13 Ways To Upgrade Your Canned Soup So It Tastes Homemade

Canned soup makes an unbelievably convenient lunch or dinner and it comes in so many different flavors that there are sure to be several you enjoy. Even so, the canned stuff often doesn't measure up to a homemade batch, at least not without a little help. Fortunately, you can do quite a few things to make a canned soup taste more homemade. Many of the helpful tricks are incredibly easy to pull off too. You may already have everything you need to execute several of them in your fridge, pantry, and spice rack.

To find the best ways to improve canned soup I consulted food blogs, Reddit threads, chef recommendations, and more. I also considered my own attempts to elevate canned soup at home. I'm a big fan of Amy's Organics and Progresso soups and I've made a meal out of them more than once, so I've tried many of these options at home.

Keep reading to discover the 13 ways to upgrade your canned soup I uncovered so you can make any product taste (almost) homemade. Once you master a couple of the tips you may find yourself reaching for it on a much more regular basis, or even using canned soup in unexpected ways.

1. Add sautéed aromatics like onion or garlic

My favorite way to upgrade canned soup is to add sautéed onion and garlic. Whether alone or together, they add a rich, potent flavor and an enticing aroma that won't be overlooked. One of the best things about this upgrade is that it works on almost any type of canned soup. Seriously, I can't think of one it would taste bad in. Onion and garlic are most likely already ingredients in the canned soup you're about to prepare, so adding more only accentuates the soup's elements. It's not as drastic as adding a whole new ingredient, but it's noticeable in all the right ways.

If I have enough time, I start by caramelizing onions and then adding fresh chopped garlic right near the end so it doesn't burn. Roasted garlic also tastes great, but sautéing it for a couple of minutes is so much simpler. Speaking of time constraints, if caramelizing onions is too much, simply sautéing them is also delicious. Sautéed onions lack the sweet taste of caramelized ones, but they still add some much-needed zest to canned soup. Either way, I dump a can of soup straight into the pan when the onions and garlic are done cooking, heat it all together, and enjoy.

2. Enhance with leafy greens like kale or spinach

When you are looking for a quick fix that adds bulk and tons of nutrition to canned soup, leafy greens like kale and spinach are your best friends. Not only are they nutritionally dense (more green veggies are always a good thing), but they require almost no effort to incorporate into soup, and that's a big perk. After all, canned soup is supposed to be incredibly easy to heat up, right? Thankfully, infusing it with leafy greens takes virtually no effort at all.

The easiest way to add leafy greens to your soup is by garnishing your bowl with a heaping handful. Then, you can stir it in as you eat. I prefer raw spinach and kale, so this is my recommendation. However, cooked spinach and kale also make tasty additions to canned soup. You can stir leaves into the soup while it cooks so they become tender. Or, you can easily break off a chunk of frozen spinach and heat it up with your soup. Either way, leafy greens are yummy in most soups. I like to add spinach to minestrone and creamy potato soup, but the sky's the limit.

3. Stir in additional herbs and spices

Fresh herbs and spices have the power to take canned soups from bland to delicious in no time at all. Simply sprinkling seasonings into the soup while it warms up allows the flavors to blend and intensify. I recommend reading your soup's label to find out what spices are already in the recipe and then adding more of the same — minus the salt (most canned soups already have plenty). You can't go wrong with this method. When spread on top of a cooked bowl as a garnish, fresh herbs also give your soup an elevated appearance that oozes homemade charm.

We don't all have fresh herbs and spices consistently on hand, but that's okay, dried herbs and spices are a great alternative. Or, you could even stir in a dollop of pesto for a blast of rich flavor in broth-based and creamy soups.

If you open up a canned soup and notice the broth is watery or too clear for your preferences, there's a good chance it won't provide you with intense flavor. While this isn't the norm, some canned soup broths are a bit bland. Herbs and spices help a lot with this, but adding a bit of bouillon will take it the extra mile. Try to match the stock with what's already in the can and you'll be astounded at how well this upgrade works.

4. Top with cheese

One of the easiest — and in my opinion best ways to upgrade a can of soup — is to simply top it with shredded or grated cheese. Admittedly, this is one of my favorite ways to upgrade a myriad of dishes. I'm one of those people who is obsessed with cheese, but aren't we all a little? When it comes to soup, cheese adds a gooey, delicious texture and gives your bowl a bit of last-minute flair. Thanks to the never ending list of cheeses, they also have the potential to incorporate a range of tasty flavors, so you can easily find one to go with almost any kind of soup.

From nutty to tangy to sharp, cheese has what it needs to turn any canned soup around. I love sprinkling parmesan cheese into minestrone and other Italian-style soups. It also tastes delicious stirred into chicken noodle, creamy tomato, and potato soup. For a bolder flavor, sharp cheddar is delicious in tortilla or any kind of vegetable stew. These are just a few examples, but I've added anything from muenster to havarti to gouda to pepperjack, and guess what? They all make for a drool-worthy bowl of canned soup. Plus, cheese blends incredibly well with a world of flavors so you can easily implement other upgrades on this list alongside it. There's no need to stick with just cheese.

5. Bulk it up with additional veggies

Veggies are another fantastic way to upgrade canned soup while simultaneously bulking it up. You can easily top soups and stews with finely diced onion, chives, tomatoes, and more. Or, you can take the time to cook any number of vegetables. While not as simple as topping or stirring in raw veggies, they give a watery canned soup a bit of oomph. As you probably know, they can also increase nutritional value. How much depends on the type of veggie and how much you add, but that's to be expected.

Many soups start with a mirepoix base (celery, onion, and carrot), whether it's in the broth or the actual ingredients. So, adding more of these veggies is a no-brainer. Even so, most soups can be enhanced with any veggies you like. Take a look in your fridge and freezer, see what you have, and use it — there's no need to make it complicated.

The one thing you should be aware of when adding veggies to canned soup is that there is a limited amount of broth. As a result, you don't want to add so many extra ingredients that the dish loses its soup-like consistency. If you do, it'll be more like a stew, which is fine if you're into that. If you find you go too far you can always add more broth but at that point you'll basically be making a homemade soup, so why start with a can anyway?

6. Garnish with crackers, tortilla chips, or croutons

Garnishing soup with something crunchy, like croutons, crackers, or tortilla chips is nothing new. Before serving, many restaurants garnish their soup cups and bowls with crackers or croutons. They provide a nice contrast in textures when paired with soft soup ingredients. Depending on the crunchy element added, it can contribute some extra flavor as well. So, why not take a tip from the pros and do the same for your canned soups? It takes almost no time or effort to garnish a bowl and it gives your soup a more homemade look. Sometimes, the simplest upgrades have a big effect.

Tortilla chips and strips are the ideal complement to Southwestern soups and more. Just make sure to use them sparingly because they tend to have a significant amount of salt. Canned soups do too, so you don't want to accidentally make your dish too salty. Many crackers also have salty exteriors but it's easy to find ones that don't.

Oyster crackers are a favorite for soups because they are small enough to easily garnish a bowl, but really there's no limit to the potential options. I also like rosemary, cheese, and butter-flavored crackers in vegetable soups. Croutons are a classic soup garnish as well and they typically add the most crunch of all thanks to their thicker shape. Whether you decide to make croutons or buy them in a box is up to you but either way, yum!

7. More protein is always a good idea

Similar to veggies, extra protein is a great way to bulk up a canned soup while also contributing tons of flavor and, well, more protein. If the canned soup you're looking to improve already has meat in it, adding more of the same is a great place to start. Quickly cook some up and when it's done, toss it in your heated soup and enjoy. Or, better yet, if you have any leftover chicken or beef, just heat it up in the soup and knock out two tasks in one fell swoop. For even more flavor, try garnishing your canned soup with chopped bacon. It tastes great with everything.

Plant-based soups are kind of like a blank canvas. You can add any kind of meat you like and chances are good it will turn out super yummy. If you prefer a plant-based protein, you have plenty of options in that realm as well. Anything from tofu to crumbled tempeh to textured vegetable protein or even beans infuses canned soup with a healthy dose of protein. Aside from beans, most plant-based proteins won't add a lot of flavor unless you season them first, but they bulk up a soup quite nicely nonetheless. Fried eggs are also a welcome addition to many soups, plant-based or not. Just fry one up, lay it over the top of a bowl, and prepare to be amazed.

8. Add noodles or a grain

Noodles and grains are no strangers to soup. Like other additions, they add bulk and make a soup more filling. Plus, thanks to their subtle flavor, they're a wonderful upgrade for most canned soups. While quite a few store-bought options come with noodles in them, they never have enough for me. In my experience, a can of minestrone could have as few as five or six small ziti noodles, which only leaves me wanting more. I mean, who wouldn't want more? As a result, I've bulked up many canned soups with extra noodles. Egg noodles are one of my favorites for vegetable soups but I've also experimented with instant ramen (without the flavor packet) and it didn't let me down. However, any small pasta would work.

Grains like quinoa and rice are also ideal for enhancing canned soups. Like pasta, they have the ability to make a meal out of a single can. Leftover rice or quinoa is perfect, but you can make it fresh as well. I typically have a small amount of leftover rice (and noodles for that matter) in my fridge anyway, so that's what I use. Not only do I need to use it before it goes bad, but it isn't as wet or sticky so I find it mixes in without clumping as much.

9. Blend for a creamy, smooth soup

Blending a can of soup, either with a traditional or immersion blender, takes it from brothy to creamy in just moments. It doesn't add extra flavor or bulk, but it transforms the texture in a decadent way. Best of all, all you need for this quick and easy canned soup upgrade is a small appliance. Unlike the other options on this list, no additional ingredients or cooking steps are required. So, if you're looking through your fridge and pantry and aren't finding anything that could be of use, blending is the perfect solution.

Of course, you could still use some of the other recommendations in addition to blending, but you don't have to. Simply whirling a chunky soup into a creamy consistency is enough to make a basic can of soup appear homemade. I've done this with chunky potato and vegetable soups and then topped them with fresh herbs and crackers and they hit the spot. I didn't try to pass them off to my friends as homemade, but something tells me I could have.

10. Add a touch of extra acid

Many soups benefit from the addition of an acidic element. Chicken soups in particular are seriously improved with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. You don't want to heat it up though, wait until you are ready to serve the soup and add a small amount to the bowl. If you don't have any lemons, feel free to substitute limes, they'll have the same flavor-balancing effect. While I first found this trick on a food blog, a commenter on a Reddit thread also recommends using lemon or lime juice in chicken soup. Lime also pairs super well with Asian, Southwestern, and Mexican-inspired canned soups.

For every other type of canned soup, a splash of vinegar is ready to step in. It brightens a dull soup's flavor and balances out overly salty broth, which is somewhat common in canned products (at least in my opinion). No matter what acidic ingredient you want to use, start by adding a very small amount. It's easy to go overboard with potent ingredients like citrus and vinegar, so it's best to play it safe. You can always add more.

11. Incorporate spicy ingredients for deep flavor

Spicy ingredients like peppers, cayenne, and hot sauce enrich canned soups in all the best ways. They add a deep, rich, zesty flavor that won't be overlooked. Plus, they contribute lots of heat, something many of us love. If you don't like spicy foods, this upgrade is not for you, but for the rest of us, it transforms boring soups into something bold and flavorful.

Jalapeño peppers are my favorite spicy pepper for soup. They can be grated, diced, or sliced and simply used as a garnish. It couldn't be easier. If you want to add a more toned-down level of heat, scrape the insides out of the jalapeño before dicing. A common misconception about spicy peppers is that all their heat lies in the seeds. However, if you want to cut the spice out of a pepper, you have to make sure to remove the soft white membranes lining the walls as well. I also love fire-roasted Pueblo chiles in soup (I live in Colorado after all), but only when they are in season.

If you are a hot sauce lover, you probably have a go-to product that you already want to try. Even so, don't limit yourself. Anything from sriracha to Cholula to Tabasco makes a great addition to canned soup.

12. Make it creamy with sour cream, milk, or heavy cream

Infusing canned soup with a creamy ingredient seriously improves lackluster broths. It also goes a long way in balancing out overly salty soups. All you need to do is pour a dash of milk or heavy cream into the pan while heating up your soup and stir. Or, you can add eye-catching flair by swirling some heavy cream on top as a garnish. It definitely gives a bowl of soup a homemade aesthetic, whether it came from a can or not. You can also swap heavy cream for canned evaporated milk. It stays true to the canned theme and may even lead to silkier results.

Sour cream also makes soups deliciously creamy, particularly Mexican and Southwestern-inspired ones. Unlike milk or cream, sour cream has a tangy element that really shines in many soups. Simply stir a spoonful into your steamy bowl and dive right in. Or, for an even tangier boost of flavor and a thicker consistency, substitute plain Greek yogurt.

13. Serve it in a bread bowl

The final way to upgrade a can of soup I want to share is simple: Serve it in a bread bowl. While it won't add much to the flavor of the actual soup, it more than makes up for it in style points. Plus, I love bread and there's a good chance I was already going to be dipping it in my soup anyway. This streamlines the process while also creating a super fun, eye-catching presentation.

I'm not the best at baking, so I buy fresh Italian or sourdough bread rounds from the grocery store and scoop out the center whenever I find myself needing a bread bowl. Dinner rolls are also perfect if you want to make small individual servings as an appetizer or side dish. Just choose a bread or roll with a somewhat thicker crust so the soup stays contained within. Unfortunately, this disqualifies soft breads like Hawaiian Rolls but there should be plenty of suitable options in the bakery section of your local store. However, making a bread bowl for soup is totally achievable if you have time, patience, and precision.