When you come home feeling tired and chilled after a long day, nothing satisfies like a bowl of hot soup. But the prospect of lots of chopping, plus an hour or more of simmering, can put the kibosh on the craving for comforting bowlfuls. These clever shortcuts are the route to super-quick vegetable soups — easy vegan bowlfuls — that can be on the table in 30 minutes or so — sometimes less!
Of course, there are good options for all-natural canned soups, but those will yield only a serving or two. What’s great about even a modest-sized pot of soup is that it’s enough for a family meal; or for singles and couples, it means yummy leftovers or a homemade lunch to take to work the next day.
Here are some favorite shortcuts to make a substantial pot of soup an everyday reality — ready when you want it!
While it’s true that fresh vegetables are more appealing, frozen vegetables have been shown to be equally nutritious — if not more so, in some cases. Harvested at their peak of ripeness, vegetables are flash-frozen after a quick blanching, locking in nutrients and flavor.
When certain vegetables are out of season, or when using them fresh is less practical (green peas, for example), this is one convenience you needn’t feel guilty about. Use organic brands if you prefer.
Indian Simmer Sauce
Indian simmer sauce: Bursting onto supermarket and natural food store shelves in recent years, Indian simmer sauces give your homemade dishes deep, complex flavors.
Ranging from mild to spicy, they’re fantastic soup starters, too. Be aware that some varieties of these sauces contain dairy, so read labels carefully. Look for tomato- or coconut-based sauces to keep things plant-based. These would include Jalfrezi, Rogan Josh, Goan Coconut, and others.
Prepared vegetable broth
To boost the flavor of soups that are more broth-y, I love a good vegan, all-natural, and low-sodium vegetable broth, the kind that comes in 32-ounce containers. For quick vegetable soups that are less dependent on brothiness but still need a boost, vegetable bouillon cubes or powered soup bases are other useful flavor enhancers.
Pureed vegetable soups in cartons
Like the vegetable broth discussed just above, these vegetable purees come in 32-ounce cartons in natural foods stores and in the natural foods aisles of supermarket. Note that some contain dairy, so read labels.
Mushroom and broccoli purees make good soup bases, but the most flavorful and eye-appealing is butternut puree. In and of themselves, these aren’t terribly exciting, but as soup starters, they’re fantastic!
A staple in Japanese and Chinese cuisines, miso (fermented soybean paste) is a powerhouse of concentrated flavor and nutrition. Those of the plant-based persuasion need to be aware that the miso soups served in Japanese restaurants most often contain fish products.
It’s great to know that you can easily make miso-based soups at home. Keep a tub in your fridge to boost the flavor of soups and sauces. All varieties are good, but as a soup base, my favorite is mellow white miso.
Tiny red lentils cook up quickly (15 to 20 minutes) and I highly recommend considering them a pantry staple. When you want a robust cool-weather soup fairly quickly, red lentils are a good bet. Bought in bulk, they’re economical as well. Serve this hefty, warming soup with a fresh bread or flatbread.
Admittedly, it’s more economical and ecological to cook beans from scratch, but unless you’re in the habit of doing so (or use a pressure cooker), it’s a time-consuming project. Look for BPA-free cans; or, if you’d like to avoid cans altogether, cooked beans are also available in aseptic containers and pouches in natural foods stores.
Pre-cut and convenient fresh vegetables
These days, it seems like supermarkets do even more than our moms to encourage us to eat our vegetables. In addition to several variations on fresh carrots (baby, grated, and wavy-cut), there are sliced mushrooms, baby spinach, and other pre-washed baby greens.
Washed and chopped kale, peeled and cubed butternut squash, and onion-bell pepper combos are a boon to the chopping-averse. Even pre-shredded cabbage, usually intended for making coleslaw, can be a good soup ingredients. Make sure to look at freshness dates, since precut vegetables are more perishable.