It is officially soup season. Like the start of most seasonal changes, I’ve jumped on the bandwagon early and overzealous. I think I may be on my third batch of homemade soup with a two week period right now? I can’t help it; it’s comforting, filling and delicious. One of my favorite lunches this time of year is to make a big pot of homemade vegetable soup and eat it for lunch throughout the week.
Over the past couple of years I’ve learned a few tricks that take an ordinary bowl of soup and really pump it up a few notches to make it delicious. They are simple tips that make a big difference when making homemade vegetable soups and I wanted to share them with you today so you can take advantage of them all glorious soup season long!
Keep Your Seasonings Simple. It easy for me to get carried away sprinkling little bits of every herb I own into a soup. Though it may look good, the spices and herbs don’t always blend nicely, so I’ve learned to keep things simple. My two seasonings of choice for vegetable soup are paprika (try it! It gives the soup a slight smoky flavor without the heat of cayenne) and bay leaves (I always add 1-2 per pot).
Between those two plus salt and pepper, it’s usually enough for a great soup, but I will occasionally add fresh herbs. A great option for adding fresh herbs is to stick them in an herb sachet while the soup cooks, then remove it afterwards. You get all the flavor without small bit of herbs floating in your soup (and inevitably getting stuck in your teeth).
Use Homemade Broth. If you’re new to soups, this sounds intimidating I know. I was hesitant for a long time, but it makes a real difference in the overall flavor of your soup. You can use recipes for broth, like this delicious recipe for hearty vegetable stock or this roasted bone broth, but usually I just pull out my broth bag from the freezer and dump it in a big pot with water and let simmer all day, then strain.
A note on broth bags: Keep a large ziplock in your freezer and put scraps and ends of veggies you use in the bag to save for broth making. Onion peels, celery scraps, mushroom pieces, carrot ends, zucchini pieces– they all are worth saving and contribute to a rich broth flavor! Just toss in a bay leaf and some peppercorns and you’re good to go.
Know Your Vegetable Cook Times. Unlike broth, vegetable soup is not best when left to simmer all day long, especially depending on which vegetables you use. The good news is almost any vegetable works in soup, but when the pieces are cut to bite-sized (as they should be), even firm potato or crunchy celery doesn’t usually need more than thirty minutes to be ready to eat.
Usually I start by sauteing garlic and onion in a little olive oil until fragrant, then add the rest of my ingredients to simmer for 20-30 minutes. If I’m using more delicate vegetables (chopped frozen kale, frozen peas, broccoli) with heartier pieces (potato, celery), then I will simmer the heartier vegetable for 15 minutes of so before adding the others. You don’t want to be left with a bowl full of mush! Don’t worry too much about flavor development, as it will have great flavor thanks to your homemade broth!
Use Alternatives for Cream-Based Soups. If your prefer a creamy, thicker soup, but don’t want the dairy or added calories/fat of cream, it’s easy to use vegetable alternatives. You can puree cooked potatoes, celery root, rice, beans, lentils or chickpeas. You can either boil and puree on the side and add to the soup, or if you are going to puree the entire soup, then just add one of the aforementioned ingredients while cooking your soup the take an immersion blender to it and puree the heck out of it.
One tip I love is to puree only half or a little less than that (like in my crockpot black bean soup). It gives the soup a creamy base but still leaves small pieces of ingredients for a great texture contrast. I like feeling like I”m eating soup, not baby food.
Finish It Off With Vinegar. It’s first best to note that you shouldn’t use this tip for cream-based soups, but for a chunky homemade vegetable soup, add about a teaspoon of red wine (or other) vinegar at the end as it cools. The acidity helps round out the flavor and gives it that little edge to make it delicious!
If you make a great soup but can’t quite put your finger on what ingredient is missing (I’ve done this plenty of time which is how I’ve ended up with every herb ever in some soups), try a splash of vinegar, citrus (lemon or lime) or something pickled (like pickled red onions). Start small with a half teaspoon or so, and add until it tastes right to you.
Now you’re now craving soup, try one of these out!
What is your favorite soup-making tip?
Do you have a favorite go-to soup recipe?
If so please link to it!
If you like these tips, you may also like my favorite 15 Kitchen Hacks!