Homemade Soup; A Complete Guide
The complete guide to everything you need to know to make the BEST homemade soup and stew. Delicious, flavorful bisques, stews, chowders and soups all packed with amazing flavor and fresh ingredients. Can you serve up the best meals at home? Absolutely! Soup is good food!
I was talking to some colleagues recently and I told them I’m not asking for much… I just wanted to be number one in google when you search for soup! 😀 In fact one of the pictures on my vision board is a bowl of soup with a crown entitled Soup Queen! So I was challenged to write down everything I know about soup…. so I did! And the next day I wrote a little bit more and then a little bit more.
I’ve compiled all this information into a guide and I know you’ll find this a fun and informative read! I hope you reference it often and share it with your friends!
Ok, here goes – Do you love soup? I do and it’s been a staple in my home for years and homemade soup is true comfort food. It’s an easy meal that can be made with just about any leftovers. It can be a great way to clean out the refrigerator while making a delicious and nutritious meal for your family. Some soups freeze well. In addition, many taste better on day two! Often times making soup ahead of time gives the flavors time to combine and develop.
How do you make soup from scratch?
- Start by choosing a fat to sauté your protein and vegetables
- butter goes well with rich bisques and chowders – but will scorch when used over high heat – here’s a tip use 1/2 butter 1/2 avocado or corn oil, both have high smoke points. You will still get the flavor of butter but reduce the chance of scorching!
- olive oil is great with Italian flavors like Minestrone Soup and delicious with Tomato Soup
- bacon fat adds a ton of flavor
- corn oil and avocado oils can both be used over high heat without adding additional taste to cloud the flavors of your recipe
- Select your base
- chicken, seafood, pork, beef or lamb
- vegetarian options include hearty mushrooms and roasted vegetables
- What vegetables will you use?
- potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, zucchini, eggplant, spinach, kale, cabbage, peppers, garlic, peas, asparagus, cauliflower – choose your favorite!
- Choose your stock
- vegetable stock
- seafood stock
- chicken stock
- beef stock
- Pick your spices and herbs
- vegetables – basil, oregano, parsley and rosemary – red pepper flakes, garlic, coriander, cilantro and tarragon offer intense flavor.
- seafood – bay leaves, old bay seasoning, dill, garlic, pepper, rosemary and saffron
- chicken – rosemary, tarragon, thyme, parsley, oregano, bay leaves, sage, garlic, lemongrass and fresh or dried ginger
- beef – rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
- Now it’s time to make soup
- heat a large heavy bottom pot over medium heat
- add your fat
- sauté the protein or base
- add the vegetables
- add the spices and herbs
- simmer the pot until the meat is tender and the vegetables are cooked thru.
- taste and adjust seasonings, this is truly the most important part! Often what a pot of soup needs is a touch of salt to make it taste just right!
How do you pick a great soup pot?
Choose a vessel with a heavy bottom, thick bottom, this will help it distribute heat evenly – perfect for making just about any kind of soup, stew, bisque or chowder. Not only will it work well for soup, it will be a versatile cooking vessel and last for years to come!
Stock – Should you make it or buy it?
Is homemade stock better? I’m going to give you a resounding YES! However… if you don’t have time to make it (and many of us don’t – self included!) purchase good quality stock. Be sure to read the ingredients and check the sodium content on the package. Often times an inexpensive box of stock is full of sodium. Salt makes everything taste better, but with the amount of sodium packed into it you might as well just open the salt shaker and pour a cup into your soup! This isn’t the case with all store-bought stock. Morale of the story – read the packaging!
Here are my recipes for homemade stock;
Why do the experts dice vegetables the same size?
Dicing the vegetables the same size will help everything finish cooking at the same time! Additionally when you dunk your spoon into a bowl of soup you want to taste all the flavors, right? That’s hard to do if some pieces are too big to fit on the spoon!
Why is homemade soup good for you?
- Soup contains a delicious balance of carbohydrates, protein and vegetables. A bowl of soup has minimal calories but is packed with nutrition! For those days when you’re not feeling well, a bowl of chicken soup is the perfect choice and a warm comforting meal! It is easily digested but filled with nutrients.
- Soup is a healthy way to start a meal because it fills you with vegetables and broth, just be sure to choose the right soup! A cream based soup can be high in fat and calories. Broth based soups are lower in calories and (often) carbohydrates too!
- Homemade soup is a better choice than canned because you can control the sodium, canned soup is often high in additives.
How do you thicken homemade soup?
- with flour – mixing a couple tablespoons of flour with water or broth until it is smooth and lump free. (If it is not “lump free” prior to adding it to the soup – the soup will have lumps in it!) Add the slurry to the soup while stirring vigorously and continue to cook for a couple of minutes. This will cook the flour. Otherwise you’ll have a flour taste – ewe!
- with cornstarch – 2 tablespoons cornstarch combined with 3 tablespoons cold* water – mix until until smooth (*If you mix cornstarch with warm water it’s almost impossible to get the lumps out!) Pour into the hot soup while stirring vigorously.
- with an egg(s) – start by beating the egg(s). To avoid curdling, drizzle about 1/2 cup of the hot broth into the eggs, stirring vigorously while you pour. Next add the egg mixture to the soup. Stir and cook until thickened.
- with pureed vegetables – cooked Yukon gold potatoes provide a rich thick texture when pureed. The starch from russet potatoes will help thicken a soup. Grating a raw sweet or russet potato directly into a soup will thicken too! As it cooks it will slow melt into the soup and release it’s starch. Potatoes aren’t the only vegetable you can use though. Cauliflower, corn, carrots, turnips and peas all puree nicely and will thicken the base of a soup! Removing a portion of it and adding the vegetables to blender works great. Adding the mixture back into the soup will will make a nice creamy base. You can also use a handheld immersion blender, just blend the entire soup until it’s the consistency you’re looking for. Bonus? You don’t dirty any extra dishes!
What is the difference between a bisque and chowder?
This is a great question! Bisque and chowder are two types of soup both with a thick consistency.
A bisque has a smooth texture. It is a soup that has been thickened and is pureed until creamy like my Tomato Bisque. Bisque Soup originated in France and was primarily made from a seafood stock. It has evolved and is now more widely accepted as a soup that is smooth and creamy. Popular recipes for bisque are lobster, crab, and seafood. Tomato, mushroom, cauliflower are great vegetarian options.
A chowder is a type of soup that is often prepared using milk or cream. It’s thickened with a roux (flour or cornstarch) and left with big chunks of vegetables that give it great texture. Popular chowders are clam chowder, seafood chowder, potato and corn chowder.
How do you give Homemade Soup that extra pizzaz?
This is one of my favorite things to do when making soup. There are ingredients that you can add at the end of soup making that give it that extra somethin’ somethin’! That taste that you can’t put your finger on but will have your eyes rolling back in your head! You’re swooning and lip smacking and most definitely you’ll be saying mmmmmm!!!! Don’t be shaking your head – you know you do it!
How do you make that happen? It’s really quite easy; by adding acidity and freshness at the end of cooking. Often times you’ll see soup served with a garnish of fresh parsley, green onions or cilantro. This is more than just making it pretty. It’s also to add a burst of freshness! Here are some combinations for your soups that will take it to the next level.
- lemon juice and minced parsley – a burst of fresh lemon flavor adds a bright clean note to bean, vegetable or chicken soup
- salsa and cilantro – a spoonful of salsa on your tortilla soup adds loads of flavor and a bright zesty bite – perfect for tortilla and taco soup, any Mexican flavored soup!
- sesame oil – a little goes a long way with sesame oil. It has a heady rich aroma and it will coat the inside of your mouth – it’s a beautiful accompaniment for most any Asian soup.
- olive oil – a drizzle of olive oil on a bowl of creamy bisque will take it right over the top!
- balsamic or red wine vinegar – just a touch added to a beef stock will wake up the flavors
- pickles – yes pickles – don’t skip these! Topping off a cheeseburger soup with pickles gives it the perfect amount of zest. It cuts thru the richness of the heavy meat, cheese and bacon.
- wine – walk right by the cooking wines, DO NOT use these when it comes to season a soup. Don’t cook with something you won’t drink and I sure won’t drink cooking wine. Red wine adds a special burst of flavor, especially to a tomato based soup. White is delicious in clear soup. Wine needs time to develop flavors and is best when added during the cooking process (rather than a drizzle at the end).
- pesto – I always keep a jar of pesto in the refrigerator. Pesto is made with basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil and salt. A spoonful of pesto added to your soup at the end imparts a ton of flavors and makes it taste like you’ve simmered it all day long!
- fresh herbs – minced parsley, green onions, cilantro, basil and dill danced over the top of your soup will brighten the flavors.
- sour cream, creme fraiche or yogurt – a dollop adds creamy coolness to a spicy soup
- parmesan rind – next time you finish grating parmesan, take the rind, wrap it well and tuck it in the freezer. Add this to your next bean, minestrone or vegetable soup. The rind imparts a TON of flavor! Add it at the beginning of the cooking process and remove it before serving.
What can I add to homemade soup to make it less spicy?
Sometimes you follow directions to the T but when you taste the meal you’ve prepared, you realize it’s just WAY TOO SPICY. Do you throw it out? No! Here are ingredients you can add to your soup to combat the heat.
- sour cream, creme fraiche or yogurt – as mentioned above this will cool a spicy soup. The dairy combats the heat in your mouth and will slightly cool the meal.
- water, stock or canned tomatoes – increasing the volume will obviously distribute the heat. Of course it also dilutes other flavors and spices so you’ll need to do some adjusting all around.
- peanut butter – did you just make an amazing bowl of Asian soup only to realize it’s fire hot! Cream a couple tablespoons of peanut butter with an equal amount of stock, then add it to your soup. The peanut butter will help coat the inside of your mouth similar to dairy products.
- sugar – sweet/hot is all the rage and there’s a reason, sweet combats heat! A tablespoon of sugar or honey will help balance the heat, but be careful, a little will go a long way and you do not want an overly sweet meal.
- lemon/lime or a teaspoon of vinegar – like rock, paper, scissors – acid trumps heat – add sparingly!
Soup MUST Haves!
Click here for my soup gift guide! 10 MUST have items for making your own soups and stews at home!
Last but most importantly…
Don’t forget to taste your meal before serving and adjust seasoning as needed!
What’s your favorite soup making tip?