I love to make soups for my family because the possibilities are endless! Maybe you think of making a soup recipe when someone in your family has a cold or maybe when the weather is gloomy, but I believe every type of day is a great day for making soup. Here are my seven tips for making super soups at home!
- Keep some basic soup staples in your pantry: I always keep a few boxes of different types of broth on hand. My favorites are chicken and vegetable. You could also keep some bouillon cubes, too, since you can easily use those with just water in a soup. Oil is a staple that you need for all styles of cooking, including soups. I keep olive, coconut, and canola oils stocked in my cupboard. A selection of grains (pasta, rice, quinoa, barley) are important components of a soup to keep stocked in your pantry too. For a pantry protein option, I keep a variety of beans and lentils, both canned and dry. I always stock a good selection of canned tomato varieties — whole, fire roasted, diced, and those with other flavorings like green chiles or Italian style. Finally, my daughter has a dairy allergy so I keep cans of coconut milk in the pantry for creamy or curry-style soups. This is also a great vegan option or a shelf stable solution for times when you do not have access to fresh milk or cream.
- Spice it up: Soups often get a rep for being a boring meal, but the best way to change that is to bring in the flavor! Salt and pepper are a MUST for flavoring soups. If you are just beginning to build up your dry spice collection, make sure you get some basics like an Italian seasoning (or separate basil and oregano) parsley, thyme, cumin, turmeric, garlic powder, dried onions (great when you don’t have fresh on hand), chili powder, and any other of your particular favorites. I love to keep dry tarragon for soups — I use it in my chicken noodle soup and a creamy potato and sausage soup! Each time you are grocery shopping, try to add a new spice to your cabinet!
- The freezer is your friend: A well-stocked pantry and spice cabinet are key, but don’t forget to stock your freezer! My freezer is filled with bags of frozen veggies that are perfect additions to soup. You may not always have fresh produce on hand so the freezer really is your best friend when it comes to soups. You can keep meat in there too, so you have something that can be defrosted for your soup. The freezer is also a great place to store all your veggie scraps for making homemade broth! Just keep a gallon zip bag for scraps and add to it (veggie ends & peels) — once it is full, put it in a slow cooker with water and spices, let it simmer on low all day, strain out the scraps and you’ve made your own veggie broth. If you have bones from a rotisserie chicken, you can save those in the freezer, and simmer with your veggie scraps to make a chicken broth.
- Stock your fresh veggie staples: Some veggie staples my home is never without are potatoes (sweet, red, and gold are best for soups), onions (sweet and red are my favorites), and fresh garlic. I also keep a squeeze bottle of garlic in the fridge! The crisper drawer in my fridge usually holds certain soup staples like fresh celery and large carrots. On any given week, I have a variety of other fresh veggies, but celery and carrots are a go-to for soups. One very important step is to prep and chop all your produce before you start cooking so they are all ready to be dropped into the soup pot at the right time!
- Awesome appliances & cookware: Soups lend themselves to multiple cooking appliances and styles. Use what you have or what you’re most comfortable with, but experiment with a different piece of cookware if you want. My favorite is my purple Dutch Oven that I saved all my Kohl’s cash to get for myself! I also have a big soup pot for making double & triple recipes, a slow cooker for set-it & forget-it, and an Instant Pot which I am still learning to use more regularly! An Immersion Blender is a piece of inexpensive equipment that I recently purchased and it has been very handy for making creamy soups.
- Pick a soup recipe or style: Since I am a super-soup fan and work in recipe development for Dr. Yum, you will notice that we have a big selection of soup recipes under the “Soups and Stews” tag on doctoryum.org! Our website also allows you to search for recipes using a specific ingredient, so you could search for recipes that include the veggies you have available. You may want to make a creamy, blended soup or one with more texture and veggie pieces. Our “Super Soup Maker” in Dr. Yum’s Meal-o-Matic will help you pick a style of soup, then customize it with whatever you have on hand
- The 4 S’s: Sear, Season, Saute, & Simmer: Once you are ready with an appliance and recipe, I recommend these four ways to impart the most flavor to your soup creation! If you are using a meat protein, I like to sear it in my pot first. Heat your oil, season your meat and sear it well on both sides then remove it. If using ground meat, season, thoroughly brown, and remove from the pot. Add your chopped onion, garlic, celery and carrots to the pot, season and saute until onions are translucent. If you need to, add a splash of your broth to help deglaze the bottom of the pot where all the tasty brown bits are! Finally, add the rest of your veggies, broth, spices and put the meat back in. Bring your soup to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until your veggies are softened. Soup always tastes even better the second or third day when the flavors have all melded together. My final soup-wisdom gem is to cook your grain separately (pasta, rice, quinoa, etc.) and ladle hot soup on top of individual portions. This allows family members with allergies (perhaps you need two types of pasta for a gluten free person) to select what works best for them in their soup. It also prevents the grain from soaking up the broth when storing your leftovers!
I certainly hope this helps you in your soup making adventures! Please share your creations and tag us on our social media channels so we can see what you’re making in your kitchen!
Cooking Program and Outreach Specialist