A Consumer Reports technician testing minestrone soup
A CR tester preparing samples of minestrone soup for the sensory panel tasting
Photo: John Walsh/consumer reports

Comfort, convenience, healthfulness, and flavor are all reasons that consumers turn to soup from the super­market. And though a steaming bowlful can deliver on all those attributes, finding soups that are both healthy and tasty is not so easy. “The main nutritional concern with packaged soups is sodium—soup is the fourth-largest source of sodium in the U.S. diet,” says Amy Keating, RD, a Consumer Reports nutritionist. “Yet many people think less salt means less flavor.”

But does it? CR’s nutrition experts evaluated the nutritional information for 15 packaged (canned, jarred, pouches, and refrigerated) minestrone soups—which should be good for you, given their combo of vegetables and beans. They eliminated the ones with the very highest sodium levels and chose nine low- to moderate-sodium soups for our sensory panel’s blind taste test (these ranged from 45 mg to 650 mg of sodium per cup). The chart below gives the nutritional information per one cup serving for all the soups we evaluated, listed alphabetically within each category.

More on Healthy Eating

You Do Need Some Salt
The best-tasting packaged soups contained neither the highest nor the lowest amounts of sodium—they had between 510 and 630 mg. Those we tried on the lower end of the sodium spectrum, Health Valley No Salt Added Organic Minestrone (45 mg per cup) and Tabatchnick Low Sodium Minestrone (55 mg per cup), tasted bland. But their flavor was greatly improved when we added 1⁄8 teaspoon of salt per serving to each soup. “That increased the sodium count to just 340 mg for Health Valley and 350 mg for Tabatchnick, still lower than most packaged soups,” Keating says.

Look Outside the Can
Though cans take up a majority of the shelf space in a typical supermarket soup aisle, our top-tasting soups actually came in glass jars, frozen, or refrigerated. In canning, the soup is processed under high heat, and sometimes that strips away flavor or leaves veggies mushy. An easy way to amp up the flavor of canned soups is to stir in some fresh or frozen vegetables, herbs and spices, sautéed garlic, or a hit of acid, such as lemon juice or a small amount of vinegar or wine.

Consider Making Your Own
In addition to the store-bought soups, our taste test also included a homemade minestrone (190 mg of sodium per cup) cooked up in CR’s test kitchen (see the recipe, below). Perhaps, not surprisingly, it was judged to be the best-tasting: “Excellent flavor and texture” is how our testers summed it up. “The vegetables and pasta were al dente, and you could taste the individual vegetables,” Keating says. The real surprise? Whether you cook it on the stovetop or use a multi-cooker, it's super-easy to make. (Check out the best multi-cookers from CR's tests.)

“Even if it tastes amazing, you’re better off skipping soups with over 700 mg of sodium per cup (meaning the full can could be over 1,000 mg—about half the amount you should have in a day),” Keating says. And you can still get great-tasting soup with lower-sodium counts.

Here are our nutritionists' observations from CR's evaluation.

Overall Quality: Very Good
Tabatchnick Minestrone Soup
  • Calories   110
  • Total fat    1.5 g
  • Saturated fat    0 g
  • Carbohydrates    19 g
  • Fiber   5 g
  • Protein   5 g
  • Sodium   510 mg
Trader Joe's Organic Hearty Minestrone Soup
  • Calories   100
  • Total fat    2 g
  • Saturated fat    0 g
  • Carbohydrates    17 g
  • Fiber   3 g
  • Protein   4 g
  • Sodium   630 mg
Zuppa Rustica Minestrone Soup
  • Calories   330
  • Total fat    16 g
  • Saturated fat    2 g
  • Carbohydrates    36 g
  • Fiber   10 g
  • Protein   11 g
  • Sodium   530 mg
Overall Quality: Good
Amy's Light in Sodium Organic Soups Minestrone
  • Calories   120
  • Total fat    3 g
  • Saturated fat    0 g
  • Carbohydrates    18 g
  • Fiber   4 g
  • Protein   4 g
  • Sodium   270 mg
Campbell's Condensed Soup Minestrone
  • Calories   100
  • Total fat    1.5 g
  • Saturated fat    0.5 g
  • Carbohydrates    18 g
  • Fiber   3 g
  • Protein   4 g
  • Sodium   650 mg
Campbell's Well Yes! Minestrone
  • Calories   110
  • Total fat    2 g
  • Saturated fat    0.5 g
  • Carbohydrates    18 g
  • Fiber   5 g
  • Protein   4 g
  • Sodium   640 mg
Health Valley Organic Minestrone Soup No Salt Added
  • Calories   100
  • Total fat    2 g
  • Saturated fat    0 g
  • Carbohydrates    18 g
  • Fiber   3 g
  • Protein   4 g
  • Sodium   45 mg
Progresso Reduced Sodium Hearty Minestrone
  • Calories   120
  • Total fat    2.5 g
  • Saturated fat    0 g
  • Carbohydrates    21 g
  • Fiber   4 g
  • Protein   5 g
  • Sodium   480 mg
Tabatchnick Minestrone Soup Low Sodium
  • Calories   110
  • Total fat    1.5 g
  • Saturated fat    0 g
  • Carbohydrates    20 g
  • Fiber   5 g
  • Protein   5 g
  • Sodium   55 mg
Soups Not Tasted
(Sodium above our cutoff.)
Amy's Organic Soups Minestrone
  • Calories   120
  • Total fat    3 g
  • Saturated fat    0 g
  • Carbohydrates    18 g
  • Fiber   4 g
  • Protein   4 g
  • Sodium   690 mg
Cento Minestrone Soup
  • Calories   170
  • Total fat    4.5 g
  • Saturated fat    0 g
  • Carbohydrates    27 g
  • Fiber   5 g
  • Protein   7 g
  • Sodium   770 mg
Progresso Vegetable Classics Minestrone
  • Calories   110
  • Total fat    2 g
  • Saturated fat    0 g
  • Carbohydrates    20 g
  • Fiber   4 g
  • Protein   5 g
  • Sodium   690 mg
Rao's Italian Style Vegetable Minestrone
  • Calories   100
  • Total fat    0.5 g
  • Saturated fat    0 g
  • Carbohydrates    20 g
  • Fiber   3 g
  • Protein   3 g
  • Sodium   1030 mg
Stockmeyer Minestrone Soup
  • Calories   90
  • Total fat    3 g
  • Saturated fat    0 g
  • Carbohydrates    12 g
  • Fiber   3 g
  • Protein   3 g
  • Sodium   910 mg
Wolfgang Puck Classic Minestrone
  • Calories   130
  • Total fat    2.5 g
  • Saturated fat    0.5 g
  • Carbohydrates    21 g
  • Fiber   4 g
  • Protein   6 g
  • Sodium   770 mg

CR's Minestrone Soup
Photo: John Walsh/consumer reports

CR's Easy Minestrone

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (28 ounce) can no salt added crushed tomatoes
3 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 (15 ounce) can no salt added chickpeas, drained
1 (15 ounce) can no salt added kidney beans, drained
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 ounces ditalini pasta, cooked according to package directions
4 cups fresh spinach
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

1. Add the oil, onion, celery, carrots, and garlic to a multi-cooker on Sauté mode or a traditional large pot on the stove top. Stir and sauté the ingredients for 5 minutes. Stir in oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

2. Add the tomatoes, broth, water, chickpeas, kidney beans, zucchini, and green beans. For multi-cooker: Close the lid with the vent in sealing position. Change the setting to Pressure mode. Set the timer for 5 minutes. When the multi-cooker beeps, do a quick pressure release according to manufacturer’s directions. For stovetop: bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 to 35 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

3. Stir in the spinach until wilted, about 1 minute; add cooked pasta. Serve topped with the Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Makes about 10 servings

Nutritional information per 1 cup serving: 210 calories, 4 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 33 g carbs, 9 g fiber, 10 g protein, 190 mg sodium

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the February 2021 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.