These recipes are homemade, healthier, tastier alternatives to cup-a-soup packets from the store. I developed these instant soups as a follow up to my posts about 6 Instant Meals-On-The-Go and A Week of Lightweight Nutritious Backpacking Food . These light, portable, instant recipes all began as a way to help my husband (aka King-Man) eat well on his frequent backpacking trips by simply adding boiling water to them. Hot soups are a good way to help hikers rehydrate quickly and add some needed calories after a day on the trail, so these have become an appetizer of sorts for King-man on his hikes before he eats his main meal. He recently returned from hiking the John Muir Trail, and these soups got rave reviews from him and his hiking companion, Nick. So, they’re trail tested in advance for you!
Here’s how the dry soup mixes look when they’re bagged up. Keep reading for lots of tips about supplies, storage, and use.
Here’s how they look after boiling water is added:
Lots of uses! Backpackers and campers love these soups, but they’re also great for a quick on-the-go meal for travel, the office, or dorm rooms. All you need is a microwave or another way to boil water. You can also keep these on hand at home or in the car for emergencies.
Nutritious ingredients. Although I’d normally choose fresh ingredients over dried for home cooking, these are about as healthy as it gets for dry, instant soups. My recipes are so much better for you than the cup-a-soup packets that you’ll find at the store; those are loaded with sodium and mystery ingredients. I searched for and tested numerous products to find those with the best nutrition and flavor.
Here’s a link to detailed nutritional information for the soup mixes:
Calorie & Nutrition Information for each of 8 soup mixes
Where to get dry ingredients. I’ll explain all of the ingredients I use in the 8 instant soup recipes. They are all available on Amazon, but I’ve also found many of the ingredients at my local grocery store, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods.
Light, portable, and shelf-stable. All of the ingredients in these recipes are dried so they have a longer shelf life (at least 1-2 months), and they are light and easy to carry along with you. Each bagged soup mix weighs 2 to 4 oz.
Vegetarian? No problem. Most of these recipes can be easily adapted by omitting meat and making substitutions. I suggest some alternative ingredients in the tips below.
This is lengthy! This post is filled with lots of tips and suggestions for assembling your own instant soups. Freeze dried ingredients aren’t often used in everyday kitchens, so I thought a detailed explanation was needed in order to assemble these soups in a way that they will have an extended shelf life. So, bear with me. This post is a long one!
Photo tutorial for making
8 Instant Dry Soup Mixes
First I’ll explain the variety of ingredients used in these soups followed by what is used in each of the individual 8 recipes. They all use the exact same prep and cooking procedure. All of the soup mixes rehydrate quickly (9-10 minutes) when soaked in boiling water.
All but 3 of the 8 instant meals use either rice, whole wheat cous cous, or noodles. These can be switched out in any of the recipes, if you prefer one over the other.
Use these amounts interchangeably in the soup recipes:
1/2 cup noodles, or 1/4 cup rice, or 2 tablespoons cous cous
They all work well and taste good. However, the cous cous and noodles are the fastest to rehydrate when mixed with boiling water and were King-Man’s favorites. The rice can remain a bit chewy if you want to be able to eat quickly–it requires more soak time to soften.
- Minute (Instant) Rice–although the brown rice version is more nutritious, it takes twice as long to soften as white rice. So, if you’re making these soups to rehydrate by letting them soak in boiling water, I recommend using the white Minute rice. If you have access to a microwave, you can cook soups with the brown Minute rice a little longer until the rice softens.
- Whole wheat cous cous–it rehydrates quicker than either of the rices. This is a great option for backpackers who need something to be ready fast.
- Noodles. Several of the instant soup recipes have some form of noodles. There are a number of options that work well. Check package directions and look for noodles that normally cook in 4 minutes or less on a stove top (like the ones pictured below); longer cooking pastas won’t soften quickly enough when soaked in boiling water. I used the quick 3 1/2 minute rotini pasta (purchased at my local grocery store) for the Minestrone Instant Soup Mix, because it has an authentic shape for that recipe and it rehydrates quickly. My favorite of all of the noodles is the Millet and Brown Rice Ramen; it rehydrates quickly and is really tasty and nutritious. I use kitchen shears to cut the longer noodles into smaller pieces for easier eating. I found these healthy ramen noodles at Costco; they’re also available on Amazon.
- Note about noodles for backpackers: If you’re taking these instant meals on the trail and plan on cooking them in their plastic bag, avoid thin “spiky” pasta that may poke through the bag and make holes. Or, rehydrate your soup in a pan or bowl so the stability of the bag isn’t an issue.
- Vogue Cuisine Chicken or Beef Base is added to all 8 recipes. I did a lot of shopping around to find a flavor booster similar to bouillon but without chemicals, mystery ingredients, and excessive sodium. The Vogue Cuisine brand uses real, natural, gluten-free ingredients and it does a lot to enhance the flavor of the 8 instant soup recipes. I highly recommend it. VegeBase is a tasty flavor enhancer if you prefer to make a vegetarian soup. I bought mine on Amazon.
- Dried spices. These are the dried herbs and spices I used in my 8 instant soups. I’m a fan of Penzey’s, but any dry spices you have on hand will do.
Additional tasty dried ingredients that boost flavor in the instant soups:
- Dried Parmesan cheese (not freshly grated) — I stay away from this dried, canned cheese for home cooking, but fresh cheese can spoil and isn’t recommended for these instant dried soups. Look for a good quality canned variety to add flavor to the potato soup. I like the Mama Francesca brand, but there are other good ones out there.
- Cheddar cheese powder. This is a main ingredient in the broccoli cheddar soup, and it tastes amazing.
- Dried tomato powder. This is used in both the minestrone and tomato basil soups.
- Dehydrated soy sauce powder. I was excited to discover this key ingredient in dried form for creating Asian instant soups like the pea/scallion/ginger ramen soup and the Thai coconut milk soup.
- Powdered lime juice. This adds a touch of lime flavor to the Thai coconut milk soup. I’ve been using the leftover packets to naturally flavor glasses of water.
- Powdered milk, buttermilk, and coconut milk — These are used in several of the instant soups to add creaminess along with protein and calcium. You can choose between nonfat or whole milk powder, buttermilk powder to add a little tang with the creaminess, or coconut milk powder for Thai flavored creaminess. Your local grocery store will likely carry regular nonfat powdered milk and buttermilk, but you may need to go to Whole Foods or Amazon for organic versions, whole milk powder, and coconut milk powder.
- Freeze dried veggies (Karen’s Naturals brand) rehydrate instantly in boiling water and taste surprisingly fresh. They have zero additives–100% natural and pure. I found these at my local grocery store. They’re also available at Whole Foods and on Amazon. (These also make a tasty, healthy snack without rehydrating them–I snack on the crunchy mixed veggies straight out of the bag.) I used the mixed vegetables, peas, and tomato bits in these instant soup recipes; they’re the easiest way I could find to add a variety of veggies & nutrients to the 8 different instant meals.
- Freeze dried veggies (Mother Earth brand) are available on Amazon and come in lots of varieties. I used their freeze dried mushrooms and broccoli in these soup recipes.
- Freeze dried herbs (Litehouse brand) rehydrate instantly and have great flavor. I found these at my local grocery store, and they’re also available on Amazon. Their spring onions (scallions) and chives were used in my instant soup recipes.
- Freeze dried chicken or beef. (If you’re vegetarian, of course you can omit the meat.) I added freeze dried chicken to one of the instant soup recipes–Chicken Noodle Soup. However, chicken or beef can be added to any of the soup recipes if you want to make it heartier and boost the protein. I buy a big can of freeze-dried chicken (King-Man prefers chicken to beef), but this is only affordable if you’re making up a lot of instant soups or meals. The chicken is surprisingly good once it’s rehydrated with boiling water, and it has all of the nutrition of fresh meat. I bought my can of chicken on Amazon. (7 of the 8 instant soup recipes don’t include meat; so if this chicken is too pricey for you, skip adding meat altogether.)
IMPORTANT TO KNOW ABOUT SHELF LIFE OF FREEZE DRIED MEAT: These sealed cans of freeze dried meat are supposed to last for many years (the can packaging says 25 years); however they only last that long if they’re left unopened. Once the can is opened and exposed to air and moisture, it begins to decay and bacteria can form. The meat should be rehydrated and eaten within a week or two. To extend its storage life, you can store any leftover freeze dried meat in the freezer for future use. If you have a Foodsaver, vacuum sealing will extend the freezer shelf life for up to 1 year. I divide the unused freeze-dried chicken into 1-2 cup portions before vacuum sealing it for future use.
view on Amazon: Foodsaver Vacuum Sealer
- Instant potato flakes are used in the Creamy Potato Instant Soup. Look for boxed brands at your local grocery store. Amazon has an organic option.
- Real bacon bits. These are an optional addition to the Potato Instant Soup, but they add yummy flavor if you’re a bacon lover. If you add these to the bag of instant soup mix, it should be eaten within a week. Alternatively, you can keep the unopened bacon bits separate from the soup mix and add in the bacon when you cook the soup.
- Individual packets that boost flavor. These can be stirred into any of the instant soups after they are cooked to add flavor or spice. The olive oil packets have the added benefit of adding healthy fat for backpackers needing to bump up their calorie intake.
HOW TO MAKE THE 8 INSTANT DRY SOUP MIXES:
- Decide if how you want to store the soup mixes. Ziploc plastic bags work well for backpacking and light portability. However, you can use any other container that holds at least 1 cup. Half-pint mason jars are the right size for storing the mixes at home.
- If using plastic bags, it’s easier to label them before adding the dry soup mix. I used freezer (not storage) Ziploc bags, because they are a thicker plastic and less likely to get holes. (They are BPA-free.) If you want to be able to add boiling water to the soup in the same plastic bag, use quart size Ziploc freezer bags. If you’ll be transferring the soup mix to a bowl, mug, or pot before adding the boiling water, a pint size Ziploc is big enough. Label each bag with the type of soup, how much boiling water to add, and how long to let the meal soak before eating.
- I have 2 Baggy Racks that hold my bags open as I fill them. It’s like having extra sets of hands.
view on Amazon: Baggy Rack
Here’s how the mixes look in bags and jars. Both ways store compactly.
- Oxygen Absorbers will extend the shelf life of your soup mixes. I add them to King-Man’s soup mix bags just to be sure that his food will stay fresh and safe on the trail. You may have seen these in dry products you have purchased in the past.
view on Amazon: oxygen absorbers
“COOKING” THE INSTANT SOUPS
Method 1: In the plastic bag. If you use quart freezer bags, they are sturdy and large enough to pour the boiling water directly into the bag. (Ziplocs are BPA-free.) Give it a stir, seal the bag, and let it rest for 9 or 10 minutes. I recommend putting the bag on a plate or bowl to give it a foundation (and also as a safeguard in case your bag springs a leak). Open, stir, and eat. Easy!
Method 2: In a covered bowl. The main advantage of eating directly from the bag is that there is less clean-up. But it’s a lot easier to eat soup from a bowl or mug. That’s what King-Man prefers. Pictured below is one we found that is an insulated nesting bowl, mug and lid. It is lightweight and made specifically for backpacking. It was cold where he was hiking, so those features help keep the soup warm while the ingredients soaked in the hot water.
view on Amazon: insulated nesting bowl and mug
Method 3. In microwave-safe soup mugs. These are not for the trail, but are good options if you are making these instant soups at the office or in a dorm or hotel room. You can add the instant ingredients to the mugs along with the water and microwave them until they boil, cover them and let them rest until the ingredients have all softened. Or, boil the water separately and pour it into the mug with the instant ingredients; stir and let rest for 9 or 10 minutes. I have used both of the soup mugs linked below; both worked well.
Here are photos, ingredients, and printable recipe links for the 8 instant soups:
The weight and calories of each recipe are included, since backpackers like to know that kind of thing. Each recipe makes 2 cups of prepared soup–1 to 2 servings.
1. Minestrone Vegetable Instant Soup Mix
- Ingredients: quick-cooking rotini, freeze-dried mixed veggies, Italian herb seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, chicken base powder, tomato powder, salt, pepper
- Weight of full recipe in bag: 2-3/8 oz.
- Calories per 1-cup serving: 126
2. Creamy Potato, Chive, Bacon Instant Soup Mix
- Ingredients: instant potato flakes, corn starch, freeze-dried chives, dried grated Parmesan cheese, instant dried buttermilk powder, garlic powder, onion powder, chicken base powder, real bacon bits (optional), salt, pepper
- Weight of full recipe in bag: 3-5/8 oz.
- Calories per 1-cup serving: 205
3. Pea, Scallion, Ginger Ramen Instant Dry Soup Mix
- Ingredients: ramen noodles, freeze-dried peas & scallions (spring onions), ginger powder, garlic powder, chicken base powder, soy sauce powder, pepper
- Weight of full recipe in bag: 2-3/8 oz.
- Calories per 1-cup serving: 73
4. Broccoli Cheddar Instant Soup Mix
- Ingredients: freeze-dried broccoli, corn starch, dried cheddar cheese powder, instant dried buttermilk powder, garlic powder, onion powder, chicken base powder, pepper
- Weight of full recipe in bag: 4 oz.
- Calories per 1-cup serving: 173
5. Chicken Noodle Instant Dry Soup Mix
- Ingredients: noodles, freeze-dried peas & scallions (spring onions), onion powder, garlic powder, chicken base powder, freeze-dried chicken, salt, pepper
- Weight of full recipe in bag: 3-3/8 oz.
- Calories per 1-cup serving: 125
6. Creamy Tomato Basil Instant Soup Mix
- Ingredients: tomato powder, instant dried milk powder, garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil, chicken base powder, pepper
- Weight of full recipe in bag: 3.5 oz.
- Calories per 1-cup serving: 108
7. Mushroom, Beef Broth, Cous Cous Instant Dry Soup Mix
- Ingredients: cous cous, freeze-dried mushrooms & scallions (spring onions), onion powder, garlic powder, beef and onion base powders, salt, pepper
- Weight of full recipe in bag: 1-3/4 oz.
- Calories per 1-cup serving: 80
8. Thai Coconut Milk with Rice Instant Dry Soup Mix
- Ingredients: Minute rice, freeze-dried peas, mushrooms & scallions (spring onions), soy sauce powder, garlic powder, ginger powder, chicken base powder, corn starch, dried coconut milk powder, dried lime juice powder, salt, pepper
- Weight of full recipe in bag: 14-1/8 oz.
- Calories per 1-cup serving: 367
Substitutions. Feel free to make substitutions to the ingredients in all 8 of these instant soups. Swap out any of the veggies or seasonings for others that you prefer, add meat, make them vegetarian or gluten-free. Get creative and make them your own.
Make it a Yummy day!