Soup Goes Global

Satisfy your appetite and improve your health with
international twists on a popular comfort food.

March 2015

By Jodi Helmer

A steaming bowl of soup is deeply soothing and a staple in cuisines around the world. “Soup can provide a nice balance of nutrients without a lot of calories,” says Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, clinical associate professor of nutrition at Boston University. “You can eat a bowl of soup to take the edge off of hunger before a meal or serve it as the main course.”

The perfect pot of soup, according to Blake, incorporates vegetables, protein and whole grains; herbs and spices like garlic, ginger and oregano add flavor and offer health benefits. Garlic, for example, has been linked to lower risk of heart disease and ginger has been shown to reduce inflammation. To keep the calories and fat in check, Vandana Sheth, RDN, a Los Angeles nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, recommends choosing beans and lentils over meat to add protein (if meat is a must, opt for lean cuts).

Grandma’s chicken soup might be comforting but perhaps it’s time to shake things up. How about a Thai coconut chicken soup? Or a cheese-and-potato soup that is a staple in Ecuador?

While making soup from scratch is often a healthier approach, prepared soups can be a good alternative; just remember to read the nutrition labels. “Canned soups are convenient and quick but they can contain a lot of sodium,” Sheth explains.
These globally inspired soups are so flavorful they may become your new favorites (sorry, Grandma).

Crab Soup with Tadka

Monica Bhide, author of Modern Spice (Simon & Schuster)

In India, lentil soups are made (naturally enough) with lentils, which are time-consuming
to cook. This traditional recipe uses cannellini beans instead of lentils, cutting down
on cooking time without sacrificing flavor.

2 tbsp butter
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 can (15.5 oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and ground white pepper
1/4 lb cooked lump crab, picked over

1 tbsp ghee2 or vegetable oil
1/4 tsp deghi mirch3 or paprika
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes

1. Heat the ghee in a small pan on medium heat until quite hot.

2. Add the deghi mirch and red pepper flakes.

3. Remove from heat immediately and drizzle over the soup right away.

1 The process of tempering spices in hot oil to release their true flavor

2 Clarified butter; available at Indian markets

3 A deep red spice based on ground peppers; available at Indian markets


1. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

2. Add the garlic and onion. Sauté for about 10 minutes, or until transparent and soft. Add the beans and cook another five minutes. Add the broth and simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

4. Working in batches if necessary, puree in a blender until smooth. (If you prefer a really smooth soup, pass the puree through a strainer.)

5. Return the soup to a clean saucepan and stir in the heavy cream. Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary with salt and pepper.

6. Reheat the soup to a gentle simmer, then ladle into serving bowls and top each with an equal amount of crab.

Serves 2 to 4

Reprinted with permission of Monica Bhide from Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen (Simon & Schuster,


Locro de Papa

Nikki Sawyer Moore,
Chef and founder of FOOD LOVE (

This hearty Ecuadorian cheese-and-potato soup gets its golden color from annatto seeds
(available at international markets). While lettuce and avocado may seem like strange
accompaniments, they pair perfectly with this dish, which is popular high
in the Andes Mountains.

2 tsp annatto (achiote) seeds
2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
3 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2” cubes
(keep cubed potatoes in cold water to prevent browning)
1 medium white onion, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 cups water
1 cup whole milk
5 oz queso fresco1, grated
2 avocados, pitted, peeled, and cut into thin slices
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced

1. In a small skillet, combine the annatto seeds and vegetable oil over
medium heat. Heat the oil until it starts to simmer, stirring often.

2. Remove the skillet from the heat and let the seeds and oil sit for at least 10 minutes.

3. Strain the oil into an 8-quart pot and discard the seeds. The oil will be bright orange.

4. Heat the oil over medium-high heat and toss in half of the potatoes and the onion. Sauté until the onions are soft, about three minutes. Add the cumin, salt and pepper, and stir briefly.

5. Add the water and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and partially cover the pot.

6. Let the soup simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender; use a potato masher to carefully mash the potatoes into the broth.

7. Add the remaining potatoes to the soup and bring the soup back to a simmer. Let the soup simmer for an additional 20 minutes or until the added potatoes have softened.

8. Stir in the milk and queso fresco and bring the soup back to a simmer. Serve hot and garnish with avocado and lettuce.

1 A Mexican cheese with a crumbly texture and slightly acidic flavor


Serves 6

Recipe and photo reprinted with permission from Nikki Moore,


Thai Coconut Chicken Soup
(Gai Tom Kha)

Ellen Brown,
adapted from Slurp, Santa Fe, New Mexico; author of Soup of the Day (Running Press)

This recipe was developed using ingredients that can be found readily in the US because
the traditional ingredients (in parentheses) are still difficult to find unless you have access
to an Asian grocery. The soup can be prepared up to two days in advance, tightly
covered and refrigerated. Reheat over low heat, stirring occasionally.

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 cups chicken stock
1 (14 oz) can reduced-fat coconut milk
1 tbsp grated lime zest (or 5 kaffir lime leaves, cut into thin shreds)
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger (or 3 tbsp shredded fresh galangal)
2 lemongrass stalks, only the tender inner parts, finely chopped
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
2 tbsp firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tsp Thai red curry paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

1. Pound the chicken breasts to an even 1/2” thickness. Place on a sheet of plastic wrap and move to the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes or until firm.

2. Cut the chicken into 2” strips and then cut the strips against the grain into slices. Refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Combine the stock, coconut milk, lime zest, ginger, lemongrass, lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar and curry paste in a three-quart soup pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes.

4. Add the chicken to the soup and cook, stirring frequently, for three minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if necessary.

5. Serve immediately, sprinkling some cilantro on each serving.

Serves 6 to 8

Photo and recipe reprinted from Soup of the Day by
Ellen Brown with permission from Running Press (2014,

More Global Soup Recipes

Greek Lemon

Chicken Soup with Spinach

Ellen Brown, adapted from Slurp, Santa Fe, New Mexico
and reprinted from Soup of the Day (Running Press)

Called avgolemono, this is a staple menu item in Greek restaurants everywhere. It can be
prepared up to two days in advance, tightly covered and refrigerated. Reheat over low heat,
stirring occasionally, but do not allow the soup to boil or the eggs will scramble.

1/2 cup long-grain rice
3 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
2 qts chicken stock
1 (8 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice or to taste
2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 cups firmly packed baby spinach leaves
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Combine the rice and two cups salted water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 15 to 18 minutes, or until tender. Drain the rice, and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a four-quart soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring frequently, for five to seven minutes, or until the vegetables soften.
  3. Add the stock, chicken, oregano, lemon juice and lemon zest to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the rice and spinach to the soup, and cook for three minutes. Take the pot off the stove.
  5. Whisk the eggs and egg yolk together in a mixing bowl until light and frothy.
  6. Slowly whisk one cup of the soup broth into the eggs, then return the mixture to the soup pot. Stir it in, cover the pot, and allow the soup to sit for three minutes to thicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add additional lemon juice if needed. Serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8. Recipe reprinted from Soup of the Day: 150 Delicious and Comforting Recipes from Our Favorite Restaurants by Ellen Brown with permission from Running Press, 2014 (


Potato Corn Chowder

Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, reprinted from The Vegiterranean Diet (Da Capo)

Potatoes have traditionally been a staple on the Greek island of Crete, a contributor to
the Mediterranean diet. This creamy soup can be stored, refrigerated, in an airtight container
for up to between four and six days.

1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cups vegetable stock, divided
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cups frozen corn
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 cups plain, unsweetened plant-based milk

  1. In a medium soup pot, saute the onion in 1/2 cup vegetable stock over medium-high heat until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add bell pepper, celery and corn, and cook until vegetables soften, an additional 5 minutes.
  2. Add potatoes, remaining stock, bay leaf, pepper and dill; bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and simmer until vegetables soften, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Add plant-based milk and increase heat, bringing soup to a boil. Reduce to low and cook an additional 5 minutes.
  4. Turn off heat and remove bay leaf. With an immersion blender, puree soup until most is smooth but some remains chunky. Cook until thickened, 5 to 10 more minutes. Serve hot with whole-grain bread, if desired.

Serves 2 to 4. Reprinted with permission from The Vegiterranean Diet by Julieanna Hever
(Da Capo Press,


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