The Soup Lover’s Guide to Picnics: Packing, Serving, and More
While sandwiches, salads, and snacks are picnic staples, soup lovers need not be left out – Yes, you can have soup at a picnic. It’s one of the most convenient picnic foods around.
Let me shed light on a picnic classic that’s both comforting and convenient, along with everything you need to know about serving soup at a picnic.
What Makes Soup Great for Picnic
- Portability: Soups are easily transported in leak-proof containers or thermoses, making them ideal for on-the-go dining.
- Easy to Eat: Unlike some picnic foods that require utensils and extra preparation, soup can be sipped from a cup, bowl, or thermos, making it hassle-free.
- Versatility: Soup’s diversity in flavors and textures accommodates a world of picnic preferences.
- Seasonal Options: While we think of soup for winter picnics, you can adapt soup recipes to the season. Enjoy hot, comforting soups in the colder months and chilled, refreshing options for summer and spring picnics.
- Ease of Preparation: Many soups are relatively simple to prepare in advance, which means less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the great outdoors.
- Satisfaction: A well-crafted soup can be a satisfying and complete meal, requiring minimal additional dishes or sides. Perfect for an easy-to-carry hiking picnic.
How Do You Pack Soup for a Picnic?
When it comes to transporting soup to a picnic, one of the most crucial considerations is ensuring that your delicious creation stays safely contained until it’s time to eat.
The last thing you want is a leaky mess inside your picnic basket. To avoid such culinary catastrophes, here are some essential tips:
1. Choose Leak-Proof Containers: Opt for leak-proof containers that are specifically designed for transporting liquids.
These containers are typically sturdy with well-sealing lids – often screw top, ensuring that your soup remains securely inside.
2. Thermoses for Heat Retention: Whether you’re bringing hot or cold soup to your picnic, investing in a good-quality thermos is a smart move.
For hot soup in a thermos, preheat your thermos by filling it with boiling water before adding the soup. Seal it tightly, and your soup should stay warm for hours.
3. A Double-Layered Approach: To add an extra layer of protection, you can wrap your soup container in a kitchen towel or cloth before placing it in your picnic basket. This not only helps with insulation, it prevents it from shifting during transport and acts as an additional barrier against potential leaks.
4. A Separate Bag or Tote: Placing your soup container in a separate bag or tote is another wise tactic. This ensures that if, by any chance, a spill or leak does occur, it won’t affect the other items in your picnic basket.
Be sure to choose a bag with a secure closure to further minimize the risk of any liquid escaping.
Tip: An insulated wine cooler is ideal for transporting a thermos or tall soup container. See my choice of insulated wine totes that are perfect for the task.
There are also some fantastic picnic backpacks that come with a thermos and a dedicated thermos pocket.
5. Positioning Matters: When packing your picnic basket, consider the placement of the soup container. It’s advisable to keep it upright and well-secured, minimizing the likelihood of any accidental tilting during transit.
How Do You Serve Soup on a Picnic?
Bringing soup to a picnic is only half the equation; serving it with grace and convenience is the other.
With some preparation and the right gear, serving soup outdoors, from picnics to game days, is a breeze.
1. Portable Soup Containers: Ensure your soup containers are not only spill-proof but also designed for serving.
Most thermoses have a lid that doubles as a convenient serving cup. It is also possible to use single-serve thermoses or insulated food jars for smaller gatherings.
For larger groups or if your thermos doesn’t have a serving cup, you’ll want to bring some extra mugs. Mugs are much more convenient than bowls at a picnic.
2. Lightweight and Unbreakable: When selecting mugs, opt for lightweight and unbreakable options. Melamine, plastic, or stainless steel is ideal for picnics.
They won’t shatter if they accidentally fall, and they won’t add unnecessary weight to your picnic basket.
You can also use insulated mugs or even insulated wine tumblers for extra insulation for hot or cold soups. These can also add a little extra pizzazz to your picnic setup.
4. The Right Spoons: While drinking soup from a mug is fine, you may want to pack a few extra spoons – especially if you’ve opted for a chunky soup, like a pork shoulder picnic soup.
While you might be able to get away with using regular flatware, a deep-headed spoon is always the best option for soup.
A set of plastic, reusable soup spoons is always a good addition to your picnic kit, as they can also be used for desserts or serving spoons.
5. Picnic Setting Matters: When serving, choose a flat and stable surface for your makeshift soup station.
I love to picnic with a lightweight, foldable picnic table, even if it’s only to lay the food on. If you don’t have a picnic table, a picnic blanket over a smooth rock or other flat surface, such as a tree stump, can work just as well.
Grass can be uneven enough to cause spills during serving. In this case, I like to use a small chopping board – there is usually one included with most quality picnic baskets.
How Do You Serve Soup to a Large Crowd?
If your picnic is a group affair and you’re wondering how to serve soup to many, consider using large thermoses, several smaller ones, or even a slow cooker to keep the soup warm – bonus points if you have access to power.
Set up a little soup station with your bowls and mugs for everyone to help themselves.
What to Serve With Soup at a Picnic
Pairing soup with the right accompaniments can elevate your soupy picnic menu and make it a delicious feast without much effort.
1. Crusty Baguette or Bread:
A crusty baguette or artisan bread is a classic choice. Its crunchy exterior and soft, chewy interior are perfect for dipping and sopping up the last remnants of soup.
Slice the bread in advance for easy sharing, and consider toasting it slightly to add an extra layer of texture and flavor. For baguettes, you can simply tear pieces from the loaf.
Focaccia is a fantastic bread option for soup as it has so many flavor possibilities. Choose focaccia flavored with herbs, cheese, or try this easy low-carb focaccia with olives for a healthy and robust soup companion.
3. Assorted Crackers:
A selection of crackers is another ideal choice. Opt for various textures and flavors, such as plain, whole grain, or even some with a hint of spice or topped with seeds.
4. Cheese and Charcuterie Platters:
Consider preparing cheese and charcuterie platters to accompany your soup. A selection of cheeses, along with an assortment of cured meats like prosciutto, salami, and chorizo, can make a great accompaniment to soup in any season.
5. Fresh, Crunchy Salads:
Incorporating fresh salads into your picnic adds a fresh and healthy aspect to your meal.
Embrace crisp and hardy greens, such as arugula, spinach, kale, or mixed lettuces, with a medley of chopped vegetables and simple vinaigrette dressings.
This can add a burst of color to your outdoor feast like this Roast Beet Salad with Feta and Walnuts.
Soup garnishes can add a burst of flavor, texture, and visual appeal to your soup. Here are some popular soup garnishes to consider:
- Fresh Herbs: Chopped fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, chives, or basil can brighten up the flavors of your soup.
- Croutons: Crispy croutons, whether homemade or store-bought, provide a delightful crunch.
- Grated Cheese: A sprinkle of grated Parmesan, cheddar, or Gruyère can melt into the soup, enhancing its richness.
- Dollop of Cream: A swirl of heavy cream or a dollop of sour cream can add a creamy and luxurious touch.
- Chopped Nuts: Depending on the type of soup, crushed nuts like almonds or peanuts can offer a unique texture and flavor.
- Citrus Zest: A pinch of lemon or lime zest can provide a zesty and refreshing contrast.
- Crumbled Bacon: For a savory element, crumbled bacon is a classic choice.
- Sliced Scallions: Thinly sliced scallions add a mild oniony flavor and a vibrant green hue.
- Mushrooms: Sauteed seasonal mushrooms can add a rustic touch and some welcome umami to your soup.
- Sliced Jalapeños: If you like some heat, a few slices of jalapeños can give your soup a spicy kick. A nice touch for a Mexican-themed picnic.
- Crème Fraîche: This cultured cream adds a tangy creaminess and is particularly great with tomato-based soups.
- Pesto: A dollop of pesto on top of your soup can brighten soup with vibrant basil and garlic notes.
- Cracked Black Pepper: A pinch of freshly ground black pepper can enhance the overall flavor.
- Microgreens: Tiny microgreens, such as pea shoots or arugula, can add an elegant and fresh touch.
- Chopped Olives: For Mediterranean-style soups, chopped olives provide a briny and savory element.
- Crispy Onions: Crispy fried onions or shallots can offer a delightful crunch.
- Spices and Seasonings: A sprinkle of spices like paprika, cayenne pepper, or ground cumin can bring depth to your soup.
What Soups Can Be Served Cold?
While the comforting allure of a steaming bowl of hot soup is undeniable, remember picnics often happen in warm weather.
Incorporating cold soups into your picnic menu can be a delightful surprise for your fellow picnickers, bringing creativity to picnics and capturing seasonal flavors. Try these cold soup ideas.
1. Gazpacho: A Spanish classic, is a perfect picnic choice. This cold tomato soup, served chilled, bursts with ripe tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, and a touch of garlic.
2. Cucumber Soup: Cucumber soup is a refreshing picnic option. Enhanced with yogurt, dill, and a hint of lemon or vinegar, it’s refreshing on hot days with a silky texture and tangy notes for palate cleansing.
3. Chilled Beet Soup: A vibrant beet soup, often paired with sour cream or yogurt, offers an earthy, sweet, and creamy option.
4. Fruit Soups: Fruit soups like berry blends and melon variations offer sweet, colorful choices. Typically enriched with citrus, honey, or yogurt, they’re both delicious and hydrating, perfect for summer picnics.
Soup at a picnic can be a warm, comforting addition to your outdoor dining experience or a refreshing choice on a hot day.
With the right containers, a bit of planning, and a dash of creativity, you can enjoy your favorite soup on any alfresco occasion. So, pack your thermos, grab your soup spoon, and head out for a memorable picnic.