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Making Soup in France

Now that the end-of-the-year feasts known as réveillons are over, French people are glad to return to simpler, healthier food like soups, which are especially popular during winter and often the main part of the evening meal. Let's find out what ingredients typically go into a French soup and explore some soup-related vocabulary in the process. 


Many French people prefer a more sustainable diet of légumes verts (green vegetables) after les fêtes (the holidays):


Après les fêtes, c'est légumes, et puis un peu d'eau plutôt que de l'alcool, voilà.

After the holidays, it's vegetables, and then a little water rather than alcohol, that's it.

Caption 7, TV Vendée Fêtes de fin d’année : manger léger et équilibré

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These légumes verts (green vegetables), not to be confused with “legumes” in English, will be the main ingredients of a soup:


On essaye de manger un peu plus de légumes verts, bon des soupes et voilà.

We try to eat a few more green vegetables, well, soups, and that's it.

Caption 4, TV Vendée Fêtes de fin d’année : manger léger et équilibré

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The base for a soup also includes un bouillon (bouillon or broth). Le bouillon de volaille (chicken broth) also makes a good base for a sauce:


On déglace avec le bouillon de volaille.

You deglaze with the chicken bouillon.

Caption 41, Alsace 20 Grain de Sel: Au Caveau de l'étable à Niederbronn-les-Bains

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French people often make their soup from scratch by cutting up some vegetables, just as Jeremy and Marie do in the video below. However, you will notice that they call their soup un potage. Most people don’t make a distinction between une soupe and un potage, but there are some differences. Un potage sounds slightly more sophisticated, and its consistency is lighter than a soup as it is usually a blended mixture:


La dernière fois, vous vous souvenez, nous avons coupé les légumes afin de faire un potage

Last time, you remember, we cut the vegetables in order to make a soup

Captions 3-5, Marie & Jeremy Potage - Part 2

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So, what kind of légumes are popular in une soupe or un potage? The French are especially fond of poireaux (leeks), oignons (onions), and carottes (carrots). (Note the difference in spelling here: une carotte has one R and two Ts in French, the opposite of the English "carrot.")


Et tout ce qui est poireaux, euh... on va faire poireaux, carottes, euh... voilà la soupe.

And everything that is leeks, uh... we're going to make leeks, carrots, uh... that's it, the soup.

Caption 13, TV Vendée Fêtes de fin d’année : manger léger et équilibré

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French soup names usually follow the formula: soupe + à + definite article + main ingredient. For example, we have soupe à l’oignon (onion soup) and soupe à la citrouille (pumpkin soup). 


L'hiver, les gens préfèrent rester chez eux... On mange surtout de la soupe. Par exemple, de la soupe à l'oignon, de la soupe à la citrouille...

In the winter, people prefer to stay at home... We mostly eat soup. For example, onion soup, pumpkin soup...

Caption 1, 3-4  Fanny parle des saisons La Bouffe

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But sometimes you'll see the preposition de after soupe, when the soup mostly consists of one main ingredient. For example, we're more likely to say soupe de poisson (fish soup) if fish is the star ingredient, but soupe au poisson is also correct. Either way, be sure to pronounce the double S in poisson correctly, unlike Sam in this video:


Deuxième plat: soupe de la poison [sic]. Soupe de poison ? Poisson, poisson, soupe de poisson.

Second dish: poison soup. Poison soup? Fish, fish, fish soup

Captions 1-4, Extr@ Ep. 4 - Sam trouve du travail - Part 6

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Speaking of soupe de poisson, have you ever tried a bouillabaisse, a hearty tomato-based fish soup from southern France? In the video below, one of the speakers comes from Marseille, where bouillabaisse originated:


De notre côté c'est pas les crêpes, c'est plutôt la bouillabaisse.

For us, it's not crêpes, it's more bouillabaisse.

Caption 21, Fanny et Corrine Leurs origines

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If you prefer a smoother texture to your seafood soup, you may want to try une bisque au homard (lobster bisque):


Les bisques de homard sont souvent au menu dans les grands restaurants à quatre étoiles.

Lobster bisques are often on the menu in four-star restaurants.


For an even richer, smoother texture, you may like un velouté (literally, "velvety"), a creamy vegetable soup thickened with butter, cream, or egg yolk:


Vous pouvez commander un velouté aux champignons au restaurant.

You can order a cream of mushroom soup at the restaurant.


Finally, we have a thinner, clear mixture, but with a more intense, concentrated flavor, called un consommé:


Un consommé est un fond ou bouillon qui a été clarifié avec un blanc d’œuf.

A consommé is stock or bouillon that has been clarified with egg white.


Whether you prefer a humble soupe or potage or a more sophisticated bisque or consommé, you'll have plenty of options in France! You can find even more on this page. And be sure to check out Yabla’s delicious food-related videos.


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