9 Tricks to Make Your Soup Feel Fancier

The right topping can be a game-changer.

Published Mar. 29, 2022.

Pureed, creamy soup is magical in and of itself: With the help of a blender and some broth or water, workaday vegetables or legumes—white beans, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, butternut squash—transform into a lush, hearty meal. But a simple puree can also function as a blank canvas upon which you can build visual, textural, and flavor appeal with garnishes. With just a quick sprinkling of crispy breadcrumbs or a swirl of flavored oil, your lunch can transform into something downright restaurant- (and Instagram-) worthy.   

Ready to upgrade your soup? Here are 9 of our favorite simple garnishes.

Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter

The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.

For Umami

Sauteed Mushrooms

For this elegant garnish, we sauté earthy cremini mushrooms with minced shallot until the mushrooms are well browned and flavorful. We use Madeira, which is slightly sweet, to deglaze the pan and also stir in a little fresh thyme for herbal notes. Get the Recipe >>

Candied Bacon Bits

This savory topper begins with crisped bacon. When brown sugar is added to the pan, it melts onto the bacon and creates a candy-like coating. A small amount of cider vinegar keeps the sweetness in check. Get the Recipe >>

Chorizo Oil

Crisping chorizo in vegetable oil infuses the oil with the meat’s smokiness—and its striking ruddy hue. Get the Recipe >>

For Crunch

Buttery Rye Croutons

Instead of turning on the oven to make croutons, we gently fry them in a skillet. A combination of olive oil and butter gives the croutons great flavor without the risk of burning. Get the Recipe >>

Popped Whole Grains

When it comes to popping, corn gets all the attention. But don't overlook other whole grains. We’ve found that wheat berries, spelt, and kamut take on a hearty crunch and nutty flavor when they're popped, making them a tasty and wholesome addition to soups. Get the Recipe >>

Fried Shallots

Fried crispy shallots are one of our all-time favorite garnishes. Once you get used to having them on hand, they start to infiltrate not only your soups, but your sandwiches, salads and more. And don’t toss the oil they’re fried in: It’s infused with rich fried shallot flavor and has as many uses as the shallots themselves. Get the Recipe >> 

For Brightness and Freshness

Lemony Yogurt

Punchy, lemony yogurt contributes rich citrusy notes, adding complexity to your bowl. What’s more, it comes together quickly: Simply whisk Greek yogurt with water, lemon zest, and lemon juice until smooth, then season with salt to taste. Get the Recipe >>

Quick-Pickled Celery

A celery rib, chopped fine, needs only 15 minutes to quick-pickle in a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Sprinkle atop your bowl of soup for pops of pleasant tartness. Get the Recipe >>

Caper-Herb Oil

This easy, vibrant herb oil comes together in the microwave: Simply nuke some capers until they crisp, strain them out, and stir chopped parsley and basil into the flavored oil. Drizzle over your soup for a dose of freshness. Get the Recipe >> 

Silky Butternut Squash Soup

The secret to great butternut squash soup is to sauté the seeds and fibers to build flavor, add water, then steam the flesh over the flavorful liquid.
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

Sweet Potato Soup

The secrets to creamy sweet potato soup with deep, earthy-sweet flavor? Use those peels, and turn off the heat.
Get the Recipe


This is a members' feature.