It's SOUP SEASON, ya'll! The time of year we crave a warm, comforting bowl of soup to soothe our souls and fill our bellies. We're sharing tons of tips for how to bulk up your soup recipe to go further, feed more, or leave plenty of leftovers for another day!

Soup is quite possibly one of the best Shelf Cooking meals for your menu. They offer so many opportunities to substitute, use what you have, and fill up your family!

Bonus points for you if you add some homemade bread with it! We have the easiest recipe here!

Fortunately, there are several creative ways to stretch your soup farther without sacrificing flavor or quality. No matter which type of soup you are working with, these are bound to help you bulk up your batch!


cream of mushroom soup in a pot, from Shelf Cooking

The simplest way to stretch your soup is to add more liquid. This not only increases the volume but also dilutes the flavors slightly, making it more suitable for larger gatherings. Here are some liquids you can add to soup to increase its volume without compromising too much on flavor:

  • Broth or Stock: This is one of the most common liquids used to thin out soup and increase its volume. Whether it's chicken, beef, vegetable, or seafood broth, it adds flavor while making the soup go further. (If you are wanting to make your own stock, check out our blog post with tips!)
  • Milk or Cream: For creamy soups like chowders or bisques, adding milk or cream not only increases volume but also lends a rich, luxurious texture. You can use dairy or non-dairy alternatives like almond or coconut milk.
  • Tomato Juice or Sauce: If you're making tomato-based soups, such as minestrone or tomato bisque, you can add tomato juice or sauce to increase the liquid content while intensifying the tomato flavor.
  • Vegetable Juice: Vegetable juices like tomato, V8, or even carrot juice can be added to vegetable-based soups for extra liquid and a boost of vegetable flavor.
  • Canned Tomato Soup: In a pinch, you can use canned tomato soup as a base to increase the volume of tomato-based soups. Just make sure to season and adjust the flavors as needed.
  • Coconut Milk: For an exotic twist, coconut milk works well in soups like Thai curries or sweet potato soups. It imparts a creamy consistency and a hint of tropical flavor.
  • Pasta or Rice Cooking Water: If you're making a pasta or rice soup, save the water you used to cook the pasta or rice. This starchy water can help thicken and flavor your soup.


Adding legumes and grains to homemade soup is a fantastic way to make it heartier, more nutritious, and filling. They offer fiber and a bit of extra protein…and they are often one of the cheapest ingredients you can use in soups! Here's a list of some common legumes and grains you can incorporate into your soup:

  • Lentils: Lentils are a great addition to soups due to their quick cooking time. Red lentils tend to break down and thicken the soup, while green or brown lentils hold their shape.
  • Chickpeas: Chickpeas are versatile and add a delightful nutty flavor to your soup. Canned chickpeas are convenient, but you can also use dried chickpeas if you soak and cook them beforehand.
  • Black Beans: Black beans are rich in protein and fiber and work well in Mexican-inspired soups. Canned or cooked dried black beans both work.
  • Kidney Beans: Kidney beans are hearty and pair nicely with tomato-based soups and chili.
  • Cannellini Beans: These white beans are creamy and slightly nutty in flavor, making them perfect for Italian-style soups and stews.
  • Rice: White or brown rice is a classic addition to soups. Be sure to adjust the cooking time depending on the type of rice you use.
  • Pasta: Various pasta shapes like macaroni, penne, or orzo can be used to create pasta soups or simply to add a bit of heft to your broth-based soups.
  • Quinoa: Quinoa is a nutrient-rich grain that cooks quickly and adds a pleasant nutty flavor. It's a great choice for boosting the protein content of your soup.
  • Farro: Farro is a versatile ancient grain with a chewy texture and nutty taste. It's often used in Italian and Mediterranean soups.
  • Couscous: Couscous is a tiny pasta that cooks quickly and is perfect for thickening and adding substance to your soups.


Another fun way to stretch soup is to serve it with customizable toppings. If you just don't have the ingredients (or the large enough pot) to make MORE soup, it can become more filling with some fun options to top everyone's bowls with!

  • Croutons: Classic croutons add a satisfying crunch to your soup. You can make your own by toasting cubes of bread with olive oil and seasonings like garlic and herbs.
  • Cheese Crisps: Create thin cheese crisps by baking shredded cheese until it's melted and crispy. They add a salty and savory touch to your soup.
  • Pesto Swirl: A dollop of basil pesto or any other favorite pesto can add a burst of fresh flavor to your soup. Swirl it into your bowl just before serving.
  • Crispy Bacon Bits: Crumbled bacon provides a smoky and salty contrast to creamy soups like potato or chowder.
  • Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt: A spoonful of sour cream or Greek yogurt adds creaminess and a tangy kick to your soup. It works especially well with spicy or tomato-based soups.
  • Sliced Avocado: Creamy avocado slices not only add richness but also a dose of healthy fats to your soup. They pair wonderfully with tortilla soup or gazpacho.
  • Grated Parmesan or Pecorino: A generous sprinkle of grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese lends a salty, cheesy kick to your soup. This works well with minestrone or Italian wedding soup.
  • Sourdough or Baguette Crisps: Instead of plain crackers, consider serving your soup with homemade sourdough or baguette crisps for a rustic touch.
  • Toasted Coconut Flakes: For a tropical flair, sprinkle toasted coconut flakes on creamy soups like butternut squash or Thai-inspired soups.
  • Crispy Tofu Cubes: Cube and pan-fry tofu until crispy, then use it as a protein-rich topping for vegan or vegetarian soups.


If you're in the soup mood but need some inspiration on a recipe, here are some of our Shelf Cooking favorites!

We LOVE seeing your Shelf Cooking meals, so if you share on social media be sure to tag us! @ShelfCooking

Happy Soup Season!