Soup is one of the most nutritious meals that you can make. It’s versatile enough to allow you to use almost any vegetable, protein, or grain that you’d like. Soup is fantastic to make as part of your meal prepping; make a big pot on the weekend and eat it throughout the week. It’s also easy enough to make on a weeknight since you’re basically throwing everything in one pot and letting it simmer. Also, a bonus of being a one-pot meal is fewer dishes to clean and therefore more time in your evening. Read on for tips to make delicious soups and a step by step guide to making healthy vegetable soup.
Tools for Making Healthy Soup
A good pot is an essential item for making soup. A 4-6 quart stock pot with a lid works well. In addition to making soups and stocks, you can also use it to make homemade tomato sauce, chili, stews, or cook pasta. My preference is to use a 4-quart Dutch oven. They have a heavy bottom because they are made of enameled cast iron, therefore the soup will cook evenly throughout and not burn on the bottom.
Use a wooden spoon with a long handle to stir the soup. The wood won’t get hot and it won’t scratch the bottom of your pot. Also, a large ladle with a deep, rounded bottom will prevent messes by reducing the number of times you scoop soup out of the pot to a bowl.
Finally, a high-powered blender or immersion blender is useful to make pureed soup.
Broth or stock is the base of most soups. They are made by boiling water with bones, meat, fish or vegetables, and herbs and spices. The terms are often used interchangeably. However, a stock is usually made with more bones, making it a bit thicker from the collagen in the bones. Broths tend to be made with more meat than bones and are therefore a thinner consistency. Vegetable and fish broths can be used if you want a soup base that’s not made from meat.
Keep a carton or two of broth or stock in your pantry to always have the base for a quick soup. If you prefer homemade stock, make a pot of it during your weekly meal prep and freeze it until you are ready to make soup.
Keep one or more of these broths on hand in your pantry to make a quick dinner.
- Vegetable broth
- Chicken broth
- Beef broth
- Seafood broth
Another type of broth is dashi broth which is commonly used in Japanese cooking. Use it as a base for miso soup or homemade ramen noodle soup. You can make it by boiling bonito fish flakes and dried kombu kelp seaweed in water for 30 minutes.
Steps to Make a Healthy Vegetable Soup
A homemade vegetable-heavy soup can be a quick, nutritious meal. You can turn any fresh or leftover vegetables that you have into a soup.
For chunky vegetable soups, any vegetable would work, even leafy greens like spinach, kale or swiss chard.
You can also turn vegetables into a pureed soup. Some vegetables that work well for this include butternut squash, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, beets, carrots, and cauliflower.
- Cut the vegetables (use 1-2 pounds) into uniform, bite-sized pieces.
- Heat up 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter in your pot and then saute some aromatics (garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, or fresh ginger) until they soften. Season with salt.
- Add the vegetables and saute them until they are soft. If you are using a mix of harder and softer vegetables, add the harder vegetables first and let them cook a few minutes before adding the rest.
- Season the vegetables with salt, pepper, and any dried herbs or spices you’d like. It’s important to season generously since adding liquid will dilute some of the flavors.
- Herbs and spices that work well in a vegetable soup: dried oregano, dried thyme, dried basil, dried rosemary, dried sage, smoked paprika, chili powder, curry powder, cumin, garlic powder, turmeric, powdered ginger.
- Add 4-6 cups of vegetable or chicken broth and simmer for at least 30 minutes. You can use water instead if you are making a pureed soup with a lot of pungent spices.
- To make a pureed soup, blend the soup in a high-powered blender, in batches. A regular blender creates the creamiest soup, but if you don’t have one, you can use an immersion blender to puree everything right in the pot. A food processor doesn’t work as well for this. Make sure that your vegetables are well cooked before you puree them.
- If you want some creamy texture but not a fully pureed soup, you can blend just ⅓ to ½ of the soup so some of the ingredients remain whole.
- Add some acidity. To add some extra depth of flavor, at the end of cooking add some acidity such as fresh lemon or lime juice or a splash of vinegar.
Extras for chunky vegetable soups
If you want to add grains to your soup, such as quinoa or rice, add about ¼ cup of grains to the pot once the broth begins to simmer. Allow everything to simmer until the grains are cooked.
You can add beans to your soup, such as canned chickpeas, black beans, or kidney beans. Rinse them off and then add them with the broth. Another option is quick cooking dried legumes, like lentils or split peas. Add these when the broth begins to simmer and cook until the legumes are soft.
If you have already cooked leftover ingredients that you want to use up, like pasta, rice or meat, add these close to the end of cooking to heat them up.
Soup makes great leftovers, so make more than you need for one meal. Store the leftovers in glass containers in the fridge.
You can also freeze leftover soup to eat another week. Portion out individual servings into freezer bags and place the bags in the freezer laying flat.
When you’re ready to use the soup, thaw a bag overnight in the fridge or place the freezer bag in a large bowl of warm water if you want to use it sooner. When thawed, use medium heat to slowly heat up the soup in a covered pot, stirring often.
Healthy soups can be quick and easy to make and therefore should become a staple in your weekly meals, especially during the colder weather months. Choose a night to follow the steps above to make vegetable soup for dinner, or plan to make a pot of soup during your next meal prep.