These Store-Bought Soups Are Instant Comfort in a Bowl

They will warm you to your core.

11 min read

*This article includes mentions of merchants or brands who are partners of DoorDash, and DoorDash may receive a commission if you choose to make a purchase from these merchants or brands.

There’s something about soup that satisfies like nothing else. It warms you from the inside out and somehow always feels nostalgic. Plus, there are so many different flavor and textures combinations within the soup category that just work. Looking for something creamy and decadent? Broccoli cheddar is there for you. Need a brothy wonder to cure your sniffles? Italian wedding soup will do the trick. However, not all soups are created equal — especially store-bought ones — and as a soup fanatic, I was determined to find the very best. 

The Methodology

I bought 25 different packaged, store-bought soups to sample. I mostly opted against canned soups, many of which are concentrated, and went for ready-to-heat-and-eat soups found in the refrigerated section of grocery stores and a few shelf-stable jars and cartons. After tasting, I divided the soups into three categories: creamy, brothy, and vegan (as two of our faves happened to be plant-based). And, in case you’re curious, to heat up this many soups at once, I employed a combination of heating at 350°F in the oven in oven-safe containers, on the stovetop over medium heat, and in the microwave for a few minutes until hot.

The Tasters

I recruited 9 soup-obsessed friends to taste all 25 and find our collective souperstars

Many of the rejected soups that didn’t make this list were too thin or too salty — one came in at 4,000 mg of sodium for one serving; adults should have fewer than 2,300 per day! But one brand has four entries on this best-of list, because the fast-casual chain just knows how to do soup right. With that, let’s get down to broth business.

The Results 



Rao’s Italian Wedding Soup

You may know Rao’s for its excellent marinara, but don’t sleep on the soup, packaged in slightly smaller jars than its sauce counterparts (16 ounces versus 24 ounces). One friend came in hot and said it’s her favorite soup but with one caveat: “Everything is soft!” It’s flavorful, but the meatballs are more bouncy and spongy than you may associate with typical meatballs — not a bad thing in my book. There’s a good amount of vegetables with varying textures, and a chicken broth that tastes slow-simmered. 

Chix Soup Co Grandma Matzah Ball Chicken Soup Cup

This is my new matzo-ball-soup-in-a-pinch for when I’m sick and can’t make it myself. I am half Jewish and have tried almost every variation of soup available in Los Angeles (where I live), and this one holds up. The three matzo balls are slightly dense and small (about the size of a ping pong ball), but they have a nice chew. The vegetables are hearty and large, plus there’s ample chicken. A fellow Jewish friend said: “Better than expected for not homemade!” The broth could use a bit more flavor, but it’s better than being over-salted like a lot of soups we tried — I recommend seasoning to taste after heating.

Panera Chicken Tortilla Soup

“Zesty!” three people universally (and immediately) concurred when slurping this soup. It has a toasty flavor and a lot of herbs — predominantly cumin — with a viscosity that is not quite brothy but not quite thick-and-creamy, likely because the tortilla strips were incorporated into the broth rather than added as a textural contrast. This soup is best with tortilla chips crumbled on top or a toasted tortilla or tostada on the side for dipping. It’s a “solid choice with an even distribution of beans and big pieces of chicken,” according to one taster. Point proven: Many people went back for seconds.

Rao’s Vegetable Minestrone Soup

This soup has a nice tomato-based broth, plenty of beans, a bit of pasta, and other veggies that don’t turn into immediate mush in the soup. It may require a bit of seasoning to taste, depending on how salty you like things, and is best served with a big hunk of crusty bread. 

Blount Clam Shack Gumbo

After being spoiled by excellent gumbo at Harold & Belle’s in L.A., I was skeptical about packaged gumbo, but this refrigerated version from New England-based brand Blount Clam Shack was a pleasant surprise. It is a step above brothy because it is thicker and loaded with long grain rice, veggies, and three types of protein: chicken, sausage, and shrimp. “This feels like a whole meal,” remarked one taster, adding that it has “a nice little kick and is the most meaty soup we’ve tried.” There is a nice level of spice, as in heat and warm spices, and makes for a hearty bowl. The 30-ounce tub comes with the gumbo in a bag that you can heat in boiling water or decant into a bowl to microwave. 



Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup

This was the most hotly anticipated soup of the entire tasting. Everyone loves broccoli cheddar soup, and if you’ve had this soup at Panera Bread, you know how good it can be. And the store-bought version tastes exactly the same. It’s creamy and dreamy, with surprisingly large chunks of broccoli that don’t disintegrate into the cheesy base. It’s thick but not so thick that it feels like you’re eating cheese sauce. And it’s seasoned well but simply — you really just taste broccoli and cheddar, and all seems right in the world. 

Blount Clam Shack Lobster Bisque

Best slurped pinkies out, this lobster bisque is the fanciest soup on the list. It tastes like lobster-infused cream — there are no chunks of lobster, sadly — with a decadence that doesn’t hit you over the head. It’s satisfying and best consumed in small doses due to its richness. A lot of tasters pointed out that it has a thinner viscosity, so it doesn’t feel too heavy, and it’s “impossibly smooth.” The 30-ounce tub means it could also be a great pasta sauce if reduced slightly and paired with another seafood, like shrimp or, of course, more lobster. 

Panera Creamy Tomato Soup

We tried three different tomato soups and none of them impressed us until we had our first spoonful of Panera’s. “It’s slightly sweet and so creamy that it’s almost like vodka sauce,” remarked one taster. Another said: “It’s a match made in heaven for grilled cheese,” because it’s not too runny and not too thick — it’s just right. The sweetness comes from the tomato’s natural sugars rather than added sugar, and it’s balanced with savory herbs and the right amount of salt. 

Pacific Foods Organic Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup

This one won out for being as creamy and dreamy as the Panera but with the added bonus of a little roasty-toasty red pepper as a backbone flavor. It also had a nice consistency that is creamy but not too thick, and a more well-rounded and bright flavor profile overall. Find this one on the shelves and pair it with grilled cheese.

Panera Mexican-Style Corn Chowder

Shockingly, no one had tried this Panera soup before — maybe it’s a rotating special that we’ve all missed. But it was a hit because it’s a “good chunky soup,” both in its creamy and “platonic ideal of chowder” texture and heartiness from easily distinguishable veggies. There’s a lovely poblano pepper flavor, but it isn’t too spicy. I’d finish it with a squeeze of lime, a sprinkle of cotija cheese, and some crushed up tortilla chips for extra oomph. 



I Eat My Greens Carrot, Sweet Potato, and Turmeric Soup

For those with plant-based diets and dietary restrictions, I Eat My Greens brand has soups that are almost like savory juices. They are thin in viscosity but full of clean veggie flavor. “This is sweet and earthy and almost tastes like drinking carrot juice that’s lightly spiced with ginger,” said one taster. Another remarked it could use a bit of salt and acid but is great when you want something light. It is equally great hot and chilled, and would be excellent with some plant-based pesto swirled in for extra flavor and herbiness. 

Maya Kaimal Creamy Chickpea and Kale Soup

This was the sleeper hit of the entire soup tasting! None of us had tried this brand but loved how it was creamy without being heavy, thanks to coconut milk. One taster noted that it has a “beautiful kick without being too spicy — balanced!” due to the Indian-inspired flavors, and another noted the “good ratio of chunk to broth” with ample chickpeas that still had a little bite, cooked-down kale, and other veggies. The soup comes in a small-but-mighty 7.6-ounce-carton, so maybe buy two!


Photography: Paul Quitoriano
Food Styling: Lena Abraham
Prop Styling: Gerri Williams
Art Direction: Sarah Ceniceros Gomez