How to Make Vegetable Soup Any Time

1. Prepare the Vegetables

Pick the veggies you want to turn into soup and start chopping. You’ll want at least one allium: an onion or a shallot or a leek. The rest is up to you: carrotbutternut squashzucchinicauliflowersunchokepeascelery rootcauliflowercornsweet potato, etc. Pair a couple together or stick with just one type, and peel and chop them into somewhat uniform chunks. (Don’t worry about how they look: no one is going to see the chopped veggies except you. Isn’t that a nice break?) For a thicker soup, add a potato to your mix, but don’t add too many—they can make a pureed soup gluey. For a sweeter soup, add an apple or a pear. Today I used a mix of yellow onions, carrots, sweet potato, and apples for an autumnal bowl perfect for the month of October.

2. Sweat the Vegetables

Melt some fat (about a tablespoon) in your favorite soup pot: butterolive oilcoconut oil—whatever you like. (Me? I like butter.) Toss your chopped onion or other allium in the fat as soon as it’s melted. Let the onion (or shallots, or leeks) sweat for a few minutes to soften, then add the rest of your chopped veggies. Give everything a stir, and add a bit more oil or butter if you need it. Sprinkle with some salt, stir one more time, and let everything sweat for a few more minutes to get the flavor juices flowing.

3. Add Aromatics

While the vegetables are sweating, add some aromatics to season the soup. Finely chopped ginger and garlic are always great options; so is curry powder and garam masala. A sprig of thyme and/or a few bay leaves are almost never out of place, or you can use a rosemary sprig, cinnamon stick, or a dried chile to spice things up.

4. Add Liquid

All you need is water. I know, I know—you think you need stock, or cream, or beer. But the pure flavor of the vegetables is going to shine through so much better if you just use water. If you want to get a little fancy, you can deglaze the pot with a bit of wine or fortified wine such as sherrymadeiraport, or vermouth before you add the water. This can lend a nice depth of flavor, but it’s not essential to soup success.

When you add the water, add enough to cover all the vegetables completely, then put the lid on your pot and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat and let everything simmer until it’s all tender (you want to be able to very easily mash the chunks of vegetables against the side of the pot). Depending on the size of your vegetables, this should take about half an hour. Is the water evaporating too quickly? Just add more.

5. Purée the Soup

First, remove any aromatics like thyme sprigs or bay leaves . Then stick in your immersion blender and start buzzing, or transfer the contents to the jar of a blender and give it a whirl. To thin the soup out, simply add more water. To make it creamier, add some milkcream or coconut milk. A dollop of yogurt or sour cream are also good additions as you blend the soup together. Have a taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. A squeeze of fresh citrus juice or a splash of vinegar may be needed to balance the flavors. And salt will almost definitely be necessary.

7. Garnish and Serve

Fact: prettier bowls of soup taste better. So find something to swirl into your soup. Yogurt or sour cream, a swirl of herbed oilchimichurri, or chutney—it all looks good. Especially when you add an extra garnish of fresh herbstoasted nutsseedscoconut chips, or croutons.

8. Freeze the Leftovers

Extra soup is a good thing. Pack it up in individual portions in resealable jars or containers, making sure to leave a bit of extra space in the container, and freeze them for those days later this season when you’re too tired, or too cold, or too festive, or…well, you know what I mean. Now that you know how to make vegetable soup, you can make it any old time you want.