Your favorite soups might include chicken noodle, minestrone, and clam chowder. But if you are a vegetarian or vegan, chances are, you can’t eat those any more. Or can you? Here is a guide to vegetarian and vegan soups.
Obviously, soups that rely on meat or animal ingredients for their main flavor components cannot be vegetarian. But you can sometimes make acceptable versions by replacing those animal products with other ingredients to mimic the textures and flavors of what you are leaving out.
Generally, you can use vegetable broth in place of animal broths in recipes, such as chicken or beef. Adding a small amount of roasted sesame oil can give a soup a little boost of somehow more meaty or hearty flavor.
Mushrooms add nice texture and flavor to soups. Starchy vegetables, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin allow you to make a creamy soup without any cream, although the dairy flavor won’t be there.
If you are a vegetarian, using cream may be an option to you. Vegans can use a commercial soy creamer. But I usually opt for boosting the flavor with other vegetables, herbs, spices, or other ingredients.
There are several types of soups. Here are a few of them, with tips on how to make vegetarian or vegan versions of them.
These are usually clear broths with small pieces of other things in them for texture. You can use a commercially prepared vegetable broth or vegetable soup base to replace chicken or beef broth in any recipe. But don’t try to substitute with just water. You’ll end up with salty water with stuff floating around in it. You really need to use a good stock, for the complex flavor it offers.
Some examples of clear broth type soups are French onion soup, miso soup, and spinach and fake bacon soup. Chicken broth made with nutritional yeast, salt and spices is another option that can be consumed as is, or used like chicken broth in another recipe.
Traditionally, cream soups are made with heavy cream, half and half, or milk. If you are a vegetarian, that will work out just fine. Some you can try are cream of mushroom, cream of spinach, broccoli, or cauliflower.
But if you are a vegan, you will need to replace the dairy products with an alternative. You can try using soymilk or coconut milk instead. The higher fat content in coconut milk gives that richness that you sometimes long for in a cream soup.
As an alternative, you can blend soups that have a lot of flavor into a creamier, smoother soup. That way you feel like you are having a cream soup, but it won’t have any cream in it. This works especially well if you have potatoes or sweet potatoes in the soup, because they blend into a velvety texture that is luxurious when you eat it.
My Vegan Roasted Vegetable Soup recipe uses roasting, plus the creaminess of pumpkin, to make a rich, velvety soup.
Chunky, hearty stews and soups
Another type of soup is the chunky, hearty one, loaded with grains, pasta, beans, legumes and vegetables. These are wonderful served as main courses in and of themselves. I like to add some mouthwatering homemade whole-grain bread and a green salad, too.
Vegetarian lentil soup is a perennial favorite, especially because you can use water instead of animal or even vegetable broth. The lentils cook down to create a flavorful broth by themselves. But if you add celery, carrots, onion, and garlic, you can boost the flavor even more.
Lentils also pair well with just about any vegetable or spice combination. Some favorites are sweet potatoes, kale, and curry or sweet sour flavors. Here is a very mildly Vegan Curried Lentil Soup to try.
Then you have those vegetarian and vegan soup recipes that are not too terribly hearty, but aren’t light clear soups, either. They often contain beans, grains, and vegetables in some combination, but keep a clear broth.
This recipe for Vegan Chocolate Vegetable Soup is a good example. It also has the distinction of being one of the few savory chocolate recipes you will find. It’s unusual and quite delicious, as well as easy to make.
There you have a basic introduction to vegetarian and vegan soups. They are perfect when the weather gets chilly, and they are a great way to use up leftovers. And they are easy to cook, because you can do something else while they simmer away, warming your house and filling it with delicious smells.