Hot, Hearty Soups for Cold Winter Days

By Peggy Rynk

A pot of soup simmering on the stove always smells like home. The rich aromas stir memories of meals and gatherings past as well as the anticipation of those to come. There’s something grounding about soup that warms the body and soothes the soul.

What is your favorite soup? The heartiest ones—chowder, stew, chili, dense vegetable, and some “cream” soups—are just right for this time of year. They’re convenient, too, because they make easy, flavorful one-pot meals. The addition of bread—whether crackers, toast, biscuits, or a warm loaf fresh from the oven—makes the meal even better.

The basic equipment for making soup is simple: a sharp knife for chopping, measuring cups and spoons, a stirring spoon, a ladle, and a pot with a lid. If you want to make soup in varying quantities, the number of pots goes up. Ones that hold from two quarts to eight quarts should accommodate most recipes.

Making a large pot of soup, when you have the time, often saves time later. Most soups freeze and reheat well.

Ingredients for soups can be just about anything you like and have on hand—dried, canned, fresh or frozen beans and peas, split peas and lentils, pasta, grains such as corn or rice, and vegetables. Carrots, celery, and onions are especially good. Tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, squash, and greens of various kinds work well, too. Chop them into small, medium, or large pieces, as you choose—whatever suits your purpose and your preference. In addition to vegetables, try different herbs and spices. Vegetable broth (cubes, powder, or liquid), vegetable juices, and/or vegan milks also offer possibilities. Save vegetable cooking water from other meals and add it to soups, too, if you like.

If you’ve never had soup with certain combinations of ingredients and the thought of them appeals to you—lentil soup with Indian seasonings, perhaps, or spicy soup with peanut butter (both of which are excellent, by the way)—now is your chance.

Soup is perhaps the most forgiving of dishes to make because, more often than not, it allows for corrections. If it’s too salty or spicy, add more liquid and/or a starch, such as rice or potato. If it’s too bland, reach for whatever seasonings you like that will perk it up—black pepper, dried basil or oregano, mustard (powdered or prepared), or ground cumin, for instance. A few dashes of hot sauce liven up a soup, too. (And if you make it too spicy, a Tablespoon or two of rice vinegar can often smooth it out.)

When I’m developing recipes, I look through the refrigerator and freezer, check out the kitchen cabinets, and sort through bottles and bags of seasonings to see what appeals. Most of the time, the experiments work out nicely—and sometimes they are (in my opinion) almost like miracles prepared in a pot! Of course, sometimes they are decidedly not either of these things. But, unless you’re having company and need to play it safe (and sometimes even then), dare to experiment. Most of the time, what you come up with will be just fine, and you’ll have a lot of fun doing it. Think of your kitchen as your personal playroom—mine is—and enjoy the adventure!

Many of the following recipes contain garlic (both fresh and powdered) but, if you don’t care for garlic (or any other seasonings listed here), leave it out. Adjust the seasonings to your and your family’s preferences. Soup is a free-form art. Use what you like—or think you might like—and suit yourself.

Garnishing soup (if you choose) offers an extra opportunity to be creative. These can include fresh basil, oregano, or dill leaves; chopped fresh parsley; a light sprinkling of paprika or cayenne; or a few croutons (either store-bought or homemade.)

Bon appetit!

Recipe Index

Italian-Style Vegetable Soup

(Serves 8)

Serve with a sprinkling of vegan Parmesan “cheese” on top and Italian bread or garlic toast on the side, if you wish.

    2 Tablespoons canola oil
    1 cup chopped celery
    2 cups chopped carrots
    1-¼ cups chopped yellow onion
    2 Tablespoons finely chopped garlic
    One 15.5-ounce can pinto beans, undrained
    One 15.5-ounce can red kidney beans, undrained
    One 14.5-ounce can cut green beans, undrained
    One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
    One 15-ounce can low-sodium tomato sauce
    Vegetable bouillon cubes, liquid, or powder to flavor 6 cups water
    1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
    ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
    ⅛ teaspoon cayenne
    1-½ teaspoons Italian seasoning, crushed
    6 cups water
    1-½ cups uncooked small shells or elbow macaroni

Heat the oil in a 5-quart stockpot. Add the celery, carrots, onion, and garlic. Cook, covered and stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes.

Add the pinto and kidney beans, green beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, bouillon, salt, pepper, cayenne, Italian seasoning, and water. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Add the shells or macaroni and continue simmering another 10 minutes or until pasta is tender.

Total calories per serving: 262 Fat: 5 grams
Carbohydrates: 47 grams Protein: 11 grams
Sodium: 905 milligrams Fiber: 11 grams

Curly Kale, Corn, and Tomato Stew

(Serves 4)

The flavors and textures are well-balanced, and the colors beautiful. The garlic and hot sauce may seem too much, but they are not.

  • 2 Tablespoons garlic-flavored oil (available in supermarkets)
  • 2 cups sweet onion, cut in ½-inch wide wedges
  • ¼ cup slivered garlic
  • 12 cups diced curly kale (center stems removed), packed
  • 2 cups peeled, unseeded fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 cups frozen whole kernel yellow corn
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons hot sauce
  • ¾ cup water

Heat the oil in a 5-quart stockpot. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until almost tender.

Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer covered, stirring occasionally for 20-25 minutes or until kale is tender. Serve with whole grain crackers or toast.

Total calories per serving: 326 Fat: 10 grams
Carbohydrates: 58 grams Protein: 12 grams
Sodium: 673 milligrams Fiber: 9 grams

African Peanut Soup

(Serves 8)

For those who love peanut butter as well as spicy food, this easy soup is sure to become a favorite. Crunchy peanut butter adds a delightful texture to this colorful soup.

  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1-½ Tablespoons minced garlic
  • One 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • ⅔ cup crunchy peanut butter
  • ½ cup 30-minute brown rice, uncooked
  • 8 cups water
  • Bouillon cubes, powder, or liquid concentrate to flavor 8 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste (depending on the saltiness of the bouillon)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Heat the oil in a 4-quart stockpot. Add the bell peppers, onions, and garlic and sauté until almost tender.

Stir in tomatoes, peanut butter, rice, water, bouillon, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, 30 minutes or until rice is tender. (Peanut butter may stay in a lump for awhile but will blend in well with stirring.)

Total calories per serving: 222 Fat: 13 grams
Carbohydrates: 22 grams Protein: 8 grams
Sodium: 342 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

Garbanzo Bean Soup with Tomatoes, Spinach, and Corn

(Serves 8)

Colorful and flavorful, this soup could hardly be easier.

  • One 15.5-ounce can garbanzo beans, undrained
  • One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach
  • 3 cups frozen whole kernel corn
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Vegetable bouillon cubes, liquid, or powder to flavor 8 cups water
  • 8 cups water
  • Salt to taste (amount depends on saltiness of bouillon used)

Put all ingredients into a 4 1/2- to 5-quart pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Let simmer gently, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, giving soup only an occasional stir.

Total calories per serving: 124 Fat: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 25 grams Protein: 6 grams
Sodium: 294 milligrams Fiber: 6 grams

Easy Lima Bean Soup

(Serves 4)

Cook lima beans especially for this soup, if you like, or use leftovers, which make this soup even easier.

  • Approximately 2 cups water, divided
  • 4 cups cooked dried lima beans, undrained, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons prepared mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon dried parsley flakes

Put half the water and half the lima beans in blender and purée. Pour into a 2-quart saucepan. Repeat with remaining half of water and lima beans. Stir in mustard and parsley flakes. Simmer over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes to let flavors blend.

Total calories per serving: 240 Fat: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 43 grams Protein: 15 grams
Sodium: 200 milligrams Fiber: 14 grams

Potato-Green Pea Chowder

(Serves 6)

Simple, easy, and pretty, too. The cayenne enhances the soup’s flavor wonderfully as well as giving it a beautiful dash of color.

  • 1-½ Tablespoons canola oil
  • 1-½ cups chopped yellow onion
  • 2-½ cups chopped russet potatoes, unpeeled if skins are good
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 6 cups soymilk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups frozen green peas
  • Cayenne to garnish

Heat the oil in a 4-quart pot. Add the onion and potatoes and sauté, stirring often, until chopped onions are translucent.

Sprinkle with the cornstarch and stir to blend.

Add the soymilk, salt, and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered and stirring often (being careful not to let chowder boil over), until potatoes are tender.

Add the peas and continue to cook until peas are tender, about 10 minutes. If potatoes begin to fall apart while peas are cooking, so much the better.

Ladle into bowls, and sprinkle a dash of cayenne in the center of each serving.

Total calories per serving: 221 Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 28 grams Protein: 11 grams
Sodium: 669 milligrams Fiber: 7 grams

Lentil-Potato Soup with Indian Seasonings

(Serves 5)

The chopping for this soup takes a little time, but the results are well worth it.

  • 1 cup red or brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • ⅔ cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1-½ Tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 Tablespoons seeded and minced fresh jalapeños
  • ¾ cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2-½ cups peeled, chopped russet potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon asafoetida powder* (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 6 cups water
  • Fresh cilantro leaves (optional)

Put the lentils, carrots, garlic, jalapeños, onions, potatoes, salt, cumin, asafoetida, turmeric, coriander, and cayenne in a 3-1/2- to 4-quart pot. Stir in the water.

Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for approximately 30 minutes or until the lentils fall apart and vegetables are tender. Garnish with cilantro leaves, if desired.

Note: Asafoetida powder is available at Indian markets.

Total calories per serving: 204 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 40 grams Protein: 11 grams
Sodium: 498 milligrams Fiber: 8 grams

Beans and Franks Soup

(Serves 5)

This will become a favorite with children and adults alike.

  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 cups diced yellow onion
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar (Use your favorite vegan variety.)
  • 2 cups jumbo or regular vegan hot dogs, sliced in ⅓-inch thick rounds
  • One 28-ounce can vegetarian baked beans
  • 2 Tablespoons prepared mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups water

Heat the oil in a 4- to 4-1/2-quart stockpot. Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes, stirring often, until softened. Sprinkle in the sugar and continue to sauté until the onion is almost transparent. Add the sliced franks and continue to cook, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes more.

Add the beans, mustard, and salt, then the water. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes. Ladle into serving bowls.

Total calories per serving: 267 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 44 grams Protein: 20 grams
Sodium: 1,290 milligrams Fiber: 10 grams

Black Bean-Yellow Corn Soup with Fresh Jalapeños

(Serves 8)

A colorful, pretty soup with great flavor. Serve with cornbread or warm tortillas, if desired.

  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil
  • 1-¼ cups chopped yellow onion
  • ⅓ cup seeded, minced fresh jalapeños
  • 2 Tablespoons slivered garlic
  • One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • One 15-ounce can black beans, undrained
  • 3 cups frozen whole kernel corn
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste
  • Dash cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups water

Heat the oil in a 4-quart stockpot. Add the onions, jalapeños, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until onions are almost tender.

Stir in the tomatoes, black beans, corn, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, and salt. Add the water and simmer, stirring occasionally, over medium to medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes.

Total calories per serving: 124 Fat: 2 grams
Carbohydrates: 26 grams Protein: 5 grams
Sodium: 586 milligrams Fiber: 6 grams

Peppery Split Pea-Vegetable Soup

(Serves 6)

Thick and substantial, this soup needs only bread and a small salad to make a complete meal.

  • One 1-pound bag green split peas, rinsed
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • Dash cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ground marjoram

Place the split peas and water in a 3-quart saucepan. Simmer, covered and stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer, covered and stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender and peas have almost completely fallen apart.

Total calories per serving: 293 Fat: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 55 grams Protein: 19 grams
Sodium: 452 milligrams Fiber: 13 grams

Rustic Cream of Potato Soup

(Serves 6)

This soup is meant to be lumpy.

  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 4 cups chopped russet potatoes, unpeeled if skins are good
  • ½ cup water
  • 5 cups soymilk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard

Heat the oil in a 4-quart stockpot. Add the onions and potatoes and sauté over medium heat for a few minutes. Add water, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are very soft. This should take approximately 15-20 minutes.

Stir in the soymilk, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dry mustard. Continue to cook a few minutes longer until potatoes begin to fall apart. Using an old-fashioned potato masher, mash the potatoes in the pot, then ladle soup into bowls. Serve immediately.

Total calories per serving: 178 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 24 grams Protein: 8 grams
Sodium: 417 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

Chili with Corn and Black Beans

(Serves 8)

Rich with flavor, this is a chili that even non-vegetarians will love.

  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil
  • ⅔ cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • One 12-ounce box ground or chopped vegetarian “burger”
  • One 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • One 15.5-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
  • One 15-ounce can black beans, undrained
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon adobo seasoning (a blend available in well-stocked supermarkets)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder

Heat the oil in a 3-1/2- to 4-quart pot. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until onions are half tender. Add the ground “burger” and sauté several minutes longer until it begins to brown slightly.

Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20-30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Ladle into bowls, and serve with warm tortillas, if desired.

Total calories per serving: 191 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 25 grams Protein: 13 grams
Sodium: 719 milligrams Fiber: 7 grams