5 Tips for Fabulous Homemade Soups

You know the feeling. This time of year, you’re simply dying for a bowl of something warm, comforting, and full of vitality. But as painful experiences may have shown you, good intentions and a throw-whatever-vegetables-you-have-into-the-pot approach doesn’t always work so well.

For a simple, clean-out-the-fridge soup, I will point you to my Everything Soup. It’s the ultimate guide to soup improv that you can tweak to your heart and fridge’s content, with recommendations for optimizing flavor profile, plus must-haves and must-nots.

Once you have these basics down, here are some more tips for fabulous homemade soups, which will turn any pot you make into a seductive winter dish that will have your spoon quivering with excitement.

Stay in season

It’s not just about the carbon footprint, the mood of the weather, or the tradition, though of course these things count. It’s also that in-season vegetables taste significantly better, and if you want a soup that shines with flavor, you gotta have good vegetables to begin with.

And as luck would have it, winter vegetables are perfect candidates, with their starchy textures and sweet, earthy notes. Can’t remember what’s in season? I have a free seasonal produce guide for you.

Chunky or smooth?

Whether you are in the mood for a chunky soup or a smooth velouté, make up your mind before you start. This will determine how you cut the vegetables, and the order in which you add them in. If you want it chunky, such as this chunky pumpkin soup, you’ll pay more attention to not overcooking any of the vegetables. And if you want an ultra-smooth, restaurant-quality velouté, investing in a high-performance blender such as this one will make all the difference (night and day).

Play with spices and fresh herbs

Butternut Squash and Lentil Soup

Soups are the perfect opportunity to finally get some mileage out of that spice drawer. Vegetables are such a welcoming canvas, whether you are flavoring them with citrus and spicesturmeric and hazelnuts, or an ayurvedic blend of cumin, coriander, turmeric, and ginger.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with just salt and pepper if that’s all you have (sometimes they’re all you need!), but this is your chance to kick things up a notch and test out new, interesting flavor combinations.

Make it interactive

I love meals that require some audience participation, whether you invite the eater to drizzle oil or cream, sprinkle things, or stir a condiment right in.

I like using the latter method with my pattypan squash and pesto soup: I just place a bowl of pesto on the table for guests to help themselves, stirring it into the soup and preserving the immediacy and freshness of the pesto.

You can also elevate a simple soup meal with bowls of various soup accoutrements, like almond breadcrumbs, roasted chickpeas, homemade croûtons, crushed spiced almonds… or anything you have on hand that will add texture and flavor to your soup.

Keep it creamy

If you’re craving a creamy soup but want a change from dairy (or can’t have it), there are options. Instead of adding heavy cream or crème fraîche, try using coconut milk to make the soup silkier, or whip up a quick cashew cream to pour over the top (bonus: it’s pretty). You can also use almond meal or nut butters to thicken your soup.

Join the Conversation

What’s been your favorite soup combo lately? Any tip you want to share for soup success?

  • Nathalie d’Abbadie

    Lovely ideas! I will try to remember to let guests add their own fixtures as I tend to want to make the bowls look pretty in the kitchen before bringing them to the table. I like to add toasted sunflower seeds for crunch, or a very simple vinaigrette of cider vinegar, olive oil and chopped spring onions if it’s a very hearty soup. I read that in a Food52 article ages ago and it is delicious!

    • Nathalie d’Abbadie

      I also wonder if you have any containers for storing soup to recommend? A wide-necked bottle to store in the fridge door, or perhaps a big container to leave on a shelf? Thank you!

      • My storage containers for food are these glass containers. I don’t typically use glass bottles as I find they are hard to clean when you get a circle of soup marking the level halfway down.

        • Nathalie d’Abbadie

          That is a good point, I hadn’t thought of that! And thank you for the link!

    • Ha ha, giving up control and pretty bowls doesn’t come very naturally to us, does it? :D What I like to do in these instances is bring everything to the table, including the pot, so you’re not actually presenting plain bowls for people to decorate — everything happens at the table.

      • Nathalie d’Abbadie

        It definitely isn’t easy to give up control ;) but bringing everything to the table at once is a very good idea!

  • Nat

    Fabulous tips, thank you! May I add to the last one about making it creamy: you can add a small cup of cooked or canned chickpeas when making cream soup. The blender will take care of them, and the result will be a nice and creamy soup without the use of dairy.

  • Annabel Smyth

    I made an”emergency chicken soup” when a family member was unwell, and it was horrendously spicy. But a dollop of crème fraiche rendered it delicious!

  • I love the audience participation section! great idea, particularly with something like pesto which can easily get lost in a soup.

    I recently had some flash fried brussel sprout leaves as an appetizer, that would make an excellent soup topping! or just brussel sprouts sliced thinly lengthwise and sauteed in some olive oil.

  • NotJoking

    I make Richard’s Lifesaving Soup a lot. It was invented when my neighbour Richard was ill with flu and couldn’t get warm. It’s really simple and as soon as he drank it he said he could feel the warmth going right down to his toes. It’s pink lentils, a tin of tomatoes or fresh tomatoes if you have a glut, some beef stock or not if you’re vegetarian, a chopped onion, a couple of chopped garlic cloves, a carrot, a stalk of celery, a quarter of a head of cabbage (or some broccoli or brussels sprouts), lots of herbs and spices such as turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, curry powder or cayenne pepper, oregano, ginger, parsley, fresh coriander (cilantro) whatever you fancy really in whatever proportions you like. Doesn’t take long, throw everything in the pot and when cooked, whiz up with a stick blender. I make it a lot in the winter and in the summer I chill it and add a dollop of creme fraiche or a lemon slice.

  • Katie Lilley

    Thank you for the inspiration! As a change to my usual “Tuscan” concoction of root veg, potatoes and beans, today I made a soup using up half an onion, carrots, kale stalks and a tin of tomatoes. I’m very smug that I have pots of frozen homemade stock for just such an occasion (I use up the veg trimmings from my café), and I added a couple of handfuls each of red lentils and bulgur wheat. Garnished with a drizzle of parsley blended with EVOO, it was really tasty and warming. Just as well, because there’s enough left for at least one more meal!

    • That sounds wonderful! Such a chilly day today, I wouldn’t mind a bowl of that. Though I have a pot of split pea and carrot soup on the burner right now. :)

  • mmm…I’ll need to show my wife this blog. I try to cook but she says my cooking is awful. Her cooking, on the other hand, is delicious, and she’s always on the lookout for new inspiration! :)

    Thanks

    —Jacob
    http://www.ustranslation.com

  • mehdi aghdaee

    and may I add, if you’re using stock/broth, homemade makes the soup WAY more delicious!

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