Rich and flavorful ground beef vegetable soup makes a comforting start to a winter meal and is hearty enough to serve as a filling main course.
This soup is so wonderfully filling and satiating! In the past, I used to think about soup as unsatisfying. A flimsy first course. If I had soup as my main course, I just "had" to have bread with it, or I wasn't satisfied.
Now I know that when a bowl of soup is rich, hearty and flavorful, there's really no need for bread. A truly rich soup, much like chili, is a complete meal! (And speaking of rich, satisfying soups, another hearty soup that I love and highly recommend is this spicy cabbage soup.)
These types of soups are often called "hamburger soup," not because they taste like hamburger or contain hamburger ingredients, but simply because many Americans refer to ground beef as "hamburger" or "hamburger meat."
I prefer to call it "ground beef vegetable soup" because I feel it's a more accurate description. This soup has distinct European flavors and seasonings, starting with mirepoix as the vegetable base and ending with grated parmesan to flavor and thicken the soup.
The ingredients you'll need
These are the ingredients you'll need to make this tasty soup. The exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below - this is just an overview:
Olive oil: This is my favorite oil to cook with. Butter is another tasty option.
Vegetables: Onion, garlic, carrots, and celery.
Kosher salt and black pepper: If using fine salt, or a heavily salted tomato product, you might want to reduce the amount you use.
Lean ground beef: I use an 85/15 mixture. A leaner mixture (90/10) should work, but then you might need to add more oil to the pan.
Dried spices: Oregano, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and a bay leaf. Make sure they are fresh! A stale spice can easily ruin a dish. The rosemary is especially good here, by the way. It flavors the soup very nicely.
Beef broth: Store-bought is fine. I prefer to use salted broth, as I find it more flavorful than a low-sodium broth.
Pomi chopped tomatoes: These tomatoes are sweeter and less acidic than American canned tomatoes, and they're also diced very finely, which is important for the texture of the soup.
Grated Parmesan: Make sure you use finely grated cheese, not coarsely shredded. This is an important ingredient - it helps thicken the soup.
The tomato brand you use makes a difference
I use Pomi chopped tomatoes in this ground beef vegetable soup. They are imported from Italy, and they are noticeably sweeter, thicker, and less acidic than American canned diced tomatoes. You can find them in supermarkets, at Whole Foods, and on Amazon. I highly recommend them in this recipe for the best results.
Another good Italian brand that might be easier to find in regular supermarkets is Cento. I believe that Cento Crushed Tomatoes should work in this recipe, although I haven't tried that.
Alternatively, you could try using one (14 oz) can of American diced tomatoes, undrained, plus one can of tomato sauce or pureed tomatoes.
How to make ground beef vegetable soup
It's so easy! Scroll down to the recipe card for the detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps:
Cook the onions, carrots, celery and ground beef in olive oil. Cook until the beef is no longer raw and the vegetables are tender-crisp. Break the meat up as you cook into small chunks.
Add the garlic and spices and cook for 1 more minute.
Stir in the beef broth and tomatoes, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the soup for 20 minutes. This is the stage that allows all the wonderful flavors to meld together and it also slightly thickens the soup.
The last step is to mix in the parmesan, which works really well at thickening the soup and also flavoring it. It’s messy, though – it will coat your saucepan with a thin sticky film. It’s not difficult to scrub with warm soapy water, but I just want you to be aware of this issue.
Variations and substitutions
I love this ground beef vegetable soup just the way it is and almost always make it the same way. Nonetheless, here are a few ideas for varying the basic recipe:
- Use ground turkey or ground chicken instead of ground beef.
- I'm curious about dried thyme - perhaps ¼ teaspoon in addition to the other spices. Haven't tried it yet, but I plan to!
- A teaspoon of paprika adds warmth and another layer of flavor to the soup.
How to serve this soup
If you serve it as a main course, you can serve it with any of the following:
Adjusting the salt in this recipe
This ground beef vegetable soup recipe relies on two packaged products that can greatly vary - tomatoes and broth. So you should definitely taste the soup before serving and see if you need to adjust anything.
I use low-sodium tomatoes (Italian brands are low in sodium) but regular (not reduced-sodium) beef broth. If you use a different combination, you might need to use less or more salt in this recipe. So taste and decide - it's the only way to get it right.
What to do with leftovers?
Leftovers keep well in the fridge for 3-4 days, in an airtight container. Reheat them gently, covered, in a 50% power microwave, or on low heat on the stovetop. You can also freeze the soup - I like to freeze it in mugs, then reheat them in the microwave them when I feel like something warm and comforting!
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Ground Beef Vegetable Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion finely diced (8 oz)
- 2 cups diced carrots (2 large carrots, 8 oz)
- 2 cups diced celery (8 oz)
- 1 lb. lean ground beef (85/15)
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 cups beef broth (not low-sodium)
- 1 (26 oz) container Pomi finely chopped tomatoes (see comment under "Notes" below)
- 1 dried bay leaf
- ½ cup grated Parmesan (not shredded)
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in the onions, carrots, celery and ground beef. Season with kosher salt and black pepper.
- Cook, stirring frequently and breaking up the meat into small chunks, until the vegetables are tender-crisp and the meat is no longer raw (it can still be pink, that's OK), about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, oregano, rosemary, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, one more minute.
- Stir in the beef broth, tomatoes and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf. Turn the heat off and stir in the parmesan. Divide the soup into bowls and serve.