Homemade soup is something to celebrate. In fact, homemade soup has its own national holiday on Feb 4th each year. What other dish can transform simple ingredients into a delicious one-pot meal? Soup making can be simple or complex, made from a recipe or created with leftovers and pantry staples. Prepare soup on the stove or let it simmer away in a slow cooker. Popular every day of the year, soup is a winning option to warm your heart on a cold winter day.
Soups fall into three basic categories:
- Clear Soups are based on a clear, un-thickened broth or stock. They may be served plain or garnished with a variety of vegetables and meats. Think Vegetable and Chicken Noodle Soups.
- Thickened soups include cream soups, typically thickened with a roux. Pureed soups, like this Creamy Cauliflower Soup, are naturally thickened by pureeing one or more of the ingredients. Bisques also fall in the thickened soup category. This hearty type of soup is typically made from fish, shellfish and/or vegetables and usually contains milk and potatoes.
- Specialty or National Soups are a catch all for soups that do not fit neatly into the other categories. They are often native to particular countries or regions and may be distinguished by specific ingredients or methods, like this Egg Drop Soup or this Goulash Soup.
Soups are very forgiving. Even when following a recipe, there is always room for variations.
With that said, there are many ways to make your soup a bit healthier:
- Soups are often high in sodium. If starting off with a commercial broth, opt for the reduced or low sodium version. If making your own broth, season with herbs and spices and hold back on the saltshaker. If you want a hint of salt, sprinkle in prior to eating.
- If your soup recipe uses cream as a thickener, consider reducing the amount you use by replacing half or all of it with 2%, skim or nut milk. You can also thicken soup with mashed beans or potatoes, skipping the dairy entirely.
- When including proteins, opt for leaner picks like ground turkey or chicken breast and lower fat meats. And, if you want the real thing, like sausage or bacon, remember a little bit can go a long way.
- Add plenty of plant-based options to bulk up your standard soup. Heartier ingredients like potatoes and beans stand up well to cooking and high temperatures. Other vegetables like kale and spinach should be added later in the cooking process.
When making soup, consider the following:
- Soups are easy to make in large batches and are generally freezer-friendly. Make 2 meals instead of 1 by doubling up on ingredients.
- Many soup recipes call for sautéing aromatics like onions and garlic in oil or butter. This is important in building the soup’s flavor.
- When chopping vegetables, think about how big you want them to be on the spoon. Greens such as spinach and kale need to be chopped, or they will be difficult to eat.
- If adding milk or cream to your soup, be sure to warm up first for a rich and creamy texture. Cold milk or cream will curdle when added to hot soup.
- Once your soup has come to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. If the soup boils too vigorously the vegetables will get mushy, the meat will toughen, and the noodles will start to break down.
- When making noodle soups, add as the final addition, and cook until tender, allowing the noodles to take on the flavor of the soup. If you plan on freezing your soup, do not add the noodles. Instead, add noodles to the soup after it has thawed and brought back to a boil.