We’ve all been there before. You head to the cupboard, looking for food. Your stash of mac n’ cheese is dangerously low and you’ve been living the ramen life for three consecutive days—it’s time to explore other options. You stare blankly at the shelves, waiting for something to catch your eye. What’s that, behind the half empty bag of Cool Ranch Doritos? A can of soup.
Now that the polar vortex is back, it’s time for soup to reclaim its place in our hearts as a favorite go-to meal. Most college students don’t have extra time to slave over a pot of homemade soup every week, yet not everyone is a fan of canned soup. The mystery meat and slimy vegetables in canned soup can be questionable, so here are six quick and simple ways to turn your soup from canned to gourmet.
I’ll be the first person to admit that the canned chicken in chicken noodle soup is a little iffy. A simple solution to overcome the protein in canned soup is to add your own. Cook some extra chicken next time you’re making dinner, save it, and add it to your soup. This works with beef, bacon, sausage, and other proteins as well, depending on the flavor profile you’re looking for.
Cheese is an easy fix to add some flavor and creaminess to your soup. Try sprinkling feta on top of tomato soup or adding spicy pepper jack to chicken noodle. You can stir cheese into your soup or just add some to the top. The flavor combinations are limitless.
Sometimes all a soup needs is a little extra salt or pepper, but usually it needs more. Try adding minced garlic or fresh basil, parsley, or rosemary to your soup—whatever’s available. Acid is also a great idea. To make canned soup more gourmet, squeeze in some lemon juice or top it with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
While I don’t recommend adding cream to brothy soups, it makes a great addition to tomato soups and chowders. Cream or milk not only makes your soup smoother, it’ll also add a fresh taste to a food that’s been sitting on a shelf for several weeks (or months).
Fresh veggies are always preferred, but frozen vegetables work just as well and will still add a fresh component to a not-so-fresh dish. Any hearty vegetable works. Pick your favorite, pick what’s in season, pick what your mom sent you, or pick what your roommate’s boyfriend left in the fridge that morning.
If you don’t have croutons in your cupboard, I can almost guarantee that you have a substitute. Some favorites are tortilla chips, goldfish, pretzels, and popcorn. Any kind of chip works, and toasted bread is another quick way to make your own croutons. If you’re feeling especially fancy, cut your grilled cheese into cubes and use those as croutons in your tomato soup.