Soup is comfort, pure and simple. Whether you're nursing a cold or a broken heart, a bowl of soup is just what the doctor (or Mom) ordered. While the homemade stuff is best, it's not always practical. Fortunately, Trader Joe's carries a ton of soup-in refrigerated tubs, jars, cans, and shelf-stable boxes. Trader Joe's soup isn't all the greatest, but there are some winners in the lot.
Most Trader Joe's offerings are vastly superior to typical supermarket brands thanks to simple ingredient lists and their tendency to eschew artificial ingredients, flavors, and preservatives. Unfortunately, the sodium levels in these products are often high; if you're eating more than an 8-ounce single serving, you may be looking at half your daily recommended intake in a single bowl.
With that caveat in mind, here are some of our favorites--plus how to doctor some to make them even better.
Our Favorite Trader Joe's Soups
Hands down our #1 Trader Joe's soup, this creamy tomato number comes in a tub from a refrigerated case, and tastes incredibly fresh and homemade. (Pro tip: Fresh options can be seasonal; I found this one in August.) With a nice blend of carrots, onions, and tomatoes balanced with light cream and a generous amount of feta, it's good enough to serve to guests. We might eat this daily if it didn't have a whopping 800 mg of sodium-35% of the RDA-for a mere one-cup serving.
Butternut Squash Soup
Who says butternut squash is seasonal? This soup is so popular it's on the shelf year-round at TJ's. A thin puree with a hint of ginger and garlic, it's gluten-free and vegan. While perfectly fine on its own, what makes it such a staple is its versatility: you can adapt it using just a few other ingredients. Try adding shrimp, coconut milk, and a pinch of curry for an Indian-ish vibe. For a heartier meal, add cooked sausage or cheese tortellini and a sprinkle of Parmesan. Or swirl in a few spoons of barbecue sauce and top with pulled pork. Let your imagination lead you to greatness.
Organic Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup Low Sodium
Tomato soup: an American classic, especially with grilled cheese. Trader Joe's offers a staggering number of tomato soups, but this is truly the best of the shelf-stable options. Despite being low-sodium, it's not bland, and has a nice, tangy fresh flavor thanks to roasted red peppers. It's creamy and luscious and needs no doctoring--as cozy as your favorite pair of slippers, but much tastier. Having a carton of this handy in your pantry is a very good idea.
Organic Split Pea Soup
Exactly what you want split pea soup to be, this canned offering is very thick, smooth, and comforting. The ingredients are all items you'd use if you were making it from scratch--organic split peas, onions, celery, carrots, garlic, onion powder, and spices. To make this soup even tastier, consider adding cooked vegetables (carrots or onions would be nice) and topping it with croutons.
Decent With Doctoring
Garden Vegetable Soup
This very chunky homestyle soup has lots of vegetables, but unfortunately, the tomato flavor and acidity dominate, drowning out the flavor of sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, zucchini, red bell peppers, leeks, kale, Swiss chard, and spinach. It's a good base if you want to add a splash of cream and maybe some noodles, but we think you'd be better off making your own Tomato Macaroni Soup.
Corn Poblano Chowder
This creamy chowder is thick with smoky poblano peppers, chunks of potato, corn kernels, diced red pepper, peas, and cilantro. It's nicely flavored, but a bit starchy, and the ingredients don't taste terribly fresh. It screams to be doctored with some rotisserie chicken, grated cheese, and tortilla chips. A squeeze of lime or chopped cilantro and green onions would give it just the fresh punch-up it needs. Better yet, make your own Summer Corn Chowder with fresh corn.
Kettle Cooked Chicken Soup
Chunks of chicken, carrots, and potatoes are not only plentiful but delicious here. This soup makes a hearty and satisfying meal even if the broth isn't anywhere near as rich and flavorful as homemade. It's a decent choice to bring a sick friend, or for chilly nights when you need warming up.
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