Canned Soup (sold at stores)
Most canned soup sold at stores tastes watery, overcooked, too salty, and in need of additional fresh ingredients.
I normally add fresh ingredients to Progresso brand Lentil soup and turn it into a fantastic stew consisting of additional ingredients such as shitake mushrooms, garlic, and green peas, along with various spices.
Campbell's rebranded its Gold Label line as "V-8." Those soups are so thick, you have to spoon the contents out. Among the best and thickest soups sold at conventional supermarkets. My favorite is the Butternut Squash soup, which I also add some spices and ingredients to such as fresh squash and a small bit of kale or spinach.
I recently tried the Muir Glen brand for the first time and was blown away by its chicken tortilla soup. I did not have to add any additional spices, and was surprised at how spicy it was. Word of warning - this soup tastes very salty.
The soup is thicker than the normal canned soup (although not as thick as the V-8 line), but the tortilla soup did not contain cream, as far as I could tell. I think the thickening came from the potato ingredient or soy components. Most of its ingredients are organic, which is why this soup is premium priced.
Campbells has a healthy request version of Chicken Tortilla soup. It is made with a cheese component, and although it is more watery, it still tastes better than the normal canned soup.
Jyoti has its version of canned curried lentil soup (called "Sambar" on its can), which is decent. Not as thick as the Progresso, Muir Glen, or V-8, but offers a pleasant spice flavor to lentil soup.
If I can't get out to a restaurant for very good soup, or make time to do my own from scratch, any of these that I listed are a more than adequate substitute!
I actually tried Healthy Request for the first time a few days ago after my grocer had it on sale for 88 cents/can. Very happy with it. I will only buy Healthy Choice, and Healthy Request now if I have to buy it in a can. All others are just salt water with boiled vegetables. Healthy Choice, and Healthy Request have about half the sodium of most canned soups, therefore they have an actual flavor, not just salt.
I am astounded by the increase in prices and options for nonconcentrated soups these days. This week Progresso is on sale at a local super for $1.25 per can, and the Sunday paper had a coupon for 50-cents off two which most stores will double. A lot of the natural soups are bland and thin -- they need the salt and heft from crackers just to make them palatable. I usually prefer chicken broth, but I'm turning to vegetable or tomato for more flavor. A good sprinkle of parmesan cheese or grate of black pepper helps too.
I make good old Campbell's tomato soup, but I always add some fresh basil and tarragon, and use a small bit of cream with the water. The cream adds body and heft, and the herbs add a lot of flavour. That soup with a couple of pieces of lightly buttered toast makes a very satisfying lunch on a cold winter day.
I have to agree with the notion that canned soup has gotten quite expensive. The cost is not prohibitive, but it gives me added incentive to make my own--although I do enjoy Amy's and Healthy Choice and buy them in bulk at Costco.
I do love Annie Chun's soup bowls though. They're filling, taste good (to me) and have less sodium than most of the canned soups.
The best time to buy canned soup is in the winter because they run specials then. Markets often have some variety of Progresso - like Traditional or Hearty - at $1 apiece (maybe $1.33 for the more "expensive" kinds). They're never on that kind of special in warmer, less soup-appropriate months.
They do make good bases if you spice them up and add fresh vegetables. Two favorite guilty pleasures are canned Progresso with an egg poached in it or with shrimp added. I add a lot of spice.
Yes, some canned soups have gotten very expensive. I almost always wait until they are on sale and combine coupons with the sale price, if the two correspond in time. I lucked out with Muir Glen in this regard. I am embarrassed to say what I paid for their soup! But after having tasted the Chicken Tortilla, I could justify paying the $3 or so for such a soup served to me in a restaurant - it wasn't the normal watery and salty canned soup. It really was spectacular.
I forgot to add Trader Joe's Tomato Bisque. One day in the recent past, TJ's served samples of that soup in its "sample food" area along with its multigrain crackers. The soup was better than the average kind I was used to.
Progresso and Campbell's seem to run the most coupon ads for their products as they seem to be in an ongoing battle as to which one of them features the healthiest soups with the least amount of salt and largest number of soups not made with MSG. The intensity of their ads have gotten almost comical, with one week one company proves its point, the next week, the other company proves its point.
The Campbell's soup I referred to in my earlier post was "Mexican Style Chicken Tortilla." Although it is a bit on the watery side, it is very tasty. I always add a bit of cayenne pepper to add additional heat and to help clean out my sinuses. Tonight I boiled some kale in some water to tenderize it, then added the can of soup. The result was very good.
I don't care much for the Progresso line of bean soups (Minestrone) as I find them watery and salty, but the lentil soup is very thick, and lends itself as a great base to which all kinds of vegetables and seasonings can be added.
I haven't tried Amy's line of soups, but I have heard good things about the product line.
If you look at the ingredients in the V-8 brand of soups, such as the Butternut Squash, it becomes apparent that the soup is not easily duplicated in short time by the home cook. I do wish that Campbells used less sugar in that soup.
Come to think of it, some of these soups not only use alot of salt, but also alot of sugar, particularly with the concentrated tomato soups, whether it is by Campbell's, or by the store brand. Perhaps sugar is added to offset the concentration of salt, as well as neutralizing to some extent the acidity of the tomato.
If you have never added fresh ingredients to these canned soups, try it! You will be amazed at the improvement, even if you add just one or two fresh ingredients, such as a bit of fresh ginger or garlic to tomato and lentil soup, respectively.
I think I discovered the all-time salt level! I recently bought 2 boxes of College Inn stock-new ones, I believe. They were BOGO, so I bought a White Wine and Herbs and Thai Coconut Curry. The former I already used in a chicken stew and thought it was pretty good-not that I tried it on its own, but I thought it added dimension to the stock.
Today, I took out the Thai (thinking; just add it to a rice dish, or just add shrimp and cilantro etc) but it smelled very artificial right out of the box, and the sodium.....drumroll.......1010 mg. sodium per cup. Yikes!
All Sambar I've had has always been a little thin. I've had it both homemade and at restaurants. It tends to be a very flavorful broth with some lentils and vegetables thrown in. Definitely one of my favorite soups - I'll have to keep an eye out for the canned stuff.