This root vegetable soup recipe is hearty with an earthy sweetness tempered by fresh thyme and just the right amount of cream. Perfect on a cold afternoon, it's delicious partnered with a salad of bitter greens and a piece of toasted sourdough bread.
What is it?
Root vegetable soup is popular in many European culinary traditions, and it's typically served during the fall and winter when celeriac, parsnips, turnips, and other root vegetables are in season and plentiful.
It tastes sweet and earthy, although bone broth gives it a savory element while fresh herbs lend a bit of brightness.
What's in it?
To make root vegetable soup, you'll need aromatics, vegetables, liquid, and seasoning. For this version, we combine onions together with root vegetables, broth, cream, salt, and fresh thyme.
- Ghee is a type of clarified butter popular in traditional Indian cookery. It has a sweet, nutty flavor and is an excellent cooking fat. When produced from the cream of grass-fed cows, it's also rich in vitamins A and K as well as healthy fats such as conjugated linoleic acid (1).
- Onion is a member of the allium family which also includes leeks, chives, and garlic. It gives the soup a savory sweetness. It's also a rich source of quercetin, a powerful plant nutrient that combats inflammation (2).
- Thyme is a plant in mint family. It's tiny little leaves can bring an herbal flavor to soups and stews, and it partners well with root vegetables.
- Celeriac (also known as celery root) tastes strongly of celery and is both a root vegetable and an aromatic vegetable. It is commonly used across North Europe during winter where it often makes an appearance in soup. It is a good source of micronutrients including phosphorus, vitamin B6, and potassium (3).
- Carrots give the soup sweetness, and they're also both affordable and easy to find in almost every grocery store. Carrots are rich in phytonutrients that fight inflammation and support cellular health (4).
- Parsnips are a root vegetable in the carrot family. Like carrots, they taste sweet with a subtle herbal note reminiscent of parsley to which they're also related. Parsnips are rich in fiber, manganese, and folate.
- Turnips are a member of the brassica family and are botanically related to broccoli, cabbage, and mustard. They're rich in potassium, manganese, and folate. They also contain beneficial sulfur-containing compounds found in other brassicas.
- Bone broth is a good source of protein in the form of gelatin, and it lends a savory note to the soup. Chicken broth, made from the whole chicken and not just the bones, is a good substitute.
- Cream gives the soup a luxurious richness, and adding it at the very end of cooking brings all the other ingredients together in a smooth, velvety purée.
Tips for making root vegetable soup
Making root vegetable soup is just as easy as making most other soups and stews. You start first by sautéing or sweating your aromatic vegetables, such as onions, with fat or oil and a little bit of salt. Once they're fragrant and cooked through, you'll add the root vegetables which form the bulk of the soup. Celeriac, parsnips, carrots, and turnip then simmer in a savory broth along with fresh thyme. To finish it off, you'll purée the soup and stir in a bit of cream which gives it a velvety texture and luxurious quality.
While soup making is easy, there are a few things you'll want to keep in mind:
- Cut your vegetables into uniform pieces. They should all be roughly the same size so they cook at the same rate.
- Cook the onion down until deeply fragrant and translucent. If the onion remains raw or only partially cooked before you add the vegetables, it can give the soup a sharp flavor rather than a savory sweetness.
- Cook the root vegetables until tender (but not completely soft). If you overcook root vegetables, they'll develop an unpleasant, overly sweet flavor that's similar to canned vegetables.
- Add the cream at the very end of cooking. This will prevent the cream from overcooking or the chance that it might curdle with prolonged cooking.
- Adjust the ingredients depending on what you enjoy. This recipe is super flexible, as long as you keep the ratios roughly the same. The carrots, parsnips celeriac and turnips can be swapped for any other root vegetable as long as you use rough 2 to 2 ½ pounds of vegetables. You can also swap the thyme for other herbs easily, too.
Root Vegetable Soup Recipe
- Melt the ghee in the bottom of a Dutch oven or heavy stockpot over medium heat, and tip in the onion. Sprinkle the onion with salt and thyme, stir, and then cover the pot. Allow the onions and thyme to sweat in the hot fat for about 5 minutes, or until they soften and release their fragrance.
- Dump the celeriac, carrots, parsnips, and turnips into the pot, and then pour in the bone broth. Increase the heat to medium-high. When the contents of the pot reach a boil, turn down the heat to medium, cover the pot, and then simmer the soup for about 25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- Turn off the heat, and then stir in the heavy cream. Purée with an immersion blender until smooth, and then serve hot.
Make it dairy-free by substituting lite coconut milk for the heavy cream and coconut oil for the ghee or butter. Then, swap the thyme for a tablespoon of curry powder which plays well with coconut.
Try other root vegetables (or a combination of them) such as beets and rutabaga. The key is to keep the total amount of root vegetables to about 2 to 2 ½ pounds.
Try leeks in place of onion. Leeks have a soft, sweet flavor that works well with root vegetables.
Swap out the herbs. While thyme works beautifully with root vegetables, other herbs work well, too. Marjoram, rosemary, parsley, and tarragon each provide a delicious element to the soup.
Try spices instead of herbs. Instead of thyme, you could also add warming spices to the soup. Cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, and juniper each add a nice element to the soup.
Swap sour cream for the heavy cream. The acidity of sour cream or crème fraiche brings a nice balance to the earthy, sweet flavor of root vegetables.
Roast the vegetables first. For a roasted root vegetable soup, consider roasting the vegetables at 400 F for about 20 minutes or until they begin to darken. You can cut the simmer time of the soup down to about 5 to 10 minutes since roasting not only caramelizes the vegetables, but also cooks them until soft, too.
Pour any leftover soup into a container with a tight-fitting lid and store it in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Like most soups, root vegetable soup will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator and up to 6 months in the freezer.
Yes! The soup freezes beautifully; however, you'll want to omit the final step (adding the cream). Freeze the puréed soup without the cream, and then freeze it for up to 6 months. To prepare the soup from frozen, defrost it, and heat it over medium-low until hot. Stir in the cream just before serving.
An immersion blender makes puréeing soups easy, but if you don't have one you can pass the soup through a food mill. Alternatively, you can work in batches and purée the soup in an upright blender.
More autumn and winter vegetable recipes
- Pustjens, Annemieke M et al. “Characterization of Retail Conventional, Organic, and Grass Full-Fat Butters by Their Fat Contents, Free Fatty Acid Contents, and Triglyceride and Fatty Acid Profiling.” Foods (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 6,4 26. 31 Mar. 2017
- Li, Yao et al. “Quercetin, Inflammation and Immunity.” Nutrients vol. 8,3 167. 15 Mar. 2016,
- Ahmad, Tanveer et al. “Phytochemicals in Daucus carota and Their Health Benefits-Review Article.” Foods (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 8,9 424. 19 Sep. 2019