Make your soups go from drab to fab with these easy and delicious techniques!
Soup is great any time of year. There’s nothing like a warm, comforting bowl of lentil stew to soothe the soul when the temperatures drop in fall and winter. And in the dog days of summer, few things can beat a cold, refreshing gazpacho served alongside some crusty bread.
But let’s face it: even the best soup recipes can taste bland and boring sometimes, am I right? If you clapped your hands to that and shouted, “Hell, yeah!” then you’re in luck. Because I’m about to bring you some easy and delicious ways to elevate your soup game to another level.
So put that apron on, grab your ladle, and let’s dive into some mouth-watering techniques for taking your soups from drab to fab.
#1. Use a Broth
One of the easiest ways to make your soup taste like a boss is to use a good old broth. And no, I’m not talking about that salty bouillon cube stuff in the convenience store. I’m talking about a real, homemade broth that adds depth of flavor and soul to your soup.
You can go classic with a chicken broth, beef it up with some beef broth, keep it green with a veggie broth, or add some je-ne-sais-quoi with a mushroom broth. Making your own broth isn’t rocket science either. Just toss in some bones, veggies, and herbs into a pot of water and let that thing simmer away.
Or — if you’re feeling lazy — you can cop some store-bought broth from a carton or can. They even come with added seasoning, so you don’t have to do much work to get that soup tasting delicious!
#2. Add a Splash of Acid
You know what makes a soup go from meh to amazing? A little bit of acid.
Yeah, you know what I’m talking about; the kind that makes your taste buds dance with joy. Think lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. The tanginess of these bad boys cuts through any richness in your soup — and balances out the flavors like a pro.
Just a squeeze of lemon juice can transform a plain-old tomato soup into a symphony of flavors. And don’t be afraid to get creative with your acids! Sherry vinegar for beef or veggie soups? You’ve got it. Lime juice for seafood-based soups? You know it.
But here’s the thing, you don’t want to go overboard with the acid. Just start with a little bit and taste as you go until you get it juuuuust right, okay?
#3. Spice Things Up!
Whether it’s black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, chili flakes, or a tiny drop of Tabasco or Sriracha, a little bit of heat can wake up your taste buds and add a whole new dimension to your soup. Trust me, your soup will thank you for it.
Take a little risk every now and then. Throw in a little miso, or maybe some curry powder. At the end of the day, cooking up delicious soups is all about being bold, taking risks, and trying new things until you find that perfect blend of flavors that’s just right for you. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get spicy and creative in the kitchen today!
Did you know? Black pepper and white pepper come from the berries of the same plant, the Piper nigrum shrub. Black pepper is picked green, whereas white pepper is fermented, which gives it its barn-like aroma. Check out our guide to the difference between black and white pepper to learn more!
#4. Throw in Some Smoked Paprika
Listen up, soup lovers, because I’ve got a game-changer for you: if you’re looking to add some serious — and I mean serious — smoky and slightly sweet flavor to your soup, I’ve got an idea for you.
I’m talking about the one and only smoked paprika. Made from pimiento peppers dried over wood fires, this spice brings a unique, delicious taste and aroma to any dish it’s added to. It’s the perfect addition to hearty soups like chili or vegetable-based soups.
But beware, a little bit of this magic goes a long way — start small, with just a pinch, then taste as you go until you reach that desired level of smokiness. And if you’re feeling adventurous, try out different types of smoked paprika, like Spanish or Hungarian varieties, to vary the intensity and smokiness levels.
#5. Make It Creamy
Let’s switch things up a little. So far, we’ve been talking about tangy acid, spicy peppers, and smoky paprika.
But if you’re looking for a way to add a touch of indulgence and comfort to your soup, I’ve got something different for you: make it creamy! See, adding cream, sour cream, or even coconut milk can help create a luxurious and rich texture that will take your soup to the next level. And don’t worry, dairy-free alternatives like almond or soy milk can work just as well.
If you’re worried about the calories adding up, you can opt for skimmed milk. Remember that milk and cream curdle over high heat — to make your soup creamy without breaking up the dairy, reduce the heat to low and give the cooking liquid some time to cool down first. (You can thank me in the comments later.)
#6. Chop Up Some Fresh Herbs
If you want to take your soup to the next level, adding some fresh herbs is the way to go! Not only do they provide great flavor, but they also add some much-needed freshness and aroma to your dish.
Now, there are tons of herbs you can use — from basil to thyme to rosemary to cilantro, parsley, and dill — depending on what kind of soup you’ve got cooking. For example, if you’re making a tomato soup, try using fresh basil leaves for a pop of color and sweetness. If you’re making chicken noodle soup, add some chopped parsley for an earthy taste.
There are two ways to add herbs to your soup: simmering or garnishing. Simmering means adding them at the beginning or middle stages of cooking so their flavors mix with other ingredients over time. Garnishing, which is a whole technique on its own as you’re about to see in a moment, is when you sprinkle chopped herbs on top right before serving, adding some extra visual appeal and aroma.
#7. Garnish with Toppings
It’s time to talk toppings! Toppings add a whole new dimension of flavor and texture to your soups.
For example, a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche can add a tangy creaminess that takes rich soups like potato or mushroom to the next level. And let’s not forget about the crunch factor. Toasted croutons or bread slices can give your soup an extra satisfying bite. If you’re feeling fancy, try adding some chopped herbs, like parsley or thyme, for that fresh pop of flavor.
Now, if you’re looking for something to balance out the sweetness in certain soups, salty toppings like grated parmesan cheese on tomato soup or bacon bits on corn chowder might be just what you need. And for those who like a bit of nuttiness, toasted almonds or pecans can add both texture and a nutty depth of flavor to hearty stews and chili recipes.
#8. Sauté Some Onions and Garlic
If you’re looking to take your soup game up a notch, I’ve got another technique for you: sautéing onions and garlic is the way to go. It’s an easy, effective way to add a depth of flavor that’ll have your taste buds dancing in no time. Not to mention, the aroma alone will have your family or guests flocking to the kitchen! All you need is one medium onion and two cloves of garlic, chopped up and ready to go.
Heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, then add the onion. Stir occasionally for about five minutes until the onions become translucent and fragrant. Add the garlic, then continue cooking for about a minute. Don’t sauté the garlic too long or over too high a heat lest it burn and taste acrid, alright?
The trick is to cook them until they are softened and slightly caramelized, which brings out their natural sweetness and makes them more palatable. When they’re just about right, pour in the broth (or whatever cooking liquid you’ve got going on) and add the rest of the ingredients.
Up your pan game: Check out our roundup of the best sauté pans with lids.
#9. Serve With Crusty Bread
When it comes to serving your bowl of soup, nothing beats adding some crusty bread. Not only does it provide a delicious crunch, but it’s also the perfect vehicle for soaking up any leftover broth. But not all bread is created equal when it comes to pairing with soup, my friends.
For the best experience, go for a bread with a thick, crispy crust and a soft, pillowy interior — say, a classic baguette, or a rustic sourdough loaf. If you’ve got some time on your hands, toast your bread before serving it; you’ll love it.
And break the rules. Don’t just stick to what I said; don’t be afraid to get adventurous with different types of bread, from artisanal loaves to homemade loaves fresh out the oven.