I tend to make at least one pot of homemade soup a week and more during cold winter months. Contrary to popular belief, homemade soup is not difficult but very easy to make and you don’t really have to follow any special recipes, unless you want to.
There are basics though for making homemade soup, some of which can be varied for certain types of soups or to enhance a special flavor. The rest of the ingredients depend on either your preferences or what you have in your pantry.
Since there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to making soup, there’s virtually no measuring of ingredients required. But I’ll provide the basics and method; you can create your own soup style and build from there.
And you can make a small 2-quart pot or double/triple the amount for a large soup pot. It depends how much soup you want. And, thick and hearty as you like or simply go with a thinner flavorful broth with a sprinkling of vegetables.
You Can Make Soup in a Variety of Ways:
- Pot on the stove – 1 hr more or less
- Slow cooker – 8 hours on low; 4-5 hours on high
- Rice cooker – 1 or 2 cycles
- Wood cookstove – similar to stovetop
- Pressure cooker – about 30 minutes
- In a range oven – 1-2 hours (similar) to stovetop cooking
I tend to vary my soup making method; it really depends whether I want to monitor it more closely (stove) or load and forget it (slow cooker), so I can go on to do other things. A slow cooker gives you the most freedom; simmering on a wood cookstove needs the most monitoring to keep it at a gentle simmer.
Load the slow cooker in the morning and have a pot of soup ready when you come home. If you’re not sure what to make for supper, a quick stovetop hearty soup with a bun or biscuit, is a nice meal that helps you to save on food. And some left-overs that might otherwise be discarded, can be recycled in a hearty soup, reducing food waste.
Homemade Soup Basics
- Soup Base or Stock: This is where the bulk of the flavor comes from. That could a homemade soup broth from beef, turkey or chicken bones that has simmered for a few hours; tin or packaged liquid soup broth – beef or chicken; or dry packaged soup base (beef, chicken, vegetable). The amount of water will vary, but keep it low until most ingredients have been added; you can add more water if needed.
- Meat or Meatless: A hearty soup does not have to include meat but most do with the exception of vegetable or Borsch soups. Meat is often precooked, but you could start soup with raw meat – just allow enough cooking time to cook it thoroughly and get it to a tender stage. Sautéing meat with onions and celery, maximizes flavor. Ground meats should be sautéed and drained, before adding to soup base. Best meats include stewing beef or ground round, chicken, turkey or ham. How much or how little is up to you. I often make a large pot of hamburger soup with only a half pound of beef.
- Vegetables: Chopped onions and celery (include leaves) as well as a little garlic will enhance flavor and texture. Tinned tomatoes add a lot of taste, color and interest to soup, as do sliced carrots. You can also add a handful of frozen mixed vegetables, canned or vegetable left-overs. Other vegetables that do well in soups: Chopped potatoes, turnip, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussel sprouts. Remember, when it comes to soup anything goes – it’s up to you.
- Pasta Noodles, Rice or Barley: This depends on your preference but I like the variety and you can even mix/match as you like. That said, some prefer rice or noodles with turkey or chicken, ham with split peas and rice, and barley with beef is a nice combination. If you want to reduce the amount of starch from noodles, you can boil and rinse before adding, but I prefer to just throw them in close to the end of the soup cycle if possible – they only need a few minutes to cook.
- Spices: My favorites include Parsley, Salt, Pepper, Celery salt, and Basil. For variations, try adding Cumin, Cilantro, Lovage or Italian seasoning.
Homemade Soup Method
- Easiest: You can throw everything in a soup pot and cook it on the stove for an hour or more at a gentle simmer – stirring occasionally, or all day in a slow cooker on low, without stirring. However, too long in a soup pot can cause noodles and rice to overcook and disintegrate.
- Progressive: Sauté meat with onions, garlic and celery – semi cooking. Add to simmering water and soup base. Add spices and firmer vegetables first and the rest half-way through cooking. Rice, noodles or barley are added last.
- Borrowing from the Pro’s: You can start with one or two cans of ready-made soups, adding water and just building it up with more vegetables, onions, celery and spices, for a larger soup pot with some homemade taste. This soup is quickly made since you only need simmering time to cook the raw vegetables.
- Before Serving: Taste test soup before serving and if flavor is lacking, add more spice or soup base. All vegetables should be tender. If soup is too thick, you can add water to dilute or a cup of broth. I sometimes chop a little green onions to top soup servings.
More Soup Tips:
- The longer soup simmers, the more the flavor.
- Serve homemade biscuits, crackers or buns with homemade soup or make it a soup and sandwich night.
- Most soups freeze well – allow an inch for expansion during freezing.
- You can build up a nice little stock of frozen soup vegetables by accumulating in a freezer container, small amounts of vegetables left in the serving bowl, rather than throwing out these small bits of unserved foods.
- A variety of noodles looks nice in a soup. Smaller noodles are best, but you can also break up large noodles and toss them in.
- Dry vegetables such as beans or split peas must be soaked overnight and simmered longer, to rend them tender.
- If using fresh tomatoes, remove peeling.
- Soup tends to thicken as it simmers, especially with rice and noodles; you may need to add water before serving.
- Cream soups do not follow this basic method, but are thickened with a butter-flour rue and added milk.
- Chopped celery leaves provide the best celery flavor.
- The homemade soup in the image is my Chicken and Rice Soup made with one boneless chicken breast, a variety of vegetables, tomatoes, spices and rice.
- A pot of soup easily will provide more than one meal.
- A handful of rice or noodles is often plenty.