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8 Comforting Soups to Warm Up Your Winter

Using pantry staples and in-season vegetables, these soups and stews will brighten up cold winter days


spinner image from left to right cozy winter soups such as white bean and sausage soup then onion soup then lemon coriander soup
The Beal House Inn / Bill Milne / Art of Living Retreat Center

Depending on where you live, dinner options in winter can get a little, well, dull.

“There’s not always a great variety of food options in the winter. You can’t exactly grill out in the middle of a snowstorm, and it might not be safe to drive to your favorite restaurant,” says Jamie Kline, corporate chef of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. That’s when whipping up a hearty winter soup at home — with ingredients that are likely already taking up space in your pantry and refrigerator — is an easy solution that also can bring a little warmth and comfort to your chilly day.

Soups are practical too. They not only freeze well, says Klein, but there are recipes for any occasion. His go-to favorites: clam chowder and chicken tortilla soup.

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Here are eight cozy soup recipes from chefs around the U.S. that make it easy to put something flavorful and comforting on the table tonight.

A chicken soup that warms and soothes

Chef Nick Ocando of Mediterranean restaurant Allelo in St. Petersburg, Florida, calls this soup, made with simple ingredients (and the option to bulk it out with a starch like quinoa, or serve it poured over rice noodles), a great soup for cold and flu season thanks to ingredients like ginger and lime that make it very refreshing.

“I recommend buying organic vegetables and chicken whenever possible,” he says.

Ocando adds that the soup can also be made without meat with a few simple changes. “If making it vegetarian I would recommend adding the quinoa for the protein content; however, I also like the quinoa when using chicken as well.”

This recipe can be halved, but why not make enough to freeze for another meal later?

CHEF NICK’S WINTER CHICKEN SOUP

  • 8 whole organic chicken thighs, skin removed ​
  • 4 medium yellow onions, diced ​
  • 6 celery stalks, diced ​
  • 4 carrots, diced ​
  • 2 sweet potatoes, cut into large pieces
  • 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into large pieces
  • ½ cup fresh ginger, microplaned​
  • 12 cloves fresh garlic, sliced thin​
  • 4 limes, zested and juiced​
  • 10 quarts vegetable or chicken stock​
  • ¼ cup fine kosher salt​
  • Black pepper, ground to taste​
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil ​
  • 2 cups red or black quinoa (optional)

​Instructions:

  1. Prepare all ingredients, keep separated.​
  2. Wash the chicken thighs with water, remove skin and dry with a paper towel.​
  3. Heat a large pot with a minimum capacity of 6 gallons on medium heat.​
  4. Add olive oil to the pot.​
  5.  Lay out washed, dried chicken thighs and season liberally with kosher salt on both sides.​
  6. Brown chicken thighs in two or three batches in the olive oil to a golden brown. ​
  7. Set browned chicken thighs aside and add diced celery, carrots and onions to the hot pot. Cook on medium heat for approximately 10 minutes.​
  8. Add sliced garlic, microplaned ginger, diced cabbage, sweet potatoes and Yukon Gold potatoes.​
  9. Continue to cook for another 10 minutes.​
  10. Add the vegetable stock to the cooked vegetables. Bring to a simmer.​
  11. Add seared chicken thighs back to pot. Add the quinoa (optional).​
  12. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.​
  13. Add fresh lime juice and zest.​
  14. Taste soup broth and add salt if needed, and desired amount of black pepper.

An easy onion soup that pairs with warm, crusty bread

spinner image a bowl of Soupe À L’oignon placed on a fancy table
Bill Milne

Executive Chef Amanda Langler of Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro in Milwaukee says she loves winter soups because they are a “throw in the pot and let cook” type of meal.

“They can have all the things you want in one pot: protein, vegetables and carbs,” she says. “Soups are incredibly versatile and can make a complete meal paired with good crusty bread or a side salad.

Upgrading to Gruyère cheese instead of a standard grocery store variety makes this version extra delicious.

SOUPE À L’OIGNON​​

  • 4 pounds yellow or white onions ​
  • 1 bay leaf ​
  • ½ ounce fresh thyme​
  • 2 quarts chicken stock ​
  • 1 teaspoon salt ​
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper ​
  • 12 slices of baguette, ¼-inch thick
  • 1 pound Gruyère cheese, grated​

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.​
  2. Heat a Dutch oven or heavy-bottom stock pot on medium until warm.​
  3. Add onions to dry pot with ¼ cup water. Cook until deeply caramelized and dark golden brown. ​
  4. Occasionally add water to keep the onion from sticking, and scrape the bottom of the pot. ​
  5. Slice baguette and place in a single layer on a sheet pan. Toast in the oven for 8 minutes. ​
  6. Once onions are deeply caramelized, add chicken stock and bay leaf and thyme wrapped in kitchen twine. Let cook on low for one hour. Season with salt and pepper. ​
  7. Once the soup is finished, ladle into an oven-safe soup crock or bowls. Place two pieces of toasted baguette atop each bowl and divide the grated cheese equally among the servings. Place on the sheet pan and bake in oven until cheese is golden brown and bubbly, about 15 minutes (broil on high for two to four minutes).
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A family recipe rich with seasonal leafy greens

spinner image a bowl of Caldo Verde soup
Blue Fox Motel

This classic Portuguese soup passed down by the grandmother of Jorge Neves, owner of Blue Fox Motel in New York’s Catskill Mountains, owes its bright green color to ample collard greens or kale (dealer’s choice).

Pantry staples like onions and potatoes and whatever meat you have handy (chorizo, with its delicious spices, is always a winner) make caldo verde easy to whip up on a cold winter’s day.​

CALDO VERDE​

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil​
  • 1 Chouriço, Linguiça or Spanish chorizo cut into ¼-inch coin-size slices​
  • 1 leek, with green and light green parts, diced
  • 1 large Spanish (yellow) onion, diced​
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced​
  • 6 medium Idaho or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 8 cups cold water​
  • 1 pound collard greens or kale, stems removed, leaves cut into very,​ very thin slices
  • Freshly ground black or white pepper​

Instructions:

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, add the oil. Add the onions and leek. Sprinkle with salt and cook until softened and translucent.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more.​
  3. Stir in the potatoes, add the water and let it rise to a boil. Reduce the heat so the soup gently simmers. Cook until the potatoes are almost tender, 15 to 20 minutes. ​
  4. Remove from the heat and let the soup cool​.
  5. Use an immersion blender to puree.​
  6. Add the collard greens or kale to salted boiling water. Let cook for 2 to 5 minutes, then place greens in an ice bath to cool.​
  7. Add collard greens or kale to the soup, bring it back to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.​
  8. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, as needed.​
  9. Put two pieces of chorizo or other meat at the bottom of soup bowls. Ladle the caldo verde over the meat and serve.

Big on umami, this easy-to-make mushroom soup is livened up with fennel

spinner image a bowl of mushroom soup
Tre Trattoria

This richly layered mushroom bisque recipe comes from Texas-born chef Jason Dady, one of the stars of San Antonio’s vibrant culinary scene.

“I love it because it’s a full-flavored soup full of great umami, yet simple and elegant at the same time,” Dady says.

We love it because it’s delicious and takes only five simple steps to make.​

MUSHROOM BISQUE ​​

  • 1 tablespoon blended oil (such as canola and olive oil)
  • 2 yellow onions​
  • 2 fennel bulbs​
  • 1 small bunch thyme
  • ​2 pounds cremini mushrooms (or brown, shiitake or portobello mushrooms)​
  • 2 cups water​
  • 1½ quarts heavy cream​
  • Salt and pepper to taste ​​

Instructions: ​

  1. Sautè onion and fennel in a large pot until soft. ​
  2. Add thyme, mushrooms and water.​
  3. Simmer until reduced by half.​
  4. Add heavy cream and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  5. Puree in Vitamix or blender until smooth, and serve.
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A hearty soup with layers upon layers of flavor

spinner image a bowl of sausage and white bean soup on a wooden table
The Beal House Inn

Flavorful sausage, hearty greens and fresh herbs create the layers in this delightful recipe from Pete Bresnahan, chef de cuisine at the Beal House Inn in Littleton, New Hampshire.

Let it warm your senses as it simmers on the stovetop for hours.

SAUSAGE AND WHITE BEAN SOUP ​​

  • ¼ stick butter​
  • 1 pound ground sweet sausage​
  • 4 celery stalks ​
  • 2 whole shallots
  • 1 can white beans​
  • 1 cup dry white wine​
  • 2 quarts chicken stock or broth ​
  • ¼ bunch chopped parsley​
  • ½ bunch hearty greens like escarole ​
  • Extra virgin olive oil, to taste ​
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, to taste​

Instructions: ​

  1. Add butter to a soup pot over medium heat and let it melt. ​
  2. Add the sausage and break up the pieces with a wooden spoon.​
  3. Once the sausage is starting to brown, add the diced celery and shallot. Sweat the veggies until the shallots are translucent. ​
  4. Deglaze with the white wine, then add chicken stock. Bring to a slow simmer and cook for two hours. ​
  5. To finish the soup, add the white beans, chopped parsley and your favorite chopped hearty green. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for 30 minutes, stirring every five minutes to help cook the beans and greens.
  6. To serve, ladle soup into a bowl and top with grated Parmesan and swirl of extra virgin olive oil.

This Southwestern soup warms with chipotle peppers and a chile powder

Chef Jamie Kline says this flavorful Southwestern-style soup recipe that you can prepare with pre-cooked grilled or pulled chicken is one of his favorites any time of the year, but especially during the colder months.

“A hot bowl of soup is sure to warm you right up, even when the temperature has dipped into the negative numbers,” he says. “There’s a reason they call winter 'soup season'!”​

CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP ​​

  • 1 tablespoon blended oil (such as canola and olive oil)​
  • 4 ounces white onion, diced small​
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced​
  • 2 quarts chicken broth​
  • 1 can (14.5 ounce) crushed tomatoes​
  • 1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes, drained​
  • 8 ounces fresh corn, charred/roasted and cut off the cob​
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed​
  • 10 ounces grilled chicken, chopped (pulled chicken can be substituted) ​
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, from a can (rough chopped with sauce)​
  • ½ teaspoon ancho chile powder​
  • Kosher salt, to taste ​
  • Ground black pepper, to taste ​
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream (per serving, for garnish)​
  • 2 tablespoons tortilla strips, crispy (per serving, for garnish)​
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (per serving, for garnish)​

Instructions:

  1. In large saucepot, heat oil over medium low heat and add onion and garlic. Stir occasionally and allow onions to sweat until they become translucent and aromatic, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer.​
  3. Add crushed canned tomatoes, drained diced tomatoes, roasted corn and black beans.​
  4. Bring the pot back to a low simmer and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.​
  5. Finish soup with cooked chicken, chopped chipotle pepper in sauce and ancho powder. Simmer 15 to 20 more minutes to allow flavor to cook into soup. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to personal preference.
  6. Garnish finished soup with a dollop of sour cream, sprinkle of crispy tortilla strips and chopped cilantro and serve.

An immune-boosting stew packed with vitamin C and healthy fats​

spinner image a bowl of Lemon Coriander Soup
Art of LIving Retreat Center

Brightened with lemon juice and ginger, this recipe from Art of Living Retreat Center in North Carolina is a true treat that’s immune-boosting, too, thanks to ingredients rich in vitamin C, calcium and potassium.​

LEMON CILANTRO SOUP ​

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 medium spring onion bulb, chopped​
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, finely diced​
  • 2 tablespoons chickpea flour
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice​​
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (reserve stems)
  • 4 ½ cups vegetable stock
  • ¼ small cabbage, chopped​
  • 1 medium carrot, cubed​
  • 7 or 8 black peppercorns, crushed​
  • Salt to taste​

Instructions: ​

  1. Heat oil in a pan. Add spring onion bulb and ginger and sauté until translucent.​
  2. Add chickpea flour and sauté until a lovely aroma emerges.​
  3. Add vegetable stock, cilantro stems, cabbage and carrot cubes and bring to a boil. Then add crushed peppercorns and continue to boil.​
  4. Add half of the chopped cilantro leaves and cook for 5 to 10 minutes more.​
  5. Strain and set cooked vegetables aside.​
  6. Heat the strained soup. Add salt, lemon juice and again bring to a boil.​
  7. Season with the remaining chopped cilantro leaves and serve hot.​​

A Florida clam chowder steeped in history and flavor​

Named for the Minorcans who settled in St. Augustine, Florida, in the 18th century, this chowder recipe from Chef Sherry Stoppelbein of Luvin’ Oven Catering can easily be made with canned clams if you don’t have fresh ones available.

“This is a soup that tastes even better the next day because the flavors have had more time to meld together,” says Stoppelbein, who has Minorcan heritage and over 225 years of family history in the area.

ST. AUGUSTINE MINORCAN CLAM CHOWDER ​​

  • 2 dozen fresh Florida clams from your seafood shop (or substitute two 6.5 ounce cans minced clams, drained) ​
  • 4 ounces salt pork (or substitute bacon)​
  • 1 datil pepper, minced (use half a pepper if you’re heat shy) or datil hot sauce​
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced ​
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced​
  • 2 carrots, diced​
  • 1 cup small red potatoes, peeled and diced​
  • 15 ounce can chopped tomatoes​
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste​
  • 1 teaspoon fresh garlic ​
  • 1 teaspoon dried or fresh oregano​
  • 1 teaspoon dried or fresh rosemary​
  • 1 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme​
  • 1 teaspoon salt​
  • 3 bay leaves​
  • 8 ounce bottle clam juice​
  • 2 cups fish stock (found in markets, but fresh from the seafood market is even better)​​

Instructions for cooking fresh clams, if using:

  1. Place fresh clams in a colander in the sink. Lightly scrub the outside of the clams and rinse to remove any dirt or sand. Place the clams in a large pan over medium high heat with 1/3 cup of water.​
  2. Cover the pan and cook the clams for approximately 10 minutes. When the clams open, they are cooked. Remove from the stove. Place clams in colander, let drain. Discard any clams that did not open. ​
  3. When the clams cool, remove the meat from the shells. Dice the clam meat. Discard the remaining clamshells. Set chopped clams aside.​​

Instructions for soup:

  1. Cut salt pork or bacon into tiny pieces. Place in a soup pot and cook for 10 minutes. When browned, scoop out and place on a paper towel (leave the fat in the pan). ​
  2. To the remaining rendered fat, add diced onion, green pepper and carrots. Cook 5 to 10 minutes until the onions look ​translucent. If there’s not enough fat rendering to cook the vegetables, add one tablespoon of olive oil.​
  3. Stir in one can of chopped tomatoes, 3 tablespoons of tomato paste, all the seasonings and bay leaves. Add one minced datil pepper or 2 to 3 teaspoons of datil hot sauce (to taste).​
  4. Add the bottle of clam juice and fish stock. Simmer on low heat for one hour.​
  5. Add the diced potatoes and cook approximately 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender but not mushy.​
  6. Add the chopped clams and cooked salt pork. Cook just long enough that the clams and pork are heated through (about 5 minutes). Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.​

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