How to Make Healthy, Simple Soup

Our family enjoys soup year round. For most of my married life, I made soup from a recipe. Then my daughter, Anna, introduced me to making soup with a general plan but not specifics. Isn’t it great when our children become our teachers? I’d like to share today how to make healthy, simple soup.

General Soup Plan

bone broth
chopped onion
diced garlic
diced celery
meat (ham, chicken, beef, ground beef)
chopped or frozen veggies
seasonings—salt, garlic salt, pepper, beef or chicken broth base  (those are our basics but we use basil, thyme, marjoram, and other spices)

Make Broth

Any time I have meat bones, I put them in the instant pot with at least 8 to 12 cups of water and make broth, more if it will fit in the Instant Pot. Generally, I am not making the soup right then so I put the broth in containers, label, and freeze them for a soup-making day.

Onion, Garlic, and Celery

On soup making day, I dice an onion or two and several cloves of garlic depending on the size of the soup batch. Usually I make as big a pot of soup as I can so I will have plenty of leftover soup.

Then I sauté the onion and garlic for a few minutes in the soup pot, add the broth and chopped celery (usually 1/2 head of celery) bringing it to a simmer for a couple of hours.

Other Soup Vegetables

For the soup vegetables almost anything goes that you like. 

Here are some of our favorites:

carrots
potatoes
green beans
corn
sweet peppers

I try to keep a big bag of frozen mixed vegetables and another one of corn (we get them from Costco) on hand for when I have less time to chop and dice vegetables. Then all I need to do is dump the vegetables into the soup pot from the bag. If I ever have extra time and extra vegetables I put the vegetables through the food processor, flash freeze them, and then bag them for the freezer and future easy use.

Carrots (for our soup this might be 1-2 lbs) and potatoes (4 or 5 or more) go into the soup an hour or two before serving depending on how big the diced chunks are and how long I think it will take them to soften. The green beans usually take longer than I expect, too, so they go in with the carrots and potatoes. 

Store-bought frozen mixed vegetables only take as long as the bag directs, usually 5-10 minutes.

Meat

Whatever kind of broth I am using, that is kind of meat I use. When I initially cook the meat, if there is any extra after that meal, I cube the meat and freeze it for the soup. Sometimes, I will have enough meat for two or even three batches of soup, such as from a ham. Other times, it is just a small amount of meat, and I need to cook more meat to put into the soup.

When I make the bone broth, I pick any meat off the bones that were left on it, put it in a ziplock, and label it for soup use. 

If I don’t have any soup meat stored in the freezer, I can always brown a couple of pounds of ground beef as the meat. 

I generally add the meat near the end. 

Seasoning

We put in at least 1/2 tsp of pepper
2 tsp salt
and several shakes of garlic salt

Then we add more of those and other spices based on taste testing. 

Anna is our best taste tester. She seasons the soup at the end by tasting, adding spices, and tasting again.

Sometimes for variety, we add tomato sauce or paste. 

Serving

When we serve our soup, we have rice or pasta to go in it. We add those to individual bowls of soup, allowing each person to choose how much he wants in his serving. By doing it this way, the noodles are not soggy when we have leftover soup like they are if we add the pasta to the soup pot. And the rice doesn’t absorb all the soup broth in the leftover soup like it does when we add the rice right into the soup pot.

Maybe I can do another post on the bean soups that Steve and I eat. I don’t do them for the girls because one of them doesn’t do well eating beans. But if no one in your family has that problem, beans are another great soup addition or simply making beans the main part of the soup rather than meat.

Complicated or Simple?

If that sounds complicated, it really isn’t. Once you have done the process just a few times, it becomes automatic and simple. Often I plan soup based on my supply of vegetables. If I bought a big bag of potatoes for a good price, and still have several left as they are getting older, I will probably make some soup to use them up.

What about your soup making? What tips and tricks can you share with me? I would like to learn more about soup making from you!

Trusting in Jesus,
Teri

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust,
so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the
flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

78 thoughts on “How to Make Healthy, Simple Soup”

  1. In the spring/Summer we grow tomatoes and we make big batches of soup base. We freeze it in quart bags and we can some to have as back up or to share with family and friends. It goes with any kind of meat based soup and it almost eliminates the need for extra seasoning. I love the recipes y’all share and the blog.

    1. We don’t grow tomatoes, but if I ever have extras, I chop them, freeze them, and then add them to Steve and my black bean soup. We have liked that. How do you make your soup base from tomatoes, Rachel?

    2. I have a great soup tip for you. When we make a batch of tomato soup, just before serving it, I add a block of cream cheese to the soup and then when it melts I mix it in with a big wire wisk. The cream cheese adds a wonderful yummy creamy thickness to the soup, as well as protein. Try it sometime, my kids love it.

  2. This was very helpful! I like the way you gave a basic recipe and then alternative options. Thanks from Sonja in Florida

    Praying for you and your family!

  3. We’re a soup loving family, here, too! Soup is so chock-full of good nutrients and I love the aroma while cooking. I also enjoy the warm, homey feeling of serving a delicious soup to my family, along with homemade, crusty bread. My recipe is very similar to yours, although I do like to add greens to my soups (kale, swiss chard, spinach, etc. – whatever I happen to have on hand). It has been a strange year, weather-wise, in New York. Here it is mid-November and I just picked the last of the kale, swiss chard, and escarole from my garden!

      1. ‘Sorry for the delay in getting back to you!

        If the greens are sturdier, such as with kale, I like to saute them in olive oil, along with the garlic, onions, etc. If they are more delicate, such as with spinach, I’ll add them towards the end. For the most part, I just “eye up” how much to add, often erring on the side of adding plenty of greens since they shrink when cooked. For a general idea, one recipe I have that serves 4-6 calls for adding 4 cups of kale. For another recipe, again for 4-6 people, it uses a 5 oz. bag of spinach. Hope this helps!

  4. I appreciate the soup making tips, and agree that a big pot of soup is a wonderful thing to have! One tip that I would like to share is I often add a bag of frozen spinach at the end, before serving. It adds good nutrition, and for those who don’t care much for spinach, it spreads itself throughout the pot so it is not overwhelming.

    1. Daybreaking said she adds greens to her soup, too, so I just asked her when and how much, but I think you post answers that – near the end. And probably like the other veggies, eyeball the quantity.

      1. We enjoy adding sweet potatoes as well, and yes, we peel and chunk them. One soup we love them in is Minestrone and replacing the pasta with them. Tasty! Minestrone is also good with white beans and sausage. Bay leaf also adds flavor to soup. I put that in early and let it simmer for a while and take it out before serving.

    1. I put my meat bones in the instant pot, add water almost to the fill line, and set it on the soup/broth setting for 2 hours. When it is done and depressurized, I strain the broth out, use or freeze it, and pick through the bone part for any pieces of meat I can use in the soup.

      1. I use my instant pot to make my soup stocks as well. I have it on slow cook for 24 hours. If you add a little splash of apple cider vinegar, it helps the collagen to cook out of the bones to make your soup stock much more nutritious. The end result is a very rich and nutritious soup stock.

        1. I’ll have to check my Instant Pot. I don’t think it has a slow cook setting, but we did used to make soup stock in our crock pot which probably works the same.

  5. We’re a soup-loving family too and I love to use leftovers in soups! Thanks for the tip on adding noodles and rice separately.
    One of our favorite soups is an easy Mexican inspired chicken lime soup. The base is also onions, garlic and chicken broth. Flavor with generous cumin and oregano. Then we add shredded chicken (usually I boil some frozen chicken directly in the pot then remove to shred), frozen corn, a handful of rice and the juice of a couple limes. Upon serving we top with cilantro and crushed tortilla chips, and if I have some on hand, avocado slices.

    Another favorite combo is kale, white beans and italian sausage. That one does well with some tomato paste.

  6. We also love soups! As another reader commented I also like to add sweet potatoes (grated) and greens (chopped kale near the end) or frozen spinach. But my favorite quick tip is a bag of coleslaw. My grandmother had told me that cabbage makes a huge difference in improving the taste of any soup and coleslaw mix is a super easy way to add it in!

  7. With having a large family making soup is great for our lunches. I was able to get an instant pot last November when Anna Marie posted about it, and I love it! I will make a big batch of soup in the insta pot and we will eat on it for a couple of days. In the fall/winter it’s so comforting and nutritious! I like the idea of adding greens at the end.
    Thanks for the post!

      1. I actually just used my instapot yesterday to make chicken noodle soup. It was super easy and it was the only pot I used. Used the sauté feature- once hot, I sauté onion and garlic and then add chicken (bite sized) and cook. While it’s cooking, chop celery and carrots. Once the chicken is cooked, turn off and add carrots, celery, chicken broth and water. Stir in egg noodles. Pressure cook for 6 minutes. Liquid and noodle amounts based on family size 🙂 there are 7 of us so I used a whole bag of noodles and 6 cups of liquids.

  8. When I need to brown several pounds of ground meat, I put it in a large oven safe pan in a 400° oven & chop up every 5 minutes- it’s usually done in 15 & then I drain off the grease. I use a meat chopper tool.

  9. We love soup here too! I will roast our root vegetables (sweet potato, pumpkin etc) in the oven first so they become brown and a bit caramelised it adds so much beautiful flavour! I also add celery and carrot to the onion when frying gently until they all soften. Not sure if it adds flavour it’s just something I’ve always done.

  10. In the winter months, we love a hearty chili with honey cornbread. We make the chili as mild and then we have toppings like sour cream, shredded cheese, hot sauce, crackers, jalapeños etc so everyone adds to their own tastes. We double the recipe so we get a dinner and lunch the next day.

    1. That sounds delicious. With only the girls eating dishes with meat in them now, and one of them that doesn’t do well with beans, we don’t have chili hardly ever unless it is with guests. That would be a great winter meal to serve guests and fun with them being able to customize their bowls with special toppings. And I could make Steve and I a batch of meatless chili.

  11. Soup is a winner in our house too, not only is it cheap, easy to make but it’s also an easy go to lunch, packed with goodness and vitamins. I make ours with tinned tomatoes, carrots, onion, celery, sweet potato, garlic, tomato purée and mixed herbs ( I add chilli flakes to my husbands portion, but me and children are not as brave with spice and heat.) Boil it all up in a huge pan, blend it until smooth and serve it with warm bread, lovely!

    1. I have never blended our soup until it was smooth. We keep the chunks of vegetables in it. You are from England, aren’t you, Claire? Would blending be typical for soups with vegetables in it there? With meat in it, would you not blend it?

      1. Yes, it’s quite common to blend soups until smooth over here in England, but I know people who also like to keep their vegetables chopped in chunks instead and add pasta to bulk it out. We don’t put meat in our soups in our house, but I guess if we were to add meat I would chop it up small and just stir it in.

  12. We are from England and often eat soup. Although we are not vegetarian, our soups usually don’t have meat in them. We sometimes make a vegetable stock from vegetable peelings/carrot ends/leek tops etc. We store them in the freezer until we have a box and then cook them overnight in the slow cooker filled with water. We then take out and compost the vegetables but have a lovely stock left.
    Soups that we often make include leek and potato, lentil (lentil, tinned tomatoes, carrot, garlic, onion and mixed herbs plus a little chilli) which is the all time favourite, cauliflower cheese, tomato and carrot and coriander. Like Claire we usually blend our soups until smooth.
    We serve the soup with bread but also sometimes make croutons with any slightly stale bread. This turns something a bit dry into something that everyone loves.
    I am enjoying hearing about other recipes.

    1. I have heard that about making vegetable stock from vegetable peelings, but haven’t tried it. Is your leek and potato soup made in your vegetable stock? Steve and I could eat the lentil soup. So does that mean you put the croutons on your soup?

  13. I would be interested in a post on your bean soups! Especially any tips on making them more flavorful and “interesting”.

    Grew up eating all sorts of soups my Italian grandmother would make (soup was a staple when she grew up) which usually included a sprinkle of Parmesan on top, and everyone in my family enjoyed dipping fresh, crusty bread into a hot bowl of soup!

    1. Our Italian daughter-in-law, Elissa, set out Parmesan cheese to top her soups with. The bread with it sounds great too. When we made more bread, we would usually have soup on the night the bread was baked while it was warm. So good!

      1. Maybe you might try a vegan parmesan topper? I have a great one that we whiz up from nutritional yeast, and some nuts. It’s a great alternative if you can tolerate nuts. Fab on soup, or pasta dishes too.

  14. I like adding a touch of citrus to a pot of soup right at the end. It really brightens the flavor. Celery tops—the part with the leaves—add a lot of flavor too. I cut them in large chunks—and then fish them out right before serving. Quinoa or barley are other grains we like to use in soup. We do like y’all and keep it separate from the soup.

    1. What does a touch of citrus mean? What kind? How much? We tried quinoa in soup recently but I cooked the quinoa in the soup. Maybe next time I should keep it separate like the rice or pasta.

  15. Thanks for sharing this.
    Soup recipes on the internet can be a bit overwhelming.
    This is very helpful.

    I’m also interested in your bean soups and hope you will post about them.

    Blessings

  16. Our family eats soup throughout the year. When it’s a warmer season I add rice to the soup and let it absorb the liquid to make it less warming on the body when I serve it. Our family favorite is chicken n dumplings. If I have fresh carrots and celery I chop and add those or I add a bag of frozen mixed veggies to the mix of chicken and minced garlic and broth (along with other seasonings our family likes). For the dumplings we make a biscuit recipe we like and drop into the hot soup.

    1. We haven’t done chicken n dumplings for a long time. That was a favorite of Christopher’s, but after he was married, we didn’t have it often. I never added extra veggies to it. That would enhance the flavor and healthiness of it.

  17. I make my soup along similar lines to yours but I like my soup to be a bit thicker in texture to make it feel more substantial, especially in the cold months. So I take out a few ladles of veg and broth into a bowl, and blend it with a hand blender, then stir the blended puree back into the main soup pot. If you haven’t got a hand blender then a potato masher will work. You still have plenty of chunky vegetables in the soup, but some of them are used as the thickener.

    It’s another thing you have to do by eye and to taste to find a texture you enjoy. I avoid blending any of the meat as it can make the texture a bit stringy or ‘fibrous’.

    Frozen cauliflower florets are an excellent ‘thickener’for winter soups.

    Thank you for sharing, it is lovely to see all the different tips and ideas!

  18. Hello! I agree with all who mentioned using sweet potatoes and chopped spinach/kale at the end. Also, if you are someone who cannot have dairy, but like a creamy soup- a can of full fat coconut milk tastes amazing added at the end, and surprisingly not coconutty in my opinion!!! I will try to post my favorite Moroccan soup recipe that can be modified easily :). The spices in it are so delicious! It is originally a vegetarian soup with garbanzo beans, but can optionally add meat.
    Another recommendation is this- my boys (and husband) don’t care for chunks of onion/celery, but like the flavor and nutritional aspects, so, I chunk them large, add water, and puree until smooth in my blender instead of chopping… works great!
    Lastly, for instant pot people… I add all this to instant pot for basic chicken/veggie/sausage soup: frozen ground sausage, 4 chicken breasts (frozen or not), frozen green beans, chopped carrots and chopped potatoes, onion/celery juice, seasonings, broth/water to fill… manual high pressure 20 mins, 30-1hr natural release… takes about 2 hr total. When done I fish out sausage and break it up, take out chicken and chop 2, return to soup, save 2 for another soup or dish :). Hope that gives some ideas! Thanks Teri for posting!

  19. Thank you for this post. Between the valuable tips you’ve provided, and the comments I’ve gained some great ideas. We’re about 90% veggie people because my husband also has heart issues. (He had a heart attack at 43. Genetics got him in a pickle, but because we’re health conscious he’s doing so well.) My favorite soup of the moment is butternut squash. I roast a whole squash in the oven until it’s soft, add about half to my softened base veggies(onion, celery, carrots, and potatoes) and then add my homemade veggie stock. Then after a time of the food making friends, I mush every thing up with a potato masher. It’s not completely smooth, but not whole chunks of veggies. I season it with some sage and paprika,

    1. So glad that your husband is doing well with his diet dealing with his heart issues! I have been adding blended squash to our white bean soup, but I haven’t tried adding to a veggie soup and haven’t done the blending of everything up. I have some new experimenting to do too. Thank you.

  20. Thank you for this post! I would love to see what kinds of bean soups you make (besides ham & bean soup), how to have variety in bean soups, & which kind of beans go well with which types of soups. We eat a lot of legumes too!

    1. Yum – ham and bean soup. We haven’t had that in so long because of our daughter who doesn’t do well with beans. Now we make ham/veggie soup for the girls and my mom. My mom generally eats dinner with us on Saturday evenings, and she loves soup. Saturday is an easier day for me to tackle soup so that’s usually their Saturday evening meal. This past Saturday evening Jesse and Anna Patrice joined us as well.

  21. We’re a soup family too! I usually make soup in the Crock-Pot (I’m not an instapot person) and it’s especially helpful on long or busy days. Slice a loaf of nice bread or add a salad and it’s an easy and full meal!

    A couple that we do regularly:

    Taco Soup with Chicken – 1 can each: kidney beans, corn, diced tomatoes, chicken (the large can of chicken from Sam’s Club); an equal amount of water (I just fill the can after I pour out the ingredients and add that to the crockpot), and 1 packet of taco seasoning or 1/4 c bulk taco seasoning. I serve with tortilla chips and a salad.

    Meatball Soup – 1 bag prepared meatballs (we use mini meatballs) or browned homemade meatballs (1/2 recipe), 1 can each diced tomatoes, corn and chickpeas (garbanzo beans), 1/2 c pasta (any shape), and then add 1 bag of washed baby spinach about 15 minutes before serving. Add water to about 2 inches below the lid. Season to taste (we like 2 bay leaves and pepper).

    Three Sisters Soup – 1 can corn, 2 cans of beans, and one diced winter squash. Add water to about 2 inches below the lid. Season taste (we like thyme and basil as well as pepper). In the summer you can sub summer squash but you need to add it later. Potatoes can be added for a heartier soup!

    I use an 8 quart crock pot on low all day and serve the last two soups with sliced homemade bread and butter.

    Great idea! Thanks so much for sharing,
    Lea

    1. The thing I like better about soup made on the stove top or in the crock pot is that you can taste test the veggies to see how done they are getting if you don’t want them super mushy. Using the Instant Pot seems like we are cooking blind for over-doneness when it matters.

  22. We’re in the UK too, and I am grateful to perhaps have the opportunity to give something back to the Maxwells and ‘commenting community’ here. Thanks for all the shared wisdom. I’m looking forward to trying some new soups, especially plant based ones.

    Leek and potato soup for us is usually blended. Traditionally it’s creamy, and yes, we make ours with vegetable stock. I have a recipe which I have changed to adapt for our plant-based requirements.
    1lb leeks, 8oz potatoes, 1 onion, 1.5 pts veg stock (I use bouillon usually, but after all these posts I am encouraged to try and make my own!) 0.5 pt milk, salt and pepper.
    1. Slice the leeks, roughly chop the potatoes and onion. Sauté the vegetables for 10 mins.
    2. Add the stock and season with S and P. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until vegetables are tender. You could do this in an instant pot, we use a pressure cooker for about 12 minutes, but I think Instant pots are a little faster? (Adjust the timings here if necessary!)
    3. Add in the milk. Transfer to a liquidiser or use a hand blender and blend until smooth. Reheat gently before serving (you don’t want to split the milk)

    People that need a plant-based option can use a non-dairy milk here, unsweetened soy or oat both work nicely. Sometimes I add a handful of cashew nuts before I simmer the veg. They soften up and add a really nice creamy texture. If people can eat beans, you could substitute a tin of Butter beans instead of the cashew nuts perhaps. Enjoy!

  23. I love to make what I call “Week-in-Review Stew,” which is really just soup made from all the leftovers that need used up on fridge cleaning day. 🙂 The process you describe is also how I ‘think’ about soups. What I don’t find in the fridge I add from the freezer, etc., and the result is *almost* always enjoyed by all. (There have been a few such concoctions that we all agreed don’t deserve to be repeated!) 🙂 I read a tip years ago to keep a container in the freezer for the purpose of adding leftover veggies, then it can be removed to make soup when it’s full and time allows. This has worked well for me too. Being able to add soups back into our meal plan rotation is one of the best parts of colder temps.

    1. How creative – “Week-in-Review-Stew”! Thank you. I can see how the container in the freezer to put small amounts of leftover veggies into would be helpful. Right now for me, I have them in ziploc bags, but one container would be much more efficient and help me not miss ones I wanted to use but didn’t find in the freezer search.

  24. I like to use poultry seasoning in my chicken and rice soup. It adds much flavor. I also, others have said, add spinach or kale to as many soups as possible. It’s best when added near serving time. While I mostly use fresh onion for soup, I do keep a bag or two of frozen onion just in case I need it in a hurry. I make bean/ham soup from leftover ham bone. I cook the bone for hours and get the meat off, then add great northern beans, potatoes, and some diced carrots. We usually have this with cornbread. I also put some chunks of the leftover ham in with it. It’s filling and all of my children like this- it’s my husband’s favorite.

    1. Thank you. More great ideas! Poultry seasoning is new to me. I looked it up on the Internet, and it seems to have a lot of the spices I add to chicken noodle soup. I haven’t ever bought frozen onion. I’ll need to check them out at the store. Chopping the onions is the slow part if I want a fast soup that I am using frozen veggies for. I really like ham/bean soup. That’s the kind Gigi always made when I was growing up and what we had after eating a ham meal until one of our girls wasn’t able to eat beans. Then we switched to ham/vegetable soup with no beans.

      1. I use McCormick poultry seasoning, although there are probably store brands too. Sounds like you have some fond memories of ham/bean soup. Walmart carries large bags of frozen chopped onion, and maybe Costco on occasion. Most stores carry at least small bags, but since we have a large family, we like big bags. None of us mind chopping fresh onion, but sometimes, as you said, its much faster to pour in the bag of frozen.

  25. One of the tips for which I am grateful is to add 1 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar to the water before cooking the bones for broth. It aids in pulling vitamins and minerals from the broth ingredients.

  26. I do soups this way too! These are my categories for building a soup:

    Bone broth
    Meat
    Herbs & spices – rosemary, oregano, sage, cumin, curry, +
    Beans – black, lima, navy, pinto, black eyed peas, +
    Veggies – onion, garlic, corn, peas, carrots, green beans, mushrooms, +
    Starch – pasta or potatoes
    Eggs (dropped in to cook at the end)
    Added to bowl – raw or fermented garlic, sauerkraut

    One of my favorite soups is the curry (mixed veg/eggs/pasta, etc).

    Dried mushrooms are good for added flavor.

  27. I love making soups of all kinds. I have two 18-qt roaster ovens and use them like crock pots and will make giant batches of soups to freeze so we have easy meals ready to go in our chest freezer. I also make broth in them. 🙂

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