Summer or winter, it doesn’t matter. I love a hearty bowl of good soup. I especially love simple vegetable soups because they’re so easy to make and so versatile. All you need is some good fresh vegetables and summer always affords me extra green beans and bell peppers and fresh tomatoes from the garden. And making a nice pot of soup, with a little crusty bread, is a great way to have a light but complete meal for a couple of days. Also, vegetable soup freezes for a long time really well. In this post, we’ll teach you our best tips and trick on how to season vegetable soup.
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Once you have a general idea of what type of soup you want, it’s off to the spice cabinet! And in this post, we want to help make that trip easier by sharing our guide on how to season vegetable soup.
There’s little worse than bland soup. From the simplest of herbs to a variety of exotic spices, it’s amazing how just the choices made while staring at that cabinet can completely change the flavor complexities in what are otherwise the same basic ingredients of a basic vegetable soup.
But spices can be confusing, even a little intimidating sometimes. I’m hopeful this list of some common, and not so common, spices will be of help to you when making vegetable soup. Truly understanding the herbs and spices in your kitchen will be the best way to up your cooking game so much!
Dried or Fresh
You all know I’m usually a proponent of using fresh herbs when possible, and I highly recommend, if possible, starting your own little herb garden to make “when possible” a lot more possible.
Some of my favorite things to grow in my little city garden are fresh herbs. Chiefly because fresh herbs can be uber expensive at the market, but are ridiculously cheap to grow in abundance at home.
One of the many wonderful things about growing your own herbs is you don’t require a lot of space to grow them in abundance!
An old ladder and some flower pots/planters will give you a GREAT herb garden requiring very little space and yielding magnificent results! You can even grow many types of the following herbs indoors year-round. Fresh basil and thyme are quite easy to grow in a kitchen window.
Dried Herbs for Vegetable Soup
But sometimes you just need to use dried herbs. And that’s okay! But know that not all dried spices are the same and yes, some brands are better and fresher than others. It’s best to use freeze-dried herbs when available to achieve the closest flavor to fresh. Freeze-dried herbs can be used at a ratio of 1:1 with fresh herbs. We like the brand Green Garden for freed-dried herbs!
The Simple to the Exotic
You’ll be amazed at what even the simplest of spices can do to flavor your soup! Take our Copycat Campbell’s Vegetable Soup recipe, for example. The only spices used in that are salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
The spices couldn’t be simpler, but the flavor is both bold and beautiful while staying sublimely simple. My point is, don’t think you have to go overboard with a combination of random chosen spices to achieve a great flavor in your homemade soups.
You’ll notice salt is missing from the list. That’s because salt is not a spice, herb, seed, or bulb. Salt itself does not add flavor, but it does act as a flavor enhancer or suppressor. Salt reduces bitterness, and in low measurements will increase sweet, sour, and umami flavors.
At higher levels, salt will suppress sweet flavors and increase the boldness of umami flavor. Use it sparingly in your soups to draw out the other flavors and not overpower them.
Best Herbs for Vegetable Soup
- Basil – Often used with oregano, basil is a common ingredient and a staple herb in many soups. It’s particularly prominent in tomato and hearty vegetable soups
- Oregano – Earthy and fresh, oregano is a staple in many soups, especially tomato based or Italian inspired soups.
- Parsley – Dried parsley is usually recommended in soups for its consistency. Fresh parsley can tend to be tough and is best used as a garnish or topping.
- Sage – Great in a variety of vegan chicken-flavored soups. Some sage advice: a little goes a very long way, so use it sparingly.
- Rosemary – A hearty herb that is a staple in a variety of soups. I especially love it in our No Tomato Vegetable Soup.
- Thyme (and Lemon Thyme) – Also a staple herb and VERY easy to grow. I love to use fresh thyme in a variety of soups. Lemon thyme is especially good in a vegan chicken orzo soup.
- Dill – Not just for pickles, dill is a great flavor component in potato soups.
- Cilantro – You love it or you hate it, but cilantro is a great addition to Mexican or Spanish influenced soups like a vegan chicken tortilla soup.
- Bay Leaf – Honestly, I don’t know how or why this little leaf became so popular as a soup flavoring, but any soup feels almost naked without two or three bay leaves tossed in. Remove them before serving, or don’t. I’ve always liked seeing one in my bowl, but some people get really offended by seeing them.
Less Common Herbs for Soups
- Lemon Balm – Lemon balm is a member of the mint family known for its lemony scent and flavor. I like to use this in fruit soups or vegan chicken soups
- Lovage – A fantastic perennial plant, lovage has a lighter taste similar to the leafy part of celery. Most often the leaves are what is used, but the entire plant can be used. Lovage is perfect for lighter soups when you don’t want to use actual celery ribs.
- Marjoram – Marjoram is an herb that is pretty synonymous with oregano but isn’t quite as savory. Earthy and citrusy with hints of pine, marjoram is often overlooked by many cooks.
The Best Spices for Vegetable Soup
- Black Pepper – Probably the second most commonly used spice in your cabinet. Black pepper has a deep, earthy flavor that is well-known to be a wonderful addition to just about everything! Whole or ground, it’s a common addition to almost every soup.
- White Pepper – Slightly milder than black pepper. White pepper can be used instead for a variety of reasons from aroma to aesthetics – if you don’t want black flakes floating around.
- Red Pepper Flakes – Use these alone or in conjunction with other peppers for a burst of flavor and heat.
- Cayenne – For a deeper spice and heat. Cayenne can be used along with or in place of black or white pepper.
- Smoked Paprika – A great spice for adding an earthy, smoky flavor without a lot of heat to your soups and stews.
- Cinnamon – Yes, cinnamon. It can be used sparingly as a wonderful hint of offset flavoring to spicy Asian and Middle Eastern inspired soups. Remember, used sparingly.
Tasty Seeds and Bulbs for Flavoring Soup
- Celery seed or celery salt – Seen mostly in vegan chicken vegetable soups, celery seed is also a great addition to tomato-based soups when used in smaller quantities.
- Fennel – Seed, stem, or bulb, fennel is an amazing anise-flavored addition to vegetable soups. Seeds should be cooked through.
- Garlic – Need I say more? Sauteed in a little olive oil, minced garlic is always a welcome addition to any soup for a burst of flavor.
- Dried Shallots – Shallots offer a less intense onion flavor to a variety of soups and dishes. Perfect for when you want an onion’s presence without its pungency.
- Dried Minced Onion – A fine alternative to mincing fresh onion. Especially when only a small amount of minced onion is called for in a recipe.
- Coriander Seeds – In the US, coriander refers to the seeds of the cilantro plant. Everywhere else in the world it seems it is simply synonymous with cilantro. Ground or crushed, coriander is a wonderful, flavorful addition to bolder soups with more intense flavors.
Blends and mixes
You can purchase spice blends or try your hand at making your own spice blends.
- Vegan Chicken Bouillon – You can check your local market for vegan chicken bouillon options. We always just make our 7-ingredient vegan chicken bouillon powder and use that. It’s a simple and cheaper option to store-bought brands. And it will level-up your soups like you wouldn’t believe!
- Garam Masala – Popular in Middle Eastern cuisine, garam masala is a combination of many spices including cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and ground coriander. It’s an especially nice addition to lentil soup.
- Curry Powder – Another popular ingredient, curry can be a great addition for flavorful soups. Not all curry powders are the same, so know what you’re buying.
- Herbs de Provence – An immensely popular herb combination known for its hints of lavender. It is sometimes also called Provencal herbs. It’s a wonderful aromatic addition to many soups or stews.
- Ras el hanout -This popular spice blend is made from over a dozen different spices, many of which may vary from blend to blend. The name literally translates to “head of the shop” and is intended to mean the blend is made of the best spices the shop offers.
Vegetable Soup Recipes
- Copycat Campbell’s Vegetable Soup – This easy homemade vegetable soup is our homage to a childhood favorite. Simple and delicious, it’s mmm, mmm, good. This healthy vegetable soup is sure to please.
- No Tomato Garden Vegetable Soup – Another super easy vegetable soup recipe. This simple garden veggie soup recipe gets a huge kick of flavor from a combination of fresh herbs and bold spices. Hearty soup with hearty flavors but no tomatoes!
- Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup – Another childhood favorite gets veganized with our homemade bouillon powder for that chicken broth flavor. It’s absolutely delicious and even better the next day.
- Healthy Vegan Broccoli Cheese Soup – Creamy and delicious and made right in your blender. Maximum flavor with minimal effort.
- Creamy Vegan Tomato Soup – The name says it all except “simple and delicious”. This is just a simple, tasty soup.
- Spicy Vegan Pumpkin Soup – A great recipe perfect for the fall and filled with exotic flavors and an absolutely delicious aroma. Make it on the stove top or in the slow cooker.
- Creamy Vegan Spinach Soup – A tasty way to use up leftover spinach and get a lot of healthy protein and carbs into your belly – stat! This is another recipe from our blender soup series!
It’s time to make vegetable soup!
I do hope you have found this list to be helpful and informative. It is by no means exhaustive, and I know I have missed quite a few.
But that’s also kind of the point. There are innumerable herbs, spices, and spice blends to choose from, and you should truly embrace the variety of flavors they have to offer. There is a reason the saying goes “Variety is the spice of life.”
If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them below in the comment section. Also feel free to do so if I left your favorite herb or spice off and you want to shout its praise.
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