How to Drive with Soup

With her car’s upholstery at stake, one editor searched for a serious answer to a not-so-serious question.

Published Oct. 7, 2022.

An article about driving with soup? It sounds like a joke. But trust me, there's nothing funny about scrubbing seafood chowder out of the crevices of your backseat.

Admittedly, my motivation for this article was self-interest. It started as an enthusiastic half-joke because of how often I find myself lugging around pots of sloshing soup. I’ve transported shrimp bisque to a potluck dinner party and Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup to a Friendsgiving. 

With every sharp turn and hard stop, I say a silent prayer for my cloth seats.

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I know the answer seems obvious—use an airtight storage container. But you might not have one big enough or your soup might be too hot for one. Or maybe you want to heat it up and serve it out of the pot at the event you're headed to.

Storage containers are great when you're meal prepping. But they don't always cut it when you're driving a double batch of hot soup across town.

It turns out I’m not alone when it comes to how much I think about transporting soup. There are lots of other people who have found themselves in this iffy situation with their upholstery at risk.

When I put a call-out on social media asking about people’s experiences transporting soup, the responses ranged from the specific (“Get a 7-year-old kid to hold the bowl”) to the intense (a DIY takeout ramen situation that almost ended a relationship). 

Some were even expensive. A colleague told me about a curry spill that resulted in a $90 Uber cleaning fee.

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In addition to crowdsourcing tips, I consulted experts. I spoke with Toni Evers, the owner of a Pittsburgh branch of the counter service soup restaurant Zoup! Eatery, and Paul Brophy, co-owner of New England Soup Factory in Needham, Mass. They were initially quite confused when someone asked them for advice on how to drive with soup, but their input ended up being incredibly valuable.

If you’ve never really thought about driving with soup, one day you will. I hope this deep dive helps you do it safely and cleanly.

1. Minimize movement.

The topic of seat versus floor was heavily contested with people swearing by one or the other. Whichever avenue you choose, the takeaway is the same: minimize movement.

The benefit of the floor is that it is often flatter and if the gap between your backseat and front seat is narrow enough, it can work to hold your soup container in place. 

The seat on the other hand, while often slightly slanted, has the obvious benefit of the seatbelt which you can use to strap your soup in. Like the flashing sign on the highway says, “Click It Or Ticket. . . Or Pay A $90 Uber Cleaning Fee.”


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2. Nestle the container in something.

As Toni from Zoup! said, “Like packing anything else, you don’t want it to have a lot of room to shuffle around and spill over.” 

A couple ideas: Place the soup-filled container in a cardboard box and surround it with a towel within the box. Or, use a small unused pet bed to keep the pot securely and snugly in place. Both of these set ups also have the additional benefit of retaining heat, so the dishes don’t arrive at their destination cold.

3. Use a nonslip grip, nonadhesive drawer liner.

When placing the pot on something with a flat bottom, such as the car floor or a box, putting a sticky liner under your soup will lock it in place. You can use the same tool you would to stabilize your cutting board.

4. Plastic wrap the heck out of it. 

Plastic wrap: suggested by many but endorsed by the experts. 

Paul from New England Soup Factory said, “You really just have to plastic wrap the heck out of [the container]. No matter how sealed it is. Especially if it's hot because steam will push any container top that is plastic to pop off, so sealing is especially important.”

This also goes for pots. If you don’t want to awkwardly wrap your entire pot in plastic wrap, place a section of wrap between the pot and its lid to form an extra tight seal. Then, for extra insurance, wrap bungee cords, large rubber bands, or a thick kitchen towel over the lid and secure tightly through the handles to hold the top down against the pot.

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5. Consider the container.

Storage containers are not just limited to Tupperware.

Cook’s Illustrated’s Editor in Chief Dan Souza recommends transporting soup in a sealed pressure cooker or Instant Pot. These pieces of equipment have a lid which has to form an airtight seal in order to function. Even if you don’t make your soup in one of those vessels, it may be worth transporting it in one, and then it can easily be reheated on site.

Meanwhile, Paul said that when New England Soup Factory fills an extra large catering order they will sometimes put their soup in a large Cambro container or their own version of what is essentially an oversized bulk coffee container.

6. If worst comes to worst, warn others.

My colleague shared this method that she saw employed in Mexico: Someone had attached a sign to their back window to alert fellow drivers. It essentially translated to, “Please be kind. Driving with soup.”

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