In the Mood for Soup? Follow Chef Carla's Tips

  • Written By:Carla Contreras
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That trinity of heat, acid, and umami will transform the flavor of your soups.

Are you craving food that feels like a warm hug? For me, that deep nourishment comes from eating soups. The easiest way to make a soup is to toss some cooked veggies and liquid in a blender—it’s as quick as making a smoothie.

I have a few recipes that I lean on regularly, like my Super Green Collagen Detox Soup. It’s a great way to get in your greens and use up that box of spinach or arugula hanging out in your fridge. I also love making Roasted Tomato and Collagen Soup or my Five Minute Roasted Butternut Squash Soup.

Here are my chef tips when it comes to making soup:

1. Bone Broth or Stock

You don’t have to make your own bone broth or stock, but it does make a huge impact on how your soup turns out. If you don’t have broth or stock on hand, use filtered water. Here is my recipe for chicken bone broth.

2. Veggies

Caramelizing your onions is a game changer. I do this for most of my soups because I want a deep and rich flavor before I add in other veggies or aromatics like garlic and ginger. Quick soups with just roasted veggies and bone broth are the best! Bonus: They can also use up any leftover veggies you might have cooked.

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3. Salt and Pepper

It’s important to season your food in stages. What does this mean? Add a little salt and pepper to the onions while you caramelize them, and then add a little more when you add the celery and carrots. In terms of measurements, it’s about 1/16 of a teaspoon.

Note: If you’re using store-bought stock or broth, be careful of how much sodium is in there. You don’t want your soup to be oversalted. And if it is oversalted, here are my tips.

4. Hot Sauce

The secret to making your flavors pop is to put a few drops of hot sauce; a squeeze of lemon or splash of apple cider vinegar; and a splash of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, or tamari. That trinity of heat, acid, and umami will transform the flavor of your soups.

5. Fresh and Dry Herbs

For dried herbs, add them during the cooking process. I really love the earthiness of a bay leaf for a long-simmered soup, but always make sure to take it out when you’re done cooking. For fresh herbs, wait to add them until the end. They don’t need a lot of cooking time and will give your soup a brighter flavor.

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6. Cooking Method

I am a huge fan of my seven-quart Le Creuset. I know it’s old-school, but I love to simmer soups on low all afternoon while I’m working from home. If you’re in a rush, you can always use a pressure cooker or an Instant Pot. You can also set it and forget it in a slow cooker.

I use my Vitamix for my blended soups. Note: This can be precarious! You never want to fill a blender more than halfway with hot soup, as there’s a risk of getting burned. You can always do this in batches. Make sure the lid is on tight before you start blending. If you’re worried about the process, you can always wait until the soup cools.

7. Toppings

Think of your soup like a salad— what toppings could you add to make your meal even more delicious? This is your chance to get creative! I recommend making a mix of seeds and adding it on top of your soup. If you want an extra crunch, you can make my Everything Bagel Kale Crisps. Add fresh herbs like cilantro, scallions, and dill. Drizzling tahini or putting a spoon of yogurt on top is also delicious. Sprinkling a grated hard cheese like Parmesan can give your soup a ton of flavor.

8. Freezing

Making double batches of soup and freezing them is one of the best parts of making a soup! Knowing that you’ll have a meal when you don’t feel like cooking is so satisfying, but just note that soups are best eaten within three months.

Chef Carla Contreras is the founder of the online cooking school Cook+Chop. She competed on season 12 of Chopped! on Food Network. She is Nutritious Life Certified, a Certified Holistic Health Coach, a food stylist, and photographer with a stacked culinary resume.

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