xoFOOD: 5 Autumn Soups To Warm Your Soul When It's Freezing Outside

Who doesn't love a hearty bowl of something delicious when the temperatures begin to drop? (Including some vegan and vegetarian options!)
Publish date:
November 13, 2014
xoFood, recipes, winter, soup

As the weather cools off and the leaves begin to fall, there is really nothing I want more at the end of the day -- or, if I’m being honest, the middle of the day, around 4:30 p.m. when it starts getting dark -- than to curl up under a blanket with a hot bowl of soup. My favorite dinner is a hearty bowl of something delicious and a glass of red wine. Sure, a crisp green salad and crusty bread round it out into a fuller meal, but the soup is really all I need.

Some important characteristics of winter/fall soups:

- They should be made from easy-to-find, ideally seasonal ingredients.

- They should not be expensive to make.

- They should be easy.

- Like the iconic and totally cheesy book series they should warm your soul.

Here are my current favorites. But I want to know yours too! What’s in your soup pot these days? Let me know in the comments!

Chicken Pho

A hot, flavorful bowl of pho is good for whatever ails you. I make this almost every Sunday night (often with leftover roast chicken). If you want to make a vegetarian/vegan version, use vegetable broth for the liquid instead of water and sub cubed firm tofu for the chicken.

And for you low-carbers, this one is great with shirataki noodles.

Recipe Serves 4


  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese 5-spice
  • 2 chicken legs (drumsticks and thighs), skin-on
  • 5 cloves whole garlic, peel-on and smashed
  • 1" ginger, finely minced
  • 1 whole onion, peel-on), quartered
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, coarsely chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons Asian chili sauce (or more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons (plus more to taste) soy sauce
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 lb rice vermicelli or shirataki noodles
  • optional garnishes: fresh cilantro, sliced jalapeño, sliced scallions, hoisin sauce, lemon wedges, mung bean sprouts


  1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the Chinese-5 Spice and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
  3. Add the chicken legs and brown on both sides, about 3 minutes each.
  4. Add the garlic, ginger, onion, lemongrass, lemon juice, honey, chili sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, pepper and 2 1/2 quarts of water.
  5. Cover, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
  6. Once the chicken is fully-cooked, fish it out using tongs, and run under cold water to cool it down.
  7. Slide the skin off the chicken pieces, and use a fork or your fingers to slide the tender chicken meat off the bones, reserving the chicken bones, skin and gristle.
  8. Return the bones, skin and gristle to the pot, cover and simmer for another 45 minutes.
  9. Strain the broth and return to its pot.
  10. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
  11. Increase heat to high and bring broth to a boil.
  12. Add the noodles and boil until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  13. To serve, use a ladle to portion broth into bowls.
  14. Use tongs to add noodles to each bowl.
  15. Divide the chicken pieces between the bowls, and serve immediately.
  16. If desired, garnish with any of the optional garnishes.

Insanely Easy Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Bites

Tomato soup and grilled cheese are an obvious pairing on a cold day, and this recipe takes it one step further (and even more fun), by cutting grilled cheese sandwiches into little, dunkable croutons for the soup. Of course, if you prefer a full-sized sandwich with your soup, that works too.

Recipe Serves 3-4


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 14.5-oz. cans chopped tomatoes, ideally fire-roasted (I like the kind from Muir Glen)
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 slices sandwich bread
  • 2 slices cheese of your choice (I like pepper jack)
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter (at room temperature)


  1. Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add garlic and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes, or until onions are translucent and very fragrant.
  2. Add tomatoes and cook, covered for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  3. While soup cooks, assemble the grilled cheese by sandwiching each slice of cheese between two pieces of bread.
  4. Spread the outsides of the sandwiches with the butter.
  5. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat and grill the sandwiches until the cheese melts and the bread is golden-brown.
  6. Turn heat off and leave sandwiches in the warm pan until ready to serve.
  7. Puree the soup using a blender, food processor or immersion blender.
  8. Return to pot, stir in the half-and half and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  10. Cut the grilled cheeses into 1" squares, ladle the hot soup into bowls and serve.

Rosemary Shallot Beef Stew

This hearty beef stew will stick to your ribs and fill your belly with rosemary-flavored love. While beef is really the best protein to make it with, I have used leftover turkey (post-Thanksgiving), and cubed chicken, and they both resulted in a different but also good stew.

Recipe Serves 4.


  • 1 lb stew beef, (also known as chuck roast or shoulder), cut into 1 1/2” cubes
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large shallots, sliced thinly
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 quart beef broth
  • few sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 6 new (baby) potatoes, scrubbed and quartered (skin intact)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut lengthwise and then into thirds
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste


1. Toss the beef cubes in the flour to lightly coat, shaking off excess.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a dutch oven or other large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and allow to cook, undisturbed, for 2-3 minutes. Turn beef over and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

3. Reduce heat to medium, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan and add the sliced shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes, or until shallots have softened and become very fragrant. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, stirring occasionally.

4. Deglaze the pan by adding 1/2 cup of the stock and scraping the browned bits at the bottom of the pan and stirring into the soup. Continue scraping (and adding more stock if necessary) until all browned bits have been scraped away. Add the rest of the stock, 1 cup of water, the rosemary, potatoes, carrots and balsamic vinegar. Reduce heat to low.

5. Cover pot and allow to cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes. After 1 hour, check the stew and add a bit more water if necessary. The stew is done when the beef is tender enough to be easily pulled apart with a fork.

6. Ladle into bowls and serve.

Sweet Potato and White Bean Chicken Stew

I really believe that sweet potatoes make everything better, and this goes double in soups and stews. They bring creaminess and depth of flavor unachievable by regular potatoes, and they’re filling, while being very healthy. I don’t peel the sweet potato here, since the skin is rich in nutrients, and I like the way it tastes, but if you prefer your sweet potatoes peeled (or you’d rather buy pre-peeled sweet potatoes), go for it.

I’ve also made this with butternut squash with great results.

Recipe serves 3-4


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced (reserve a few pinches for garnish)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet potato, scrubbed and diced
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 2 15-oz. cans white (cannellini or Great Northern) beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon Ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste


1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.

2. Add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until translucent.

3. Add garlic, sweet potato, chicken, beans, cumin and chili powder.

4. Stir well and add water to cover (about 3 cups).

5. Cover pot and cook for 18-20 minutes, or until sweet potato is soft and and chicken has cooked through.

6. Serve, garnished with the reserved onion, plus cilantro and/or avocado if desired.

Vegan Apple Beet Soup

This bright, flavorful and beautiful-looking soup is an excellent first course, or a light lunch. Since its flavors mimic borscht, I often serve it with toasted rye bread and sauerkraut.

If you’re not vegan and want to top this with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche, I highly recommend it.

Recipe serves 4-6


  • 3 large beets, scrubbed, ends removed
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 sweet, crisp apples (such as Fuji), peeled, cored and diced
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place beets on a baking sheet and drizzle generously with olive oil. Rub to cover beets fully with oil. Roast in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Under cold running water, gently remove the beets' skins. Chop the skinless, roasted beets into 1" pieces and set aside.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, ginger and apples. Cook until very fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Add chopped beets and 4 cups water. Cover and allow to cook for 18-20 minutes, or until apples and beets are very soft.
  5. Add lemon juice and zest and parsley.
  6. Puree using a blender, food processor or immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve hot.