100 Techniques

Technique #47: Save Scraps for Superior Vegetable Soups

Don't throw away the seeds and skins! They pack a ton of flavor.

Published Sept. 15, 2023.

This is Technique #47 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master.

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Vegetable soups should be anything but meek. They should taste robustly of the essences of the vegetables they are made from, with a bold, earthy, natural flavor.

Too often the vegetable flavor is delicate and mild, though. Recipes frequently try to compensate by burying what little vegetable flavor there is with chicken broth, an excess of cream or milk, or an overabundance of spices.

For superior vegetable soups, we call on a technique that is more typically reserved for making stock: using the seeds, peels, cores, and other trimmings.

This is standard practice when making stock or broth to use as a base for other dishes, not only because it’s economical and reduces food waste but also because it builds deep flavor.

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Skins and Seeds Pack Flavor

It's a sound principle, so why not apply it to vegetable soups? Many recipes for vegetable soup don’t start with that robust base of vegetable broth, so you miss out on the deep flavor that broth brings to the table. But you don’t have to. 

Using the whole vegetable—nose to tail, so to speak—ensures that no opportunity for vegetable flavor is wasted.

For example, we love to simmer tough shiitake mushroom stems along with the caps to make mushroom broth for soba noodles. And you can puree some soft cooked scraps, like sweet potato skins, broccoli stems, or cauliflower cores, right into a vegetable soup.

Step By Step: How to Use Two Common Vegetable Scraps

Two common vegetables that often end up in the trash are corn cobs and squash seeds. Turns out, those are some of the most flavorful scraps. Here's how to use them.

How To Use Squash Seeds And Fibers

When making a pureed soup from hard-skinned winter squash, sautéing the squash seeds and fibers in butter at the outset builds a potent, aromatic flavor base. Then, strain the soup before blending, leaving behind just the taste. This technique also works for other types of vegetable soups beyond pureed ones.

Step 1: Remove and Sauté Seeds

Quarter unpeeled squash and remove seeds and fibers. Sauté seeds and fibers with fat and aromatics in Dutch oven.

Step 2: Steam Squash in Same Pot

Steam squash in steamer set right into Dutch oven. When tender, remove, let cool, and scrape flesh from skin using soup spoon.

Step 3: Puree Cooked Squash

Strain cooking liquid from pot through fine-mesh strainer into large measuring cup. In batches, puree cooked squash with strained liquid in blender until smooth.

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How to Use Corn Cobs

When making corn chowder, for example, think of the stripped corn cobs as you would chicken bones for stock; they are full of flavor and body. Drop the shucked cobs into the soup pot to simmer right along with the corn kernels to release their starch and any remaining corn “milk” for richer texture and deep corny flavor.

Step 1: Remove Kernels

Cut kernels from halved ears of corn. Reserve kernels and cobs separately.

Step 2: Cook Kernels

Cook corn kernels with aromatics and seasonings until softened and golden brown.

Step 3: Simmer Cobs

Add corn cobs to pot with remaining soup ingredients and simmer until soup is ready. Discard cobs before serving.

Recipes That Use This Technique

Ready to put your newfound knowledge of vegetable scraps to tasty use? Try it with these recipes.


Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

This satisfying soup made with sweet, caramelized roasted butternut squash is finished on the stovetop, but the flavor is built in the oven.
Get the Recipe

Cauliflower Soup

The secret to the best-tasting cauliflower soup you’ve ever eaten? Undercook some of the cauliflower—and overcook the rest.
Get the Recipe

Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken and Corn Soup

Deep chicken and corn flavors make this soup delicious. Rivels make it memorable.
Get the Recipe

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