Soup can be one of the healthiest, quickest and cheapest meals out there and when done well it can also be delicious. Making vegan soup is also incredibly easy, with many soups naturally and automatically vegan. Vegan soup makes a great lunch, a perfect starter, or with a nice doorstop of crunchy bread, a filling evening meal. We do not want to go overboard here but might vegan soup be the greatest thing in the world ever? Okay, we admit it, we got carried away but there is no question that soup is a great choice to feed almost any vegan and is probably one of the easiest ways to cheaply eat nutritious, home-cooked food.
Here we take a very general look at vegan soup as a concept, as well as providing quick links to all the great soups in our vegan recipes area. We’ll give you a rough guide to making a vegan soup to help you create your own masterpieces, explain why we think vegan soup is so great and also take a look at one or two of the ready-made vegan soup options out there.
What Is Soup?
Most people know what soup is but as with many things, when one actually tries to explain it, or define it, it is a little harder. One definition is “a liquid dish, typically savoury and made by boiling meat, fish, or vegetables etc. in stock or water” and this is probably more or less the definition the average person would come up with. However, what differentiates a soup from a sauce or from a stew?
The former is probably a clearer distinction because a sauce is an accompaniment, an accent, whereas a soup is eaten in its own right. Because sauces are designed to be eaten with something else they are usually much stronger in flavour than a soup too. However, when it comes to the difference between soup and stew things are less clear-cut.
It is true to say that soups are generally more liquid and that stews will typically have a thicker consistency and often bigger pieces of vegetables or, for omnivores, meat. However, there are many stews that can almost be considered to be thick soups (check out our mung bean recipe below), or very chunky soups that are virtually stews.
Ultimately, it matters not what we call these dishes and once you get to grips with the basics you can easily start expanding from vegan soups into vegan stews. All you need to do is reduce the liquid a little more and/or use a thickening agent (such as flour) and cut your pieces of veg larger and hey presto, you are now the creator of a fantastic vegan stew!
Vegan Soup Recipes
We may not have too many vegan soup recipes up on the site right now but we will be adding to this over time. In truth, making vegan soup really is incredibly easy, so check out our rough guide below and you probably won’t even need any of these recipes. However, if you are not a confident cook, or just prefer to follow a specific recipe, check out some of our favourites:
- Simple Spicy Carrot Soup
- Mungo – In truth, more of a stew but with a little more coconut milk or water it can be presented as a soup
As said, we will be adding to this all the time so be sure to check back. Equally, if you have a favourite vegan soup recipe you’d love to share, please get in touch and we can add it to our list and share the soupy vegan love! For now though, if you want to create your own soup, here is our basic guide for beginners.
How to Make Vegan Soup
As we have said, soup is such an easy thing to make. Given how flexible one can be with ingredients and that many of the most common inclusions are very cheap we feel just a little evangelical about soup. Many soups are cheap, filling and healthy, and with child poverty and obesity on the increase, making sure young people know how to make at least one quick, simple and tasty soup could help solve a lot of problems. Anyway, until we get #SoupSaves trending, here’s our basic guide to making a vegan soup.
You can put virtually any veg you want in a soup and that is partly why they are so cheap. If you happen to be in the supermarket late at night and see a bag of carrots for 8p and a bag of parsnips for 15p, you’ve got the basics for a huge amount of soup for just a few pence. Equally, if you see greens, be it kale, spring greens or broccoli, grab those too as not only are they perfect for soup, greens are, in simple and general terms, usually the healthiest veg you can find to eat.
Onions and potatoes are also great items to add to soup, the former generally for flavour and the latter providing texture and bulk. But you can also use items often viewed as salad ingredients in soup, such as lettuce and other leaves, tomatoes (of course), peppers, celery and even cucumber. This is another reason why soup is great – and cheap: you can use almost anything and because of the way you will be preparing the soup, items that are a bit past their best are still perfect.
If your tomatoes are a bit soft, your carrots are going a bit floppy or your lettuce is losing its crispness and turning brown, you may not want to use them in a salad. But they are still perfect for soup and that means that those reduced items which other people might be turning their noses up at are just fine for you.
Lentils, beans and different types of legumes are also brilliant for soup. They are excellent sources of vegan protein and also vitamins and minerals and tend to be very cheap too, especially when bought in bulk. Whether blitzed or left whole, they add nice texture too and generally work well in just about any soup.
As well as the core ingredients, a good quality veg stock will help bring a depth of flavour whilst seasonings, herbs, spices and ingredients like wine will also help bring real flavour to your soup. Many soups also include pasta or rice and these are also good ways to bulk out your soup and make more of a meal out of it.
When it comes to flavours you can be really creative or you can keep things really simple. Carrots, celery and onions are the holy trinity and are used in classical European cuisine as the basic building blocks for any number of dishes. Ingredients like peppers and tomatoes also add bags of flavour and sweetness, especially when roasted, whilst the likes of parsnips also boast a great depth of flavour. A simple soup that tastes of nothing more than its ingredients can be a real delight, especially when it is well seasoned with pepper and definitely a bit of salt.
A good quality vegetable stock, even if it is just from a cube (make sure it is vegan though) will add flavour and seasoning so always add any extra salt at the end to avoid making a soup that is too salty. A little vegan wine also adds a nice balancing acidity and sweetness and again can be a good way to use up that last half glass you strangely decided to leave in the bottle.
In terms of bolder flavourings, you can use almost any herb or spice depending on what you like. Curry flavours work really well with earthier ingredients like potatoes, carrots, swede, squashes and parsnips, whilst soft and even woody herbs are brilliant in lighter soups. You could go for an Asian-style vegan soup and use coconut milk, as well as things like soy sauce, garlic and ginger.
There are lots of different ways to make soup and you can use a normal saucepan or stockpot, a slow cooker, a pressure cooker or a modern soup-making machine. We tend to use a large saucepan. Ultimately, all you need to do is make sure the vegetables and other ingredients are cooked and there is enough liquid to make it a soup.
There are different ways to go about this and roasting or frying (in just a tiny dash of healthy vegan cooking oil) veg like carrots, onions, peppers and celery at the start will help bring out their natural sweetness and add a real depth to the flavours. For a really simple soup, however, you can just add a little water to the pan, bring it to the boil and then add your veg and cover with a lid.
This technique is called pan steaming and will cook the veg quickly, which is convenient but also means fewer nutrients are lost. Harder vegetables and things like lentils, beans, pasta and rice will usually need longer to cook so should be added first (though you could pre-cook them too), whilst softer, leafier vegetables should be added towards the end, with soft herbs going in just before you serve.
Once your vegetables and other ingredients are cooked, essentially you have a soup. However, you can still alter the seasoning, flavours and textures but the simplest broths are really just cooked veg in a flavoured liquid.
When it comes to the texture, you have three main options: smooth, chunky or a mix of the two. For a smooth soup, you simply need to make sure the vegetables are cooked and then use a blender, liquidiser or stick blender to create the consistency you want. You can adjust the quantity of stock or water at this stage too, either by reducing the soup or adding more liquid, whilst a dash of vegan yoghurt or vegan cream can bring extra richness.
For a chunky soup, all you need to do is make sure that the vegetables are cut into small pieces before you start cooking them. Dice a potato, a carrot, an onion and a stick of celery, fry gently for 10 minutes and then add a good quality vegetable stock and simmer until the veg is all cooked. And, that is it. In less than 20 minutes you have a healthy, tasty, chunky vegan soup. You could add a few frozen peas or edamame beans (these will add a nice dose of soy protein too) towards the end of cooking too and whatever fresh (or dried) herbs you fancy.
To get the best of both worlds, a thicker, smoother soup that also has the additional texture variation provided by some chunky veg, just blend around half of the soup. Add this back to the cooked veg broth and you have a tasty hybrid soup that feels hearty due to its thicker consistency but also offers the texture and individual flavours of a chunkier soup. Another way to achieve a similar effect is to use red lentils in a standard chunky vegan soup. These will break down after about 20 minutes of cooking and provide that same comforting consistency.
Yet another great thing about vegan soup (well, any soup to be fair) is that it is very easy to cook a large batch. Aside from a bit of extra chopping, it is more or less as quick and easy to make eight servings as it is to make one. Just dig out your biggest pot and within an hour you have a whole week of delicious, healthy lunches.
Because the soup is plant-based and has been cooked at a high temperature, it keeps really well, so should easily last four or five days in the fridge, even if it was made with veg that was past its best in terms of freshness. However, if you want to extend it even further almost all soups will also freeze really well. The only caveat to that would be that some veg with a high water content may go a little mushy if they are frozen in bigger pieces. For this reason, if you intend to freeze a soup that contains potatoes, cauliflower or similar veg, make sure it is blended or at least cut into very small pieces.
Readymade Vegan Soups
Given that it is so easy to make a very cost-effective vegan soup that tastes great, is really healthy and can be made in advance and reheated in seconds, there is no real need to buy readymade soup. However, we appreciate that sometimes you just do not have the time or inclination to cook from scratch, or that some people lack confidence in the kitchen. There are loads and loads of vegan soups out there, some marketed as such and some that are just naturally vegan.
All the major brands, such as Heinz, Baxters and Campbell’s, as well as the big supermarkets, produce vegan soup in tins. In addition, there are more specialist vegetarian and vegan companies such as Amy’s Kitchen, Suma and Mindful Soup who produce excellent vegan soups as well. Some of these are available in the main supermarkets but local vegan shops and online specialists, such as TheVeganKind Supermarket, might be a better bet.
One thing to watch with all tinned soup is the salt content as it can be staggeringly high. Due to the processing such products undergo, much of the flavour can be lost and so salt is used to enhance what remains. If you have a couple of slices of bread as well it is easy to eat 50% or more of your recommended salt intake (6g in total) in one relatively small meal. For this reason, and the superior taste, some people prefer fresh (but still pre-made) soup, which is often a little lower in salt.
Once again, most of the major brands produce such options, as do the big supermarkets. As these are fresh you will find them in the chiller section and whilst salt content tends to be lower, this is something you should still check. When it comes to “the best vegan soup” out there so much depends on personal preference in terms of flavour and style. None the less, here are three of our favourites:
Tesco Plant Chef Lentil & Pepper Soup
Coming in a standard 400g tin this is a relatively basic but exceptionally good value option that fills a hole and offers a decent blast of flavour. Typically less than 50p a tin, the lentils, which make up a very high 35% of the soup, offer a really good protein hit.
A full tin delivers just 182 calories and whilst 2g of salt per go is higher than we would like it is still lower than some similar products. It is low in sugar, delivers well over 11g of protein and has a really nice blend of spices, earthiness from the lentils and sweetness from the peppers.
Waitrose Pea, Edamame and Chilli Soup
This fresh option costs a lot more than the Tesco option but that is typical of Waitrose and of fresh soup as compared to tinned. In addition, it is 50% bigger at 600g but some may still feel £2 (well, £1.99 if we are being precise) is a lot to pay.
That said, it will feed two for a hearty lunch and the lemongrass and lime leaf make it taste really fresh. It is a little lower in protein than the Tesco soup but also lower in salt and higher in fibre so, all in all, we would definitely consider it to be a very healthy option.
Tideford Organics Pea, Coconut and Turmeric Soup
Another fresh option that comes in a 600g tub, this soup is priced around the £2.50 market but is often on offer at around £2. That isn’t cheap but if you are looking for an organic option it is very well priced and tastes great.
Half a tub yields just 99 calories, with a similar salt content to the Waitrose option but it is lower in protein than the other two soups listed. It has a wide range of vegetables included and these balance the overall flavour profile and help to create a relatively thick, hearty soup.