French Vegetable Soup

A brothy French vegetable soup with large chunks of potatoes, leeks, carrots, and fennel.

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There’s something about making soup that’s cozy and comfortable, leading to good memories and warm moments insulated from the cold of winter.

One of the most wonderful things about food is how it can bring you back to a certain feeling or moment, allowing you to re-live an experience: the people, the place, how you felt, all sparked by the act of making something to eat.  That’s what making this soup does for me.

This is the soup that changed my mind about soup (or so I’ve been told).

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One day when I was very young (too young to remember all the details), my mother, my grandmother and I went to visit my great-grandmother at her house.  When we arrived we were immediately greeted by the inviting aroma of soup simmering on the stove.  I said “ça sent bon mémé” (that smells good great-grandma) and she asked me if I’d like a bowl.  My mother laughed and said she doubted that I would eat it because I didn’t like soup, but my great-grandmother said that was okay and she would go and get me a bowl anyhow.

Well apparently I liked it; so much so that I immediately asked for a second bowl after having polished off the first in record time and we were sent home with leftovers so that I could have even more later that day!  Since that day, I have never looked back, embracing all kinds of soups with the same eager enthusiasm.

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The soup my great-grandmother had on the stove that day was a simple vegetable soup that can be found in most French homes throughout the winter months.  The most common ingredients in the soup are leeks, carrots, and potatoes.

Please don’t underestimate the potential for the amazing depth of flavor this soup possesses simply by the relative austerity of its ingredients.  It is the pure and distinct flavors of these simple ingredients that work together in harmony to create something greater than can possibly be anticipated.  The slow simmering of vegetables together with a few seasonings in water, rather than broth, coalesces them into a savory soup every bit as comforting and satisfyingly delicious as more complex preparations.

This recipe is an adapted version of the vegetable soup my great-grandmother made many years ago.  Easy to make, even better the next day; this soup can be served chunky or puréed and has an infinite number of possible variations as far as the vegetables are concerned.

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The version I make is brothy with large chunks of potatoes, leeks, carrots, and fennel.  Sublime in it’s simplicity, this is the kind of soup you make during the day on a weekend when you can slowly let it simmer on the stove letting the soothing aromas envelope every corner of your house.

What’s your favorite soup recipe?  Do you have a recipe that changed your mind about a certain food?

Serves Serves 6 to 8

French Vegetable Soup Recipe

A Traditional French Vegetable Soup.

2 hrTotal Time

Save Recipe


  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large waxy potatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 2 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, well rinsed and thinly sliced
  • 4 to 5 medium sized carrots peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and cut into large chunks
  • 1-2 small garlic cloves, smashed but left whole
  • 1 bouquet garni (made with 2 dried bay leaves, a few sprigs of fresh flat leaf parsley and thyme tied together in cheesecloth purse with a piece of kitchen twine)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • fresh spring water to cover the vegetables
  • freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a large heavy stockpot, add all the chopped vegetables, the garlic, bouquet garni, olive-oil and salt and cover with at least twice as much water as there are vegetables.
  2. Bring to a boil and simmer, half covered, until the vegetables are very tender, and the broth has become slightly opaque about 1 to 1 ½ hours (the longer the soup simmers the more flavorful the broth.)
  3. Remove the bouquet garni and discard. Pepper to taste.
  4. Ladle into bowls and drizzle with a little extra olive oil if desired.
  5. The soup will keep well, covered, in the refrigerator and is even better the next day.


Gluten Free, Grain Free, Vegetarian, Vegan

Notes:The soup can also be puréed in a blender or with a hand-held immersion blender.

Variations: Add or substitute any other winter vegetables such as parsnips, turnips or celery root to the soup as you please, always remembering to cover the vegetables with twice as much water.


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  1. says

    This looks absolutely wonderful! Soups are extremely comforting and even more so when they are wrapped with comforting and warm memories. Lovely shots!

  2. says

    Not only is the recipe perfect for a cold winter’s day, the photos are splendid. You have SO much talent! I too like the simplicity and purity of the vegetables together. Good ingredients done well is key.

    Before I met my husband I wasn’t that fond of cauliflower. Since I met him and his easy but delicious recipe it has become one of my favorite foods.

  3. says

    How funny that while shopping yesterday I picked up leeks and fennel without knowing what I was going to do with them. I know now! Sounds perfect with homemade bread~
    Thank you my friend for the inpsiration!

  4. says

    wonderful comes with wonderful memories. A heartwarming soup indeed! Reminds me of the soup my mom would make during winter – same way and sometimes with some lamb/mutton in it. Beautiful pictures Sylvie, as always!

  5. says

    I love your description of how the simple elements of this soup make the whole much more than the sum of the parts. It sounds wonderful, and I’ll try it!

  6. says

    #1 I love that you spoke French on your blog. Seriously cool.

    #2 I love those carrots. Like, I think you need to be in every gourmet magazine and kids magazine (heck even adults!) with them because people will CRAVE them after they see that picture.

    #3 I would love to make this for my kids!! Now I just have to figure out how to get them to ask me in French…

    Great job!!

  7. says

    Oh – what stunning photos!! The whole post conveys the calmness that making soup seems to bring to a house – I love it. I grew up liking soup – my mom made a pot every Sunday night and it is a tradition i still try to continue. My favourite soup is… hard!! A spicy Thai chicken soup is hard to beat, as is a luschoius creamy curried pumpkin soup!

  8. says

    Tes photos sont absolument superbes!! Chez nous aussi on adore la soupe avec une petite préférence pour les veloutés de légumes. Je me permets de t’écrire en français car je vois que tu as des origines françaises:)

  9. says

    Its so true how something as simple as food can have so much related to it! Now when I’m here thousands of miles away from home I know exactly what a simple recipe means to me and how it brings back all the memories.
    Great post and lovely shots

  10. says

    Your soup is so gorgeous,Sylvie.You know,I always reminded of the memories attached to the dish I m making.The way my mum measured the spices, the way she rationed sugar in desserts and how she served the food.I love your post…its as heart warming as the bowl of soup.I like vegetable soups a lot!

  11. says

    Sylvie, what comforting & warming soup! Lovely memories of your equals great memories! Lovely photos! Thanks for sharing!

  12. says

    A soup that talks to you, invites you, has history, has connect, and is so beautiful. Can’t get better than this Sylvie. It has the makings of a winner! Gorgeous post!

  13. says

    Gorgeous Sylvie. Its always very warming to read your post. Many many things I didn’t eat as a child, which I have grown to love now, I remember how mom made it, served it and how I would not eat it! There is something about food and memories, it makes the simple things so special.

  14. says

    What a wonderful post! And the soup that your great-grandmother made is exactly the same soup that my French mother-in-law made every single night for every single dinner (lunch was the big meal of the day) for as long as I can remember (25 years!) and as simple as it is, it is really a warming, cozy soup, one that puts a closing parenthesis on the day. Beautiful memories indeed! And your version ups it a couple of notches and I will definitely try this recipe!

  15. says

    My mom was a French teacher and is passionate about cooking. I cannot wait to share this with her. Your pictures and words make this soup sound delightful. Bon appetit!

  16. says

    I think part of the magic of soup is the way it makes you slow down and truly savor the wonderful flavors through taste,smell,sight. I truly can live off of soups and would be quite content doing so!
    One of the greatest gifts I received was an afternoon of soup making with a dear friend who has since passed away. He left me with his mom’s “Italian” chicken soup recipe, a big old enamel stock pot, and a memory that will never,ever fade.

    • says

      I think I would be quite content to live off of soup myself! Thank you for sharing your memory of your friend and his mom’s special soup recipe, those are the best kind of recipes to make, the ones with great memories attached.

  17. says

    Looks deliciously comforting Sylvie.

    I’ve always loved soup, I think because my Grandmother always made wonderful soups and I enjoyed them for as long as I can remember. My favourite soup recipe isn’t really a recipe as such. It’s my minestrone. I simply throw together whatever I have in the fridge in whatever proportions I feel like at the time. It’s what I crave when I am feeling run down or sick because it reminds me of the minestrone soup my Grandmother used to make.

  18. says

    That’s what I love about children, it just takes one positive experience to change their entire outlook! We’ve just had a revolutionary moment with mushrooms at my house!

    This looks like a fantastic winter dish~will try it soon.

  19. says

    Thanks for sharing this special soup of yours with us, Sylvie! Food with meaning connected to it is somehow always more delicious, isn’t it :). And the most memorable are those dishes that change the way you view an ingredient.

  20. says

    Your photos are truly beautiful and creative! I am so impressed! That first photo has two of my favorite ingredients.
    Anyway, I do love your soup recipe. I like the chunky veggies and wish I had a pot of this in my kitchen right now!
    Kudos to grandma! (To all our grandmas, actually! Mine was an extraordinary cook.)

  21. says

    This soup was served with the love of your great-grandmother. I can’t think of anything more special. Thanks for bringing us back to a lovely time you shared with the women in your family. I like most soups that are served before me (or more likely that I make in my kitchen) but I admit that I’m partial to those my own mother prepared when I was a child. Simple, no muss-no fuss but always delicious and comforting just like this one. 🙂

  22. says

    What an adorable story! I love soup – the warmth, the coziness, the way it fills you up without making you feel heavy. Your French vegetable soup would be my type of soup 🙂

  23. says

    What a beatiful story to go with the soup. You also remind me that we need to plant another row of carrots and leeks this winter before it gets too warm. (Already have a yard full of fennel and onions!)

    I’ve always enjoyed soups – I gravitate towards the “rustic” ones, just like this one. My favorite (in recent years) is a roasted cherry tomato soup. But it has to be made with my backyard cherry tomatoes… because they’re the perfect balance of tart and sweet 🙂


  24. says

    Beautiful pictures and the soup looks fantastic. My favorite soup is newly discovered- roasted yellow pepper, white carrot and leek soup with creme fraiche. But yours may win out after I try the recipe!

  25. says

    Thanks for sharing such a simple & lovely soup recipe with us. We just left ski country & I wish I had made a big pot of this there. I can make it now that we are home 🙂

  26. says

    Hello Sylvie 🙂

    have come here after reading the beginning of your story’s description in flickr. As much as I wished to only pass by to say hello and express my appreciation for you passing by my stream and sharing some warmth and care, it was impossible to not come here to go on reading.

    Not only do you make absolutely gorgeous pictures and are yourself a great cook, you also write so wonderufully. Simply. From the heart. You are a great teacher and example to follow.

    As for soups and especially simple vegetable ones, I do love them, too. Especially since I’ve been living in Germany. Love the warmth and veloute texture. The aromas and beneficial nutrients. Warming our bodies, soothing our souls.

    This has been a wonderful post and I’ d love to read more of yours when there is time.

    All my best of regards and congratulations for your work of quality shared with love.

  27. says

    The simple soups, those with few ingredients are often the best. It’s the marriage of flavours that count. I think my favourite soups are always vegetarian: Butternut Squash with curry and brown sugar or a spicy lentil soup.

    My opinion of fennel was absolutely transformed this summer when I took the fennel bulb we received in our CSA and sliced it thin with apples and dressed it with orange juice. The anise flavour, something I had always found so overpowering was somehow subtle when paired against the apple and orange. You never know how your mind will change.

  28. Briana says

    Our family’s vegetable soup recipe is called Poor Boy Soup. Tomato, celery, onion, carrot, potato, corn and grits to thicken. Southern recipe. I love making soups. Many variations.

  29. says

    Well, if it changed your mind about soup, it’s gotta be good!! I look forward to trying it… love soup in the wintertime.

    I’d like to invite you to participate in Foodie Friday. Love your food photography, too!

  30. says

    We enjoy soup dinners at our house at least twice a week, usually meat free, and I will definitely add this simple and lovely one to our rotation. Thank you for sharing the beautiful memories this soup evokes for you — of loved ones, places, times.

  31. RoChele A says

    I’m looking for some different soup recipes this winter and I am definitely going to try this! Sounds so good!

  32. Maria says

    Thanks so much for sharing this soup. I am vegetarian and have been craving the “caldo de pollo” & “caldo de res” (chicken & beef soup) that I grew up eating. I tried many times to make a veggie soup like this and failed. This soup is delicious and captures the beautiful flavors in my mom’s soup without the need for the meat.