Onion-free, garlic-free, tomato-free tasty soups, please
October 28, 2012 9:07 PM   Subscribe

Freezable, tasty soups or stews without onion, garlic or stewed tomatoes. Is this possible?

I've started making and freezing soup for workweek lunches. Love! Italian sausage and kale, spicy cabbage soup, chili, chicken taco soup, peanut chicken stew, all so tasty. My husband, however, doesn't get to share in the joy of all the soup ever, because good soups seem to require sauteed onion and garlic as a base and/or the addition of tomatoes in various forms.

The onions and garlic give him indigestion, and we're not sure what the problem is with the tomatoes--possibly the seeds?

I have so far made this carrot and lentil soup which was yummy but not particularly hearty.

Can you please recommend to me your favourite soups and stews that do not require onions, garlic or tinned tomatoes? Slow cooker recipes are also welcome. I have all the necessary kitchen gadgets and a well-stocked spice cupboard.
posted by sillymama to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Jain cuisine has the no garlic or onions prohibition I think. I Googled and found this potato soup that I thought looked good and hearty.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:35 PM on October 28, 2012

The primary purpose of onion and garlic are to be aromatics. If he's sensitive to both of those, there's a chance he's sensitive to the other aliums: shallots, chives, and leeks, and maybe ramps.

That does leave celery, which IMO makes an awesome aromatic; it's part of the Holy Trinity of cajun cooking for a reason (the other two being onions, and bell peppers of any color, but green is most common). I would replace onions with about 50% celery by weight, and some portion of the rest in bell peppers, and maybe cubed carrots if you want to make up the difference.

That said, cajun cooking sans onions works fine, IMO; I'm not a big onion fan, nor do I like tomatoes, and leave them out of my gumbos and jambalaya. If you do want to do a tomato hit to either dish, perhaps throw in some tomato paste when the veggies are cooking.

Red Beans and Rice can also survive without onions and garlic, though it would personally pain me to do so. Add some hearty cabbage, perhaps. The ham hock/shank you use with the beans will give the dish some serious depth and aroma without the aliums (alia?). I recommend against slow-cooking red beans and rice if you want the beans to have any body whatsoever.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:37 PM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

This Chicken, Chili and Sweet Potato Soup looks kind of amazing.
posted by xingcat at 9:43 PM on October 28, 2012

Just leave them out. I do sometimes and it's fine. Or you can substitute leek, shallot or celery as noted above. Use a good stock and sweat the vegetables before cooking for 10-15 minutes on a very low heat and it'll still be delicious.

You can also add parsnip for tartness which I do a lot to soups.
posted by fshgrl at 9:52 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's a great carrot soup with miso. Sub leeks for the onions and leave out the garlic.
posted by special-k at 10:12 PM on October 28, 2012

I love this Roasted Eggplant and Lentil Soup, which fits the criteria and is very hearty. I don't like eggplant but love this soup. I've frozen this before with good results; leave out the fried sage leaves if you're freezing, though the soup benefits from their texture. (Other tips: peel the eggplant before roasting and make sure it doesn't bake too long and get tough, and you can use any kind of lentils if you don't have green.)

Also, a potato and corn chowder (or any other kind of chowder) seems like it would work well. I don't have a go to recipe (usually I just make it up as I go along, but I have frozen chowder before and didn't mind the results). Using celery, onions and red peppers as a base it seems like a fantastic start.
posted by thesocietyfor at 10:15 PM on October 28, 2012

I would second the suggestion to look at Indian food - many Hindu sects have prohibitions on eating onion and garlic. Asafoetida powder is often used to add that pungency without actually being related to onion and garlic.

I would also suggest adding more cumin, powdered cumin, cumin in everything. Cumin is my #1 friend for adding depth of flavour to dishes. I love it.
posted by chiquitita at 10:25 PM on October 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

Ever since I bought a pressure cooker I've been making stock and soups multiple times a week. The stock I make is the basic chicken/onion/carrot/celery/bay leaf one. You could probably skip the onion. The boxed broths usually have onion in them, too, plus they're salty and don't taste as good as homemade, no matter how boring the homemade.

1) Navy bean, kale, and smoked ham shank soup. The flavor depends on the smoked ham shank, so try out different ones, and the ingredients in the title are all the ingredients in the soup except for the stock and I also add thyme.

2) Ginger, mushrooms, and dried shitake mushroom in stock, and then add cooked soba noodles. I put cilantro on the top of that one, and half a hard boiled egg, if I have one. I also usually add some sesame oil and soy sauce or ponzu, and some times a little furikake or chili oil or chili flakes. If I have some lemon grass to boil in the stock with the dried shitake, that's good, too.

Hard boiled eggs are good on a lot of non-cream-based soups, if you need to up the protein.

The restaurant near me makes a good alium-free hot and sour soup, so it's possible, but I haven't tried it.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:33 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

On the tomatoes: does he show sensitivity to other nightshades, like potatoes and eggplant?
posted by batmonkey at 10:49 PM on October 28, 2012

It sounds like your BF has a sensitivity to veg in the Allium Family (onions, garlic, shallots, etc.) and possibly the Night Shade Family (toms, potatoes, and some others,) too.

Let's stick to the Allium Family, since that is more common in dishes. We can omit tomatoes easily from everything by replacing with a hit of lemon.

Garlic and onions - not so much.

Leeks are in the Allium Family, too, so try it out - but that will likely not work.


In slow cooking especially, you are looking to sub one flavor profile (onion, garlic) in for another, without altering the finished product. This is HARD. I have solutions!

- A tiny bit of ginger, in the Zingibraceae Family (not a lot!) can sub in and take the place of garlic in meat dishes. In fact, as a classically trained professional French chef, I ALWAYS include a bit of ginger in all stocks and stews. Not so you might notice it, but for balance.

So. What might balance the loss of onion or shallot??

What about horseradish (great with red meats) or regular radish shredded, or daikon radish, or especially, a pinch of tumeric?

Tumeric and ginger are in the Zingiberacea family, radish of all kinds (including wasabi) are in the Brassicacea Family.

Mustard. This is also in the Brassicacea Family!

What you are seeking to do is add pungency to your soups and stews without garlic or onion. You can always replace the acid of tomatoes with a squeeze of lemon.

My fav way to do lentils is to add Dijon Mustard and other veg. Plus sea salt and olive oil to taste. A hint of ginger is not wrong, there.

I have never made a chilli or slow cooked stew in the last 10 years without ginger.

For Mexican or Spanish cuisine this would not entirely work... but I could leave out the garlic, and garnish instead with a radish family preparation, and probably never egregiously notice the difference for anything that was French, American, and or Mediterranean.

With anything Italian - you are on your own. Sorry.


To avoid all of this bullshit, your BF might try digestive enzymes with his meals, and avoid gmo ingredients.


That's my take.

posted by jbenben at 12:00 AM on October 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

If leek is ok, try a potato leek soup! In my family we sometimes makes it with garlic, but it's good without too.
posted by vasi at 12:30 AM on October 29, 2012

Look into Japanese soup stocks (dashi?) based on things like kombu, fish, miso, etc. There are also recipes for thai soups like tom yum that use a lot of aromatics but no alliums.
posted by mail at 2:50 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do as the Jains do and substitute asafoetida, sometimes known as "hing", wherever you see onion and garlic.
posted by dontjumplarry at 4:08 AM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding miso and derivatives. The luscious flavours come from seaweed and fish stock, and the soy-based broth is warming and satisfying. Traditionally they include tofu and chopped aliums for flavour, but you can add many other things to the versatile, rich broth -- which is also very fast to prepare as both the miso paste and soup base are sold ready to mix-and-heat at asian groceries.

(I am also sensitive to alliums and nightshades, among other things, and miso is my go-to broth.)
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:07 AM on October 29, 2012

I think you could make Senate Bean Soup without the onion, because it really isn't prominent in any way in the dish (my family recipe doesn't have them at all). Very hearty, wonderful in cold weather, and inexpensive to boot. (Note, this recommendation is for the first recipe, not the five-gallon one listed on the same page.)
posted by Houstonian at 5:17 AM on October 29, 2012

I think that the legume soups are really hearty and delicious. Split Pea soup is good, up the celery and carrots, and don't use the onions. A nice hearty ham hock or ham bone will impart a yummy flavor. Add diced ham to give it a protein boost.

Chicken and dumpling soup/stew. There's no onion or garlic in this recipe, and you can enhance it with carrots, celery, mushrooms, etc.

Think stew, rather than soup and I'm sure you can come up with lots of hearty ideas.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:58 AM on October 29, 2012

Tom Kha is a delicious Thai version of chicken soup, with a super rich coconut milk base, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaf, chicken, mushrooms and whatever other veggies you like, and a sour kick from a generous squeeze of lime at the end. No onion, garlic, or tomato but the spices that make the base really need to be bought fresh and can not be substituted at all (galangal != ginger) and the galangal and kaffir may be somewhat hard to find unless you live in a major metro area with access to an Asian market. Also, this is not a soup that freezes well in my experience, nor should it be simmered all day. It's light and fresh and should be eaten right away, so maybe save it for dinner.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:01 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Pumpkin soup. Though now I look online for recipes I see they all have onion in, strangely the one I was taught by my mother has no onion or garlic in and is basically pumpkin roasted in the oven until it is all sweet and delicious and then pureed up with veg stock or water to the desired consistancy. Add a big dollop of cream or milk and lots of black pepper. Ginger and Asian herbs and spices go great with it if you like.

Pea and Ham soup is nice too without onions I like to add carrots for sweetness and a potato or 2 to make it taste creamier and then just cook up the split green peas with a ham or bacon bone until all mushy and puree with a hand blender after taking out the bone. Very hearty and filling.

My MIL has a similar problem with onions and garlic but has found she can use chives for a subtle oniony flavour in things without the gastric problems so that might be worth looking into.
posted by wwax at 9:15 AM on October 29, 2012

Just add other flavors like fresh ginger (careful, can add a most delicious kick, but not loved by all), coconut milk, curries, coriander, tomatillos, etc.

Side note: look up FODMAPS. Garlic and especially onions are generally the worse culprits.
posted by Neekee at 10:33 AM on October 29, 2012

Good advice above on the allium front. As far as a 'lack of hearty' goes often the difference between 'flavoured chunky water' and soup or stew will boil down to one of two factors: a)fat and b)umami.

How does your lentil soup far with a little dollop of butter, a teaspoon of balsamic and a tablespoon of soy sauce?

Without changing the composition much I'd imagine that bowl will feel a lot more satisfying.
posted by mce at 11:45 AM on October 29, 2012

if the use of miso intrigues you, also try doing some searches for 'milk miso soup.' Milk and miso work very well together, and it can be the start of some darn hearty concoctions.
posted by Muu at 3:06 PM on October 29, 2012

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