Soups can be made from all sorts of foods, both fresh foods and leftovers.  Recipes are wonderful, BUT, are not always necessary! Here are some ideas for coming up with your own soups. By varying the spices and herbs, you can vary the flavor in soups made from the same basic foods. Here are some ideas for Italian, “South of the Border”, Middle Eastern and Asian flavored soups.


  • Spices/flavorings: Onion, garlic, basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, marjoram, bay leaf, wine (white with chicken, red with beef), tomato, lemon juice, parmesan or asiago cheese

South of the Border:

  • Spices/flavorings: Chili powder, hot or mild peppers/chilis, cumin, coriander, cardamom, oregano, onion, garlic, lime, cilantro, red chili pepper flakes

Middle Eastern/Asian:

  • Spices/flavorings: garlic, ginger, curry powder, cumin, coriander, cardamom, mustard, onion, basil OR cilantro, peanut butter, raisins, lemon juice, soy sauce

East Asian:

  • Spices/flavorings: garlic, onion, ginger, mustard, plum sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, chili sauce, red chili pepper flakes, wine (dry white for chicken/fish/beans, tofu, dry red for beef/pork) sherry, marsala, sesame oil.


  • Proteins: meat/poultry/fish, beans, lentils, tofu, egg
  • Starch: Potato, sweet potato, yam, whole grain pasta, brown rice, whole wheat couscous, quinoa, corn
  • Vegetables: ANY THING YOU HAVE ON HAND—fresh, frozen, left—over


  • Sauté protein (meat, poultry, fish, beans, tofu) and onion/garlic/ginger in a small amount of oil (olive for Italian/Mexican, canola or peanut for Middle Eastern/Asion/East Asian). Add dried herbs and spices.
  • Add “hard” vegetables (potatoes, carrots, celery, cauliflower) and liquids (broth, water, canned tomatoes).
  • Simmer until above vegetables are soft, add semi-hard vegetables (broccoli asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms). Add wine/sherry.
  • Continue to simmer until all vegetables are soft; add delicate vegetables (greens–spinach, chard, kale, fresh tomatoes). Continue to simmer until these are cooked.

Taste and adjust spices, add lemon/lime juice, fresh herbs. Simmer for 10 minutes to 2 hours and serve! Heartier soups and stews made with beef,  beans, potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables,  or winter squashes need longer cooking times. Delicate soups made with leafy green vegetables, and tofu,  chicken or fish, need very short cooking times.

Be creative–Mix and match herbs, spices, seasonings, ingredients as the spirit moves you!