Make an Easy, Healthy Mix-and-Match Soup

Use what you have on hand to whip up a nutritious, tasty meal

When you shop through retailer links on our site, we may earn affiliate commissions. 100% of the fees we collect are used to support our nonprofit mission. Learn more.

healthy soup Photo: Linda Pugliese

Canned soup can make for a quick meal. But making your own isn’t difficult, and it’s likely going to be better for you (and better-tasting, too). Canned soups can be super-high in sodium, which in excess can contribute to high blood pressure. A homemade soup is also a great way to minimize food waste because you can gather all the ingredients by shopping your fridge and cabinets. Food you might end up throwing out—leftovers, veggies almost past their prime, that handful of pasta sitting in the box in your pantry—can be tossed into a soup pot. You don’t even really need a recipe. Just follow this mix-and-match soup template—the combinations are endless.

Step 1: Start With a Base

In a large pot, sauté one to three of the following aromatics in oil or butter until soft: 2 carrots, chopped; 1 small onion, chopped; 1 stalk celery, chopped; 3 cloves garlic, chopped; 1 tablespoon chopped ginger; ½ cup chopped fennel; ½ cup chopped shallots; ½ cup bell peppers; and ½ cup chopped leeks.

More on Healthy Eating

Carefully pour 6 cups of chicken or vegetable broth or stock, preferably low-sodium, into the pot. Don’t have 6 cups? Use what you have and add water for the rest. Bring to a simmer.

If you want to make a smaller pot of soup, use 3 cups of stock or broth and cut in half the amounts of the ingredients called for in the steps below.

Step 2: Spice It Up

Stir in ½ to 1 teaspoon of one of the following spices: curry powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, oregano, thyme, rosemary, or smoked paprika.

Step 3: Bulk Up With Veggies

Use cooked, canned, or frozen. Pick two or more of these vegetables (use a total of 2 cups). It’s nice to have half of the vegetables be some type of leafy green, but it isn’t necessary. If you do add greens, add them toward the end of cooking so they don’t turn a dull green.

• Arugula
• Acorn or butternut squash
• Broccoli
• Cabbage (shredded)
• Carrots
• Cauliflower
• Corn
• Escarole
• Green beans
• Kale
• Mixed frozen vegetables
• Mushrooms
• Peas
• Potato
• Spinach
• Sweet potato
• Swiss chard
• Tomatoes
• Zucchini

Step 4: Add a Grain

Use 1½ cups cooked grains (preferably whole), such as one of these.

• Barley
• Bulgur
• Couscous
• Farro
• Millet
• Pasta
• Quinoa
• Rice
• Wheatberries

Step 5: Add a Protein

Use 1 cup chopped cooked beef, chicken, fish, or pork. Or try 1 cup tofu, edamame, or any type of cooked or canned (drained) beans.

Step 6: Simmer

Set the heat to medium, and simmer for 10 minutes or until the soup is heated through. Taste; if necessary, add salt or more spices, which you may need if you replaced some of the broth with water. The soup makes about six servings and will keep in the refrigerator for three to four days.

Best Dutch Ovens From Consumer Reports' Tests

A Dutch oven makes the perfect cooking pot for soup. Here are some of the best, listed in alphabetical order.