making soup from scratch

Making Soup From Scratch — Basic Cooking Skills

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Cool, rainy days call for getting cozy with a nice, warm bowl of soup. Tell your canned soup to step aside because you’re about to uncover just how SIMPLE homemade soup can be. (And you can’t mess up soup!) Making soup from scratch is a skill that follows a pretty basic outline that you can cater to your taste and produce a dish immersed in comforting flavors.

This post is part of our Basic Cooking Skills series. Each week we will be doing a deep-dive into one basic cooking skill and a brand new recipe to accompany it to practice that newfound skill. Check back throughout the series for updates and new posts.


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What Makes a good soup?

A basic soup consists of 2 parts: a liquid base and vegetables

  • Base: vegetable or meat broth/stock. Store-bought is fine but if you haven’t tried making your own, you must!! (More on that next week!)
  • Vegetables and Seasonings: celery, onions, and carrots are foundations for most soups. You can add anything you have available! Mushrooms, garlic, and peppers are my favorites. Salt, pepper, and bay leaves are classics. For unique flavors use mixes of basil, oregano, thyme, chili powder, and more!

When making a soup from scratch, you have countless opportunities to amplify the flavor with additional ingredients. Toss in some add-ins for increased flavor, protein, and texture:

  • Meat
  • Pasta/Rice
  • Beans 
  • Cream 
    • Cream, along with roux, is a thickening agent that creates a nice, creamy texture instead of a runnier liquid like just broth. More on making a roux in here!
    • Dairy is the go-to here: milk, whipping cream, and even eggs can be used to easily thicken brothy liquids.

Cooking meat, pasta, and beans within the soup itself creates deep flavor as everything soaks in together. However,  it can be a little tricker to gauge the doneness of all of the moving parts.

More often than not, for example, I prepare chicken or rice separately and incorporate them into the soup for a few minutes at the end to warm up. But if you’d like a one pot soup it absolutely can be done!

soup, stew, or chili?

Types of soup can be roughly categorized into two main groups: Thick and Thin/Clear

Thin soups have no thickening agents (roux, cream, egg) and are very liquidy from broth, although not watery or lackluster.  

Thin soups

  • Broth – soup made from bones and vegetables simmering for hours in water. It’s extremely nutritional and used for recovery from sickness.
  • Consomme – a broth that is clarified by cooking egg whites to draw any impurities out of the soup. Meat and veggies are added for increased flavoring as well.

Thick soups

  • Bisque – a creamy soup containing seafood that uses ground shells as a thickener
  • Chowder – born out of the Northeastern USA, chowders typically contain potatoes, and cream for increased chunkiness
  • Stew – contains little liquid just barely covering large pieces of meat and vegetables
  • Chili – a type of stew with the spice turned up a notch, typically from chili powder, beans, tomato, and ground meat
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soup from scratch basics

best tools for soup-making

  • Cooking vessel (large stock pot, crockpot, instant pot) – a large stock pot with a heavy bottom is a must to hold big batches of liquid. Even cooking is a must and high sides prevent losing a lot of liquid to evaporation
  • Sieve – not needed always, but a variety of sized sieves come in really handy to strain bits from a puree or large chunks from a broth
  • Immersion blender – I didn’t know how much I needed one of these until I owned one! Blend up your soup within the stockpot itself without having to transfer the hot liquid to a blender
  • Ladle – When you’re ready to dive into your deliciously prepared soup, you don’t want to be stuck making several trips from the stockpot to your bowl with a serving spoon, splashing and spilling as you go. A soup ladle is irreplaceable, seamlessly transporting hot liquid and creating perfect portions.

best ingredients for soup

Vegetables, protein, and starches alike all can be combined in broth to create a nourishing soup. There are some ingredients, however, that are typically standard across most soups and provide an essential base of flavor. Be sure to use of these when making a soup from scratch.

If you’re thinking “mirepoix” you’re right!!

  • Mirepoix – diced carrots, celery, and onions cook together slowly in butter, creating an aromatic flavor that serves as a base for the dish.

Variations are used across the globe as different cuisines have adapted this simple recipe. 

  • Soffrito – Italian dishes chop up the vegetables finely and cook them in olive oil (rather than butter) until brown
  • Holy Trinity – Creole cooking swaps the carrots for green bell peppers
  • Suppengrün – Or “soup greens” in German, swaps the onions for leeks and adds a little parsley.

If you feel like your dish is missing something that you can’t put your finger on, consider giving mirepoix a try. It has been tried and tested around the globe for centuries and most cook’s swear on it for its unmatchable flavor.

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Implement your new skill

This Thursday check back in for one my favorite soups that’s creamy and filled zesty lemon!

But now it’s time to discuss the REAL question here….is cereal a soup?? Share your thoughts below!!

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66 thoughts on “Making Soup From Scratch — Basic Cooking Skills”

  1. This is so helpful to have the terms explained! Some cookbooks don’t go into this detail. I enjoy making soup from scratch, because it’s so versatile! I can customize the flavors, focus on higher quality ingredients, and still save money by cooking at home.

  2. Wow! This is a really helpful detailed post about making soup. I don’t make a lot of soup, tbh, but I loved learning some new things through your post. 🙂

    1. I’m so glad it was helpful! I used to not make a lot of soup until I started my office job. Now I prep a bunch on the weekends so I don’t go out for lunch everyday!

  3. What great details…it’s helpful to read this simple breakdown of different soups. My approach to making soup has always been a bit haphazard. My only consistent effort is a simple split pea soup with the ham bone after Xmas. I think I’ll try to make a thicker soup as you describe once winter comes around. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Very good tips. Some soups arent as easy as they look, especially those with many types of ingredients that can end up over or undercooked. I usually make a few different kinds of soups over the winter, and I’d like to try to tackle tomato soup this year.

    1. Haha sometimes the craving hits no matter what the weather is like! My boyfriend loves icees in the cold weather so I can relate. Thanks for reading 🙂

  5. Talk about an informative post! I grew up in a household that regularly enjoyed soups – my mom made great ones – but when I got married, I realized my husband wasn’t a huge soup fan, and that mostly came from the fact that he really hadn’t tried many GOOD soups. So I’m determined to change his mind 😉 This was really helpful!

    1. Omg that was ME for so many foods! I used to be so picky until my boyfriend started encouraging me to try them cooked different ways and I fell in love! So glad you were able to make some good soups for your husband 🙂

  6. Very useful guide I can cook stir-frys and curry but sounds daft I have never really tried to make soup I normally buy the ready made type I will have to try this recipe.

  7. This is a lovely post! It’s coming up to the time of year where I cook soup more often to warm up, and I definitely want to keep this in mind! I only ever make basic soup, but I really want to try a chowder or stew 🙂

    Anika | chaptersofmay.com

  8. this is a great post for cooking beginners like me.
    I love thick Soup.
    you’ve explained every term pretty clearly.
    thank you so much for sharing!

  9. I’m constantly a great fan of your cooking! This piece creates that absolute desire to cook some stew🤓.
    I love having soup and this post is a great help. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Love this! Soup is one of my favourite things to cook, especially as we get into fall (and all the great fresh and local veg that comes with it). I’m a fan of making mirepoix and roux in advance and freezing it to make soups that much easier on a busy weeknight as well!

  11. Im so obsessed with the way you write your pieces, it’s not just recipes but they’re always so informative. I’m not so big on thin soups, I love thick and creamy soups – butternut being my fave !

  12. I love soup! I grew up having soup for lunches even at school. I always feel at home whenever there’s soup, a comfort food. And I enjoy preparing it especially broth soup.

  13. No, in my book cereal is not soup. Don’t ask me why. It just isn’t 🙂

    I love a nice pot of homemade soup and a loaf of fresh bread on a cold fall day! Yumm. Something else that always stumps me when making soup is what do the terms used for different cutting styles of vegetables mean. So I found a cookbook that had them explained and illustrated and make copies of the pages to put with the soups in my recipe book. It’s very helpful!

    1. Haha cereal is definitely NOT a soup to me either, that just doesn’t sit right in my brain! And that’s such a good idea, I talk about different knife cuts but was thinking about making a freebie/printable showcasing the differences. I think I may do that now!

  14. I love warm good soups, especially for cold nights. I never really thought about the different types of soups, thanks for reminding me! I love it when the meat adds flavor to the soup, it just gives it that savory kick I need. And lol!! that is a valid question about cereal being a soup!! Maybe it’s a sweet creamy soup? xxx

    1. I’m trying to branch out and try different kinds of soup more! and lol right??? “is cereal a soup” was one of the biggest searches when I was researching making soup haha it is definitely NOT a soup to me!

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  16. Kalin, thanks you for all the great recipes. Who doesn’t just love soup….it is my “comfort” food. I love your blog and website a lot of great information.
    Blessings,
    Patricia

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  18. I love making soup from scratch. It’s what I grew up with and I cannot stand soup from a tin! Some of my favourites are pea and ham, leek, potato and bacon and pumpkin. I also recently found one that’s parsnip and sweet potato which is amazing. Such a great way to use up leftovers and have something warm and filling!

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