by Tamara Sarkisian, RD, Fruitful kitchen
With cooler months approaching, I’m gearing up for all things comfort and cozy and am excited to batch cook some soups and stews for the family. I’m sure we can all agree that we crave more of these hearty and warm dishes when the temperature drops.
Soups and stews are not only comforting but can be very nutritious. It’s easy to fill half your plate with vegetables when making these dishes. Soups and stews freeze well and are a perfect solution to saving time in the kitchen and preparing easy meals for the family. Check out my step-by-step guide to preparing nutritious and comforting soups and stews.
The basics to making delicious soups & stews
1. Start with a mirepoix
Any great soup or stew typically starts with three simple ingredients to make a “mirepoix”: onions, celery and carrots. Sautéing these three vegetables in butter and/oil creates deep and rich flavours that will serve as the base for your soup/stew. You can also add garlic for extra depth and add other ingredients from there.
2. Make your own stock or use “no salt added” broths
Making your own stock can help you save money and reduce waste. However, if you’re looking for a convenient option, look for “no salt added” broths to add flavour while limiting the salt. Store bought broths can have high amounts of sodium, so it’s best when you can control the amount of salt in your meals.
3. Choose your vegetables
Be flexible with what vegetables you include. Whether you use fresh seasonal produce, the veggies sitting in the fridge for longer periods of time, or frozen vegetables, one thing’s for sure – they will all be perfect in a soup or stew. Produce in season can be more affordable, fresher, and tastier. While, using older vegetables in the refrigerator and frozen vegetables can help to prevent food waste. Together, having a variety of vegetables can increase the flavour profile of your soups/stews.
4. Order of cooking vegetables
Start by adding vegetables with longer cooking times (i.e. cabbage, beets, potatoes). Then, add other quick-cooking vegetables towards the end (i.e. green beans, bell peppers, spinach/collard greens, herbs). This will help to preserve the flavour and texture of the vegetables and herbs. I prefer my greens to have a little “crunch”.
5. Add protein and starchier foods to help fill you up
If you’d like your soup or stew to be your “main course”, add a source of protein and fibre to help keep you full. Adding protein foods, like meat, seafood, legumes, and tofu, can also enhance the flavours of your dish. Starchier foods, like potatoes, yams, rice, whole grains, pasta, and corn, can improve the consistency and texture of your soups/stews.
6. Use herbs and spices
The final touches are important! Increase the overall flavours of your soups and stews by using spices and dried herbs at the beginning and fresh herbs at the end. But be mindful about the combination of flavours and use those that complement one another. Sometimes less is more, so if you’re unsure, try to use one or two fresh herbs to start (I like to use parsley, oregano, and cilantro in soups). If you’re looking for a specific flavour profile, like a chili, use spices like chili powder, cumin, paprika, and chipotle, and garnish with some fresh cilantro when serving.
I hope that you’re feeling more confident and excited about cooking soups and stews this season. If you’re unsure where to start, check out my top 10 favourite soup and stew recipes from Half Your Plate.
My top 10 soup and stew recipes to try:
- Slow Cooker Carrot Leek Lentil Soup
- Super Kale and Sausage soup
- Vegetable and barley soup
- Asian-style chicken corn soup
- PEI potato and leek soup
- Carrot and squash ginger soup
- Bean, sweet potato and garlic stew
- Chickpea sweet potato stew with barley
- Sweet potato chili
- White turkey chili
Tamara Sarkisian is a registered dietitian, lover of all foods and owner of Fruitful Kitchen. Tamara was born and raised in Toronto with an Armenian & French influence and learned to cook and appreciate wholesome foods at a young age. Tamara enjoys getting creative in the kitchen with simple ingredients to make easy, healthy and tasty meals. Her passion for food has led her to help clients by simplifying cooking and allowing people to feel their best on their health journey.
Follow her on Instagram at @fruitfulkitchen for more recipe inspiration.