7 Tips for Full Flavoured Soup Without Stock

broccoli & parmesan soup

Let’s talk soup without stock! And soup without broth.

In the past I felt I had to use stock to get a really delicious full flavoured soup.

Often I didn’t have any stock in the freezer or the pantry.

So I made a conscious effort to experiment with soups that don’t require stock as a flavour base.

And you know what?

It’s totally possible to make amazing soups without stock.

Here’s how you do it…

7 Tips for Full Flavoured Soups Without Stock

1. Use aromatic vegetables

One of the secrets to great stock is being generous with the aromatic vegetables – onion, carrots, celery, garlic or leeks.

So rather than add stock, I like to add at least one of these directly to the soup. Big flavour and no waste. Win win!

2. Season with soy sauce

Soy sauce is rich in lovely umami-type savoury flavours. Even a tablespoon can turn a simple soup into something totally moreish.

3. Use a full flavoured accompaniment.

Things like pesto or harissa give a real flavour hit to soup, not to mention adding some textural variation.

4. Don’t overdo the water

When you’re making soup without stock, it’s really important that you don’t add too much water or other liquid.

You can always thin out a too-thick soup, but rescuing a watery soup can take hours of simmering.

5. Season seriously

Seasoning properly is critical for optimum flavour in all cooking but especially so in soup.

Stocks or bouillon tend to be quite salty naturally, so soup made on a stock base tends not to need as much salt & pepper.

When switching to stock-free soup, it can be easy to under-season so be ultra careful to taste and add more salt if needed.

6. Use a little acid

A little lemon juice or a splash of vinegar can turn a dull soup into a vibrant star.

7. Spice it up

Some chilli can do wonders to compliment the warming nature of soup.

A little freshly ground black pepper, cumin or coriander or even curry powder can give an old favourite soup a new lease of life.

Does soup have to have stock or broth?

Absolutely NOT! The only thing a soup needs to have is liquid. And while stock or broth can be delicious liquids to use in a soup there are plenty of alternatives.

My go-to liquid is plain water so the ingredients in the soup provide the flavour. But I also use tomato passata (puree) or canned tomatoes, coconut milk, coconut cream, wine, whipping cream

How do I fix bland tasting soup?

The first thing is to add some salt because salt dials up all the flavour naturally occurring in the soup. If that doesn’t fix it, try more salt. And if it still tastes flat add a squeeze of lemon or lime.

The other option is to serve with a big flavour bomb ingredient on top. For example goats cheese, olives, roast almonds, roast walnuts, pine nuts, crispy fried shallots, sun dried tomatoes, fresh herbs, pesto, hummus, shaved or grated parmesan cheese or a drizzle of peppery extra virgin olive oil.

Can you just add water to soup?

Yes. I do all the time. I love the cleaner flavours from soups that don’t use stock. Just remember you’ll probably need more salt to make up for the seasoning that would be inherent in the stock or broth.

Can I use bone broth instead of stock

Absolutely! Bone broths tend to be super flavoursome so be prepared for a big flavour explosion.


broccoli & parmesan soup

Broccoli & Parmesan Soup

It’s hard not to love broccoli. All its greenness just screams good for you. And in soup form, it feels even more nurturing.

This would also work well with frozen broccoli. For a vegan version, skip the cheese and serve with a sprinkling of lightly toasted pinenuts or almonds.

If you don’t have a stick blender, feel free to serve as a chunky soup. Or use a regular blender of food processor – just be very careful when pureeing the hot soup.

Enough for: 2
Takes: 15 Minutes

2 heads broccoli, chopped including tender stalks
1 small piece of parmesan rind, optional, + shaved parmesan to serve
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Bring 2 cups water to boil in a medium saucepan.

2. Add broccoli, Parmesan rind, if using and soy sauce.

3. Cover and simmer rapidly for 8-10 minutes or until broccoli is tender.

4. Puree in the saucepan with a stick blender until smooth.

5. Taste and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Serve with extra parmesan sprinkled over the top.


Video version of the recipe

More Simple 6-Ingredient Soup Recipes

Have fun in the kitchen!

With love
Jules x

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  • Great tips! I aso season my food with nutritional yeast, spices, herbs or Cenovis (Swiss vegi Marmite).

    That soup looks so droolworthy!



  • I love soup, too. One thing I do is steam a bag of frozen chunky veg. When done I dislove a spoon of miso paste in the remaining water and put them together for a tasty, simple soup. One could use fresh veggies. That would bring the ingredient count up. I consider a bag of frozen veg to be one ingredient. Next time I make soup I think I will puree and call it a cream soup. Welcome back. I’m looking forward to more delicious recipes.
    Cheers, Gina

    • Nice receipe! I made it with frozen broccoli since that was all the broccoli at that time. And I used nutritional yeast instead of cheese to make it vegan friendly.

  • Hi Jules! Welcome back from your holiday1 I hop eyou didn’t get stuck anywhere due to the snow.

    I use soy sauce or miso or vegemite in my soups for that fuller flavour – the other thing that I find that works if I don’t have the others on hand is to properly caramelise my onions first and adding water to them to stop them from burning, then repeating the process a few times. Then I can get away with a quick addition of spinach/peas/broccoli without a stock. The other thing that I find works well is adding fruit juices (like lemon, lime or orange .- especially to carrot, spinach or pea soups) and fresh herbs just before serving and no stock needed as long as I have seasoned well. Yum.

  • I have the same trouble making soup; I don’t buy canned stock and I don’t make my own from scratch. I love your tips! I’ll try adding lemon juice to my soup next time. Browning onions really adds flavor. My other favorite is Japanese miso paste. Miso soup goes well with tofu, vegetables, mushrooms, fish, kelp, and even potatoes. I like to keep miso paste in my minimalist kitchen because they can be used in cooking/baking fish and tasty sauce for vegetables.

  • I am a steadfast devotee of stock based everything, but It is does take a lot of time. And when in a pinch I too go for the soy sauce or fish sauce. Soy sauce is the liquid from fish preserved with salt so it makes sense that it adds a lot of meaty flavor.

    Fish sauce is also made from fish specifically anchovies. Not my favorite on pizza, but a little goes a long way and can really deepen a soup or risotto. Just make sure your vegetarian friends eat fish before you add it in.

    • Um, Soy Sauce is vegetarian, it is quite literally made from fermented SOYa beans, hence the name. No fish involved.

      • Looking for something to give my vegetable soup a good taste as unable to make it with stocks I cant have it.

  • Yes! Start with aromatic vegetables! This is so true! I use canned stock (actually boxed) but always start with the “holy trinity” as my mom calls it, and always have success. I also agree with the not too much water and never add salt unless it’s a touch of soy sauce or miso. Use spices to add flavor. My mom was born and raised in southern Louisiana where creole and cajun food reigns. Instead of carrots, use green pepper, celery, and onions sauted tender to start. I always, always, add garlic too. To thicken, the tradition is to use file (fee-lay) or okra. I love file, but it’s hard to find the good stuff, so I save it for my gumbos and for other soups I use arrowroot, cornstarch, or one of the gluten-free flours. (Yes, I was raised on gumbo, jambalaya, and etoufee, but recently diagnosed as gluten intolerant. I’m learning to make rouxs without wheat flour.) Creole food is so tasty because it starts with these three vegetables. It’s a blend of french, spanish, african, and Choctaw Indian influences. College friends have told me that the carrot, celery, and onion mix is more typical of northeastern US and northern Europe. I don’t know about that, but they are yummy too.

  • Here, all those aromatics are very expensive, much more so than buying stock, and especially more expensive than saving the bones and juices from meat meals and making a simple stock with the bones, onion, carrots and celery. It doesn’t take much. Since I really only use chicken, I get chicken stock this way. Even a cup adds flavour and nutrition, such as calcium from the bones in the way our bodies can most efficiently use it.

    • But for vegetarians or vegans like myself, I prefer to leave the chickens and animals alone ;)

  • Wow, I love the look of that soup (I love broccoli!) Someone recently told me that pureed soups are good for those trying to eat less, because the water is incorporated with the solids and makes one feel full for longer than the equivalent amount of food and water consumed separately. Not sure if there is any truth in this biologically, but it would explain why I find soup so satisfying!

  • But I did make a soup with aromatics, today. Cauliflower soup, with carrots, onion, garlic AND four strips of good quality side bacon, not cooked just added in two-inch pieces, and the rind of a piece of parmesan. I keep rinds and strange bits of cheese in a jar in the freezer (next to the bones container) to use like this. Oh. That’s more than five.

  • ## Soy sauce is the liquid from fish preserved with salt so it makes sense that it adds a lot of meaty flavor. ##

    I always thought it was fermented, salted soy beans.

  • Welcome back! I would love to try this soup but my partner isn’t 100% keen on broccoli so I might give it a miss. Great tips for other soups though!

  • ooo – welcome back! love soups! this reminds me of a cauliflower/broccoli one I had at a friends place a few years ago – delish. I use a little soy sauce in my soups aswell, gives it a little flavour plus salt. Yum!

  • cat
    not love broccoli??? this might be the dish to change his mind ;)

    s & a
    yes you’re right – soy sauce doesn’t contain any fish – it’s a fermented soybean product.

    another claire
    interesting theory on the pureed soups… not sure how it would work but any excuse to eat more soup!

    thanks for sharing your creole soup culture – LOVE IT!

    lovely to hear from you marie – hope your mother enjoys the broccoli soup!

    thanks alex!
    I did get stuck on the way over to Ireland but ended up with a few bonus shopping days in London – so it wasn’t so bad. Had my first white christmas – totally unforgettable!

    And thanks for mentioning citrus juice and herbs – can make a world of difference.

    I’ve just been experimenting with different frozen veg – love the way your mind works.

    It’s so good to be back ;)

  • Great post – I think the best soups are always those that let the flavour of its no. 1 ingredient shine through, this looks just beautiful. Thanks for sharing your tips, love your photography!

  • ben
    chicken bouillon kinda fits in with the stock category for me… a bit too much work to make your own and store bought ones tend to be disappointing..

    thanks miss mands!
    now if you aren’t a ‘marketing type’ I don’t know who is.
    means a lot to hear it from you

  • Funny – green soup was the only way to get veges into my son when he was younger – rejected almost everything else. Only difference is that I add cauliflower to it too – adds a white veg (I try to eat as many colours of veges as I can) and is souper tasty… pun too much?? lol. I also freeze parmesan rinds and often chuck a chunk in. Adds a lot without adding a lot.
    Hope you had a good break – glad to see you back.

  • Love to try this recipe but I’m afraid out here in the boonies, the only parm I can get comes in a green plastic shaker can….well, there is the generic but why bother. I’d love to add the flavor a parm rind would give but since I probably won’t get my hands on any, is there something I can use in its place?

  • claire
    love your work,,, and the puns ;) lovely to hear from you

    I’m hearin you about country living and absence of good parmesan. the soup will be lovely without it… fresher tasting but not in a bad way ;) you could add some cream or olive oil if you’d like a bit more richness

  • @Jen – (and apologies Jules- not taking over your blog!) if you leave a block of cheddar (or really any yellow cheese) dry out in the fridge you can use that! My ex used to eat the funny ‘cheese’ spread that comes in a jar – and after he left (a good thing!!!) and that languished in the fridge and dried out a little, it was used in a stockless pea soup and ‘fished out’ before serving. Being in the boonies means increasing the creativity (and using the generic stuff or an alternative isn’t always bad – just think of it as practise for knowing what to do when the real desired ingredient is accessible!!!)

  • Hi Jules!

    Love your site and recipes. I’m trying this soup tonight for dinner. We eat a lot of soup at my house (a. lot.) but always stock-based which, I agree, takes a lot of ‘doctoring’ to make it interesting. I highly recommending adding 1/2 a jalapeno pepper, chopped with seeds and gills in, to the onion/carrot/celery saute. It really adds something to soup, though the flavour tends to mellow significantly the next day.

    Question for you. I try to avoid adding salt to food and 1 tbsp of soy sauce usually has about 2/3 of an adult’s daily sodium intake (950mg of the 1500mg you’re ‘supposed’ to have). Any thoughts on other tasty things that can be added to soups to amp up the flavour without amping up the salt content?

  • Ooh look, everyone’s back! Hi everyone :)

    I like the idea of a broccoli soup that isn’t cream based. Not that I don’t love creamy broccoli soup, it’s just my belt that doesn’t.

    That 101cookbooks bouillon recipe that Zo has linked to looks right up my alley. She only recommends freezing for a month, that seems like a short freezer life to me, anyone else? I’d probably do the salt-free freezing one. We have often discussed stock options (hehe) here, such as what to do with all the bloody celery. Making a blended-vegie mix to freeze would have to take up a lot less space than boiling up stock and freezing that. I likey.

    I can’t believe soy is made from soybeans. Next you’ll tell me that vegemite isn’t from the vegemite nut?

  • thanks for the link zo – brilliant!

    hey kylie!
    loving the idsa of the blended vegie mix to freeze
    ahh the elusive vegemite nut.. cute

  • this is delicious, so easy & so healthy! i’ve already made it twice this week. are there any other vegetables people suggest making into a soup like this?

  • hey melissa
    cauliflower is lovely – although I tend to sweat a few onions first for it. If you’re interested in soup, my class at The Virtual Cookery School has a heap of simple 10 minute soups similar to this one.

  • Hey Jules,
    I’m from South Africa and here we have a fragrant, red tea we call rooibos (red bush). This tea is free of caffeine and low in tannins. Sometimes I use a Rooibos tea bag to flavour the water I am using in the soup.

  • I always start with a potato for vegetable soup of any kind. Stock is nice but one can get by without it. Add veggie or veggies of choice and when everything is soft, wizz with a blender. To serve add a dollop of cream. It’s delicious. I make it this way often. The potato adds body to the soup.

  • I really like how easy this recipe is and how acessible it is for college students to make!

  • Hey Jules

    I made your roast broccoli last night and used it to make a soup, wow it was delish!

  • What should I do if I don’t have a hand-puree blender? I have a different type of puree blender can I use that?

  • What about cleaning the broccoli before making the soup? That is a very important but time consuming task you don’t mention in the video… I would never eat the broccoli from the supermarket where everybody touches the broccoli!

  • All of these tips work wonderfully. I love to add the soy sauce and or the vinegar. Thanks for these tips to add life to my vegetable soup!

  • As a non-vegan/non-vegetarian, I have to say this soup was… absolutely delicious. I subbed real parm for a Wisconsin variety, which slightly melted away in the soup, so I left it in and blended it all together turned out wonderfully creamy. Always have been a fan of cheese-and-broccoli arrangements, and this is another one on the list.

    Many thanks!

  • First time visitor. Great blog! Only came here to find a stock-free soup idea. Now find myself browsing the whole site! Keep up the great work, very impressive…

  • Thank you so much. I just made this soup, so simple, smells beautiful and it is so delicious! I love soups but can’t stand all the chemical soup bases. I’m looking forward to trying more of your recipes. Thank you for sharing.

  • Thinking about trying this tonight but I don’t have lemons or lemon juice. Is that a problem? Also, instead of the Parmesan, could I use Colby jack cheese? I’m thinking more along the lines of a broccoli cheddar soup…

  • Looked everywhere and could not find where to enter my email to get free cookbook. ? So I though I would try here.

  • I’ve been adding a shake of smoked paprika towards the end of cooking before pureéing a smooth vegetable soup. A nice warming comes through but subtle. Not at all hot. Start with a small amount, taste, add more, if needed.

  • This sounds great but I’m a little confused..it’s under low carb high-fat recipes. Can this really be that high in fat just from the cheese?

  • Love your Website Blog Recipes etc. Having been the cook for a growing family for 40 years I had completely lost my enthusiasm for cooking. Thanks to you I have regained my mojo for experimenting and you make all the preparations so easy and yet result in really tasty nutritious meals
    2 thoughts re soup flavours without the hassle of a stock base.
    Here in the UK we have Worcester Sauce usually known by its brand name Lee and Perrins I use this a lot. Also using HP sauce gives a meaty edge.

    • Thanks for sharing scibs.. I love Lee & Perrins too!
      And so glad we’ve got your cooking Mojo back. Good for you!

  • I was trying to make a “clean eating” version of ramen noodles, but I didn’t have any chicken broth or stock in my pantry! I started googling soups without stock and stumbled upon your recipe. It’s FANTASTIC. The only step I skipped was the cheese and purée-ing the veggies. Rather, I cut the broccoli small, added carrots, fresh squeezed lemon juice and fresh squeezed orange juice. Then I added some noodles and chili powder at the end. Delicious! So glad I found this recipe.

  • Hi Jules,
    Read a few comments about fixing watery, bland veg soup.
    Just remembered I had packet instant Miso Soup. Added 3 sachets
    & they made all the difference. Soup now tastes great. Thanks.

  • Just stumbled on your site, trying to find soups without stock recipes, so thank you very much.

    Another good umami flavour which works in everything I’ve tried is the water from rehydrating dried porchini mushrooms or and dried wild or mixed mushrooms. Just add boiled water and wait ?

    I look forward to browsing through your site ?

  • i love soup!..especially mushroom or cauliflower and broccoli with bacon..a chef told me long ago !..i didnt listen!..put a nip of brandy ! into it!..it gives the most wonderful homemade taste!

  • Thanks for sharing a new recipe to try to make a broccoli soup, I made it last night and my husband loved it! I add some croutons!

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