Soup is really, really good. Soup is even better with a delicious hunk of bread. And, you get bonus points for adding good butter on top. There’s nothing quite like a bowl of brothy soup with a thick slice of bread and a smear of Kerrygold butter to round things out. But, not all bread is created equal. And, when it comes to soup, you should give a little thought to your texture and flavor combinations. You don’t have to be a Master Chef to find the best bread for soup.
What bread should I serve with soup?
If you thought it would be easy to choose what bread to serve with soup, think again! Part of the fun of planning a dinner is thinking through every detail.
Choose a bread to serve with soup based on the consistency of the soup and the ingredients. A thin broth will need a nice, thick loaf to mop up every drop. Chowder is best with a thinner slice or even a toasted sliver of French baguette. Consider toppings for bread, too, like butter or infused oil.
Let’s dig deeper into some of the different kinds of soups out there and which bread goes best with them.
Best bread for Portuguese Bean Soup
Portuguese Bean Soup holds a special place in our hearts as bakers in Hawaii. It’s a staple thanks to the thriving Portuguese community here. It’s brothy, tomatoey, full of pork flavors, and a little spicy. It’s also wholesome and great for a rainy afternoon.
Portuguese sausage is everywhere in Hawaii, from the Costco shelves to our McDonald’s breakfast platters. When you make Portuguese Bean Soup, pay a little attention to the bread you serve. When you’re plating alongside a soup that features beans and pasta, you can easily overwhelm your diners with filling carbs.
The best bread for Portuguese Bean Soup is a great slice of sourdough or a piece of artisan bread with a wide-open crumb.
You want a type of bread with a light, airy, chewy crumb and a solid, crunchy crust. A slice of sourdough will absorb the tomato broth without being too filling so you can fully enjoy this hearty soup.
Have you ever made Portuguese Bean Soup? If you’re planning on serving bread, you may even leave out the pasta (done this plenty of times!). But, that’s entirely up to you.
Best bread for broth soup
Whether it’s humble chicken soup or a nourishing, vitamin and collagen-rich bone broth, you’re going to need something thick and wonderful to fill you up when you serve a broth soup for dinner.
The best types of bread for brothy soups are thick and nourishing.
Sourdough bread and artisan bread are great choices for hot broth soups. Multigrain loaves will add a needed texture to a simple broth soup, as well.
If your bread has gone stale, even better! Stale bread will absorb broth very well. You can even use it as a quick crouton.
Good herbs for artisan bread
- Oregano and cheese
- Italian seasoning
Good seeds for artisan bread
- Black sesame
- Poppy seeds
Best bread for creamy soup and chowder
Creamy soup is a whole new game when it comes to choosing the best bread. Since the soup is already very thick and rich, you want to choose a type of bread to complement it instead of competing with it.
The best loaves of bread for creamy soup and chowder will be thin with a crispy exterior and a chewy crumb, often plain or with very strong flavors.
One option is to take fresh bread from a baguette and toast it in a pan with olive oil or turn it into garlic bread crisps for dipping. Old bread, too, can work well here.
Sometimes, a creamy soup can even turn into a kind of fondue experience. Serve it in a large pot with plenty of bread for dipping, or serve it in a bread bowl for an all-in-one experience. We’ll say more about bread bowls later, but now let’s talk vegetables.
Best bread for vegetable soup
Similar to a broth soup, vegetable soup is a great way to get your vitamins in a tasty, satisfying way. Since most vegetable soups are broth-based with simmered or boiled veggies added in, they already have a lot of different flavors.
For vegetable soups, you’ll want bread with minimal but great flavor.
The best types of bread for vegetable soup are:
- white bread
- crusty bread like sourdough
- French bread
- Ciabatta rolls
- Dinner rolls
Best bread for stew and chili
We’ve stumbled upon a hotly debated topic. Is chili a soup? Is stew a soup? Some believe chili and stew exist in categories all their own. We aren’t necessarily disagreeing. However, you still serve them alongside a great loaf of bread, don’t you?
The best bread for stew and chili will complement the hearty meal without overwhelming diners.
Homemade bread crumbs go well on top of chili and stew. Serve stew in a bread bowl or with a thick slice of well-buttered white bread. For chili, a sweet cornbread will contrast the acid of the tomato sauce.
A great beef stew in the slow cooker is one of our favorite things here in Hawaii. If you want to call beef stew your favorite soup – go ahead! Some might argue with you, but we certainly won’t.
Best toppings for bread with soup
Bread can be enjoyed with soup in several different ways. Obviously, there’s no wrong way to enjoy bread, but adding some creative toppings can often elevate your bread experience quite a lot. Here are some of the best toppings to serve on bread.
To serve bread with soup, cut the bread into even slices and fan them out on a decorative plate. Serve alongside the soup and place butter or flavored oils and salts on the table.
Pro tip: A great addition to bread is a bowl of olive oil with balsamic vinegar floated in the center, garnished with chili flakes or black pepper.
If you’re doing bread bowls, hollow bowls out for guests and diners first. Save the excess bread from the center for dipping or for later projects – like pappa al pomodoro or homemade croutons.
How to make bread for soup
Breadmaking, for some, is a lost art. However, there’s a reason why it’s making such a strong comeback lately. Making bread for soup night couldn’t be easier. Also, homemade bread is delicious.
There are some really great recipes out there, but for a basic bread recipe, all you need is flour, salt, water, starter (or yeast), and a warm place for your bread to rise. Baking inside a dutch oven will add an amazing, crispy crust. However, as we’ve already written about, you can also make great bread without a dutch oven.
Tools for making bread for soup
You can make a great loaf of bread with nothing more than a couple of large bowls, something to mix with (spatula, large spoon, etc), and something to bake on or in. There are tools that make the job easier or more fun.
Here are some other tools you might want when baking bread for soup:
- Sharp knife
- Scoring knife or bread lame
- Dutch oven (or not)
- Baking sheet or pizza stone
- Parchment paper – preferred (or aluminum foil if you have no parchment paper)
- Plastic wrap
- Kitchen towel
- Bench scraper
- Mixing bowls
- Stand mixer with a dough hook if you’re not kneading by hand
That said, as mentioned, you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to make great bread. Mixing bowls and your hands will do perfectly. When the bread is rising, use a damp towel to keep things humid if your environment requires it, then bake on a baking sheet. Perfect!
How to make easy bread bowls
Speaking of bread bowls, let’s talk more about how to make those amazing things. Bread bowls are a great way to combine soup and bread into one. If you’re following our no-knead recipe linked above, just adjust the sizing of the dough balls to end up with the perfectly sized bread bowl for you and your dinner guests.
We suggest starting with about 140 grams of dough for your bread bowls. You can adjust the sizing the next time around if they come out too big or too small.
To make easy bread bowls, mix your ingredients, then give the dough a little bit of time. During the first rise, the yeast is eating the sugar in the bread flour, and carbon dioxide is the by-product left behind that makes bread rise. The larger the better when it comes to bread bowls.
But don’t leave it too long! The best thing is to wait until the dough doubles in size the first time, then punch it down and reshape it. You don’t want the yeast to eat everything until after the second rise. Once it goes into the oven, it may not rise much more unless you get a fabulous oven spring!
You don’t need to grease the baking sheet to bake a loaf of bread. Parchment is your best friend!
If you’re going to really get into soups and breads like we are, it’s a good idea to invest in a dutch oven too. Especially for sourdough, a dutch oven creates a humid environment that helps bread develop that classic, crusty exterior.
Here are some frequently asked questions about baking bread for soup.
Should I use an egg wash on bread?
An egg wash can give your bread a lovely shine. However, it can be hard to tell when egg-washed bread is golden brown if you’re not paying super close attention. Egg browns quickly, so it can cause you to pull the loaf out before it’s finished cooking.
You’ll have to adjust your cook times a bit when using an egg wash, but that golden crispy exterior is often worth the extra effort.
When can I cut a fresh loaf of bread?
Even if your soup is waiting for you, fresh and piping hot on your table you’ll want to wait for a half-hour to an hour before you cut into your freshly baked bread. So, time your plating well.
Your bread bowls will continue to cook after they leave the oven. And, more importantly, the structure of the crumb is developing while the bread cools. If you listen closely, you may still hear it talking to you inside!
What’s the best way to proof bread?
This is all about your environment. You don’t want to under-proof or over-proof your bread. But, bread reacts to its environment, not a clock, and not a YouTube baking guru.
For instance, in a hot, humid climate like the tropics, bread proofs on the counter sometimes in less than an hour. For cool, dry climates, preheat an oven for 15 mins on the lowest setting possible, then switch it off and proof in the oven.
You can also invest in a small space heater for your countertop. But, be careful not to put it too close to your dough as you can make your counter too dry.
How big should a bread bowl be?
A perfect bread bowl will hold plenty of soup but not be so thick as to make you uncomfortably full. About 125g to 150g of raw dough will make a decently sized bread bowl.
This is something that you can have a lot of fun testing out over several different dinners or lunches.
Best bread for soup – final thoughts
There you have it, a thorough review of the very best bread for soup and some details on how to make it. Do you agree with our choices? What’s your favorite bread to make to go with a great cup, mug, bowl, or crock of soup?
Bread and soup recipe inspiration is everywhere. You can look everywhere from social media to The New York Times to find great new ideas for soups. Leave some of your more interesting soup discoveries in the comments below.