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Why does my veg soup taste like grass?

So, I'm sitting at my desk eating my lunch, which I was really looking forward to: homemade veg soup that I spent some effort on. A stock of aromatics, parsely, garlic, fresh herbs, and dried porcini, then finished last night with the above (sauteed for flavor), veg's from my garden (frozen yellow and green beans, peas, corn; canned tomatoes; potatoes), a splash of white wine, pasta, s&p... and still it tastes just like grass.

I know that sometimes just a little meat, like pancetta or bacon, can make all the difference, but I'm annoyed that I don't seem to be able to make a vegetarian vegetable soup that has a deep body. This tastes just like vegetables boiled in salted water. Bleh.


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  1. You didn't mention celery and onion. I like the soup recipes from the Moosewood cookbooks "Daily Specials" and "Low-Fat Favorites". I think soups need a defining flavor. First, I wouldn't put three starches corn, potato and pasta in the same soup. You may have weighted the soup with starch that way. Peas are also pretty starchy. The tomato vegetable soup from Moosewood is heavy on tomatoes but also contains some green beans and carrots. (sorry, can't remember what else) I usually use canned vegetable stock but Moosewood has a recipe for making your own. Perhaps that's why it tasted like salted water. My taste preferences seem to be for soups with a strong celery presence. I made split pea yesterday with added onions, celery and carrots. Since I was adding ham, I skipped the potato. My 5 quart dutch oven was almost full. Herbs used were some marjoram, no garlic and 3 bay leaves. Maybe you used too many different herbs. In the recipes I use, there is usually a predominate flavor, maybe one or two tsp dried, and just a 1/2 tsp of other herbs.
    Good luck on your next batch.

    1. It sounds as though perhaps you didn't have enough substance in the original stock; either too much water for the vegetables you did have or not enough types of vegetables and therefore you couldn't get a substantial flavor to the base. For vegetable stock I usually saute some diced onions, garlic, leek and carrot til a bit caramelized (or you can roast them) then I add the water, potatoes, turnips, sweet potato, more carrots & onions (with skins) (all vegetables quartered), peppercorns and dried herbs. I let it simmer for a few hours then strain and press through the Chinois so I get all of the goodnes from the vegetables and herbs. It takes a while and generally makes a mess but I make a big batch at one time and freeze for later. That's my stock which I then use for the soup.

      1. What were your aromatics? What I have done in the past is put onions into the food processor instead of chopping. It makes the stock a bit cloudy but more flavorful.

        You might also try a chunk of fresh ginger and plenty of pepper and salt to taste. Cook the stock for longer if necessary, covered.

        Try adding a parm rind to your soup as it finishes off. Not sure if you are vegan, but this also infuses it with a deep and rich flavor.

        1. Add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste to the sauteed veggies and cook for a couple of minutes.

          1. Maybe you need more umami. Set a smaller amount of your soup aside, add some white miso and see if that helps.

            EDIT: umami can be also contributed by parmesan (ie chowkari's parm rind) or mushroom (I used powdered)

            1. The taste of veggies boiled in water and the taste of grass are totally different.

              It really sounds like you need some roasted carrots and onions in there.

              Your white wine might have grassy notes. I also think parsley can taste a little grassy.

              1. You needed to add some browned tomato paste (the classic Maillard reaction). Roasted vegetables and/or (very) caramelized onions provide similar results.

                1. whew, i thought you meant another kind of grass there for a moment. i would've been so upset because soup would be a terrible waste! ;)

                  as a few other folks have noted, roast your veggies, first. when i was a vegetarian and prone to making veggie soups, i'd roast an entire sleeve of garlic at a time and squeeze a few full heads worth of cloves into soups and stews. roasted root veggies like turnips work well.

                  legumes are good for adding body (try a variety of lentils, beans, peanuts), chinese mushrooms (a.k.a. dong gu... i think the same thing as shitake, too) good for adding an earthy flavor. some kinds of soups and stews take well to peanut butter.

                  you could also cheat and use a veggie better than bouillon stock as a base.

                  one last hint: for a thicker texture, take out half the batch of soup and puree (esp. if you have legumes and nuts in the mix), then add it back to the pot.

                  1. Just echoing what others have said ...

                    1. Roast your veggies
                    2. Use some EVOO, or some more EVOO if you've already added it originally
                    3. Mix in some animal fat, either rendered chicken fat or beef fat -- not a lot, just a bit.
                    4. Consider adding more salt

                    1. I'm a devoted carnivore but cook mostly vegetarian for health reasons. Veg soups need to be treated a bit differently than meat-based soups to have the same "substance". It seems like your mistake was to try to make a soup that would be awesome with chicken or beef stock and some bacon vegetarian. I would modify your soup as follows:
                      1. Make your stock more robust by adding carrots, onions, and celery to the ingredients you already used or use a pre-made veggie or mushroom stock
                      2. Saute some garlic and onions in olive oil until golden brown. Add herbs, salt, and cayenne/chili pepper before adding your tomato paste.
                      3. Add tomato paste and some more spicy stuff (adobo, jalapenos, more chili/cayenne).
                      4. Save the string beans for another dish. This is probably why your soup tastes like grass. Ditto for the peas. Kidney beans, lentils, white beans, Great Northern, or black beans might work better.
                      5. Pick either pasta or potatoes as your starch.
                      Good luck!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: kalidaemon

                        Hi all- OP here.

                        So, I did use celery/onions/carrots in my stock, AND a parm rind (forgot to mention that), but I think next time I'll try the browned tomato paste and roasted veggies (I tried to cheat... apparently it doesn't work). I'll have to keep having a go at all the veggies though- I have a huge freezer full from my garden, and they need a home (likewise the potatoes)!

                        Thanks for the thoughts- I usually have great luck with soups, but don't seem to be able to nail this one, so hopefully these ideas will help!