The 1-Ingredient Upgrade for Better Soups (Works Every Time)|Recipes Spots

  • on September 19, 2023
The 1-Ingredient Upgrade for Better Soups (Works Every Time)

Bowl of rice and vegetable soup, and in the surroundings, slices of toast on a white and blue kitchen towel, a halved lemon, and utensils on the counter
Simply Recipes / Photo Illustration by Wanda Abraham / Adobe Stock

On one of my first days of culinary school, the students were tasked with making gazpacho, a chilled Spanish soup. I showed up to the class with a chip on my shoulder: It’s just blending ingredients. I don’t need to cook anything! So how hard can it be?

Every student was given the same ingredients to work with, yet when the class tasted each other’s soups, I could not believe how drastically different each was. (Mine was not even close to the best.) Getting one ingredient just right made certain soups stand out among the rest. What I learned that day was humbling and I never forgot the lesson: a small splash of acid, like vinegar, can be the difference between soup that tastes meh and really great soup you can’t stop scooping into your mouth.

As my culinary education went on and my experience developing recipes for my job grew, I noticed that almost every soup should be finished with a hit of vinegar before serving. It only needs a little bit, one to two teaspoons for an entire pot of soup.

Soup usually contains several ingredients and flavors, all competing to be the star of the show. Think of vinegar as the conductor of an orchestra. It can take a cacophony of flavors and sync them into perfect harmony. It both balances and awakens them. Plus, if you accidentally add too much salt to your soup, a little vinegar will tame the saltiness.

Rice and vegetable soup in a bowl
Simply Recipes / Adobe Stock

What Kind of Vinegar To Use

As you head into the heart of soup season, here are some of the most popular soups paired with the best vinegar for the job.

Tomato Soup: I used to think the only finishing touch my tomato soup needed was grilled cheese, but now I know the key to a fantastic tomato soup is a splash of aged balsamic vinegar. The sweetness will help neutralize the acidity of the tomatoes, while its tang will awaken their deep umami notes.

Lentil Soup: I’ve been making Ina Garten’s classic Lentil Soup since college and it has yet to disappoint. Since I take Ina’s recipes as gospel, I like to add a splash of red wine vinegar. 

Carrot Ginger Soup: Carrot ginger soup seems like it shouldn’t be short on flavor, but sometimes it ends up reminding me of baby food; nothing but mushy carrots. Adding a splash of rice wine vinegar can really awaken the ginger notes. 

Potato Leek Soup: Potato leek soup is one of my favorite fall soups, but it can sometimes be very mellow in flavor. I like using Sherry vinegar here since it’s relatively mild (for a vinegar!) and it has buttery undertones that play nicely with the potatoes.

Butternut Squash Soup: A fall classic! To make this soup anything but basic, add a splash of apple cider vinegar. It will pair well with the warm spices and will add much-needed savory notes to this traditionally sweet soup. 

Article Categories:
Soups · Spices

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