During this blistering, bone-chilling winter, there is honestly nothing better than a steaming hot bowl of soup after a day of work, or school, or whatever you’ve got going on. I’m not talking about the bland, 100-calorie cans of liquid posing as a delicious meal, but I mean the hearty and warming dishes that have been bubbling away on a stove top for a few hours. I’m talking about the real good stuff. The stuff made of dreams and spices and complex broths.
I know it isn’t always easy to make time to cook, but soups and stews are so simple and can often be made with things already found in most kitchens. All that’s required is a bit of patience. And maybe a trip to the grocery store. Bonus: if you have leftovers, you have meals for later in the week —so really, it’s an all-around win for your stomach, your taste buds and your wallet.
Ok so, you probably don’t have a jar of kimchi in your refrigerator right now but this soup is so satisfying and delicious, I’m going to start here and tell you it’s worth the (minimal) effort. Growing up with my Korean grandmother, I spent a lot of my formative years eating way my weight in kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew), so for me it is the ultimate comfort food. Actually, I’m planning on having this tonight! Drool. If spicy isn’t your thing though, you can always try the equally delicious doenjang jjigae made with tofu, vegetables and a Korean-style soybean paste similar to miso.
This is another staple from my childhood, but its name roughly means “six ingredient soup,” which includes beef brisket, onion, green onions, garlic, sesame oil, and soy sauce. So when I say it’s easy I’m not exaggerating. Eat it with a little bit of sticky white rice and you’ll be in heaven.
Not so long ago I was a vegetarian and this was my go-to weekday meal. It’s a twist on the famous French stew, popularized stateside by the beloved Julia Child. I totally cheat and don’t hassle with pearl onions and instead use red onion, but it still tastes totally fab. Anything that involves lots of red wine and thyme is a sure-fire winner.
This is another vegetarian-friendly soup I swear by, mostly because I love how simple it is to cook up. You can get away with making a bare-bone version of this without tons of additional mushrooms and greens. But really, if you’ve got them, definitely add them to make it a more well-rounded and filling one-bowl meal.
French Onion Soup
Traditionally made with beef stock, you can easily switch that out for a good vegetable stock. This is a soup that only gets better as it simmers and the wine, butter, onions and garlic become some sort of liquid gold. I never fuss with topping with cheese and bread, mostly because it smells so good I just want to dig in right away.
Zuppa di Verdure all’Agliata
The first time I made a variation of Umbrian vegetable soup, I made it with Cavolo Negro (an Italian kale) I found for cheap. It was really lovely and made my more carnivorous partner ask for seconds, so if that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is.
Tom Yum Soup
You’ve probably seen this sour prawn soup on menus at Thai and pan-Asian restaurants all over, but it’s actually not that difficult to put together —especially if you’re a big ol’ cheater like me and use a good quality seasoning paste (available in vegetarian versions too!). If you prefer something with less bite, you can always try Tom Kha Gai, a Thai coconut chicken soup.
Thank you Malaysia for giving the world laksa, this spicy noodle and prawn soup is so lush that I love it almost as much as I love pho (and I’m obsessed with pho, so that’s saying a lot).
So I grew up pretty much hating beef or lamb stews of any kind, but as I’ve gotten older —and likely because I’ve developed an undying love for Guinness— I’ve learned to appreciate the warmth and richness of a good Irish stew.
This soup comes from Mexico and probably requires the most work in comparison to everything else on this list but it’s so filling and fragrant. The best part of it is really all the toppings —extra lime and radish for me, please— which offer a really satisfying texture. Mmm. I wouldn’t suggest making this if you don’t have a bit of time, but you can make it for friends and family if you have an itch to impress.
Ciorba de Perisoare, a.k.a Romanian meatball soup
I made this for my family a few weeks ago and thought it would take hours, but prep only took a half hour to 45 minutes, tops. After that, it was really a matter of just letting everything simmer together. It’s worth the wee bit of effort, I promise.
By now, I’m going to assume you’re really hungry because I know I am. My only suggestion is to go see what’s in your cupboards and start cooking!