How to Make Homemade Vegetable Soup

  • 01 of 07

    Start With Delicious Fresh Vegetables

    Zucchini Soup
    Molly Watson

    Homemade soup is much easier to make than most people think, plus it's a fabulous way to eat lots of veggies. This step-by-step guide is designed to show you how to make vegetable soup without using a recipe.

    Amounts are given here, but they are flexible. Very flexible. Feel free to play with the proportions based on your taste and what's at the market or in your fridge. It's the basic method of putting the soup together that is important.

    Whether you want to make a chunky vegetable...MORE soup or a creamy (puréed) vegetable soup (like the zucchini soup pictured above), the method is the same. The only difference is for chunky soups you'll want to be a bit more careful to cut the vegetables into even, bite-sized or smaller pieces for even cooking and easy eating. Creamy soups will be puréed at the end, so how the veggies look going into the soup doesn't matter.

    Which vegetables work? Try any of the veggies below, alone or in combination:

    Note that you can tame the stronger flavor of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cabbage by using them with milder tasting potatoes. Also, you can thicken up soups made with leafy vegetables like spinach by using them with starchy vegetables like potatoes or celery root.

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  • 02 of 07

    Cook the Aromatics

    Making Soup
    Molly Watson

    The best soups are made with a base of flavor beyond just the main veggie(s). If you want to make a chunky soup and don't care if the soup is vegetarian, you can even start off by cooking with a few slices of chopped bacon, pancetta, or sausage, if you like. In any case, though, sautéeing 1 to 2 cups of chopped onion, leek, celery, and/or carrot to start will give the soup a greater depth of flavor. A tablespoon or so of minced garlic, ginger and/or chiles can add even more flavor. A scant...MORE teaspoon or so of spices like ground cumin, paprika, or coriander will up the flavor profile even more. Playing around with flavor combinations here puts an infinite variety of vegetable soups in your hands.

    Start by melting or heating up a few tablespoons of butter, olive oil, vegetable oil, or reserved bacon fat or lard in a large pot. If you want to add meat, add that first and cook until it renders any fat. Otherwise, start with the longer-cooking aromatics like onion, leek, celery, or carrot. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until the aromatics have softened, 3 to 5 minutes.

    Then add any minced garlic, grated fresh ginger, or finely chopped chiles, if you want to use them. Stir and cook until the mixture becomes very fragrant, about 1 minute. Now sprinkle in the spices, if any, you want to use. Stir to combine everything and cook until the mixture sizzles again, about 30 seconds.

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  • 03 of 07

    Add the Vegetables

    Add the Veggies
    Molly Watson

    Now it's time to add the main event: the star vegetable(s) of your soup. You'll want about 6 cups of chopped vegetables. Remember, if you're going to purée the soup, the veggies can be quite roughly chopped.

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  • 04 of 07

    Add the Liquid

    Making Vegetable Soup
    Molly Watson

    There's no point in lying: homemade stocks (like this chicken broth) make the best soups. That said, you can absolutely make delicious, scrumptious, crave-worthy soups with store-bought stock or even plain old water. Whatever liquid you choose to use, add enough to cover the vegetables, probably about 6 cups or so if you've been following the amounts listed.

    Up to a cup of this liquid can be wine or beer, if you like. If you want to use alcohol, though, be sure to add it first, bring it...MORE to a boil, and simmer it for about 10 minutes before adding the rest of the liquid—this will help cook off the alcohol flavor, concentrate the flavor of the wine or beer, and keep the soup from tasting boozy.

    Bring everything to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook until the vegetables are tender.

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  • 05 of 07

    Stir In Final Additions & Adjust the Seasoning

    Cooked Soup
    Molly Watson

    For chunky soups, you can add cooked pasta, rice, barley or other starches after the vegetables are cooked (you can, of course, cook them in the soup, but it leads to a very starchy final broth and it is tricky to get everything to cook to their best texture).

    For smooth soups, now is the time to add any cream, milk, crème fraîche, sour cream, or yogurt to make it extra creamy. You can add as much or as little as you like. In some instances (like this Cauliflower Soup), add minimal broth earlier...MORE and then plenty of milk at this point to make it creamy without a ton of fat. In other instances (like this Butternut Squash Soup), a minimal amount of cream, crème fraîche, or sour cream adds just that touch of velvety smoothness to an otherwise veggie-laden soup.

    This is also the time to add any fresh herbs—thyme, parsley, dill, mint—that appeal to you. Soft-leaf, milder herbs like parsley, cilantro, or mint can be added by the handful if you like. But stronger herbs like rosemary or oregano... add them in small 1/2-teaspoon amounts and taste before adding more.

    Whatever soup you're making, now that you have all the ingredients in the pot, taste it. You will, in all likelihood, need to add salt. Add salt in 1/2-teaspoon increments, stirring to incorporate and dissolve it before tasting. And what should you taste when you sip that little spoonful? A clear uptick in flavor.

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  • 06 of 07

    Blend or Purée, If You're So Inclined

    Creamy Vegetable Soup
    Molly Watson

    If you want to make a creamy soup, make sure the vegetables are cooked until very tender and then whirl them with a hand-held blender or in batches in a blender or food processor. Note that if you whirl a hot liquid, be sure to cover the top of the blender or food processor with a clean kitchen towel to protect yourself from almost certain splatters.

    The key to a very smooth creamy soup is to whirl it for longer than you think you need to. The soup will become blended quite quickly, but if you...MORE keep whirling it, it will take on a creamier, smoother texture that is just lovely.

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  • 07 of 07

    Garnish & Serve

    Zucchini Soup
    Molly Watson

    Even the simplest garnish makes a bowl of soup special. A grinding of black pepper, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a grating of Parmesan cheese are all super easy but flavor-packing options. For tips on garnishing like a pro, check out Secrets to Slurpable Homemade Soups.