10 Quick-Cooking Ingredients for Making Speedy Soups

A soup recipe that calls for hash browns? Say what? That’s right. Find out why there are hash browns in that soup and see our other 9 ingredients that will make your soup-cooking quicker than ever.

10 Quick-cooking ingredients for making quick soups

Nope, that’s not a typo. There really is a quick soup recipe that uses hash browns. And we think it’s brilliant. Read on to find out why and get the goods on 9 other quick-cooking ingredients that need to be at a soup near you very soon.

#1 Frozen Hash brown Potatoes

Hash browns are more than a side-kick to scrambled eggs and toast. These little guys are pre-shredded or pre-cut (depending on which type you buy) and partially cooked meaning that as soon as they hit your hot broth they’ll start to soften. Keep a bag of hash browns in your freezer to toss into a last-minute hearty dinner soup. This Dill Pickle Soup (yes, you read that correctly) uses frozen cubed hashbrown potatoes. You’ve seriously got to try it.

#2 Pre-shredded Carrots

Carrots without peeling or chopping? Yes! You can buy shredded carrots (sometimes labeled matchstick carrots) in the produce department in plastic bags. They’re usually right beside the bags of packaged baby carrots. They’re wonderful for quick dinners because you don’t have to peel or chop. Just toss ’em in the pot. And for quick soups, they’re a miracle because their small size guarantees a short cooking time. Our Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup uses matchstick carrots to speed things up.

 #3 Bagged Greens

A great time-saver is to buy greens that are already chopped up. You can get chopped collards, mustard greens and kale packaged in bags and ready to go. Just open the bag (most are already pre-washed) and add it to soups. Simmer until it reaches the desired tenderness. This Kale and Kielbasa Soup uses pre-chopped kale and it’s beyond delicious, in under 15 minutes!

#4 Frozen Vegetables

Frozen vegetables are fantastic for making quick soups. They’re flash frozen right as they’re harvested, which means they have all the nutrients of fresh vegetables. We’ve also found that the freezing process makes them softer than fresh veggies, resulting in a shorter cooking time.

#5 Pre-Cooked Rice

Rice typically takes 15-20 minutes to cook, and even longer when it’s a whole grain like brown rice. To make sure that your rice is ready when your 15-minute soup is, you can purchase prepared rice from the refrigerated section of your grocery store or in the dry goods section where the uncooked rice is. Or you can use up leftover rice from the night before.

#6 Teeny Tiny Noodles

Most pasta takes 8-10 minutes to cook. If you need to heat your broth or water first, and other ingredients too, you’ll be cutting it close to get any kind of noodle soup done in under 15. But if you buy pasta that is teeny tiny (acini di pepe or baby shell pasta) it can be done. Look for pastas with a cooking time that is 5 minutes or under. Get your broth and other ingredients into the pot and heat them to a simmer. Then add your tiny pasta and simmer until cooked.

#7 Deli Meat

When looking for quick and easy ingredients to make soup, pay a visit to the deli counter. The meats there are already fully-cooked so once you add them to your soup, you just need to heat them through. Hams, chicken breast, turkey breast, even salami and bologna. All of these add salt and meaty flavor to your soup lickety-split. But just remember to ask for a piece or chunk of lunch meat, not sliced or shaved. When you’re ready to make your soup, get out the piece of deli meat and dice it before adding it to the soup.

#8 Speedy Seafood

Who doesn’t like seafood? O.K., we know. Lots of people. But if you’re a fish-lover, seafood is the best thing for quick soups. Fish and shellfish cook so quickly. They’re a great protein option to use in soups. Check out our Manhattan Clam Chowder to see some fish in action. That recipe uses canned clams, which are a great item to have in your pantry. But you can absolutely use fresh clams and the cooking time wouldn’t change much. Just simmer the soup until the clam shells all open up.

#9 Canned Purée

You can add canned puréed pumpkin to any vegetable soup. Because pumpkin is a thick purée, it adds body as well as a touch of  rich vegetable flavor. I love to add it to chili. Caution: Don’t buy pumpkin pie filling by mistake (Pumpkin Pie-Flavored Vegetable Soup? Yuck). Look for pure pumpkin and read the can carefully.

#10 Quick Cabbage

Try adding a bagged coleslaw mix containing shredded cabbage and carrots to vegetable soups. Don’t use any dressing though, you can save that for another time. You’re just taking advantage of the thinly sliced cabbage and carrot mixture. Using the coleslaw mixture is great for two reasons. First, you don’t have to do anything to prep the cabbage and carrots other than open the bag. Second, it’s all very thinly sliced so it cooks really quickly.

Those are our 10 faves. What quick-cooking ingredients do you add to soups? Do tell!

First published September 2015, revised January 2016.

Lyndsay Burginger

It’s always entertaining when Lyndsay’s in the kitchen. She’s even been known to belt out Broadway show tunes while making dinner (a handy whisk as her microphone, of course). She currently writes for her international food and travel site, Lyndsay's Travel Kitchen . Lyndsay is also on the editorial team at The Cookful.