Vegetarian Cream of Vegetable Soup
Soup: Healthy, and Oh, So Creamy!
When I was a kid, my mother made soup out of leftovers, and she was thrifty. She saved everything, right down to the water she'd used to boil the spaghetti. She didn't save leftovers in Tupperware containers (ah, no, not my mother!) but in glass jelly jars. One of the things I learned from her: A person doesn't need a recipe (or a license) to make soup!
Split pea was one of only a couple soups my mother dished up that went by any sort of name besides 'soup'. Me, I do soup a bit differently . Unlike my mother's concoctions, most of mine are variations on things that do have names. I won't say that I follow recipes because I don't use measuring spoons, but I do have preferences when it comes to ingredients. One soup I do make that comes with quite a bit of leeway, ingredient-wise: cream of vegetable soup -- also known as 'cream of whatever's in the fridge'.
One can make a creamed soup out of most vegetables, and the process is largely the same. I am going to share my steps for making a creamed vegetable soup that is vegetarian, a bit healthier than traditional versions, and can easily be made vegan. (It's a non-vegetarian misnomer that vegetable soups are vegetarian; many creamed vegetable soups contain chicken broth.)
Make Your Soup Creamy...
Without Using Heavy Cream.
Creamed soups can be made without heavy cream if you use a thickener. If you choose wisely, the soup will still have a delicate flavor. Whatever other vegetables you're using, it is a good idea to throw in a chopped potato. If you have cooked potatoes on hand, wonderful -- you can toss them in at the same time as the other vegetables. Frozen diced potatoes are another option for quick dining. If you're starting with raw cut potato, you'll want to start boiling it 15-20 minutes earlier -- let it get soft before you add the quicker cooking vegetables.
Corn starch is another good thickener. Add a tablespoon of cornstarch to a cup of cold water, and mix the concoction until it's sauce-like. Slowly stir the sauce into the simmering soup. If you want to add more for a thicker consistency, that's fine, but always mix the cornstarch with cold water first. If you dump cornstarch into hot water, you'll get lumps.
Garbanzo flour adds taste and nutrition as well as texture. A plus is that they add a bit of plant-based protein.
Rice can also be used as a thickener, but, unlike potato, it does need pureeing. (I have personally never used rice in a creamed soup, but I know some people do.)
Chia seeds are a super nutritious thickener, though it takes some time for them to work to their full potential.
If you want a very quick option that is veggie but not vegan, you might want to take a trip to Trader Joe's. I have taken to keeping a bag of Trader Joe's frozen mashed potatoes in the refrigerator. The mashed potatoes are in small biscuit shaped pieces. If I toss a few in, I can have a thick, semi-homemade soup that cooks in about five minutes. It is indeed possible if I use other quick cooking vegetables. One option is to use other frozen vegetables; I keep frozen diced onions on hand, as well as frozen spinach. Sometimes, though, I opt for fresh greens; spinach and chard leaves also cook up quickly. The mashed potatoes give a pleasing flavor, and, unless one is very heavy-handed with those potatoes, the end result is lower in sodium than a traditional commercial soup. (I use no added salt when going this route.)
Vegan Cream of Cauliflower Soup... With Coconut Milk
The word "creamy" connotes flavor as well as texture. Thankfully, there is coconut milk! This vegan recipe uses Indian spices as well as lots of fresh onions and cauliflower.
Make Your Soup Flavorful...
Without chicken broth
I like to use a mixture of vegan 'chicken broth' and milk. If you are vegan, you can substitute soy, rice, coconut, or even quinoa milk. You will want to select a milk that isn't sweet. Garlic, mushrooms, and onion can also add to the flavor of your broth. You can sautee them in your favorite healthy oil, tossing the garlic in after the onion has gotten translucent. (If you're pressed for time or want to drastically reduce fat content, sprinkle in a little powdered garlic instead.)
The other key to flavorful soup is, of course, the seasonings. What are some good seasonings for cream of vegetable soup? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme -- also dill and ground black pepper. Most of the seasonings combine very nicely together, but you might want to choose dill or sage, not both, as they add a different character to soup. Be careful about using too much sage or the flavor will be too much like Thanksgiving dressing!
Vegan Chicken Bullion
This is my favorite broth powder for use in a wide variety of recipes: soup, dumplings, and vegetarian stuffing. We used to buy the product in bulk when I lived in a housing cooperative, and it worked well for us. (We had a vegetarian meal program, though not all the residents were vegetarian.)
An easy -to-use broth vegan broth powder that is appropriate for use in soups, stews, and other recipes.
Toss in Some Vegetables
...and Cook Them Just Right
There are many vegetables that work well in creamed soup: potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, asparagus, leafy greens, mushrooms...
Are there any that don't work? Well, I'd hesitate to use tomatoes as they'd change the flavor of the broth quite a bit -- the same probably goes for sweet potatoes. In general, I think bland or savory flavors work better than sweet ones, but adding a little corn or carrot is not uncommon.
If you are using cooked vegetables, like the leftovers in your own fridge, you can toss them all in the pot together. If you are using fresh vegetables, do remember to let the potatoes get soft before you toss in the other veggies. Spinach can wait until the last five minutes before you take the pot off the stove, and fresh parsley is best added at the very end; it makes a tasty garnish. (You can visit TLC Cooking for additional information on vegetable cooking times.)
How long does the soup need to cook? It's a good idea to let everything but the green leafy vegetables simmer together for half an hour so the flavors can mingle. (But that's if company is coming!)
Keep frozen veggies on hand to simplify soup making. Cauliflower freezes very well.
More Recipes For Creamed Vegetable Soups - Vegan and Vegetarian Options
- Vegan Cream of Asparagus
This oh-so-green soup uses cashews to thicken and add flavor.
- Vegan Cream of Spinach
This one uses soy yogurt and potatoes as thickening agents. A nutritious flavorful recipe from About.com.
- Vegan Cream of Celery
Soy milk, potatoes, flour and (optionally) vegetable stock combine to make this soup rich and thick.
- Vegan Cream of Mushroom
Rice milk, canola butter, flour and veggie stock combine to make this rich and creamy. You can find some other creamy vegan soups here, too.
Some Could Write a Whole Book...
Here you will find soups for all seasons, arranged by season: traditional vegan fare as well as recipes with dairy or meat substitutes. You'll also find basic information about choosing seasonings and other soup ingredients, plus vital nutrition information. The author suggests rice milk or 'silk' soy creamer for those creamy soup concoctions.