10 Things to Buy at the Salad Bar for Your Soup

updated May 1, 2019
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Minestrone (Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

If you’re anything like me, with the cool weather creeping in, soup is back to being a part of your weekly dinner rotation. Whether you’re simmering up a pot or reaching for the boxed or prepared quarts at the store, there’s an unexpected place to pick up soup enhancements. Yep, that salad bar can do more than just outfit your salad — it’s a treasure trove of ingredients that can bulk up and flavor your bowl.

Here are our top 10 good ideas for soup helpers to pick up at the salad bar.

1. Beans

Sure, canned beans are cheap and accessible, but what if you’re craving chickpeas, white beans, and kidney beans in your minestrone? Pick and choose at the salad bar for your own customized bean mix to toss into the pot.

2. Shredded or Crumbled Cheese

A little sprinkle of cheese on top of a steamy bowl of soup always makes it feel more satisfying. Grab some shredded cheddar to melt over your tomato soup or go for some funky blue cheese crumbles to kick up pumpkin soup.

3. Sliced Onion

Skip the slicing and dicing and use pre-sliced onion to sauté for your soup base instead. Or use them to make quick-pickled onions, which are a zippy topping for any soup.

4. Baby Spinach

Stir a few big handfuls of baby spinach into a pot of brothy hot soup like chicken or lentil just before spooning it out. It will wilt instantly and add green freshness.

5. Cubed Tofu

Toss cubed tofu into soup to bulk up its protein and therefore its staying power. The tofu will soak up some of the soup’s broth and become flavorful little squares that float around your bowl. When you buy it from the salad bar, you don’t have to worry about pressing out any extra water.

6. Croutons

While making your own croutons is easy, sometimes you just can’t be bothered. Sure, you could pick up a bag, but we all know it always goes stale halfway through. Instead, gather what you need at the salad bar to garnish your soup bowl.

7. Bean Sprouts

A sprinkle of bean sprouts add refreshing crunch to a number of Asian soups, Vietnamese pho in particular. Since they usually come in an extra-large package that can be hard to get through, head to the salad bar instead.

8. Cubed Chicken

Cubed pieces of cooked chicken can help bulk up the often lackluster prepared soups at the grocery store or just add instant protein to your own creation when you don’t have time to cook the meat yourself.

9. Edamame

Like peas, edamame adds color and bites of something tender and wholesome to any pot of soup. Since they’re already cooked, you just need to toss them into the pot a minute before serving to warm up.

10. Pickled Peppers

Grab a pickled pepper or two, chop them up, then sprinkle over any bowl of soup for a little spice and tang. They’re particularly great on top of hearty Italian wedding soup.

Do you head to the salad to help garnish soup? Any smart additions we should know about?