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What to add to soup when it’s missing something?

Soup is one of the most versatile and customizable dishes out there. With limitless ingredient combinations, there are so many ways to tweak a soup recipe to get it just right. But sometimes, even after following a recipe exactly, a soup can still feel like it’s missing a little something extra. Whether it needs a flavor boost, texture, or just more bulk or heartiness, there are plenty of easy ways to tweak a basic soup to take it to the next level.

How can you tell if your soup needs something more?

Here are some signs your soup could use a little enhancement:

  • The flavor seems flat or one-note
  • The broth tastes too thin or watery
  • It feels too light and insubstantial
  • It’s missing some acidity or brightness
  • The textures feel imbalanced, like it needs something chunky
  • It’s lacking protein or heft from beans, meat, etc.

Trust your taste buds – if a soup doesn’t seem quite complete, chances are it needs a little something more. Start by tasting and think about what flavors or textures it seems to be missing. Then you can zero in on ingredients to add that will fix the issues.

Flavor Boosters

If your soup tastes flat or boring, spices, herbs, citrus, and umami ingredients can give it a flavor punch. Here are some easy additions:

  • Spices: Let spices simmer so the flavors develop. Good options are chili powder, cumin, curry powder, garlic powder, dried parsley.
  • Herbs: Heartier herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano hold up well. Stir in tender herbs like basil, cilantro or dill at the end.
  • Citrus: A squeeze of lemon or lime brightens most soups. You can also add zest.
  • Umami boosters: Ingredients like mushrooms, tomato paste, Parmesan cheese, Worcestershire sauce add savory depth.
  • Acid: Stir in a splash of vinegar or wine. They provide brightness.
  • Hot sauce: Add a few shakes or stir in sriracha or harissa paste for heat.

Heartiness and Body

To give thin or watery soup more richness and body, add ingredients that thicken and add texture. Some options:

  • Grains: Cooked rice, barley, farro or noodles make soup heartier.
  • Beans: White, kidney, chickpeas or lentils add protein and thickness.
  • Potatoes: Diced potatoes lend starch to thicken broth.
  • Veggies: Add chunks of sturdy vegetables – carrots, celery, kale.
  • Bread: Stale bread or croutons soaked in broth add satisfying bulk.
  • Meat: Shredded chicken, beef or sausage makes soup more robust.
  • Nut butters: Stir in a spoonful of nut butter to add body and creaminess.
  • Milk or cream: A splash enriches and thickens broth.

Textures and Garnishes

Adding garnishes and toppings provides contrasting textures that make soup more interesting. Get creative with crunchy, creamy, or crisp toppings. Ideas:

  • Crunchy: Croutons, crispy bacon, tortilla strips, toasted nuts, crumbled crackers.
  • Creamy: Yogurt, sour cream, pesto, avocado, cheese.
  • Crisp: Fresh chopped vegetables, shredded or shaved radish.
  • Savory: Grated Parmesan, crumbled feta or blue cheese.
  • Herbs and greens: Chopped parsley, cilantro, scallions, watercress.
  • Spiced: Smoked paprika, ground cumin or chili powder.

Sample Enhancements for Common Soup Types

Certain types of soup can benefit from specific enhancements based on what flavors they are typically lacking. Try these tweaks:

Soup Type Enhancement Ideas
Tomato soup Basil, oregano, garlic, red pepper flakes
Potato soup Broccoli, bacon, cheddar cheese, scallions
Chicken noodle Thyme, parsley, lemon, carrots, celery
Vegetable Beans, pasta or rice, Parmesan cheese
Bean Smoked pork, cumin, cilantro, lime, tortilla strips
Creamy mushroom Sherry, nutmeg, sautéed mushrooms, croutons
Minestrone Pesto, kale, sausage, zucchini
Beef stew Potatoes, carrots, peas, Worcestershire, thyme
Broccoli cheese Croutons, crispy bacon, extra cheese


With a well-stocked pantry and a little creativity, it’s easy to transform a basic soup into something spectacular. Adjusting the seasonings and textures can make it more balanced, robust and complex. Don’t be afraid to test out ingredient combinations until you achieve just the right flavor and heartiness. Soon you’ll have signature soup recipes with layers of savory, spicy, herby flavors and satisfying heft from grains, beans or vegetables. So grab your favorite soup pot and start enhancing!