Soup can be a simple snack, a filling mid-week meal or a great dish to serve to family – the variations are endless.
However, convenient, canned, powdered or ready-made chilled soups can be high in salt. So why not try making your own?
It’s easy, cheap and nutritious, and soup can be stored in the fridge for three days or frozen for up to three months. You can cook it straight from the freezer to give you a meal in minutes.
Soup is perfect for using up leftovers and odds and ends of meat, fish or vegetables. It can be thick and creamy or a warming hearty broth.
It can even be served chilled on a summer’s day, such as this gazpacho, which doesn’t even need cooking.
Why soup is so good for you
Hearty soups with vegetables and pulses can make for a filling and nutritious meal. Some soups could keep you fuller for longer than eating the same ingredients separately, such as those with lentils.
This makes soup a particularly good food if you have diabetes and are trying to avoid snacking between meals.
Soups can provide lots of important nutrition. They are a useful way to up your veg intake, which is a good source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. You can add healthier carbohydrates like pulses or a handful of brown rice or small wholewheat pasta shapes. Sprinkling with toasted nuts or seeds gives some healthy fats and added protein.
Soup and weight loss
With the right ingredients soup can be useful if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
A major ingredient of soup is water, which means it can be a less ‘energy-dense’ food. Energy density is the amount of energy or calories per gram of food. So you can eat a filling amount of soup without consuming too many calories.
Unlike baking, where you need to follow a recipe, soup is very flexible. You can adapt any soup to make it your own and it’s almost impossible to get it wrong, so it’s ideal for someone new to cooking.
The key to good soup is stock. Look for fresh or liquid versions, they’re usually tastier and less salty than stock cubes. Do check the label for salt content and try and go for green traffic lights as much as possible. If using shop-bought stock cubes, go for reduced or low salt ones, or try diluting them.
You could also try making your own homemade stock. A quick vegetable stock can be made in just under 30 minutes. However, if you're short of time, or need a more cost-effective solution, just add water! You could make a big batch of homemade stock and then freeze it in portions for later.
This isn’t the main flavour but is the starting point for soup and adds depth. It could just be a chopped onion, or a stick of celery and a carrot. Finely chop and sauté in a little vegetable oil until soft, or brown to add colour and a deeper flavour.
The heart of your soup
Here you have the opportunity to make the soup your own. Simple vegetable soup can be transformed – chilli, ginger and garlic will give an Asian flavour or add shredded leftover chicken, pearl barley, pulses or any herbs you like.
Curry powder or paste and fresh coriander provide an Indian influence, a teaspoon of pesto gives an Italian twist, while a pinch of harissa and a squeeze of lemon delivers Arabic essence.
Try our chilli bean soup with avocado salsa.
Boosting flavour with herbs and spices enables you to use far less salt, so add any that you like. You can also add a teaspoon of mustard, it’s up to you.
Try this recipe for harira soup.
Add lentils or beans
Throw in a handful of red lentils with the stock to add fibre and also thicken the soup. Or try tinned beans, chickpeas or lentils. These ingredients have a low GI (Glycaemic Index) so won’t affect blood glucose levels too much.
For extra zing when serving, try a swirl of 0% fat Greek yogurt, a sprinkle of toasted almonds, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, or freshly chopped chives or basil. For healthy croutons roast small cubes of sweet potato until crispy.
Here are some of our own recipes for you to try. Each one has been nutritionally analysed by our dietitians, so you’ll always know what’s in your food. Plus, our recipes contain less sugar and salt than shop-bought varieties.
We've handpicked a tasty selection of our favourite soup recipes for you to sample. Whether you're vegetarian, looking for low-carb soup recipes, want to maximise protein, or simply enjoy the 'classics', we've got something for you.
- Red lentil soup
- Fufu with chicken pepper soup
- Creamy asparagus soup
- Parsnip and apple soup
- Tuscan bean soup
- Creamy chicken and mushroom soup
- Kale and green lentil soup
- Chilli bean soup with avocado salsa
- Roast butternut squash and red lentil soup
- Spinach and rice soup
More tips for great homemade soup
Using up leftovers
Soups can last in the fridge for up to three days. Leave them uncovered for one to two hours until the liquid reaches room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until cold to preserve.
You can also make homemade soup in large batches and freeze it for up to two months. So, for time-efficient, cost-effective meal planning, double up on your ingredients and you'll have dinners sorted for the foreseeable future. When preparing to freeze, chill overnight beforehand.
When you reheat soup from the freezer, it’s important to make sure it’s thoroughly heated through. See our tips on freezing food.
Ditch the fat
As your soup simmers away, you may notice a greasy film start to develop on the top. This layer is formed of excess fat from any meat used and residual oil used to cook any vegetables. Remove grease completely before serving - you can skim the liquid periodically while simmering. Also try to remove visible fat from your meat before cooking and sauté vegetables in a small amount of vegetable oil to reduce the amount of fat used.
Using the wrong pot can have a huge impact on the quality of your soup. You'll need something durable to handle long cooking time and low heat - a large pot with a round base and heavy bottom works best. Additionally, make sure the pot has a tight-fitting lid to allow you control when thickening or steaming.