Vegetable soup is one of my favorite fall dishes to eat of all and I have some terrific tips to spice up your vegetable soup in case you’re bored with your usual recipe. Vegetable soup is such an easy meal to make because you can toss almost any vegetable in without messing it up. Yet, if you don’t use certain flavor techniques, it can come out bland, and salt isn’t always the healthiest, or best option. Try using some of these neat tricks to spice up your vegetable soup for your next batch. Hopefully, you’ll never have boring soup again!
1. Use Paprika
Paprika is the miracle spice if you ask me, and one of the best ways to spice up your vegetable soup. Paprika is a red pepper that is ground into a spice and unlike cayenne, paprika's flavor is less hot and offers more of a deep, smoky flavor that’s so nice. This makes it more palatable and won’t burn your tongue unless you use too much. Usually about ½ tsp. per pot of soup is just about right. It adds this deep smoky and slightly spicy flavor that is absolutely wonderful.
2. Add Veggie Broth
Just because you’re using vegetables doesn’t mean you don’t need veggie broth! Veggie broth is great to use in vegetable soup. I love sipping on it plain if I have a cold because it tastes so great and is incredibly nourishing. I like to buy unsalted varieties, which are still full of flavor that will take your vegetable soup to a new level. Much like chicken broth takes the flavor up a notch in recipes, veggie broth is even healthier and tastier, in my opinion. Use equal amounts of water and veggie broth in your next soup recipe to add more flavor. It tastes so much better this way!
3. Add a Garlic Clove
One little secret I like to use to spice up my vegetable soup is to add a whole clove of garlic to the soup and let it cook at least 8 hours. I don’t eat the clove, but remove it after the soup is finished. Instead of using canned, chopped garlic, a whole garlic clove adds much more flavor and as it cooks, it intensifies, so it creates a wonderful flavor profile.
4. Throw in Some Bay Leaves
Bay leaves offer such a unique flavor to soup I just love! They are used in many different spice seasoning blends for this same reason, yet most people leave the whole leaves out when making soup at home. I always add in 3 bay leaves to my soups and let them simmer all day like I do the garlic clove. This creates such a rich, deep flavor that you will love. Just be sure to remove them after cooking with a spoon since they are inedible.
5. Use an Herb Sachet
There’s nothing like using whole herbs in vegetable soup, and you don’t even have to chop them all and add them to the soup to eat. You can put whole springs of herbs into a net, or what is called a sachet, which you just let sit into the soup while it cooks so the flavors can be released into the soup. Then, you just remove it and throw away the herbs when you’re done. I always do this with my Thanksgiving turkey, but also use this technique with my soup recipes because it is tasty. If you don’t have an official sachet or net, you can use a nut milk bag, which is what I use, or even a cheesecloth tied up. Just be sure to give it a good squeeze when you remove it since it might soak up some of your liquid while cooking and be sure to wash it afterwards. The best herbs to use for flavor in vegetable soup are oregano, thyme and basil, by the way!
6. Try Chili Powder
Even if you’re not making chili, adding just a touch of chili powder, which is around ¼ tsp., makes all the difference. Like paprika, it adds such a lovely flavor profile and is used in little enough amounts that it won’t taste like chili.
7. Try Some Mrs. Dash
I regularly use Mrs Dash in some of my soups and especially love the Italian Herb blend the most for soup, or the Garlic and Herb blend, which is nice too. Mrs Dash is the best salt-free way to add flavor to any food, including soup. All the varieties have no salt and most have over 12 different amazing herbs and spices. Use around 1/2 tsp. for the best effect.
8. Use Chipotle Powder
If you're making vegetable soup, a dash of chipotle powder will add just the bite you want. It adds a smoky heat to your bowl of soup, but without making it so spicy you can't eat it. Start with just a pinch, then taste the soup before you add anymore. Chipotle powder is also really tasty in chili and black bean soup.
9. Sprinkle in Garlic Salt
Garlic and salt both work really well in veggie soup, and using garlic salt kills two birds with one stone. This is a great way to spice up your soup if you don't like biting into a large chunk of garlic. Just a teaspoon or so will give you that lovely garlic flavor you love in soup, with just the right touch of saltiness. Don't use too much though because over salting your soup will make it taste bad.
10. Snip in Chives
Chives are part of the onion family, which means they give you a pleasant bit of spiciness when you eat them raw. You can most certainly cook chives, but they taste better snipped fresh on a bowl of soup right before you eat it. Freshly cut chives taste wonderful in soups that make veggies the star.
11. Curry Powder
Curry has a really distinctive ethnic flavor that works really well in some kinds of veggie soup. It's particularly heavenly in squash soup as it pairs wonderfully with acorn and butternut varieties. Even just a dash in traditional veggie soup and you'll be happy with the taste. Use caution with curry powder though because a little goes a long way.
12. Toss in Some Pepitas
Pepitas are basically just toasted pumpkin seed. They typically have a greenish color, but they give a wonderful roasted flavor to many dishes. You'll want to add the pepitas just before eating the soup so they don't get soggy. I love them in veggie soups because they balance the soft cooked vegetables with just a small dose of crunch and texture.
13. A Dash of Cumin
Cumin has this great smoky flavor that works great in veggie soup. I especially love it stirred the soup as it cooks so the flavor can meld with your other ingredients. This is another spice that you really only need a small dash of because the flavor is pretty intense. Cumin is also a great choice for tortilla soup.
One last tip, don’t forget the black pepper! It makes everything taste better and a few shakes is all you need. Some people even like hot sauce too. What’s your favorite easy way to spice up vegetable soup?
This article was written in collaboration with editor Eliza Martinez.