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How to Make Soup from Leftovers

Turn mealtime odds and ends into a hearty—and tasty—soup.


  • Step 1: Gather leftovers Gather all mealtime odds and ends—cooked vegetables, bits of meat and poultry, beans, rice, sauces, and gravy—and put them in a large saucepot. Check your fridge for wilting vegetables that you might want to chop up and toss in.
  • TIP: For extra flavor, sauté leftover veggies in butter or olive oil before putting them in the soup pot.
  • Step 2: Add water or broth Add enough liquid to cover the veggies—water; chicken, beef, or vegetable broth; tomato juice; or a combination thereof.
  • TIP: Instead of using canned broth, make your own stock by simmering chopped onions, celery, and carrots with a little water and some herbs for a few hours, and then straining out the solids. Include a meat bone or a chicken carcass if you like.
  • Step 3: Simmer Simmer the soup for a few hours. If you have fresh herbs, add them about 15 minutes before you plan to serve the soup. Add any leftover noodles at the end so they don't get too mushy.
  • TIP: To thicken the soup, add cream, pureed beans or cauliflower, finely grated potatoes or instant mashed potato flakes, or brown rice.
  • Step 4: Remove fat Remove the fat—especially if you’ve used meat or chicken bones—by swirling either a few ice cubes or a couple of lettuce leaves on the surface of the soup for a minute or two, and then removing. The fat will cling to the ice or leaves.
  • Step 5: Gussy it up Garnish each bowl of soup with crumbled bacon, chopped fresh herbs, grated cheese, a dollop of sour cream, a swirl of plain yogurt, a couple of croutons, some scallions, or crumbled crackers.
  • FACT: A study of soup eaters found that vegetable-soup lovers tend to be homebodies; chicken-noodle-soup fans are more likely to be churchgoers; minestrone eaters tend to be physically fit; and tomato-soup sippers are often the adventurous type.

You Will Need

  • Leftovers
  • A stock pot or large saucepot
  • Stock
  • broth
  • or tomato juice
  • Ice cubes or lettuce leaves
  • Garnishes
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Meat bones
  • Chicken carcass
  • Fresh herbs
  • Thickening agents

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