23 Jan Jonathan Cartu Divulge: The Best Soups & Stews You Can Make At Home
I used to hate soup, and its thicker cousin, stew. I saw it all as hot liquid slurry, featuring a symphony of ingredients that always, somehow, included chunks of carrots. It will only be as good as the bread I’m dipping into it, I’d assume. But now I know the truth: a humble bowl of soup or stew can change your day, maybe even your life? Nothing else feels as warming and nourishing as a homemade bowl of this stuff. And it really is best when you make it yourself (though NYC has plenty of places that’ll fill your bowl).
I get a lot of joy in making it at home—it’s inexpensive and great for meal prep, yes, but it’s also nice to just make something. An empty Instant Pot (yes, this is my preferred small kitchen method) is like a blank canvas, just waiting to come alive with the next viral Stew. Grab that wooden spoon and stir, stir, stir, become hypnotized by the cauldron before you, and then before you know it, you’ve made a thing. And the thing is goddamn good.
Here is a list of some of the best soup and stew recipes to make at home, unranked, but starting with the all-time best, the one that changed my mind about soup and stew forever.
COOKIE + KATE’S QUINOA VEGETABLE SOUP WITH KALE
There are a few stewebrities out there these days, and one of the brightest stew stars in my book is Kathryne Taylor. Last year, a friend alerted me to Taylor’s Instagram account, Cookie + Kate, where I found the most perfect soup recipe of all time: the Quinoa Vegetable Soup with Kale. It’s really more of a soupy stew, or a stewp. Listen, whatever you want to call it, it’s truly been a revelation for me. It brought me from soup-hater to soup-believer. A thing I once tolerated I now crave. Do I eat it pretty much every day for lunch and sometimes also dinner and a few times even for breakfast? Yep. Is that kind of sad? Hell no, look at this masterwork:
This recipe is flexible, so add whatever vegetables you want (thanks for asking, I mostly toss in zucchini, onion, celery, and carrots). I also like to at least quadruple the 1 tsp suggestion of red pepper flakes, the spicier the better—if you agree then try 1 heaping tablespoon, maybe a little more for luck. Then top it all off with a dollop of plain yogurt and a little sea salt.
Note: This recipe makes a very large batch, so be sure to have a big container on hand when you make it, for leftovers (which will last you all week). It’s also great for freezing.
ALISON ROMAN’S SPICED CHICKPEA STEW WITH COCONUT AND TURMERIC (A.K.A. “THE STEW”)
Alison Roman really changed the stew game two years ago with this one. Did stew even exist before then? It was a crazy time, and one I’ll always remember… I made what became known as #TheStew during its peak popularity, and brought it into work for lunch one day. I heated it up in the microwave, excitedly brought it back to my desk, and… oops, right as I set it down, it tipped over the ledge and fell straight on to our office’s carpeted flooring. Does turmeric stain? You bet it does. After several attempts with various cleaning products, I gave up. But it’s okay, Ben eventually relocated to that desk; it’s his eyesore now.
I don’t have much else to say that you don’t already know about this recipe, as we’ve established it’s the most famous stew recipe of all time, but I do want to note that while the recipe warns against doing this, I’ve made it with lite coconut milk before and it has worked just fine—I didn’t even really notice a difference!
HELEN ROSNER’S “ROBERTO”
If you have not yet met Roberto, now is the time. Helen Rosner’s charmingly named creation was, as she tells it, “born during the winter, six or seven years ago, when I put together a quick dinner by sautéing some onion and garlic with a few links of spicy Italian sausage, dumping in a can of white beans and a can of crushed tomatoes, adding a few cups of chicken stock, and stirring in a fistful of torn kale.” This is how most impromptu creations begin, but Rosner wasn’t satisfied—she added more (parmesan, lemon juice)—until she reached “something unexpectedly right.” She and her husband called it Roberto.
This delightful recipe origin story makes me believe that we all have our own Spirit Soups or Spirit Stews in us, waiting to come out. I encourage you to find your Roberto.
SMITTEN KITCHEN MAKES VESELKA’S CABBAGE SOUP
Sometimes you want one of New York’s best comfort foods but you also want to stay at home. What then? You will have to make a tough decision, or you can have the best of both worlds and make it yourself. Now that’s satisfying on two levels: you did something today! And that something was delicious.
Next time you have a craving for both your couch and an NYC-staple soup, check out Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen‘s recipe for Veselka’s cabbage soup. Now, I can’t actually eat this because I don’t eat meat, which seems like a rather important part of the recipe, but I trust Perelman, one of the OG internet chefs, and one of the best in the game, so give this one a shot. “This is no flat but earnest cabbage soup,” Perelman writes. “It is cooked with a mix of chicken broth and cubes of fatty pork, then not just cabbage, but sauerkraut and then extra ‘juice’ at the end to punch it up. It’s the kind of thing you’d eat every day of the shivery winter, if Veselka weren’t a cruel 1.7 miles across and then downtown, which feels even longer the colder it gets.”
MAANGCHI’S KIMCHI JJIGAE
I am always craving kimchi. Kimchi pancakes, kimchi from a jar (Mother In Law’s makes a nice vegan one), and, of course, kimchi jjigae. The latter delivers a spicy, warming burst to your soul and stomach. I like to order out for this one, but whenever I attempt to make anything with kimchi in it, I consult Emily Kim’s site, Maangchi. (The New York Times called her “YouTube’s Korean Julia Child.”)
To my fellow vegetarians: It works without the pork shoulder, and you can use vegetable broth instead of meat or seafood-based, in my opinion.
“I learned this recipe from a restaurant famous for kimchi-jjigae in Korea,” Kim writes. “The restaurant was always full of people eating and sweating over kimchi stew. There was only one item on the menu, so everyone was there for the same thing: a steaming pot of spicy kimchi-jjigae…” You know it’s good when they’re only serving one thing.
ANY FRENCH ONION SOUP
What is better than French Onion Soup, which comes with built-in bread? Not much! And there’s not even a whole lot going on here, just a perfect combination of broth, bread, a ton of onions, salt and cheese, for the most part. This Epicurious one looks idyllic and easy enough to vegetarian-ize, but once you have the ingredients in your head, feel free to improvise. For example, when I was a kid, I remember the bread being at the bottom of the bowl, like a surprise, so don’t feel tied down by the bread-on-top situation that has been popularized.
J. KENJI LÓPEZ-ALT’S PRESSURE COOKER AMERICAN BEEF STEW
This beef stew recipe is not difficult, but it definitely takes more than two hours to chop and brown and whatnot, so pour yourself a beverage and get to it, because the effort and time are well spent. At the end of the process, you’ll have a stew that has layers of flavor, tender beef, and vegetables that still retain their texture and taste.
Some tips: Buy fresh bay leaves for this instead of using the sad dusty specimens that have sat in your pantry all these years. And do not skip the fish sauce — that’s your ticket to Umami-town.
I’ve only made this stew when my parents come to visit us for the winter holidays because you know, time and effort. But that also means this humble beef stew feels special, ceremonial,…