As the weather continues to chill my bones, and the dual monsters of winter heating costs and the recent purchase of holiday gifts lightens my wallet, I am reminded that this is the perfect time of year to stretch the food budget with a batch of hamburger soup.
With the cost of just about every food you can buy climbing at an alarming rate, it’s nice to know you can still whip up a big pot of soup for little more than an Alexander Hamilton (that’s $10, for those who slept through civics class or who aren’t from the US).
Hamburger soup is a great way to feed a family on the cheap, without cutting corners when it comes to flavor or nutrition.
This soup is low in fat and chock full of vegetables, so it’s healthy. But it’s tasty and hearty enough to warm you right up on a cold day.
In addition to being a cold and expensive time of year, we’re usually very tight on time at the holidays, and this can leave you feeling a little drained. This soup has the added advantage of being fairly quick and easy to prepare.
Sure, you can simmer it all day long to blend the flavors even more, but it can also be prepared in not much more than 30 minutes in a pinch – just make sure you brown the meat prior to adding it to the stock pot.
For something a little different, try serving this soup up in individual bread bowls.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep
Gather all of your ingredients together and establish your mise en place.
Step 2 – Browning and Sauteing
Using a good thick-bottomed stockpot (either tri-ply or one with a thick disc bottom) or a porcelain enameled cast iron dutch oven, brown your hamburger over medium-high heat.
I prefer to use a 90% blend of meat to fat in my burger. Why? Anything leaner would require adding extra oil to keep the protein from sticking, and anything with more fat requires draining the oil from from the browned meat.
I find that 90% is in the goldilocks zone of enough fat not to be too dry, but not too much where you have to break out the colander to drain excess grease.
Once your hamburger has browned and most of the excess water from the beef has evaporated away, add your chopped onions and saute at a medium heat until they are translucent.
Step 3 – Add the Remaining Ingredients and Simmer
Add your crushed tomatoes, spices, carton of beef stock, and two bags of mixed veggies. Stir, and add salt to taste.
I much prefer to use store bought or homemade stock rather than bouillon cubes or powder, since boullion is mostly salt and MSG. This soup/stew is tasty enough on its own, without the added flavor enhancement of MSG.
Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for at least 20 minutes, but even more time is preferable to better mix and enhance the flavors.
As with just about any soup, this recipe is very flexible. You can substitute ground turkey, chicken, or pork for the ground beef. Like pasta or barley in your soup? Throw some in and simmer until it’s tender.
Also, adding in other spices (in moderation) will only enhance the flavor. I often add basil and oregano when I make this soup. Chili powder, tarragon, and turmeric are also tasty options.
The quantities above will easily feed a family of eight and provide some leftovers. If you have a real army to feed, double the recipe.
If you’re a single person or a couple, the quantities above will easily provide lunch and dinner for the better part of a week. I’ll often make a batch of soup on the weekend and have leftovers all week long.
Like make-ahead meals? Grab some plastic containers and freeze half a batch.
I hope this recipe serves as a helpful way to keep both your wallet and your stomach full this winter! And make sure to check out all of our super tasty soup and stew recipes.
Don’t forget to Pin It!
Photos by Mike Quinn © Foodal / Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published February 6th, 2015 by Sandy Weismann. Revised and significantly updated December 17th, 2017 by Mike Quinn.
About Mike Quinn
Mike Quinn spent 20 years in the US Army and traveled extensively all over the world. As part of his military service, Mike sampled coffee and tea from all virtually every geographic region, from the beans from the plantation of an El Salvadorian Army Colonel to "Chi" in Iraq to Turkish Coffee in the Turkish Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. He spent nearly a decade in the Republic of Korea where he was exposed to all forms of traditional teas. Mike formerly owned and operated Cup And Brew, an online espresso and coffee equipment retail operation.