The Ultimate Guide to Soup

Everything you've ever wanted to know about soup, all in one place.

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When you’re in need of something comforting, soup is always a good answer. From creamy bisques to chunky chowders and wholesome chicken noodle, soup just hits the spot.

Making homemade soup is an essential skill that all home cooks should know. This guide is full of helpful information, tips, tricks and lots of recipes to help new and seasoned home cooks make their best batch of soup ever.

What Makes Soup, Well, Soup?

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Generally speaking, soup is a liquid-based dish where pieces of vegetables, meat, seafood or beans (or any combination thereof) are cooked in water, broth or stock to develop flavor. Soup usually has to be eaten in a bowl with a spoon—and in our book, slurps are encouraged. When comparing soup vs. stew, for example, you can always pick a soup out of the lineup as it’ll contain more liquid.

What Are the Different Types of Soup?

The definition is loose because there are many different types of soup. However, each soup typically falls under one of these categories:

  • Broth- or bouillon-based: Broth soups call for the cooking liquid (usually broth, stock, bouillon or water) to be left in its original thin, clear state. The soup can include pieces of veggies, meats, legumes or herbs or can be served on its own.
  • Consomme is a flavorful soup where broth or stock is simmered with ground meat, carrots, celery, onion, tomato and egg whites to draw out fat and impurities. When the fat and impurities start to thicken on the surface of the consomme, they’re skimmed off and the soup is carefully filtered and clarified. Since it’s a bit fussy to make, you’re more likely to see consomme on the menu at a fancy restaurant or culinary school class than in a home kitchen.
  • Bisque: Traditional bisque is a creamy soup that’s made with crustacean, like lobster, shrimp or crab. The classic technique calls for the shells to be ground into a paste and stirred into the broth, but you can also thicken the soup by adding rice and straining, like in this recipe for lobster bisque. Nowadays, bisque recipes have evolved to be pretty much any soup that is creamy in texture and has its ingredients blended. This includes soups like butternut squash and tomato bisque
  • Cream (of): This soup starts with a roux which is then thinned with either broth, milk or cream. These soups usually have one other main ingredient, like chicken, mushrooms, broccoli or celery. If you’re a beginner, start with homemade cream of mushroom soup (it’s really easy!).
  • Chowder: A creamy soup that traditionally is made with seafood, but can also be vegetable-based. This soup is made with lots of milk or cream and is thickened with a roux, crushed crackers or root vegetables, like potato.

What Tools Do You Need for Soup?

If you’re making soup on your stovetop, here are some basic soup-making tools you’ll need:

You can also make soups in a slow cooker or pressure cooker, for hands-free cooking.

What’s the #1 Tip for Making Best-Ever Soup?

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While it depends on what kind of soup you’re making, and what you think makes a soup ‘the best,’ a guaranteed way to make an amazing soup is to start with homemade broth or stock.

Whether you need beef, chicken or veggie, homemade broth is really easy to make and doesn’t take long at all. Check out these how-tos for making homemade chicken broth, chicken stock, beef broth, beef stock and vegetable broth. By the way, this is a difference between broth and stock.

Check out 9 more ways to take your soup to the next level.

How Do You Make Soup Healthy?

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There are many ways to make your soup a bit healthier. Check out our favorite tips:

  • Skip (or reduce) the cream: If your soup recipe uses cream as a thickener, consider reducing the amount you use by replacing half or all of it with 2%, skim or coconut milk. You can also thicken soup with mashed beans or potatoes, letting you skip the dairy entirely. Learn even more ways to thicken soup without cream.
  • Choose lean meat: Rather than making your go-to soup with ground beef or sausage, opt for a healthier meat, like ground turkey or chicken, in its place. You can also swap a higher-fat cut of chicken, like the thighs, for a lower-fat cut, like the breast. Just note that going with a leaner cut of meat might reduce the overall flavor of your soup, so add additional herbs and seasonings to boost it back up.
  • Go low-sodium: You can save about 300mg of sodium per serving (depending on the brand) by using low-sodium broth instead of regular broth. Check out more ways to cut your soup’s sodium.
  • Add healthy veggies: Bulk up your standard soup with healthy additions like kale or spinach, butternut squash, beans, lentils or cruciferous veggies, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and turnips.

Try your hand at any of these healthy soup recipes.

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What Are Some Sides that Go Well with Soup?

As comforting as soup is, it’s even better with a side dish. While soup goes well with pretty much anything, these are some of the best sides for soup:

Serve any of these other side dishes with your next bowl:

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What’s the Best Soup Brand?

If you’re short on time, canned soup can be a good option for comfort food. But, not all canned soup is created equal. Taste of Home’s editors put 8 brands of canned chicken soup in a head-to-head taste test to find the very best one. Here’s which brand came out on top.

Now that you know just about everything about soup, it’s time to get cooking. Get started with one of our top 100 soup recipes.

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Caroline Stanko
As Editor, Caroline writes and edits all things food-related and helps produce videos for Taste of Home. When she’s not at her desk, you can probably find Caroline cooking up a feast, planning her next trip abroad or daydreaming about her golden retriever, Mac.