10 Secrets to Making the Best Healthy Soup

By: Breana Lai, M.P.H., R.D.

Whether you’re a confident cook or a kitchen newbie, you'll want to read these need-to-know soup making tips and techniques from our experts.

how to make the best healthy soup

Whether you’re a confident cook who’s ready to riff on ribollita or a kitchen newbie, a little expert advice is always helpful. Here are 10 need-to-know tips and techniques from our soup gurus. Read ’em and cook.

Related: All the Healthy Soup Recipes You Need

1. Simmer Instead of Boil

Slow-Cooker Vegetable Soup

Pictured Recipe: Slow-Cooker Vegetable Soup

Low and slow cooking—a gentle simmer instead of a rapid boil—is a golden rule for making soup. Boiling causes your veggies to break apart and can turn your meat into tough, hard-to-chew pieces.

2. Enrich Store-Bought Broth

vegetable broth

Give store-bought broth more savory flavor by simmering it with extra meat, bones or aromatics, such as herbs, spices or fresh ginger or garlic, for at least 20 minutes. Strain the broth then use it for your soup.

Related: How to Make Healthy Homemade Broth

3. Use the Whole Vegetable

Green Curry Soup

Pictured Recipe: Green Curry Soup

Stems and tops from veggies like broccoli, chard and leeks become tender when cooked and you’ll get all those extra nutrients and fiber while reducing food waste. See this tip in action in this Green Curry Soup recipe.

4. Thicken With Stale Bread, Beans or Mashed Potatoes

Ribollita Soup

Pictured Recipe: Ribollita Soup

When stirred into soup, stale bread, mashed beans and mashed potatoes cook down to create a creamy, rich texture, all without adding cream. It’s also a great way to use up leftovers.

5. Rinse Canned Beans

Mexican Cabbage Soup

Pictured Recipe: Mexican Cabbage Soup

Here’s an instant way to make canned beans healthier before adding them to your soup: rinse them. Giving your beans a cold shower reduces the sodium by a third.

Related: 50+ Healthy Bean Soup Recipes

6. Stir in a Parmesan Rind

Baked Vegetable Soup

Pictured Recipe: Baked Vegetable Soup

When you’re no longer able to grate cheese off a hunk of Parmesan, hang onto the rind to pop it into your next pot of soup. You’ll get another layer of nutty flavor that takes your soup from meh to magnifico.

7. Use the Soaking Liquid

Thai Coconut Curry Soup

Pictured Recipe: Thai Coconut Curry Soup

Dried chiles and mushrooms have concentrated flavor that ends up in the rehydrating liquid. Strain this flavorful soaking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth and use it in soup for an extra hit of flavor.

8. Cook Pasta & Grains Perfectly

Pasta e Fagioli

Pictured Recipe: Pasta e Fagioli

Even after the stove is off, heat from the soup continues to soften your ingredients. Keep your pasta and grains from turning to mush by cooking them in your soup for a touch less than the package directions. Or cook them separately and stir into the soup just before serving for the perfect texture.

9. Add Soft Herbs at the End

Cream of Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

Pictured Recipe: Cream of Turkey & Wild Rice Soup

Fresh soft herbs, such as basil, parsley and cilantro, lose their flavor when cooked too long. To preserve their essence, add them just before serving. Hardier herbs, like sage and rosemary, can cook longer and be added earlier.

10. Taste & Adjust

Smoked Gouda-Broccoli Soup

Pictured Recipe: Smoked Gouda-Broccoli Soup

If your soup needs a flavor bump, first try adding an acid, such as a squeeze of lemon juice or a dash of vinegar. Acidity brightens flavors. Still not perfect? Try adding salt—a tiny bit at a time, which will also enhance the way things taste. Miso, soy sauce, fish sauce, anchovy paste or Worcestershire also get the job done while adding a hit of umami.

Related: How to Freeze Soup So It Tastes as Delicious as the Day It Was Made

Watch: How to Make Carrot Soup