container. When the container was full, we had soup! It was always a good variety of vegetables and was a good way not to have waste.

  5. Fran Menarey

    Can you answer this one. I heard that to decrease the salty content of can or store prepared soups; you take a cut raw potato and cook it in the soup. I was told that the salt would be cooked into the potato and thus less sodium, of course you would throw away the potato before eating the soup. Or do you have another plan of attack to keep salt at a low level. I’m a new watcher but love your ideas.

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Fran, Thanks for your comment and I’m glad you found your way here! You can definitely try the potato trick. Also, I mention in the recipe notes a sodium-free brand that I’ve used. You could look for that or something comparable. Hope that helps!