Soup is a liquid meal, generally served warm (but may be cool or cold), that is made by combining ingredients such as meat and vegetables with stock, juice, water, or another liquid. Hot soups are additionally characterised by boiling solid ingredients in liquids in a pot until the flavours are extracted, forming a broth.
Traditionally, soups are classified into two main groups: clear soups and thick soups. The established French classifications of clear soups are bouillon and consommé. Thick soups are classified depending upon the type of thickening agent used: purées are vegetable soups thickened with starch; bisques are made from puréed shellfish or vegetables thickened with cream; cream soups may be thickened with béchamel sauce; and veloutés are thickened with eggs, butter, and cream. Other ingredients commonly used to thicken soups and broths include rice, lentils, flour, and grains; many popular soups also include carrots and potatoes.
Soups are similar to stews, and in some cases there may not be a clear distinction between the two; however, soups generally have more liquid than stews.
History of Soup
Evidence of the existence of soup can be found as far back as about 6,000 BC. Boiling was not a common cooking technique until the invention of waterproof containers (which probably came in the form of clay vessels). Animal hides and watertight baskets of bark or reeds were used before this. To boil the water hot rocks were used. This method was also used to cook acorns and other plants.
The word soup comes from French soupe (“soup”, “broth”), which comes through Vulgar Latin suppa (“bread soaked in broth”) from a Germanic source, from which also comes the word “sop”, a piece of bread used to soak up soup or a thick stew.
The word restaurant (meaning “[something] restoring”) was first used in France in the 16th century, to refer to a highly concentrated, inexpensive soup, sold by street vendors, that was advertised as an antidote to physical exhaustion. In 1765, a Parisian entrepreneur opened a shop specialising in such soups. This prompted the use of the modern word restaurant for the shops.
In America, the first colonial cookbook was published by William Parks in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1742, based on Eliza Smith’s The Compleat Housewife; or Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion and it included several recipes for soups and bisques. A 1772 cookbook, The Frugal Housewife, contained an entire chapter on the topic. English cooking dominated early colonial cooking; but as new immigrants arrived from other countries, other national soups gained popularity. In particular, German immigrants living in Pennsylvania were famous for their potato soups. In 1794, Jean Baptiste Gilbert Payplat dis Julien, a refugee from the French Revolution, opened an eating establishment in Boston called The Restorator, and became known as “The Prince of Soups”. The first American cooking pamphlet dedicated to soup recipes was written in 1882 by Emma Ewing: Soups and Soup Making.
Portable soup was devised in the 18th century by boiling seasoned meat until a thick, resinous syrup was left that could be dried and stored for months at a time. The Japanese miso is an example of a concentrated soup paste.
- Ginataan, Filipino soup made from coconut milk, milk, fruits and tapioca pearls, served hot or cold
- Oshiruko, a Japanese azuki bean soup
- Tong sui, a collective term for Chinese sweet soups
- Sawine, a soup made with milk, spices, parched vermicelli, almonds and dried fruits, served during the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Fitr in Trinidad and Tobago
- Fruit soups are served warm or cold depending on the recipe. Many recipes are for cold soups served when fruit is in season during hot weather.
- Some, like Norwegian fruktsuppe, may be served warm and rely on dried fruit, such as raisins and prunes and so could be made in any season.
- Fruit soups may include milk or cream, sweet or savoury dumplings, spices, or alcoholic beverages, such as brandy or champagne.
- Cherry soup is made with table wine and/or port. Starch, particularly potato starch, is used to thicken fruit soups, to make kissel.
- Blåbärsoppa is a Swedish dish, that usually contains several kinds of berries (for example bilberries, raspberries, strawberries and/or lingonberries), sugar, water and the optional cider or, less commonly nowadays, champagne. The berries, sugar and water are boiled together to make a soup, which is then allowed to cool. When it’s cold you add the cider or champagne which makes the soup fresher and slightly carbonated.
- Cold and warm fruit soups are common in Scandinavian, Baltic, Middle, and Eastern European cuisines (e.g. nyponsoppa, blåbärssoppa, kissel, hideg meggyleves and krentjebrij), while hot fruit soups with meat appear in Middle Eastern, Central Asian and Chinese cuisines.
- Fruit soups are uncommon or absent in the cuisines of the Americas, Africa and Western Europe. They are also not seen in Japan, Southeast Asia or Oceania.
- Cold soups are a particular variation on the traditional soup, wherein the temperature when served is kept at or below room temperature.
- They may be sweet or savoury. In summer, sweet cold soups can form part of a dessert tray.
- An example of a savoury chilled soup is gazpacho, a chilled vegetable-based soup originating from Spain.
- A feature of East Asian soups not normally found in Western cuisine is the use of tofu in soups.
- Many traditional East Asian soups are typically broths, clear soups, or starch thickened soups.
- Refer to our Asian Soups post.
Traditional Regional Soups
- Asopao is a rice soup very popular in Puerto Rico.
- Ajiaco Bogotano – Named after Santa Fé de Bogotá (the former name of Bogotá) capital of Colombia, where it is a cultural mainstay. It typically contains pieces of chicken, large chunks of corn on the cob, two or three kinds of native potatoes (tiny papas criollas that fall apart and thicken the soup, and give the soup its characteristic dark yellow colour; the waxy sabanera and/or the soft pastusa), and guasca (Galinsoga parviflora), a weedy, aromatic herb common in all America that lends the dish part of its distinctive flavour.
- Avgolemono is a Greek chicken soup with lemon and egg.
- Bajajou, a soup of Slovakian origin, is made with boiled beef intestines, chicken egg, onion and rice.
- Bird’s nest soup is a delicacy in Chinese cuisine.
- Bisque is a thick, creamy, highly-seasoned soup, classically of pureed crustaceans, of French origin.
- Borscht – A soup of Ukrainian origin that is popular in many Eastern and Central European countries. In most of these countries, it is made with beetroot as the main ingredient, giving it a deep reddish-purple colour. In some countries, tomato is used as the main ingredient, while beetroot acts as a secondary ingredient. Other, non-beet varieties also exist, such as the tomato paste-based orange borscht and green borscht (sorrel soup).
- Bouillabaisse, a fish soup from Marseille, is also made in other Mediterranean regions; in Catalonia it is called bullebesa.
- Bourou-bourou is a vegetable and pasta soup from the island of Corfu, Greece.
- Caldo Verde – Basic ingredients are potatoes, onions and kale (some recipes call for collard greens instead). Common additional ingredients are garlic, salt, and olive oil. Some recipes add meat, such as ham hock, making it similar to Italian-American wedding soup. The soup is often accompanied by slices of chouriço or linguiça, or with Portuguese broa cornbread for dipping.
- Callaloo is a thick, creamy soup made with okra and, often, crab meat from Trinidad and Tobago
- Canh chua (sour soup) made with rice, fish, various vegetables, and in some cases pineapple is from Vietnam.
- Canja de Galinha – A popular chicken soup of Portuguese, Cape Verdean, and Brazilian cuisine. The Portuguese term galinha means “hen”. The basic ingredients include chicken, rice or massa pevide. Common flavouring ingredients are olive oil, mint, salt and pepper. It is usually accompanied by slices of Portuguese broa bread on the side for dipping.
- Cazuela – Cazuela is the common name given to a variety of dishes, specially from South America. It receives its name from the cazuela (Spanish for cooking pot) in which is cooked. The ingredients and preparation vary from region to region, but it is usually a mid-thick flavoured stock obtained from cooking several kinds of meats and vegetables mixed.
- Clam chowder is found in two major types, New England clam chowder, made with potatoes and cream, and Manhattan clam chowder, made with a tomato base.
- Cock-a-leekie Soup – A Scottish soup dish of leeks and chicken stock, often thickened with rice, or sometimes barley. The original recipe added prunes during cooking, and traditionalists still garnish with a julienne of prunes.
- Cullen Skink – A soup made originally from a shin of beef – in fact the word “skink” means soup or stew – but in this case, the main ingredient is smoked haddock with potatoes and onions. Cullen Skink is sometimes called Smoked Haddock Chowder when served in bistros and restaurants. This is a wonderful soup to be served as a main course – with crusty bread and butter.
- Egg drop soup, a savoury Chinese soup, is made by adding already-beaten eggs into boiling water or broth.
- Egusi soup – Thickened with flour ground from seeds of a species of Cucurbitaceae (gourds, melons, pumpkins, and squashes) is common in Western Africa. In Central Africa, the Egusi Soup becomes a sauce, which is served over boiled vegetables or rice, or grilled chicken, fish, or meat.
- Etrog – A fruit soup made from the citron used in Jewish Ritual at the feast of Succoth, is eaten by Ashkenazi Jews at Tu Bishvat.
- Ezogelin soup is a traditional Turkish variety of lentil soup, also very common in Turkey.
- Faki soupa is a Greek lentil soup, with carrots, olive oil, herbs and possibly tomato sauce or vinegar.
- Fanesca is a traditional cod soup from Ecuador.
- Fasolada is a traditional Greek bean soup.
- French onion soup is a clear soup made with beef broth and sauteed (caramelised) onions.
- Garbure is a traditional dish in Gascony (southwest France), midway between a soup and a stew.
- Gazpacho Andaluz – A cold tomato soup from Andalusia, Spain. Centuries ago, gazpacho was made with nothing more than bread, garlic, salt, olive oil, vinegar, and water. After the discovery of America, tomato was incorporated, and today, gazpacho has become a refreshing start to a meal. Olive oil and bread continue to be typical components.
- Goulash is a Hungarian soup of beef, paprika and onion.
- Gumbo, a traditional Creole soup from the Southern United States, is thickened with okra pods, roux and sometimes filé powder.
- Halászlé (fisherman’s soup) – A hot and spicy Hungarian fish soup, is made with hot paprika.
- Íslensk Kjötsúpa is a traditional Icelandic meat soup made with lamb and vegetables.
- Kharchois a Georgian soup of lamb, rice, vegetables and a highly spiced boullion.
- Kulajda – A Czech cuisine soup. In some regions another sour mushroom based Czech soup Kyselo is mistaken named as Kulajda. The difference is that Kyselo uses sourdough and (mostly) not sour cream or milk. In some parts of the region, the potatoes in this dish are not cooked in the soup but separately, and are united with the liquid part of the meal only in the bowl.
- Kyselo is a traditional Bohemian (Krkonoše region) sour soup made from sourdough, mushrooms, cumin, potatoes and scrambled eggs.
- Lagman, a tradition in Uzbekistan, is made with pasta, vegetables, ground lamb and numerous spices.
- Lan Sikik is a Thai soup made with noodles, dried fish and tomato extract.
- Leek soup, a simple soup made from leeks, is popular in Wales during Saint David’s Day.
- Lentil soup is popular in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines.
- London particular is a thick soup of pureed (dry or split) peas and ham from England; purportedly it is named after the thick fogs of 19th century London.
- Magiritsa Soup – The main Easter meal in Greece (on Easter Sunday) has traditionally been an occasion to slaughter a lamb or goat, and this soup was designed to use the leftover parts so that nothing went to waste.
- Maryland crab soup is made of vegetables, blue crab meat, and Old Bay Seasoning in a tomato base, from Maryland.
- Menudo, a traditional Mexican soup, is with tripe (usually beef) and hominy.
- Michigan bean soup has been a staple for over a hundred years in the U.S. Senate dining room in the form of Senate bean soup.
- Minestrone is an Italian vegetable soup.
- Miso soup is made from fish broth and fermented soy in Japan.
- Mulligatawny is an Anglo-Indian curried soup.
- Nässelsoppa (nettle soup), made with stinging nettles, and traditionally eaten with hard boiled egg halves, is considered a spring delicacy in Sweden.
- Nkatenkwan is a heavily spiced soup from Ghana based on groundnut with meat, most often chicken, and vegetables added. It is generally eaten with fufu.
- Noodle soup is the common name for a diverse collection of soups with varied ingredients, including (obviously) noodles.
- Okroshka – A cold soup of Russian origin that is also found in Ukraine. The name probably originates from “kroshit'” (крошить), which means to crumble into small pieces. The classic soup is a mix of mostly raw vegetables (like cucumbers and spring onions), boiled potatoes, eggs, and a cooked meat such as beef, veal, sausages, or ham. Okroshka is usually garnished with sour cream.
- Partan bree is a Scottish soup made with crabmeat and rice
- Patsás – Greek Tripe soup, and considered a classic winter hangover cure. Often made with hooves as well as tripe, this recipe uses only tripe. Some add egg-lemon sauce (avgolemono) and others add skorthostoubi (garlic crushed in vinegar), but we prefer this version with garlic, tomatoes, cinnamon, and cloves. If hot is your preference, add red pepper flakes to taste.
- Peasants’ Soup is a catch-all term for soup made by combining a diverse—and often eclectic—assortment of ingredients. Variations on peasants’ soup are popular in Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Africa.
- Philadelphia pepper pot soup, a Philadelphia specialty, is traditionally made with tripe.
- Phở is Vietnamese beef/chicken soup with scallions, welsh onion, cherred ginger, wild coriander (Eryngium foetidum), basil, cinnamon, star anise, clove and black cardamom.
- Psarosoupa, a Greek fish soup, is made in various versions with a variety of fish types.
- Revithia is a Greek chickpea soup.
- Sancocho – Sancocho (from the Spanish verb sancochar, “to parboil”) is a traditional soup (often considered a stew) in several Latin American cuisines derived from the Spanish dish known as Cocido. Variations represent popular national dishes in the Honduras, Canary Islands, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Peru, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. It usually consists of large pieces of meat and vegetables served in a broth.
- Scotch broth is made from mutton or lamb, barley and root vegetables.
- Shchav, a sorrel soup in Polish, Russian and Yiddish cuisines, is sour from the sorrel.
- She-crab soup, from Charleston, South Carolina, is a creamy soup made with blue crab meat and crab roe.
- Sinigang, from the Philippines, is a clear sour soup made from tamarind paste and meat, fish, or vegetables.
- Snert (erwtensoep), a thick pea soup, is eaten in the Netherlands as a winter dish, and is traditionally served with sliced sausage.
- Solyanka – Russian soup on a meat, fish or vegetable broth with pickles, spices and smoked meat or fish.
- Sopa da Pedra, is a rich traditional Portuguese soup with lots of ingredients.
- Sopa de Peixe, is a traditional Portuguese fish soup.
- Soto, a traditional Indonesian soup made with turmeric, galangal, etc., usually contains either beef or chicken.
- Svartsoppa a traditional Swedish soup, whose main ingredient is goose and, sometimes, pig’s blood, and is made in Skåne, the southermost region of Sweden. The other ingredients typically include vinegar, port wine or cognac and spices such as cloves, ginger and allspice. The soup is served warm with boiled pieces of apple and plums, goose liver sausage and the boiled innards of the goose.
- Split peas soup, a thick soup made in the Caribbean from split peas (chickpeas or garbanzos), usually includes “ground provision” vegetable staples and some type of meat.
- Tarator – Tarator or Taratur, is a traditional Balkan dish. It is a cold soup (or a liquid salad), popular in the summertime in Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, southeastern Serbia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Armenia and in Cyprus (where it is known as Ttalattouri). It is made of yogurt, cucumber, garlic, walnut, dill, vegetable oil, and water, and is served chilled or even with ice.
- Tomato soup comes in several varieties, with tomatoes in common.
- Tom Yum is the name for two similar hot and sour soups with fragrant herbs from Laos and Thailand.
- Tarhana soup, from Persian cuisine is made with fermented grains and yoghurt.
- Trahanas is a variation of the above soup using chicken and Halloumi cheese
- Vichyssoise, a French-style soup invented by a French chef at the Ritz Hotel in New York City, is a cold purée of potatoes, leeks, and cream.
- Waterzooi is a Belgian fish soup.
- Yukgaejang, a Korean spicy beef soup, also includes vegetables.
- Żurek, a Polish sour rye soup with sausages, is often served in a bowl made of bread.
- Ärtsoppa – Traditional in Sweden since before the Vikings, ärtsoppa was made from fast-growing peas that accommodated the short growing season. Ärtsoppa was especially popular among the many poor who cooked all their food in their one and only pot, meat and vegetables together, over an open wood fire.