17 Super-Refreshing Ways to Enjoy a Bowl of Cold Soup
With these spicy, savory, sweet cold soup recipes, summer is definitely soup season
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When the temperature soars and just stepping outside makes me want to dash back into an air-conditioned room, soup makes me happy. Specifically, soup from the refrigerator, meant to be eaten cold. If you have yet to discover the pleasures that come from sipping something chilled and filling, allow me to show you why you should.
• Cold soups are super-easy. Unlike hot soups that simmer for hours, cold soups generally require very little actual cooking. Most of the time, you’re using a blender rather than a pot.
• Summer soups offer a vacation in a bowl. Countries all over the world have their own takes on chilled soup — you’ll find one almost anywhere with hot weather. At a time when most of us aren’t traveling far from home, I love seeing the world through its food.
• Cold soup recipes are the ultimate make-ahead meal. Because they usually need time to chill before serving, cold soups pretty much require you to make them ahead of time. This is especially handy when the weather’s brutal: You can get your soup into the fridge at night, after the day’s heat has broken, or in the morning before the temperature starts to climb. A bowl of cold soup and a hunk of good bread make a perfect summer lunch or dinner.
Ready to start sampling some cold soups?
Jump ahead to:
Gazpacho and variations
When I hear the words “cold soup,” I instantly conjure visions of Spanish gazpacho. Traditionally a smooth purée of tomatoes and other vegetables with bread, olive oil, and sherry vinegar, these days you’ll find it made with virtually any vegetable (or fruit) you can think of.
If you want to experience gazpacho, start with a classic version from the Andalusia region of Spain. The cold tomato soup couldn’t be simpler, with just six ingredients: bread, cucumbers, very ripe tomatoes, garlic, sherry vinegar, and olive oil. I think the hardest part is waiting for it to chill in the fridge before diving in.
Looking for a Paleo option of tomato gazpacho, that skips the bread? Try this one on a hot summer day.
The flavor combo here makes me wish I had some right now: watermelon for a bit of sweetness, plus tomatoes, celery, cucumber, bell peppers, and — here’s where it gets really interesting — fresh ginger, a red chili pepper, lime juice, and fresh basil. I doubt anyone from Spain would recognize this as gazpacho, but that doesn’t make it any less appealing.
You’ll find no ripe tomatoes at all in this one — the soup gets its lovely color (not to mention its flavor) from green grapes, cucumber, and celery. Topped with a relish made of that threesome plus jalapeño and green tomatoes, it’s delightfully refreshing on a hot day.
While white gazpacho is another classic cold soup from Spain, it scarcely resembles the more famous red gazpacho. As creamy as it looks, it uses no dairy products. Instead, that luscious texture comes from puréeing together bread, almonds, cucumbers, green grapes, and olive oil. The mixture gets a flavor boost from garlic and sherry vinegar.
More cold soups from around the world
Spain isn’t the only country in the world with a tradition of serving soup chilled. Let's take our bowls to Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Each of these refreshing soups uses ingredients and techniques that reflect its origin — think of them as tasty postcards from future trips.
When I was growing up, my dad always kept a jar of borscht — Russian beet soup — in the fridge. He’d eat it cold, with sour cream stirred in to turn it neon-pink. I hated the stuff. How wrong I was! This recipe doesn’t replicate what my dad ate. It improves upon the store-bought variety. Rye bread thickens it, cucumber lightens it, and the flavor, oh, the flavor… Next time I see my dad, I’m bringing him a jar of this.
In contrast to sturdy and hearty borscht, vichyssoise, the chilled French potato-leek soup, feels smooth and elegant. Julia Child’s classic version has you simmer the vegetables in chicken broth until they’re completely soft, then purée and strain the mixture to remove every bit of texture. If that’s not silky enough, whipping cream takes it squarely into luxurious territory.
Persian food often includes complex layers of flavor, and this easy soup is a great example. Greek yogurt meets ice water for the broth, and walnuts, raisins, cucumber, and abundant herbs add substance. If you can get your hands on the optional dried rose petals (try a Latino market, or get them online), they provide a floral-but-not-perfumy hint of mystery, the ideal “secret” ingredient.
If you’re looking for quick and easy, this ain’t it. But if you’re looking for an icy-cold, slurpy, savory-tart-sweet bowl that rewards every bit of effort that went into it, you’ve found it. Springy Korean buckwheat noodles go into the bowl first, to swim in an umani-rich broth that’s frozen just enough to form some ice crystals. That gets topped with a crunchy-spicy-sweet combination of add-ins. With all that going on, this Korean cold soup ticks off every one of my boxes.
Chilled and creamy soups
There’s something about a thick, creamy texture that just screams indulgence. But with each of these cold soups, the quality comes from a healthy ingredient. You know what that means: You’ll feel decadent sipping away, but you’ll finish the bowl feeling refreshed, not stuffed.
Talk about an easy cold soup recipe. This lightly tangy, creamy, satisfying soup may be the simplest one on this list: All you do is combine tomato juice, buttermilk, and a handful of flavor accents; then chill, and serve. You barely even need a knife, and the whole thing will be in the fridge in minutes.
Aside from a dollop of yogurt or crème fraîche to garnish each bowl, this lush soup is dairy-free. The creaminess comes from puréeing a mixture of zucchini, onion, and garlic that’s been simmered in broth until tender. (You can use a blender or food processor.) Fresh herbs and lime help brighten the flavor as well as the color.
My husband loves cold cucumber soup. Something about the combination of cukes, yogurt, lemon juice, and herbs (especially dill) just sets his heart to racing. I have a feeling that if I spend 10 minutes puréeing this no-cook soup, he’ll eat all of it by the time I finish cleaning up.
Velvety is just the word to describe this bowl of happiness. That exquisite smoothness comes from ripe avocados — and if you want to take it into super-creamy territory, add a little bit of sour cream, crème fraîche, or even milk. Topping each bowl with a spoonful of fresh corn kernels, jalapeño, and crisp bacon gives just the right textural contrast.
Sweet and savory fruit soups
I first tried a soup made from fruit at summer camp. It had a jewel-toned broth, reddish purple and lightly sweet, with small pieces of raw fruit like berries, peaches, and apples floating in it. On the hottest summer days, when no amount of pool time was enough to really cool us off, eating that soup forced us to slow down, take it sip by sip, and feel the heat lifting from our bodies.
I’ll bet you assumed fruit soups had to be served at the end of the meal as a sweet finish. Not this one. Yes, it calls for plenty of watermelon and cantaloupe, but it purées the melon with fresh ginger, sherry vinegar, olive oil, and a fiery-hot habanero pepper. And when you serve, a spoonful of crumbled feta plus a few grinds of black pepper make it clear: This is no dessert.
Imagine a really good yogurt-based smoothie, bursting with summer strawberries (seriously, this recipe calls for 8 cups!). Now thin it out just a bit with orange juice and add a touch of ground ginger for zing. You’ll have a sunny, creamy, no-cook soup that can be a dessert or a light meal all by itself.
I’m pretty sure the chilled fruit soup of my childhood camp days used plums for the broth. They’re summery and sweet, but they still have a tartness to them. This soup uses that tart tinge to great effect, simmering the fruit with apple juice, ginger, cinnamon, and tarragon for a whisper of licorice flavor. That all gets blended and chilled, then served with a dollop (or a fancy drizzle) of yogurt for some creamy tang.
Rather than cooking the fruit, this creamy vegan soup has you simmer plant-based milk with spices like cinnamon and turmeric and a little arrowroot powder for thickening, then chill it completely. While it’s chilling, you cut up a variety of ripe fruits — use whatever you find at the farmers’ market or have on hand— and add it to the liquid for a few hours, to let the flavors meld.
Recipes for an endless summer
Beat the heat — and enjoy some perfect days before fall comes along — with these ideas for picnics, dinner salads and sandwiches, cool cocktails, and no-sweat desserts.