As the fall chill turns to winter and it’s already dark as I get home, my thoughts turn to...soup. Not the mushy, salty, slightly-canned-flavored stuff you buy at the grocery store, but the hearty, flavorful, warm soup that only happens when you make it at home. Nothing makes me feel cozier than dipping a crusty piece of bread from the local baker into a steaming bowl of soup I made myself.
Homemade soup is delicious, cheap, and easily really healthy. It also can be stored for a while, making it a great option for cooking ahead. Eat it all week, if that’s how you like to do your meals, or freeze it for those week nights later in the winter when you just don’t have time (or energy) to cook.
Here are the tools you need to make excellent homemade soup, how to make the best homemade broth (really), and easy recipes to get you started.
Tools for Making Soup
Soup is great not only because it’s warm and delicious, but also because it’s pretty easy to make. For people who are just getting into cooking, all you need is a big pot and a stove. That’s really it! You can make almost any soup if you’ve got those two.
If you want to go a little deeper into your soup bowl, a blender — either immersion or a full sized one — is a great addition for creamy soups (which I personally love). I’d also suggest getting an Instant Pot, which is pretty much made for making homemade soups. The best homemade broth I’ve ever made I made in an Instant Pot, and I think it’s worth it for that alone.
Of course, you’ll need something to store your soup in. Mason jars are great for the fridge and you can add rubber rings if you want to put them in the freezer.
Or, you know, whatever tupperware you already have in your cupboard! This is all about ease (and coziness) after all.
A great homemade soup needs to be started with a great homemade stock — and a good one will be just fine with some high-quality store-bought stock if you’re in a pinch, but I really do recommend making your own broth from scratch for a healthy, tastier, and all around better soup.
If you’re like, “Okay, now we’re getting away from my comfort zone…” don’t worry! Making stock is super easy — and really cheap. What I usually do is wait until I’ve eaten most of a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store or a chicken my partner roasted for Sunday dinner. After a week of chicken sandwiches, salads, and roast dinner, the chicken bones are looking pretty picked over. Plus, you know it’s not going to last that much longer.
I then brown that chicken carcass in the “Sauté” function on the Instant Pot, throw in a couple of carrots and celery sticks, one onion, four garlic cloves, a little bit of thyme, and about a teaspoon of peppercorns, a couple cups of water, and let it all cook at high pressure for at least an hour. Then I let it cool, skim off the fat, and store it either in the fridge or the freezer, depending on what I’m planning to make that week.
Here’s my current favorite Instant Pot chicken stock recipe.
If you don’t have an Instant Pot, the recipe is basically the same — you just have to let it cook on your stove for more hours. I recommend Samin Nosrat’s (of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat fame) stovetop chicken stock recipe for a can’t-fail approach.
Finally, if you’re a vegetarian, it’s basically the same process, but minus the chicken! And while I prefer to make my stocks without salt and then add salt to taste when I’m making soup, you can do what you want when it comes to salting.
Starter Homemade Soup Recipes
Once you have your stock of stock built up in the freezer, it’s time to get soup making! By my estimation, there are a few different types of soup: creamy, chicken-featuring, and bean. Obviously there are more types than that — and some soups fall under multiple categories — but for a beginner, those three categories should do it.
While creamy soups are often demonized because they tend to have more calories and fat than other types of soup, there’s no denying the thick deliciousness of a good broccoli cheddar soup or the satisfying way a butternut squash soup sits in your stomach. Also, these days you can find alternate recipes that reduce fat and calorie levels from recipes of yore, with almost as tasty results. Finally, creamy soups are usually the easiest to make, with only a few ingredients and a blender needed.
So: Creamy soups for everyone!
Whether you want that full-fat goodness or are looking to lower that load, here are some creamy soup recipes to get you started:
Broccoli Cheddar Soup/Taste of Home
Creamy Broccoli-White Bean Soup/Martha Stewart Cooking
Chicken is a healthy, accessible, and delicious protein to add to really any soup. I mean, who doesn’t crave a good chicken soup when they’re not feeling well? (Or even just when it’s chilly outside!) If you have an Instant Pot, chicken soup with fluffy dumplings becomes easier than it’s ever been before. Or, with an Instant Pot or without, there’s nothing like a stew with big chunks of fresh chicken and vegetables.
Here are a couple great chicken soup options for getting you started:
Instant Pot Chicken and Dumplings/Food Network
The Ultimate Chicken Noodle Soup/Taste of Home
Chicken Laksa/Sunset Magazine
Finally, sometimes you don’t want to eat meat or you just crave the hearty, fiber-filled goodness of a bean soup. In addition to the health and environmental benefits of eating more beans, a big plus is that they’re really cheap! Go for canned ones (washed off before using) if you’re in a time crunch or let your beans soak overnight for a healthier, cheaper option.
Pasta e Fagioli/delish
Instant Pot Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili/Joyful Healthy Eats
Mediterranean White Bean Soup/Feel Good Foodie
There you go: You now have everything you need to create delicious, homemade soups. So grab a good loaf of bread, roast up some broccoli as a side, and get cooking!
by Emma McGowan