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How to Make Soup From Scratch

There’s nothing better than a piping hot bowl of homemade soup on a cold winter day. And once you know how to make soup from scratch you can whip up a soup from just about anything you have in the fridge and pantry.

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A pan of soup and raw ingredients.
How to make soup from scratch.

Soup is a pretty versatile dish. Not only does it make a great light meal on a cold winter day, but it’s also a great side dish for a range of other meals. Making soup is a great way to use up ingredients you have on hand.

The 4 basic elements of a soup

There are many different kinds of soup and each one has its own unique qualities. Whether you like the creamy texture of a chicken and leek soup, or the robust flavor of meat-based soups, there are many different ways to make soup from scratch, but they all use the same basic building blocks: a base, meat and vegetables, and spices.

1. Base

The base of a soup is usually stock or broth. You can make your own from scratch, or use store-bought if you are pushed for time. Bases can be modified by adding other ingredients such as cream, coconut cream, or tomato puree depending on the type of soup you want to make. 

Broth and stock are similar and often confused. To clear things up, here is a simple explanation of the difference between stock and broth:

  • Stock is always made using bones, and often includes vegetables and meat for added flavor. It is cooked for longer than broth, to release all the collagen the bones, and will form a gel when chilled. It is unseasoned (unless store bought), and more intense in flavor than broth. 
  • Broth is made using meat and vegetables (not bones). It is cooked for a shorter amount of time, and is less intense than stock. It remains liquid when chilled and can be seasoned and served as a light soup or drink. (note: bone broth is actually stock). 

Here is a detailed explanation of the difference by Taste of Home

2. Meat

Is it a chicken soup? a beef soup? a fish soup? The type of meat you want to use in your soup will have an impact on the type of base you choose. Generally, you should use the same type of base as the meat (beef broth for a beef soup), but there are some exceptions to this rule, and chicken stock works well in soups with many different types of meat. 

Of course some soups do not contain meat. If you are making a vegetarian or vegan soup, choose what will be the dominant flavor or flavors. Is it a mushroom soup? a tomato soup? 

3. Vegetables, pulses and grains 

Your choice of vegetables may come down to what you have available, especially if you are making soup to use up leftovers. 

Onion and celery are standard soup vegetables because of the flavors they impart. Some other popular soup vegetables include: carrot, potato, spinach, kale, corn, and leeks. 

Choose vegetables that will complement the main flavor of the soup. 

For a more hearty soup you can also add pulses (peas, lentils, chickpeas, or beans) and grains (barley, rice, to add texture and fiber to the soup.  

4. Herbs and spices

Salt is a key spice that is used in almost all soup recipes, as is black pepper. You can adjust them according to your taste.

When adding salt, only add a little at a time, and make sure it has time to mix into the soup before deciding whether you need to add more. It is very easy to over-salt soups, and difficult to reduce the salt if you have over-done it. 

Other spices you may want to add to your soup depend on the main flavors of the soup you are making. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme, and tarragon go well with chicken soups.  
  • Herbs like parsley, rosemary, and thyme are often a nice addition to ‘cream of’ soups. 
  • Mediterranean herbs and spices are great in tomato-based soups. Try basil, oregano, paprika, cumin, chives, or chili powder. 

Putting it all together 

The first step is to make (or procure) your base. If you are just getting started with making soup, using a store-bought stock or broth is fine. Though once you get more adventurous, you will find that homemade stock or broths give you the most flavor, as well as the benefit of knowing exactly what is in your soup. 

Once you have your base, the basic process for making soup is very straight-forward. 

  1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat with a dash of oil or butter. 
  2. Sauté any aromatic vegetables such as onion, garlic, celery, or carrots, and cook your meat if necessary. 
  3. Add your base (not milk or cream which should only be added at the end), to the pan, along with the other soup ingredients. 
  4. Allow to simmer for half an hour. 
  5. Taste the soup adjust the salt, pepper and herbs if needed. 
  6. Allow to simmer for another half an hour. 
  7. For a smooth soup, use an immersion blender to blend it in the pot. 
  8. If using cream or milk, stir through just before serving, and simmer for a few additional minutes to heat through. 

Final thoughts

So that’s it! It really is that simple to make your own soup from scratch without needing to follow a recipe. Use what you have to hand, combine leftovers, use up veges that are lurking in the bottom of your refrigerator, get creative. 

It is always a good idea to write down what you have done as you go, just in case you hit upon a new family favorite and want to recreate it, or share the recipe with others. 

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Welcome to Love Food Not Cooking!

I’m Eliza, busy mom, home cook, and blogger. My goal is to help everyone cook good food. Whether you are short on time, skills, or motivation, there is something here for you! We have dozens of quick and easy recipes for dinner, lunch, side dishes, and more. Our recipes use everyday ingredients, for quick delicious meals your family will love! Read more…

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