Whether it’s a creamy Georgian chicken soup that gets its flavor and body from bone-in, skin-on chicken legs, a Spanish garlic soup that makes the most of a bare pantry, or a savory tomato and rice soup that builds off of a whole caramelized onion, we’ve got the soups to pull you through the coldest, dreariest part of the year.
Chicken tortilla soup is a great vehicle for the old, stale corn tortillas sitting in your refrigerator. In this recipe, they do double duty: Some are fried to create a crisp topping, while the rest are simmered into the broth, where they break down and give the soup body. The combination of chili powder, cumin and fire-roasted tomatoes lends a smoky richness to the broth, and shredded chicken turns the soup into a full meal. Set out a variety of garnishes and let people adorn their bowls as they please; we like sliced radishes, pickled or fresh jalapeños, diced avocado, cotija cheese, Mexican crema or any combination thereof.
Barley soups tend to be heavy and stodgy, but this one is light and bright. Made with asparagus, lemon and dill, this soup has a garden-fresh flavor profile. We use a few tablespoons of butter to sauté a shallot and add just enough richness to yield a satisfying soup in which each ingredient holds its own.
This bright red chicken and orzo soup gets rich, Turkish-inspired flavor from a few simple, cost-effective ingredients: tomato paste, garlic, sweet paprika, a touch of dried mint and meaty, bone-in chicken legs. It’s savory, warming, earthy and herby. The timing is important, however: Simmering the orzo in the broth after the chicken is fully tender ensures perfectly cooked pasta, and also adds body to the broth. Enjoy it with a hunk of crusty bread, or a simple salad with a punchy vinaigrette.
The “anchor of Colombian food,” is what writer Mariana Velásquez calls this abundant chicken soup, ajiáco, of pre-Hispanic origins. Loaded with potatoes, topped with a corn cob and avocado slices, this creamy, hearty, and fresh bowl is a much-loved, celebratory Sunday lunch. When Velásquez brought our editorial director J.M. Hirsch to try it in the tiny hillside community of San Miguel de Sema, Hirsch wrote that “every bite is different”—tender, meaty, crunchy, creamy, savory, sweet and rich, all at once.
Loosely inspired by tom kha gai, or chicken and coconut soup, this recipe features the signature flavors of Thai cooking—salty, spicy, sour and sweet—using readily available pantry ingredients, plus a couple bags of frozen corn kernels (no need to thaw the corn before use). Don’t omit the fish sauce; it brings a deep, funky umami that’s near impossible to replicate.
“Pesto soup” is our nickname for this fragrant, bright green brothy soup. Made with a puree of cilantro, jalapeño, and Parm, it’s uniquely satisfying yet light, with a double dose of texture from crunchy croutons and tender chickpeas. Make it a meal by sliding a soft-cooked egg or two on top. To soft-cook the eggs, bring two cups of water to a simmer in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Add the eggs, cover and steam over medium for seven minutes. Immediately transfer to ice water to stop the cooking, then gently peel and transfer to the bowls.
Christopher Kimball once told me that “good soup teaches you a lesson about cooking,” and this “end of month” recipe from chef Jose Andrés teaches one how to compose a soup (without a trip to the grocery store). It’s the sort of meal to make quickly with whatever is on hand. Stale bread, olive oil, eggs and chicken broth form a simple, creamy base; garlic, smoked paprika, and scallions bring the aromatic complexity. For our version, we realized the bread, garlic and smoked paprika we had in our cupboards weren't up to Andrés’ standards. So we boosted the flavor by using chicken broth instead of water, sautéed both sweet and smoked paprika with garlic and scallions, and instead of using stale bread, we turned a loaf of rustic sourdough into delicious croutons.
This is the soup to make those evenings you just don’t feel like slicing and dicing. (Our social director Whitney Kimball makes it constantly.) Inspired by a recipe from Darra Goldstein’s “The Georgian Feast,” we build a deeply flavorful broth, throwing an abundance of ingredients in the pot: whole chicken legs, an entire head of garlic, bundles of cilantro and dill (including the stems), an onion and a cinnamon stick. And while it’s super creamy, there’s no cream involved—only egg yolks, whisked in at the end, to give it body and richness.
Speaking of thickening with eggs, this Greek soup gets its name, avgolemono, from the egg-lemon mixture used to thicken the broth. Some versions are simply broth that’s thickened and seasoned, while others are more substantial and include rice and chicken, as we’ve done here. To boost the flavor of store-bought chicken broth, we poach bone-in chicken breasts in it, then shred the meat and add it to the soup just before serving. To prevent the eggs from curdling, temper them by slowly adding a small amount of the hot broth to the bowl before whisking the mixture into the pan, and don’t let the soup reach a boil or even a simmer once you add the egg mixture.
“Everyone should eat this,” one reader wrote of one of our all-time most popular soups–rustic Italian bean soup. Not your typical Italian bean-and-pasta soup, this is a simplified version of a hearty, rustic zuppa we tasted at Trattoria dai Mugnai in Monteveglio, a village outside of Bologna. Short, wide, dumpling-like ribbons of fresh pasta float in a creamy bean puree that’s subtly flavored with garlic and fresh herbs. If you have a Parmesan rind, simmer it with the beans; it releases savory flavors into the broth.
This is another soup that benefits from the addition of a Parmesan rind, along with umami-packed anchovies. Don’t fear the anchovies even if you are not an anchovy fan. They help build rich, meaty flavor in the soup without leaving a trace of fishiness. Pair it with canned cannellini beans for an extra savory and filling weeknight meal; thanks to the canned beans, it takes all of 25 minutes.
Polentina alla toscana, a rustic Italian soup, is a brothy version of soft polenta with a few added ingredients. For our take, we use water as the liquid, not chicken or vegetable stock, so the corn flavor is more pronounced. It’s an excellent toss-it-together template for cold weather comfort. You can add a can of white beans for extra heartiness if you like, then heap on the Parm for loads of savory satisfaction.
This verdant chicken and rice soup gets its vibrant color from a bunch of cilantro and sweet pops of peas. Inspired by Peruvian aquadito, it typically gets its mild spice from fruity-earthy ají amarillo, an orange-yellow chili that’s ubiquitous in Peruvian cuisine. If you can, it’s worth seeking out some ají amarillo paste, but freshly-minced jalapeños work just fine.
This silky potato soup is a liquid version of Greek skordalia: a garlicky, flavorful pureed potato dip, enriched with a generous amount of olive oil. We use the same elements—potato, onion, garlic, parsley—for a potent flavor combination, and blend the base with almonds for extra richness, then brighten with fresh lemon. For safer pureeing—that is, to avoid hot liquid spouting out the top of the blender jar—allow the soup base to cool for about five minutes before blending, and process it in batches.
Whether it's called congee, jook, juk, chok, chao or okayu, rice porridge is homey, soul-soothing comfort food in most parts of Asia. It’s also a way to stretch a small amount of rice into a satisfying meal. In our version we simply toss the rice, broth, chicken, mushrooms, and aromatics in a pot and simmer—possibly the easiest cold-weather meal. Don’t forget to rinse and drain the rice. Rinsing removes excess starch that would make the porridge too thick and gluey. Also, be sure the porridge doesn’t simmer too vigorously. Lazy bubbles should just break the surface.
This soup, called ciorbă de porc, was inspired by a recipe from “Carpathia: Food from the Heart of Romania” by Friend of Milk Street, Irina Georgescu. It’s a hearty, subtly smoky potful of pork and beans in a tomatoey broth scented with caraway and finished with fresh dill, but the real kicker lies in the vinegar and punchy quick-pickled onions, which cut through the richness of the pork. Make the pickles while the soup simmers so the onion has time to steep in the vinegar mixture.
Most cultures have a version of chicken soup. This Roman iteration is known as stracciatella, which comes from the Italian word straccetti, or “little rags,” and that’s what the eggs resemble after they’re stirred into the soup. It’s made with just a handful of basic ingredients, including chicken broth, grated Parmesan and eggs. In our version, we also add small-shaped pasta and baby spinach (or arugula) to create a satisfying meal in a bowl that comes together in under half an hour.
This lentil and spinach coconut stew is a weeknight-simplified riff on the Goan lentil curry masoor dal; we capture some of the essence of complex spicing without emptying the spice cabinet (coriander, fennel and turmeric do the trick). Chili spice is tempered by coconut milk, a shot of lime juice cuts through the legume’s starch and early and late additions of fresh ginger add welcome brightness and keep the flavors vibrant.
We set out to develop a recipe modeled on the Thai classic, but using readily available ingredients. We opted for lime zest in place of makrut leaves and ginger instead of galangal—imperfect substitutions, but good enough to make a flavorful, fragrant broth. But the coconut milk was a challenge. We tried many brands of the canned stuff and got mixed results—from watery brews to curdled messes. Ultimately, we made our own coconut milk by blending dried coconut with water and straining the puree; then fortifying it with canned coconut cream and coconut water. After tasting various iterations of this soup at the office, we can attest that it’s worth the effort. In the words of our editorial director J.M. Hirsch, “if you really want to taste the soul of Thai cooking, it’s worth trying a little harder.”
This is the perfect end-of-the-month soup for when you’re running low on groceries. Here, the caramelized onion pulls double duty, first building rich, sweet flavor for the broth, and later serving as a garnish. The rest is simple—rice, canned tomatoes, and chicken broth build easy, hearty comfort. Though our preference is long-grain white rice (regular, jasmine or basmati), even starchy Arborio rice works. Long-grain brown rice is good, too, but be sure to increase the simmering time to 35 to 40 minutes. No matter what type of rice you use, be sure to rinse and drain it before adding it to the pot.
In Italian, ribollita means “reboiled,” a reference to this dish’s origins as peasant food—leftover bread, beans and inexpensive vegetables were thrown into a pot and simmered to make a hearty stew-like soup. It’s great on its own, but it’s even better with DIY croutons. Make them by cutting bread into cubes and toasting them in olive oil, then use them as a garnish: they'll better retain their texture, and the toasted olive flavor will perfume the broth.
Rice and peas, or risi e bisi, is a classic Venetian dish, traditionally eaten on April 25, St. Mark’s Day. Much like risotto, the rice is rich and creamy, thanks to the starchiness of the grains. But risi e bisi typically is a bit soupier. It’s a perfect dish for chilly nights, balancing rich, risotto-like creaminess with brothy soupiness, and savory pancetta against fresh, grassy pea flavor.
In her kitchen in Perugia, Italy, home cook Silvia Buitoni taught us how to make brothy but hearty Umbrian lentil soup, or zuppa di lenticchie, a regional classic and a fine example of rustic Italian cooking. An easy soffritto of onions, celery and carrots—in conjunction with browned tomato paste—lays a deep base to support the lentil's flinty flavor (no chicken broth necessary!). If you can't find firm, Italian-grown Castelluccio lentils, French lentils du Puy are a terrific substitute.
“This is my favorite Milk Street soup recipe,” a reader writes of this Vietnamese meatball soup—a bright green bowl of juicy, tender pork with a complex background of fish sauce, scallions, garlic, ginger and lime juice. It’s an example of canh, a category of quick, brothy everyday soups, which we learned from Soben Pin. “The secret about cooking pork is you add ginger,” she told us, describing the slick, heavy aftertaste of pork. “Ginger does it—it cuts that thing. I don’t know how to explain it.” It’s a jolt of major flavor all in one bowl, with abundant freshness from peppery watercress.
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