One of the best set-it-and-forget-it meal prep saviors of all kitchen appliances, the slow cooker now has a kitschy vibe.
Your mom was right when she tossed ingredients into the slow cooker and let them simmer all day.
There’s no meal more comforting on a cool evening than slow cooker soup — but there are a few tips and tricks for getting it just right.
Low and slow is the idea. After all, it’s in the name of the kitchen tool. Learn how to germinate nuanced flavors in a super easy way with a slow cooker.
Just in time for soup season, here’s a step-by-step guide to making the best slow cooker soup.
How do you make healthy slow cooker soup?
“Soup can be made into a hearty, balanced meal that is sure to satisfy,” says Krista Maguire, RD, CSSD, and Beachbody nutrition manager.
“In addition to lots of vegetables, add a protein like chicken or beans and a starchy vegetable like sweet potato or whole grains like quinoa,” she adds.
Add dairy-free creaminess and thickness to a healthy slow cooker soup by pureeing beans, potatoes, or a slice of stale bread with stock or full-fat coconut milk.
You can also combine water and nutritional yeast with pureed to smooth cashews.
Steer clear of granulated stock powders or cubes — many contain monosodium glutamate, artificial colors, and hydrogenated oils.
Opt for low-sodium, all-natural stocks or bone broth.
Ready to cook? Follow these steps for success with slow cooker soup!
1. Brown meat first to deepen the flavor
Yes, it’s an extra step, but this adds a lot of flavor. Sear all sides of the meat before adding to the slow cooker, then bring to a simmer.
2. Use Less Liquid
Want to renew a soup recipe on the hob? Use less liquid, as it evaporates less while simmering in a slow cooker, thanks to the tight-fitting lid.
Cover ingredients with stock, water, or any liquid of your choice with a scant -inch.
3. Bump up the plants
A little bit of meat can go a long way in adding flavor and protein. Supplement the soup with added vegetables of any color. (You can also add legumes and whole grains.)
Soup is a great way to get more veggies into your day.
4. Cut off the most visible fat from meat
The fat has nowhere to go in a slow cooker (and it doesn’t drain off easily like it does on the stove), so trim it off before cooking.
Otherwise you will get puddles of fat in your soup – not good food.
5. Skip the oil
Unlike stovetop soup methods, you don’t need to add oil to the slow cooker pot. Nothing sticks!
6. Do not overfill the pan
Three quarters full is the maximum, but two thirds is ideal. Filling the pan too high may cause it to leak or cook unevenly.
7. Make it thicker in two steps
The liquid in your slow cooker won’t get hot enough to thicken or thicken, so if you don’t want a thin soup, you’ll need to add a thickener.
Use any type of flour or a starch such as tapioca or arrowroot.
Combine one tablespoon of flour or starch per cup of liquid, whisk until smooth, then stir into soup and bring to a simmer.
8. Use cheaper cuts of meat
Tough, slimmer cuts Love the long, slow, gentle simmer of a slow cooker.
It breaks down all the sinewy bits and transforms them into tender flavors that melt in your mouth.
Don’t spend money on fillets or lobster tails for a slow simmered soup.
9. Cook low and slow
Cook soups on low to develop the most flavor. If you’re short on time, you can cook them on a higher setting, but be sure to cut the cooking time in half.
10. Cut vegetables about the same size
Slicing each vegetable evenly will help them cook evenly. To prevent vegetables from becoming too mushy, do not cook them over high heat for many hours.
Add softer or faster-cooking vegetables such as zucchini and summer squash in the last hour.
11. Let the slow cooker do its job
Every time you open the lid, you’re letting heat escape, so resist the urge to peek. Put it on and walk away.
This cooking method is designed to save you time, so let it do the work for you!
Layering ingredients for slow cooker soup
Place the ingredients that take the longest cooking time on the bottom of the pan, closest to the heat source.
Here’s a basic guide to making your own slow cooker soup recipes.
Add these ingredients at the beginning:
- Uncooked vegetables: Add root vegetables (potatoes, turnips, carrots) on the bottom, followed by onions, shallots or leeks.
- Uncooked, rinsed or soaked beans: Dried beans take 3-4 hours to cook on high, and 6-8 hours to cook on low in the slow cooker, says Kalyn Denny, a food blogger at Kalyn’s Kitchen and home cook.
- Broth, stock, water, coconut milk: The liquid finally makes it into a soup.
- uncooked meat: If you have time to brown meat, fine. Exceptions are chicken or turkey breast, fish and shellfish.
- cheese crustsTip from an old Italian cook, add Parmesan or Romano cheese rinds to impart a nutty, salty flavor. Discard the remaining crust before serving.
Add these in the last 15-45 minutes of cooking:
- Meat and seafood that do not take long to cook, such as chicken breast (sliced or sliced), fish or shellfish. Add the chicken breast in the last 25-30 minutes of cooking.
- Dried lentils it only takes about 30-40 minutes to simmer through, notes Nagi Maehashi, the cook and creator of RecipeTin Eats. Use red, yellow, brown and green lentils, but not Puy lentils, because they don’t get as soft as the others, she says.
- Fresh delicate herbs such as basil, mint or tarragon: Ladle the soup into serving dishes and sprinkle with torn fresh herbs for a bright pop of color and flavor.
- Savory fresh herbs such as rosemary, oregano, parsley, celery leaves, beet greens, etc.Food: Add in the last 15-20 minutes, especially with rosemary, which can turn bitter if overcooked, says Emma Christensen, a food writer and graduate of the Cambridge School for Culinary Arts.
- Thickeners: Add when the soup is cooked. Stir it in, put the lid back on, heat for a few minutes and serve.
- Already cooked ingredients: Add cooked grains in the last 15-20 minutes of cooking. Stir in leftovers such as cooked pasta for the last 10 minutes.
- Fast-cooking ingredients: Add dried pasta, quinoa, and starchy or frozen vegetables for the last 15 minutes.
- Dairy: Stir in low-fat Greek yogurt or low-fat sour cream for the last 5 minutes to prevent curdling.
Looking for more expert nutritional information? Visit BODNutrition.com and learn how to eat healthy long term using our two nutrition programs, 2B Mindset and Portion Fix.