It’s finally arrived, for most of the country, anyway: soup season. Temperatures are slowly but surely dropping, and leaving your house to pick up takeout is seeming less pleasant by the day. By all accounts, it’s time to break out the stock pot and start whipping up some soups.
I don’t just love soup because it’s cozy, warming and ubiquitous during the winter months. It’s also generally easy to prep ahead of time and reheat, which is ideal for when the seasonal depression kicks in. Even better, making soup is often an inexpensive endeavor, and it’s an easy way to use up all the veggie scraps you have in your kitchen before they go bad.
Of course, you don’t need a recipe to make delicious soup—I’m a big advocate of just throwing whatever you have in a pot with some bouillon and calling it a day. But when you want to turn your soup into something special, a good recipe can be especially helpful. The following are some of the most exciting soup recipes I’ll be cooking this season.
Spicy Noodle Soup with Mushrooms and Herbs
You may think you need to use meat in your soup to develop that rich, flavorful broth you’re going for, but it turns out that vegans can enjoy umami-rich soups too—that’s just what you’ll get when you make Alison Roman’s spicy noodle soup with mushrooms and herbs. The key is cooking the mushrooms down enough to let them develop a deep, rich flavor, then using ingredients like soy sauce and rice wine vinegar to bring even more interesting elements to the soup. While the broth is super rich, you get some nice freshness from the herbs along with a kick of spice from the chiles. What’s not to love?
Bún Bò Hue
Too many of us who aren’t from Vietnam seem to think pho is the end all, be all of Vietnamese soups. It’s not—there are so many other interesting recipes to discover. Hungry Huy describes bun bo hue as a “hidden Vietnamese gem,” and it’s honestly something I could easily eat several times a week. You’ll likely have to head to an Asian market to secure some of the ingredients, including oxtail and pork blood, which both add tons of flavor to the broth. Lemongrass and shrimp paste are also important ingredients in this recipe, as they give the broth the intense flavor this soup is known for. It’s time to up your soup game by making this iconic recipe at home.
Joan Nathan’s Matzo Ball Soup
Now, this one is a bit more involved, but if you’re willing to spend some extra time prepping, John Nathan’s matzo ball soup from NYT Cooking is absolutely legendary. The ginger and nutmeg-infused matzo balls are meant to be a bit al dente, so they have a bite to them that you may not be used to from other matzo balls. Plus, apart from making the matzo balls, this recipe is relatively easy—you don’t even have to make your own stock from scratch (unless you want to, of course). Matzo ball soup may be a Passover classic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it any time you get a craving for it.
Italian-American food is at its best in cioppino, a seafood stew that feels both comforting and like you’re near the beach. This one from AllRecipes is definitely one of my favorites. You’ll need shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, cod and crab meat, but feel free to leave out anything you don’t particularly like. The white wine plays an important role here, adding some acidity and lightness that plays well with the butter- and tomato-heavy broth. Never tried cioppino before? You may be surprised how easy it is to make at home.
Spicy White Bean Chili
Standard red chili packed with beef gets all the love, but if you ask me, this white bean chili from Taste of Home is truly where it’s at. Great Northern beans are super filling, but they can be bland on their own. That’s where the jalapeños come in. They liven up what would otherwise be a bowl of beans and turns them into something that’s somehow both warming and refreshing. This recipe calls for chicken, which does add some heartiness to the stew, but you could easily leave it out and enjoy this chili as a vegetarian dish instead. Plus, since so many of the ingredients are standard kitchen staples, it’s easy to make in a pinch.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.