01 of 07
Start With Great Seasonal Produce
Soup can be anything you want it to be—quick, hearty, light—and once you master the basics, you can experiment endlessly with your favorite vegetables, beans, and meats to make tasty meals in no time. Cooking homemade soup can be easy and makes wonderfully satisfying meals, and if you start with fresh, seasonal produce you're off to a great start.
02 of 07
Use the Right Tools
Technically all you need is a heat-proof vessel and heat, but if you want to make soups that shine, see the handful of kitchen tools that will make it easier: a large and heavy pot, like the one pictured above, holds heat and helps have a powerful blender or immersion blender if you want a creamy or puréed soup.
03 of 07
Sweat the Aromatics
The first step to delicious homemade soup usually involves cooking aromatics such as onions, leeks, garlic, and often celery and carrots. Peel and chop onions as uniformly as you can so they cook evenly; clean and chop leeks to remove grit.
Cooking the aromatics over low to medium heat in the pan before adding any liquid will help soften their texture and blend their flavors. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft but not browning, about 5 minutes. The goal is to break down their cellulose (making them easier to eat or purée later) and get them to give off some of their liquid, which will deepen the flavor of the soup.
04 of 07
Add Delicious Liquid
Soups are mostly water, but it's often disguised as broth or stock, wine, or milk. Whatever the liquid in your soup is, use one that you would want to drink.
The vast majority of the time, the liquid in soup is stock or broth. For the absolute best flavor, use homemade stock, but many delis and butchers sell freshly made frozen stock that works great too.
If you buy mass-produced broth, dilute it with water (about 4 parts broth to 1 part water) and find a brand sold in boxes instead of cans to avoid a slight tinny taste.
When adding wine to soups, be sure to bring it to a boil and let it cook for at least 10 minutes to cook off the harshest of the alcohol.
For cream- or milk-based soups, use fresh dairy products (this is no time to "make use of" expired cartons!)Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Salt In Layers
Canned and prepared soups are known to be high in sodium. There's a reason: all that water takes a lot of salt to flavor! The difference between soul-satisfying homemade soup and "why did I bother?" homemade soup is often in the salt. Cooks, afraid of over-salting, create pots of soup just a teaspoon or two shy of proper seasoning.
Salt soup as chefs do: in layers. Add some salt to the aromatics and other vegetables as you cook them. If you're cooking the meat separately, make sure it is well seasoned before it goes into the pot. And, most importantly, taste it before serving and add salt until you taste a hike-up in flavor, then stop.
06 of 07
Hit It With Freshness
You've used great ingredients. You've cooked and salted them properly. How to make the most of it all before it hits the table? Add a bit of something fresh right at the end. Fresh herbs, fresh citrus juice, a dollop or two of cream or yogurt. A hit of something un-cooked and un-simmered will highlight the deep, delicious, melded flavors in the rest of the soup.
07 of 07
Garnish Like a Pro
Go beyond chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper (although they both make great garnishes for many soups). Chefs know that the best soup garnishes offer a contrasting flavor or texture to both compliment and highlight the soup.
- Crunchy on smooth (small croutons or crackers on a silky leek soup)
- Smooth on chunky (sour cream on borscht)
- Bitter on savory (herbs or black pepper on lentil soup or almost anything)
- Salty on sweet (diced prosciutto on sweet potato carrot soup)
- Or combine them—as in the crème fraîche and mint on the green pea soup above.