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Soup is a food that is made by combining ingredients such as meat and vegetables with stock, juice, water or another liquid. Hot soups are additionally characterized by boiling solid ingredients in liquids until the flavor is extracted, forming a broth.

Traditionally, soups are classified into two broad groups: clear soups and thick soups. The established Frenchmarker classifications of clear soups are bouillon and consommé. Thick soups are classified depending upon the type of thickening agent used: purées are vegetable soups thickened with starch; bisque are made from puréed shellfish or vegetables thickened with cream; cream soups may be thickened with béchamel sauce; and veloutés are thickened with eggs, butter and cream. Other ingredients commonly used to thicken soups and broths include rice, flour and grains.


One of the first types of soups can be dated to about 1 year B.C. Boiling was not a common cooking technique until the invention of waterproof containers (which probably came in the form of pouches made of clay or animal skin) about 9,000 years ago.

The word soup comes from French soupe ("soup", "broth"), which comes through Vulgar Latin suppa ("bread soaked in broth") from a Germanic source, from which also comes the word "sop", a piece of bread used to soak up soup or a thick stew.

The word restaurant (meaning "[something] restoring") was first used in Francemarker in the 16th century, to describe a highly concentrated, inexpensive soup, sold by street vendors, that was advertised as an antidote to physical exhaustion. In 1765, a Parisianmarker entrepreneur opened a shop specializing in such soups. This prompted the use of the modern word restaurant to describe the shops.

In Americamarker, the first colonial cookbook was published by William Parks in Williamsburg, Virginiamarker, in 1742, based on Eliza Smith's The Compleat Housewife; or Accomplished Gentlewoman's Companion and it included several recipes for soups and bisques. A 1772 cookbook, The Frugal Housewife, contained an entire chapter on the topic. English cooking dominated early colonial cooking; but as new immigrants arrived from other countries, other national soups gained popularity. In particular, German immigrants living in Pennsylvaniamarker were famous for their potato soups. In 1794, Jean Baptiste Gilbert Payplat dis Julien, a refugee from the French Revolution, opened an eating establishment in Bostonmarker called Restorator, and became known as "The Prince of Soups". The first American cooking pamphlet dedicated to soup recipes was written in 1882 by Emma Ewing: Soups and Soup Making.

Portable soup was devised in the 18th century by boiling seasoned meat until a thick, resinous syrup was left that could be dried and stored for months at a time. The Japanesemarker miso is an example of a concentrated soup paste.

Commercial soup

Packets of soup
Commercial soup became popular with the invention of canning in the 19th century, and today a great variety of canned and dried soups are on the market. Dr. John T. Dorrance, a chemist with the Campbell Soup Company, invented condensed soup in 1897. Today, Campbell's Tomato, Cream of Mushroom and Chicken Noodle Soup are three of the most popular soups in America. Americans consume approximately 2.5 billion bowls of these three soups alone each year. Canned Italian-style soups, such as minestrone, are also popular.

Canned soup can be condensed, in which case it is prepared by adding water (or sometimes milk), or it can be ready-to-eat, meaning that it only needs to be warmed. Canned soup can be prepared by heating in a pan or in the microwave. These soups are often used as a simple base for homemade soups, with the consumer adding anything from a few vegetables to eggs, cream and pasta.

Condensing soup allows it to be packed into a smaller can and sold at a lower price than other canned soups. The soup is usually doubled in volume by adding "a can full" of water or milk (about 10 ounces).

In recent years, the canned soup market has exploded with so-called "ready-to-eat" soups, which require no additional water to make. Microwaveable bowls have expanded the ready-to-eat canned soup market even more. The plastic microwaveable bowls offer convenience in the workplace and are popular lunch items.

Oriental-style soup mixes containing ramen noodles are marketed as an inexpensive instant lunch, requiring only hot water for preparation. Vegetable, chicken base, potato, pasta and cheese soups are also available in dry mix form, ready to be served by adding hot water.

Nutritional developments

  • Salt - In response to concern over the health effects of excessive salt intake, some soup manufacturers have introduced reduced-salt versions of popular soups.
  • Trans fat - Concern over coronary heart disease has led some soup manufacturers to eliminate trans fats from their soups.

Types of soup

Dessert soups

Fruit soups

Fruit soups are served warm or cold depending on the recipe. Many recipes are for cold soups served when fruit is in season during hot weather. Some, like Norwegianmarker fruktsuppe, may be served warm and rely on dried fruit, such as raisins and prunes and so could be made in any season. Fruit soups may include milk or cream, sweet or savoury dumplings, spices, or alcoholic beverages, such as brandy or champagne. Cherry soup is made with table wine and/or port.

Cold and warm fruit soups are common in Scandinavian, Baltic and Eastern European cuisines, while hot fruit soups with meat appear in Middle Eastern, Central Asian and Chinese cuisines. Cold fruit soups include krentjebrij.

Fruit soups are uncommon or absent in the cuisines of the Americas, Africa and Western Europe. They are also not seen in Japan, Southeast Asia or Oceania. The exception is cold fruit soups that are savory rather than (or in addition to) sweet. For example:
  • Winter melon soup is a Chinese soup, usually with a chicken stock base. It is a savory soup, often including other vegetables and mushrooms. Technically, the winter melon is a fruit, since it is a seed bearing body, but in practical use, it is a vegetable. Winter melon soup is often presented as a whole winter melon, filled with stock, vegetables and meat, that has been steamed for hours. The skin is decoratively cut, so that what is presented is a decorative centerpiece, smaller than a medicine ball, larger than a soccer ball, filled with soup. The flesh of the melon is scooped out with the soup.

Cold soups

Cold soups are a particular variation on the traditional soup, wherein the temperature when served is kept at or below room temperature. They may be sweet or savory. In summer, sweet cold soups can form part of a dessert tray.

Asian soups

A feature of East Asian soups not normally found in Western cuisine is the use of tofu in soups. Many traditional East Asian soups are typically broths, clear soups, or starch thickened soups. Many soups are eaten and drunk as much for their flavour as well as for their health benefits.

Traditional regional soups

Swiss soup
Vegetable beef barley soup

Soup as a figure of speech

In the English language, the word "soup" has developed several uses in phrase.
  • Alphabet soup, a term often used to describe a large amount of acronyms used by an administration, has its roots in a common tomato-based soup containing pasta shaped in the letters of the alphabet.
  • Primordial soup is a term used to describe the organic mixture leading to the development of life.
  • A soup kitchen is a place that serves prepared food of any kind to the homeless.
  • Pea soup describes a thick or dense fog.
  • "Soup legs" is an informal or slang term used by athletes to describe fatigue or exhaustion.
  • "Stone soup" is a popular children's fable.
  • Duck soup is a term to describe a task that is particularly easy.
  • Word soup refers to any collection of words that is ostensibly incomprehensible.
  • Tag soup further refers to poorly coded HTML.
  • Soup Fire! can be used an expression of surprise.
  • is French for "soup of the day." Sometimes used as a metaphor for anything currently trendy or fashionable.
  • Soup to nuts is an American English idiom conveying the meaning "from beginning to end" (see: full course dinner).
  • "Soup's on!" or "Soup's up!" is a common phrase used to say, "Dinner's ready."
  • Soup Sandwich is a denigrative U.S. military slang term, typically used to admonish a trooper for poor work or shoddy appearance. The term comes from the concept that a sandwich made out of soup would be a sloppy mess.
  • To soup something up is to improve it, or increase its power (most often used of cars, aeroplanes, and the like).

See also


  1. Rastelli, Robert. (January 12, 2005) The Star-Ledger. Soup 101 First, take an onion, and then make something that will warm the soul. Section: Savor; Page 33.
  2. Campbell's: Our Company, History
  3. About Nissin Foods
  4. Hurley, J. and Liebman, B. Soups: The Middle Ground. Nutrition Action December 1997.
  5. Michigan Bean Soup recipe and history, the Honorable and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller IV, U.S. Senator.
  6. A TASTE OF PHILADELPHIA; In Hoagieland, They Accept No Substitutes - New York Times


  • Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe. Near a Thousand Tables: A History of Food (2002). New York: Free Press ISBN 0-7432-2644-5
  • Larousse Gastronomique, Jennifer Harvey Lang, ed. American Edition (1988). New York: Crown Publishers ISBN 0-609-60971-8
  • Morton, Mark. Cupboard Love: A Dictionary of Culinary Curiosities (2004). Toronto: Insomniac Press ISBN 1-894663-66-7
  • The Mighty Boosh. Soup, Soup, A Tasty Soup, Soup (2005).

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