How To Keep Your Cabinets Stocked For Soup Season

These staples will have you ready to whip up your favorite soup anytime the mood strikes

There’s nothing better than warm, homemade soup on a chilly day, whether it’s a heaping bowl of hearty chili, comforting chicken noodle soup, or creamy tomato soup. You can never go wrong turning to a recipe box favorite, but one of soup’s most appealing characteristics is its ability to clean out the fridge by using up whatever is hanging around in there. While most recipes typically call for a few fresh ingredients, you don’t always have to dash out to the store when the soup craving hits. Even when there’s nothing left in the fridge but wilted greens, limp carrots and celery, and a half-used carton of chicken broth—soup and a well-stocked pantry can save the day. With just a few of the right staples, you can turn any ho-hum array of ingredients into a delicious meal. A well-stocked pantry starts with a handful of basic dried and canned goods that are the base of so many recipes beyond soul-warming stews. Keeping these pantry heroes, plus a few frozen essentials, at your fingertips is the key to a seamless soup season.

Broth or Stock

Pick any soup recipe in your repertoire and you’ll find that many of them include a broth of some sort; low-sodium chicken broth, vegetable broth, or beef broth (you can substitute bone broth for added nutrients). You can also opt for a jar of stock base paste or cubes, like Better than Bouillon, which come in the same flavors. A little goes a long way, so it will last you a few recipes—just refrigerate after opening.


Beans are a soup’s best friend and the best way to bulk one up. Whether you use them as a base or side, they’re versatile and essential to keep on hand, especially for any chili. Either the dried or canned route will do, but dried beans will give you more bang-for-your-buck (though they require a bit more prep time). These types are commonly used in recipes, so keep them in the cupboard: black beans, cannellini beans, and black eyed peas. Lentils, garbanzo (chickpeas), lima beans, and kidney beans are also smart to have on hand for all your winter recipes.

Pastas and Grains

From cheesy lasagna to Chicken-and-Rice soup, adding something starchy is a great way to complete a brothy dish. While it feels like there a million options to choose from, wild rice, brown rice, and basmati white rice should work for many of your grain needs. As for pasta, it’s always good to have assorted shapes, like penne, rigatoni, orzo, lasagna, and couscous, on hand.

Ground Beef Vegetable Soup with Gnocchi
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kathleen Varner; Food Styling: Maggie Ruggiero

Canned Goods

Any good Southern cook knows your cabinet should never be lacking when it comes to canned goods (even better: mason jars of mama’s canned specialties). Specifically when it comes to soup ingredients, you’ll want to fill your shelves with canned tomatoes (diced and crushed), tomato paste, coconut milk, various vegetables (corn, black beans, green beans, etc.) Even a can of cream of mushroom or curry paste can come in handy for that once-a-season recipe.

Spices and Seasonings

While you should already have your go-to spices, be sure to stock up on a few that are commonly included in soups and stews: cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, ginger, turmeric, dried chilis peppers, plus a variety of dried herbs like basil, oregano, and cilantro. And, of course, bay leaves should be on the shelf. While some say they don’t add much in terms of flavor, others are adamant that they’re a must when called for.

Other Various Necessities

There are a handful of ingredients that will last a week or two but not all season, so they’re great to pick up every time (or every other time) you visit the grocery. You'll find garlic, onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes called for in countless soup recipes, and they can be easily incorporated into any non-soup main or side dish. Don’t forget to keep a bag of tortillas at the ready, too, to fry up for that perfect, crispy topping to your favorite Chicken Tortilla Soup.

A Few Freezer Staples

Many winter stew recipes call for specifically for frozen vegetables including peas, corn, okra, spinach, or even a medley, which is a great option for out-of-season veggies. A few other handy freezer items include a crusty baguette for sopping up all the goodness, parmesan rinds for thickening up a soup, and homemade stock. Just simmer any leftover vegetables scraps or meat bones with water; or keep a bag in the freezer to add scraps and bones for all the makings to whip up a homemade broth at the drop of a hat.

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