Getty / Angelika Heine
Remember the salad jar trend? You layer everything you need for your lunch salad in a large Ball jar ready to add dressing and shake up when those midday munchies roll around. No disrespect, but I'm craving something heartier—and hotter—for these winter weekdays.
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Sure, canned, boxed and frozen soups are fine, but frankly, they are so packed with sodium and preservatives that they always feel like I am making a bad lunch decision. But I also don't have time in the middle of my day to make soup from scratch. Or do I?
Soup in a Jar!
I wanted to merge the best of both worlds—the ease of a jar salad with the cozy feel of hot soup—and voila! Soup jars were born. These soups are a great place to use up leftovers, are super adaptable, and are even a fun project to do with the kids. You can assemble a full week's worth if you have room in your fridge to store them, but I tend to make mine the night before for the next days lunch. Then they are as easy as adding boiling water!
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Start with the right jar (or mug)
Be sure to use either a heat-proof glass jar (quart-sized Ball jars are great here) or assemble in a heat-proof lidded container. Since I only make one at a time, I like to assemble mine in my 24-ounce Yeti handled mug, since it will keep my soup hot and the handle and wide opening makes it super easy to eat.
Soup jar ingredients
Great soups start with great ingredients, and for me this is a combination of:
some sort of protein (cooked meats or canned beans)
raw and cooked vegetables
bonus flavor boosters
Step one: Begin with the broth
When it is time to layer up your jars, you put in your soup base first, which can be either a bouillon paste or a powdered soup base. I like Better Than Bouillon for pastes: They offer a range of great flavors and even delicious lower sodium versions (I especially like their Roasted Chicken and No-Beef Vegetable bases). For powdered soup bases, it is worth seeking out Om Mighty Bone Broths, which come in chicken, beef, mushroom, and vegetable miso versions, and pack an extra protein punch in each packet! But you can use whatever soup base paste or powder that you like. If you are using cubes, you may want to crumble them up before adding to your jar. Use enough to make enough soup for the size of your jar.
Step two: Add carbs and protein
Carbs are next, which can be any cooked noodle or grain that you have left over, or fast-cooking things like fine couscous or thin rice noodles, which will cook to perfection in the steeping time. Then add your protein: Cooked meats or beans are great here! Fill the jar to the halfway mark with these two layers.
Step three: Top with vegetables
Then add some vegetables on top. For me this is often either quick-cooking vegetables like leafy greens, shredded zucchini, thinly sliced mushrooms, riced cauliflower, or bean sprouts, often combined with cooked vegetables like carrots, hard squashes, or green beans. If I have fresh herbs lying around, like parsley or basil or cilantro, or even fresh celery leaves, I will add those on top. When I want onion punch, I will add some thinly sliced scallions. For heat, some sliced chilies or pepper flakes or julienned fresh ginger. The broth bases always have enough salt, but some freshly ground pepper is a good addition.
Step four: Store and serve!
Pop on your lids and stash in the fridge until lunchtime, then boil a kettle and pour the hot water right into your jar and put the lid back on. Let the jar steep for 5 minutes, then open carefully and give a good stir to make sure the base is fully incorporated into the water to make your broth. Eat right out of the jar or pour into a bowl.
Some ingredient combos for soup jars
As I said, you can really create any combo that pleases you (and cleans out your fridge!), but here are 3 I've made and loved that can get you started.
Vegetable miso paste, rice noodles, shredded chicken, spinach, and bean sprouts with ginger and scallion
Chicken broth, couscous, chickpeas, roasted butternut squash with red chile pepper
Vegetable broth, little pasta shapes, cannellini beans, carrots, celery, canned crushed tomatoes with herbs