Winter Soups To Warm You Up When It's Cold Outside

Download Audio
Sopa di lima, Mexican lime chicken soup with tortillas with garnishes in the background. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Sopa di lima, Mexican lime chicken soup with tortillas with garnishes in the background. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst brings two savory soups for hosts Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson to taste. These recipes and tips come from Kathy's cookbook "Soup Swap," published by Chronicle Books.

Sopa Di Lima (Mexican-Style Lime And Tortilla Chicken Soup)

I've been a huge fan of this lime, chicken and tortilla soup from the very first bowl I sampled in the Yucatán Peninsula region of Mexico many years ago. Ideally, you will make your own chicken stock which will provide you with an amazing soup base and the cooked chicken. And I hope you'll try the very simple homemade tortilla strips that go on top of this soup, because they are shockingly good and simple to make.

However, you can cut corners for this soup and use canned or boxed chicken stock, a rotisserie roasted chicken from your favorite market, and tortilla chips. But let me tell you: it's not quite the same, at all.

Serves 6.

The Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, canned or fresh
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock, homemade or canned low-sodium, organic
  • 1 cup cooked shredded chicken
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 2 large limes

The Tortilla Strips

  • 6 corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch thick strips
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Salt to taste

The Garnishes

  • 1 poblano pepper, chopped
  • 1 ripe, but not overly ripe or mushy avocado, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup cotija Mexican cheese, or feta, grated or finely chopped
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges


  1. Make the soup: in a large pot heat the oil over low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the jalapeño and cook another 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and oregano and cook for 5 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Add the chicken and cook another 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, make the tortilla strips: in a medium-large skillet heat enough oil to come 1/2 inch up the sides of the skillet. Heat the oil until hot; a small piece of tortilla or a speck of salt or flour should immediately sizzle. Cook the tortillas, one at a time, for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and slightly puffed. Remove and drain on paper towel; sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. The tortilla strips are best made just before serving; if you make ahead you might want to warm them up in a 200 degree oven for a few minutes.
  3. Just before serving add the lime juice and taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, jalapeño, or lime juice if needed.
  4. To serve: Place all the garnishes on a large serving plate or bowl. Pour the soup in a bowl and add 2 to 3 tortilla strips on top. Everyone can add their own garnishes.
Indian-spiced mulligatawny soup. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Indian-spiced mulligatawny soup. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Mulligatawny Soup (Indian-Style Spicy Red Lentil Soup)

Layers of taste — that's how I'd describe this soup. There's sweet coconut milk, ginger and garlic, and then another layer of soft red lentils, and pungent Indian spices. A spicy and savory topping of butter, spices, chile peppers, and chopped tomato is spooned over the top.

This recipe is an adaptation of one from legendary cookbook author, Indian food expert and actress, Madhur Jaffrey.

You can control the amount of heat you add to the soup by adding more or less chile pepper in the soup and the topping. This soup can be vegetarian if you use vegetable broth and will be vegan if you omit the yogurt topping.

Serves 8.

The Soup

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tablespoons fresh jalapeño pepper, finely chopped, seeded or with seeds*
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoons Garam masala
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 8 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 cups split red lentils, 9.5 ounces
  • 1 cup canned whole coconut milk
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup Greek-style yogurt, or plain whole fat yogurt, for garnish

*Add the smallest amount of chile if you don't want a very spicy soup.

The Tomato-Chile Topping

  • 3 tablespoons lightly salted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 dried red chile pepper, crumbled, about 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
  • 1 small ripe tomato, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Make the soup: in a large pot heat the oil and butter over low heat. When the butter is bubbling, add the garlic, ginger, and scallions and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the jalapeño, salt and pepper and cook 2 minutes. Add the cumin and garam masala and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Sprinkle on the flour and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the 2 tablespoons of cilantro and raise the heat to high. Stir in the lentils and cook 30 seconds. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are soft and tender.
  2. Remove from the heat. Using a food processor, blender or immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Place back in the pot and taste for seasoning; add salt and pepper if needed. Add the coconut milk, lemon juice, and half the remaining cilantro, and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Make the topping: in a small skillet heat the butter over low heat. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, ground cumin, garam masala and chile pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Add half the scallions and tomato, salt and pepper and cook another 3 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbling and fragrant. Remove from heat; the sauce can be made several hours ahead of time.
  4. Heat the topping until bubbling over low heat. Serve hot with just a drizzle of the sauce (it can be quite spicy), sprinkled with the remaining cilantro and scallions and a dollop of yogurt.
Sometimes the simplest ingredients can bring out big flavors in a soup. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Sometimes the simplest ingredients can bring out big flavors in a soup. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Garnishes: Toppings, Crunch, Color, Flavor, Pow!

Sometimes the simplest ingredients can bring out big flavors in a soup. Here are a few ideas for garnishes or toppings that can transform a plain old bowl of soup into something celebratory.

  • Lemon oil, orange oil, or any herb-flavored oil: a few drops will bring out new flavors in your soup. Use a clean, sterilized eye dropper to add just a few drops to finished soups as a garnish. Even a tiny drizzle of very fruity extra virgin olive oil will add a delicious finish to soups.
  • Grated citrus zest: think lemon and Meyer lemon, but also tangerine, grapefruit, lime or orange. Citrus can really wake up the flavor of vegetable, poultry or meat-based soups.
  • Candied ginger cut into very thin strips: adds the bracing bite of ginger and touch of sweetness.
  • Toasted coarsely chopped nuts: from walnut and almonds and hazelnuts to pistachios and pine nuts.
  • Cooked and crumbled pancetta or bacon: adds a meaty dimension to vegetable-based soups.
  • Fresh crabmeat (or cooked lobster, cut into small chunks): delicious piled into the center of vegetable soups or seafood soups.
  • Grated or thinly sliced cheese: from hard cheeses like Parmesan and Gruyere or crumbled, soft goat cheese, ricotta or feta.
  • Parmesan cheese discs: grate the cheese and place a heaping tablespoon on a Silpat sheet or piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet in 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Cool slightly and remove with a flat spatula.
  • A dollop of creme fraiche or Greek-style yogurt
  • Croutes and croutons
  • A sprinkling of chopped fresh herbs compliment the herb flavor used within soup: minced chives, fresh chopped basil, rosemary, thyme, lemon verbena, etc. Don't use dried herbs unless called for — they won't add much umph!
  • Sprinkle microgreens or pea shoots on top of soup for color, texture and a fresh green flavor
  • Tortilla strips or taco chips add salt and crunch
  • Roasted chickpeas add crunch and flavor
  • A dab of Harissa (a Tunisian hot chili pepper paste)
  • A spoonful of salsa or hot pepper sauce
  • Pomegranate seeds add color, crunch and fruity flavor sprinkled on top of pureed soups and vegetable soups
  • Tapenade or pitted finely chopped green and/or black olives
  • Roasted red, yellow, green peppers, finely chopped or cut into thin slices
  • Chopped or very thinly slivered sun-dried tomatoes

Avgolemono Soup (Greek-Style Chicken-Lemon-Orzo Soup) With Meyer Lemon And Dill

This is pure comfort food: chicken broth with parsnips and carrots, enriched with egg yolks, cream, and a good amount of fresh lemon juice. Orzo is added at the end for a delicious, soothing, healing winter soup.

Here's a tip: undercook the orzo and only add it to the soup about 15 minutes before serving. When you reheat the soup, the orzo will finish cooking. The reason for this is the pasta "drinks" up the broth and causes the soup to become overly thick.

Yes, you can make this with canned chicken broth and rotisserie roasted chicken from the grocery store, but it won't taste like mine. Boil up a pot of chicken soup — chicken, carrots, celery, onion and an hour later you have a cooked chicken and a gorgeous homemade broth.

Serves 8.


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped, 1 cup
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and chopped, about 1/2 cup
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped, about 1/2 cup
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups cooked, skinless, cubed or shredded chicken
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup heavy cream*
  • About 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup lemon juice, or Meyer lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup orzo


  • 8 to 10 paper thin seeded slices lemon or Meyer lemon
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill and 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley mixed together

*The amount of cream you add depends on how creamy you like your soup. Start with 1/3 and then add more.


  1. In a large soup pot heat the oil over low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the parsnip and carrots, salt and pepper and cook, stirring once or twice, another 5 minutes. Raise the heat to high and add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered for 20 minutes. Add the chicken and stir.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the cream. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the hot broth into the yolk/cream mixture and whisk. This step is called tempering and helps introduce cold liquids to hot liquid so it doesn’t curdle. Keep the soup over a low simmer, whisking until smooth and incorporated. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and the dill; the soup should have a pronounced lemon flavor. Simmer over very low heat. Season to taste.
  3. About 45 minutes before serving, bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Cook the orzo for about 9 minutes or until al dente; the orzo should taste undercooked. Drain. Add to the soup just about 20 minutes before serving. The orzo will soak up some of the north so you don't want to let it cook too long in the hot soup. Simmer over low what until soup is hot and the orzo is tender; season to taste. Serve with a thin slice of lemon and sprinkling of the dill/parsley mixture.

This segment aired on January 16, 2019.

More From Our Resident Chef:

Headshot of Kathy Gunst

Kathy Gunst Resident Chef, Here & Now
Kathy Gunst is a James Beard Award-winning journalist and the author of 15 cookbooks.



More from Here & Now

Listen Live