We're still a few months away from peak soup season—I'm not usually in the mood for a steaming bowl of stew when temperatures are still in the 80s. But not all soups are cold-weather affairs, and a light chilled soup can be incredibly refreshing on a hot day.
Our favorite summery soups show off the season's best fresh produce—corn, tomatoes, squash, and more—and some don't even need to be cooked, which is especially appealing when it's scorching out. From classic and not-so-classic gazpachos to corn chowder and Korean noodle soup, we've rounded up 16 of our favorite soup recipes that are perfect for the hottest days of summer.
Let's start with the most classic of all cold summer soups, gazpacho. This recipe's ingredient list is traditional: tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, bell pepper, and white bread. It's the technique that's a little unusual. To get the most flavor out of the vegetables, we turn to cryo-blanching, which is a fancy way of saying that we freeze and thaw the veggies to break them down and release their flavorful juices.
Cryo-blanching makes the best gazpacho, but it also takes at least an hour to freeze and thaw the vegetables, plus another hour of additional prep time. The good news is that if you want a refreshing bowl of soup faster than that, you can skip that step. Salting the vegetables and letting them drain onto the bread makes a soup that isn't quite as flavorful, but it comes pretty darn close, and the whole process takes just 45 minutes from beginning to end.
While tomato-based gazpachos may be the best-known, they're not the only option among no-cook soups. To make this lovely bright-white ajo blanco, sometimes called "white gazpacho," we keep the bread, but blend it up with blanched almonds and garlic instead of tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. Garnish with green seedless grapes, toasted almonds, and mint.
On the most sweltering days of summer, adding juicy watermelon to the traditional gazpacho mix of tomato and cucumber seems to make the dish extra cooling. Using toasted almonds instead of bread to thicken the soup keeps it especially light, while a drizzle of Mexican crema spiked with hot Calabrian chilies balances out the sweetness of the fruit.
This gazpacho variation is inspired by the classic antipasto combination of cantaloupe and prosciutto. Sweet melon turns the soup pleasantly fruity, but keeping the cucumber and onion from the usual gazpacho formula ensures it doesn't turn into a dessert. Oven-crisped prosciutto adds a savory, salty finishing touch.
We're cheating a little here—this recipe is cooked, but rather than using the stove, we get all the heat we need from a Vitamix blender. The high-powered blender actually cooks the onions and tomatoes, while incorporating crustless white bread and olive oil makes the soup luxuriously creamy without any dairy. Keep this recipe in mind all year long, as the soup is great either hot or cold.
This version of gazpacho differs from the classic in two big ways—not only do we include tomatillos and jalapeños, two ubiquitous Mexican ingredients, but we also grill them (and the other veggies) to give the soup a pronounced smoky flavor. We like to keep this gazpacho on the chunky side, and top it with grilled shrimp to make it more filling.
Sometimes making a cold soup is as simple as starting with one meant to be served hot and...eating it cold. If the soup is intensely flavorful, you won't even miss the heat. That's the case with this chowder, which we infuse with maximum corn flavor by throwing the empty cobs into the stock. Along with the potatoes, the corncobs release enough starch to thicken the soup beautifully.
Want an alternative to corn chowder that tastes even cornier? If you have a pressure cooker, you can let it do all the work of extracting the corn's flavor for you. Throw the stripped cobs into the pressure cooker along with the kernels, and you'll get a thick soup with a deeper corn flavor than one made with potatoes or dairy.
Zucchini is an extremely watery vegetable, which makes it a challenge for preparations like sautés, but absolutely perfect for soup. It takes only a little cooking to break the squash down before blending it into a fresh, brightly colored soup scented with lots of basil. To preserve the zucchini's flavor, we use water instead of stock and add mild leeks instead of sharper onion.
We love the texture of a creamy soup, but the dairy fat that's usually used to achieve that creaminess tends to cover up the flavor of fresh vegetables. Our solution is velouté, a French technique that uses a roux, and little to no dairy, to thicken a soup. Leaving out the cream lets the grassy asparagus and anise-scented tarragon in this recipe shine.
A couple times a year, I buy a head of lettuce to make a sandwich, use a few leaves, then accidentally leave the rest to wilt away in the fridge. Thanks to this recipe, that's no longer a problem—lettuce past its prime is surprisingly tasty when cooked up with aromatics and stock into a soup, then served either hot or cold. A handful of parsley keeps the color as vividly green as a fresh head of lettuce, too.
This light, delicate soup is far more refreshing than the thick, hammy variety of pea soup that's more traditional, thanks to sweet peas (fresh or frozen peas work) and blanched lemon rind. We cook the soup just long enough to bring it to a boil, so the peas don't lose their fresh flavor, then blend with grated Parmesan cheese to add a little body. This one is good either warm or chilled.
This time of year, I often find summer squash on sale at my local supermarket, but there's only so much sautéed squash I can eat. Fortunately, I can always turn to this recipe, which turns three pounds of the stuff into a tangy, earthy soup. We start by stewing the squash with garlic and onions, then blend it up with yogurt and fresh mint until it's silky-smooth.
If your knowledge of Korean food ends at bibimbap and barbecued short ribs, you're missing out. Among the many delicious noodle dishes the country is known for, this summery soup of buckwheat noodles in a sweet-tart, gelatin-thickened broth stands out. We add poached beef to the soup, making it a more filling meal, and garnish it with Asian pear, cucumber, and pickled radish.
This bright carrot soup is perfect for a warm summer day. Carrots offer a natural sweetness, and a dollop of aromatic spiced yogurt adds richness to complement their vegetal flavor. Adding mint only after the soup has been chilled ensures that its flavor remains strong and fresh in the final dish.
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