Soup

How to Turn Any Vegetable Into a Creamy, Cozy Soup

A no-fuss formula for soups the whole family will love.

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September 28, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Veronica Olson. Food Stylist: Kate Buckens.

We’ve teamed up with our friends at All-Clad to bring you Pans With a Plan—a series sharing smart techniques, tasty recipe ideas, and all sorts of handy tips for cooking novices and seasoned pros alike. Here, food writer and recipe developer Posie Brien shows us a riff-able template for creamy, kid-friendly soups using All-Clad’s FUSIONTEC™ 4-Quart Soup Pot.


On busy days, there’s nothing more useful (and comforting) than having an easy, satisfying dinner in your back pocket. I’m talking about recipes that, once you make them a few times, become simple enough to put together without too much thought, advance planning, or effort. When the lazy days of summer wane and fall hits—bringing cooler back-to-school days and more structured, packed schedules—I turn to soup.

First of all, let me wax poetic about the virtues of soup as a genre. You can make it in batches (ideal for families), you can prep it ahead, and you can freeze it to keep for weeks or even months. Soup is also wonderfully forgiving; the flavors meld as they cook and sit, and a perfect texture is achievable with any sort of blender. For me, though, soup’s best quality is its versatility. With a basic template, you can transform nearly any vegetable into a very, very good creamy soup (bonus points here for making vegetables luscious and rich, not to mention, extremely palatable to kids).

My biggest piece of advice is to have the right equipment: You want a very sturdy pot with high sides and plenty of capacity so you can make big batches. My go-to is the All-Clad FUSIONTEC™ 4-Quart Soup Pot, which has a stainless steel core (for even, fast heat distribution) and a ceramic interior and exterior that's easy to clean and dishwasher-safe.

Here’s the basic formula for creamy vegetable soups:

  • Start with a fat
  • Add vegetables, a liquid, and spices
  • Then cook and puree

That’s the most streamlined template—of course, you can add and subtract as you like, but reach for that formula when you’re in a pinch, and you’ve got a fantastic meal on your hands. Before we continue, take note of what is not part of that formula: dairy. No milk or cream is needed to create a rich-tasting, creamy soup. The fat, liquid, and vegetables, when pureed, take care of it for you.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Very timely article. I got a couple of heads of broccoli from our kitchen. had a couple of potatoes sitting on the counter and a hunk if cheese in the fridge. Made a delicious potato broccoli cheese soup. Sauteed some onions in butter, until soft, aded in the chopped broccoli stems and softened. Removed then added stock and cubed potatoes, and simmered until just soft enough to mash on the side of the pot. put the stems and nouns back into the pot, and pureed the whole thing with my stick blender. Added 2 cups grated cheese that had been tossed in a little flour. stirred until melted, then tossed in the broccoli florets that I had cut into pretty small pieces. Warmed through. Served with lightly toasted and buttered sourdough bread chunks (wanted to do bread bowls, but didn't get that done. Served with roasted eggplant. So good......”
— judy
Comment

Vegetables of all types are great candidates for creamy soups: zucchini, beets, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, celery, parsnips, peas, and so on. For the fats, you can use anything you’ve got: butter, olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, and more. I like to pair the flavor of the fat with the flavor of the vegetable. For example, olive oil and zucchini go well together, as do butter and cauliflower, but most fats are neutral enough that they can match with anything.

The same is true for the liquid. Chicken stock, vegetable stock, coconut milk, and even water can add flavor—or not—depending on the other ingredients and what you want to add. For example, I like to use coconut milk when I’m looking for a richer, more full-bodied soup. If my vegetables are heavier, like potatoes and broccoli, I might reach for vegetable stock or water.

Spices, herbs, and seasonings are where you can really start to play. A simple pureed sweet potato soup can be spun into dozens of versions, even if they all start with just olive oil, sweet potatos, and vegetable stock. A few ideas: add rosemary and sautéed garlic, plus crunchy focaccia croutons; try it with fresh ginger and miso paste, and toasted coconut on top; or you could add onion, sesame seeds, and turmeric, and then stir in a few spoonfuls of tahini at the end.

Creamy vegetable soups need no more than the four building block components discussed above, but you can always feel free to add in more. Sauté onions or garlic with the fat, or add beans or potatoes for extra body, or even meat if you’re looking for something more substantial. Remember to taste and adjust for seasoning; salt is essential, and pepper can be useful. I also like to add a splash of acid, like citrus juice, any kind of vinegar, or sherry.

Toppings on soups are not mandatory, but can go a long way toward making them feel more like a hearty meal and particularly exciting for eaters of all ages. I like anything crunchy and crisp: fried shallots, toasted pumpkin seeds, crisped-up crumbled Parmesan, caramelized walnuts, popped quinoa or millet, roasted chickpeas, and the list goes on.

One of my favorite creamy vegetable soups happens to also be one of the most simple—and is ideal for the summer-to-fall transition. To make it, start by browning some butter (to bring even more flavor), then add celery, potato, and chicken stock. Cook until the vegetables are soft, then puree and top with a swirl of pesto.

A few other combinations to inspire you and get you started:

  • Olive oil + white beans + vegetable stock + rosemary
  • Butter + cauliflower + chicken stock + garlic
  • Coconut oil + beets + coconut milk + ginger + apple cider vinegar
  • Olive oil + parsnips + chicken stock + Parmesan + nutmeg
  • Butter + mushrooms + beef stock + white wine + balsamic vinegar

With a good heavy-duty pot on hand, your creamiest, most comforting soups await.


What’s your favorite fall soup combo? Tell us in the comments below!

In partnership with All-Clad, we're bringing you tips, techniques, and lots of delicious recipe ideas for every piece of cookware in your kitchen—from sauté pans to stockpots. Need to stock up on some new cooking equipment, or upgrade your current collection? All-Clad’s FUSIONTEC™ collection has all the essentials you need to turn out a variety of dishes.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.

1 Comment

judy October 3, 2021
Very timely article. I got a couple of heads of broccoli from our kitchen. had a couple of potatoes sitting on the counter and a hunk if cheese in the fridge. Made a delicious potato broccoli cheese soup. Sauteed some onions in butter, until soft, aded in the chopped broccoli stems and softened. Removed then added stock and cubed potatoes, and simmered until just soft enough to mash on the side of the pot. put the stems and nouns back into the pot, and pureed the whole thing with my stick blender. Added 2 cups grated cheese that had been tossed in a little flour. stirred until melted, then tossed in the broccoli florets that I had cut into pretty small pieces. Warmed through. Served with lightly toasted and buttered sourdough bread chunks (wanted to do bread bowls, but didn't get that done. Served with roasted eggplant. So good......