10 Ingredients to Make Your Soup Even More Awesome

published Jan 6, 2015
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(Image credit: Faith Durand)

When I make homemade soup I like to separate my ingredients into two categories. There are the basic building block ingredients, like veggies, herbs, meat and stock, that form the general structure of the soup. Then, there’s my favorite category — the flavor boosters. These ingredients are key for a really flavorful soup, though they can easily be overlooked.

Some of the very best ways to load your soup with rich layers of flavor are basic ingredients; here are 10 that you probably have in your pantry right now.

10 Pantry Staples that Make Soup Even More Awesome

1. Vinegar – A spoonful of vinegar is a quick fix when you find yourself with a bowl of dull, flat-tasting soup. Just a small amount of acid will brighten up the flavors.

2. Soy Sauce – Soy sauce is another item that’s ideal for brightening up and adding depth of flavor to an otherwise dull soup. This works especially well with meat-based soups.

3. Fish Sauce – Commonly used in Asian cooking, fish sauce has a strong smell, though when used judiciously its taste is neither strong nor fishy. Instead, a spoonful will add a wonderful, savory umami twist to your bowl.

4. Anchovy Paste – The thought of anchovies used to make me completely cringe. I’m way past that now. This savory, umami-packed paste has become my secret weapon in the kitchen.

5. Harissa – Whether you make your own or use a jarred version, this North African chili paste is how I like to add a little heat to my soup. Stir in a spoonful (or two, if you like a lot of heat) early on in cooking, just after sautéing the vegetables.

6. Chipotle Peppers – Canned chipotle chilies packed in adobo sauce are a small yet mighty way to add rich, smoky flavors to any bowl of soup.

7. Curry Paste – Red and green Thai curry paste just might be one of my favorite ways to flavor soup! This spiced blend adds depth of flavor and just a little kick. Mix it early on in cooking to give the flavors more time to develop.

8. Pesto – Pesto isn’t just for summertime! Mix a spoonful of frozen pesto into a chunky vegetable soup, or use it as a garnish to dress up bright pureed soups.

9. Miso Paste – It’s not just for traditional miso soup! Use this salty, richly-flavored soybean paste liven up your favorite soup variety.

10. Coconut Milk – You don’t need a recipe for soup with coconut milk; just stir in a cup or two to finish any soup. Use this fragrant addition to put an Asian spin on your chicken noodle soup, or make a pureed vegetable soup, like butter squash or carrot, even creamier.

Try these flavor-packed soups!

What are your favorite ways to add more flavor to soup?