Vegetable Soups

A bowl of bright-orange, beta-carotene rich carrot soup with crusty bread

I like a quick and nutritious lunch that includes vegetables with little food preparation, so I make a pot of soup and eat it for lunch for a few days. These soups are balanced meals in a bowl because they contain protein, grains, olive oil, and a variety of vegetables. The chopping and preparation time is fast, so I often put a pot on the stove to simmer while I’m doing other chores. Homemade soups avoid the pitfalls of commercial soups: too much salt, too many calories, and too few vegetables. You can freeze soups in appropriate serving sizes for your needs.


  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 or more cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4-6 cups chopped canned or fresh tomatoes
  • 1qt water
  • 1/3 cup brown rice
  • 1 can white kidney beans or 2 cups cooked white beans
  • 1 large potatoes, diced fine
  • 1-2 cup chopped green beans
  • 1-2 cup chopped zucchini
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil
  • Salt to taste
  • Black or red pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

Saute onion, garlic, and carrots in olive oil. Add tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil. Add brown rice and beans and simmer 30 minutes, adding more water as needed. Add potatoes and cook 10 minutes. Add green beans and zucchini and cook until vegetables are tender. Add spices and serve with parmesan cheese.

Red Lentil Soup

This soup was inspired by my friend Helena who simply cooked red lentils and garlic in water and thinned the mix to a soupy consistency. You can make it her way, but I like my soups to be balanced meals so I’ve added vegetables and grains. You could use split peas or regular lentils instead of red lentils, but red lentils are delicious and digestible. I double this recipe and freeze it in single serving containers. It freezes well, especially if made without potatoes.

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 2 diced carrots
  • 1/4 cup brown rice or pearled barley
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne (optional)
  • 1 large chopped potato (optional)
  • 2 cups chopped spinach, chard, or other greens

Saute onions, garlic, and carrots in olive oil. Add a 6 cups of water, brown rice or barley, red lentils, bay leaf, salt, and black pepper. Cook about 30-45 minutes until rice (or barley) and lentils are softening. Add more water as needed. Add potatoes. If you’re using greens that take time to cook like kale or collards, add them now and cook until the greens and potatoes are done, about 30 minutes more. If you’re using spinach or chard, add them after the potatoes are cooked. Adjust salt and other seasoning, and add more water if the soup is too thick.

Kale-Potato Soup

The blended white beans and potatoes make this soup rich and creamy, even though it is low in fat.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 4 large potatoes, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cans white beans
  • 4 cups finely chopped fresh kale
  • 1-2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. or more of cayenne or black pepper (I like it hot!)
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)

Saute onion, garlic, and carrot in olive oil in a large pot. Add about 2 quarts of water (you’ll have to adjust water to the consistency you like at the end), chopped potatoes, bay leaf, and white beans. Cook for half an hour or until potatoes are soft.

Remove about ½ of the mix (without the bay leaf) and cool slightly.

Add kale to the main pot and cook until tender. While this is cooking, puree the potato-carrot-bean puree you set aside. When the kale is tender, add the pureed mix to the cooked kale and chunky soup mix. Add 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast at the end of cooking if desired. Adjust salt, pepper, and consistency by adding more water if needed.

Creamy Tomato and White Bean Soup

A creamy soup without cream or milk.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 roughly chopped carrot
  • 1 roughly chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 8 cups tomatoes–fresh peeled or BPA-free carton
  • 2 cans white beans
  • 1-2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice (optional)

Saute carrot, onion, and garlic in olive oil. Large pieces are fine. Add 1 cup water, tomatoes, beans, and dried spices. Cook about 45 minutes. Cool a little and puree in a blender along with the whole wheat flour. Return mix to the large pot, adjust seasoning and amount of water, add cooked brown rice if desired, and add finely shredded basil for the last few minutes of cooking.

This makes a great creamy tomato base for other soups. You can go Italian by adding zucchini and whole wheat pasta instead of brown rice. I always like adding greens.

Barley and Bean Soup

This soup is easy and delicious.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup barley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 large chopped potato
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can Great Northern or other white beans
  • 2 cups chopped greens
  • 1-2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

Saute carrots, onion, and garlic in olive oil. Add 2 quarts of water, barley, bay leaf, and soy sauce. Cook 45 minutes until barley softens. Add potatoes, beans (I useEdenorganic beans), salt, and pepper. Cook until potatoes are soft. Add greens, cook until tender, and adjust the seasoning to taste. You may need more water, salt, or soy sauce.

Chili con Tofu 

This was a family favorite when my sons were young.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups chopped tomato
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 large diced carrot
  • 4 cups cooked kidney or black beans (2 cans or home cooked)
  • 1/2 cup millet
  • 1 large diced red or green pepper
  • 1 lb cake of tofu cut in small cubes

Saute onion and garlic. Add spices, water, tomatoes, carrots, beans, and millet. Cook about 45 minutes, adding water as needed. Add small cubes of tofu and simmer about 15 minutes or until well cooked. Adjust seasoning, adding more chili, cumin, and cayenne if you like spicy food.

Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Beans)

An Italian favorite from my husband’s grandmother.

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 3 chopped cloves garlic
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2-3 cups pureed tomato–fresh or BPA-free cartons
  • 3 cups cooked white beans
  • 1-2 tsp. salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup small whole wheat pasta
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Romano cheese

Saute onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Add tomato, water, cooked white beans, and dried spices. Simmer 1 hour until beans are falling apart, adding water to adjust thickness of soup. Add noodles and cook al dente. Add chopped basil and serve with Romano cheese.