Soups are a wonderful way to incorporate healthy foods into your meals. Vegetables, pulses, grains like barley, split peas…. Soups are easy vehicles for just about any healthy food you can think of. They can also allow you to include a variety of different things into one meal, without the hassle of cooking each thing as a separate dish.
There a millions of tasty soup recipes out there, but sometimes you might find yourself not wanting to follow a recipe – because you are trying to use what you’ve got, and not have to run out to the store for a set of called-for ingredients.
Also, even if you are following a recipe, it is a great to be able to know how to adjust the seasoning to make the soup the tastiest version of itself! : )
How to Make Tasty Soups Everytime
The secret to making amazingly tasty soups is to create what hot shot chefs call a ‘flavor balance’. The main way to do this is to play with the quantities of these below tastes / ingredients which determine the balance of flavor:
- Acid (usually vinegar or wine)
- Fat (cream, butter, olive oil etc)
Besides these basic four, there are also two other flavors which can lift your soup to even tastier heights:
Note: I have not included herbs here, because they are usually part of the more ‘core’ ingredients to a soup. However if you want me to add in a section on herbs – let me know!
Step 1: Adding the right amount of salt!
The first thing I do when beginning to flavor, is to incorporate the salt. Adding the right amount is very important. Too much, and the soup will taste terrible. because of this it is tempting to just put in a little salt, and allow everyone to add their own if they want more. This does not always work, because many people might not even realise that the soup needs salt – and not add any. Also, remember that some people are scared to add salt to food someone else has cooked for them, because it can be thought of as rude. Like, ‘this is so blandddd, please pass me the salt’!
The way to get the salt amount right is to add a little, and taste. Keep adding and tasting until you reach a point where the soup tastes more flavorful than before, but not yet to where one can actually taste ‘in your face’ saltiness.
Tip: If you do accidentally over salt your soup, the way to fix this is to add more liquid. This might mean that you also have to add something to re-thicken your soup, like some cornstarch mixed in a bit of cold water to form a slurry.
Step 2: Add an acid (vinegar, wine, lemon juice etc.)
This is one of my favorites way to make a soup taste delicious. You have to add an acid! Most soups do not contain any acidic tasting ingredients. Adding something like apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, or a red or white wine itself, will usually do wonders for the flavor of your soup.
How much to add? Usually more than your think. Of course do not go crazy, simply add a little vinegar or other acid a little at a time, tasting along the way until it you think it tastes good.
Of course there are some soups, like a tomato soup which can be pretty acidic already. In this case, do not add more acid! Rather, focus on step 3 below.
Step 3: Do you need extra sweet?
Most soups get enough sweetness from their vegetable components. Carrots, onions, peas, cabbage, are all slightly sweet in taste – and provide the perfect hint of sweet that a soup needs. So usually you do not have to add any sweetening. However there are certain soups which do need it on occasion. Examples of these are some tomato soups, or soups which do not contain many vegetables.
Step 4: Do you need extra fat?
Fats in soups can take the form of things like cream, sour cream, oils, butter etc. Cream is one of the most popular fats for soups, and is usually added towards the end, at the flavoring stage of a soup. The amount of extra fat which you add to your soup at the end, is also something which should be done so that it is in balance with the soup. Too little fat and the soup will taste like boiled up stuff. Too much, and it will be overly oily / rich and not yummy.
So taste your soup, and add a little cream / sour cream oil etc. Taste again, add more if desired, until the soup is perfectly creamy! : )
Step 5: Adding Sources of Umami
Something that all soups should have is an umami flavor. Umami refers to what we term ‘savory’. If you have used a stock in your soup, you might not need to extra things for umami, especially if it is a meat based stock.
However, if you have not used stock, or have used a vegetable stock which is not very savory in taste, then you might want to add something to up the umami factor of your soup.
These are some things which you can use to add umami flavor to soups:
- Fish oil (just a drop or two!)
- Nutritional yeast (you can be generous)
- Dried and powdered mushrooms
- Miso paste
- Soya sauce
My personal favorite out of these is the nutritional yeast. Its full of B vitamins which is really great if you do not eat meat.
The last two options, parmesan and soya sauce I would use discerningly. This is because while they are both full of umami, they are also full of their own signature flavor. The parmesan of course has strong cheese tones, and the soy sauce’s flavor is associated with eastern food. Of course if you want a cheesy flavor, like in a potato, onion, cauliflower soup, or tomato soup, then parmesan is a great choice. And if you are making a eastern style broth, then soya sauce is definitely a must.
Step: 6 Adding Heat
Adding heat (in the form of spice / pepper) to your soups is a great way to make them even more mouth watering. I usually use black pepper, white pepper, or chilli pepper like dried cayenne.
The Trick: Do not add too much heat – unless you specifically want a very hot / spicy soup. Soups are a great conductor of heat from peppers / spices. A little goes a long way. I find that for most soups, the best is to use a small amount of pepper, most often freshly ground black pepper.
And that’s my list of tips for how to make the tastiest soups! Don’t hesitate to comment if you have any question. I also want to do a post on the different ways to construct a soup – is this something which would be useful to you my reader?
In the meantime – enjoy the soups! : )