The World's Best Soups to Feed Your Wanderlust
Nothing says comfort like a warm bowl of soup, which is why each culture has its own version of this delicious treat. In fact, you can learn a lot about a country from its most popular soup.
Yes, ramen and pho have made their ways into mainstream dining trends, but what about ciorba de vacuta, auksta zupa or mercimek çorbasi? These, too, are some of the world’s best soups. Travel the world with us one soup at a time to satisfy both those soup and wanderlust cravings.
Húsleves, or "meat soup," is a Hungarian staple food and the best-ranked soup in the world, according to dozens of reviewers on Taste Atlas.
When wintry weather hits, there’s truly nothing like a giant vat of húsleves to warm up your bones and, not to mention, tickle your taste buds with its rich, flavorful, wonderfully fragrant broth made from slowly-simmered meat, bones, spices and fresh vegetables. Um, heck yes.
The húsleves comes highly recommended at Onyx Budapest, which was the first restaurant in Hungary to be awarded two Michelin stars. Despite this sophisticated status, Onyx is still relatively affordable thanks to its prix-fixe lunch menu.
Whether or not you can make it to Onyx Budapest any time soon, our hope is that you find inspiration from this restaurant, among others on this list, to explore these international soups at home.
Auksta Zupa (Latvia)
A traditional Latvian soup, auksta zupa may look a little strange (it’s a deep pink-purplish color), but it’s totally delicious. Made from beets, cucumbers, kefir, milk sausage, eggs, radish and fresh greens like dill and scallions (and often topped with sour cream), auksta zupa boasts an intense yet refreshing flavor profile that’s unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.
Latvians serve this seasonal soup with a few thick slices of good, dark bread on the side, typically in the summertime.
For a truly authentic (and delicious) bowl of auksta zupa, check out Pelmeni XL in Riga, a dumpling house that offers quick, cheap snacks and meals.
In Italian, fagiolata basically translates to “a whole bunch of beans for a whole bunch of people,” and when you see this soup for yourself, you’ll realize just how fitting that name is.
Fagiolata is made from several different kinds of beans — red beans, white beans, black beans or virtually any other variety will work here — which are slowly cooked with olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper, and is served with toasted bread. How do you say, “Yum!” in Italian again?
At La Freschetta in Rome, devour bowl after bowl of fagioli al fiasco (“beans cooked in a flask”), a hearty, yummy take on fagiolata that uses an old Tuscan kitchen method.
Penang Laksa (Malaysia)
Tangy, filling and oh-so-yummy, Penang laksa is a Malaysian street food that originates from the northwestern state of Penang. Somehow simultaneously sweet and sour, this noodle soup is made with a spicy fish broth that is usually served with lots of fresh herbs and shrimp paste.
Penang laksa is an iconic dish — it may be an acquired taste, to be sure, but once you acquire it, there’s no going back.
For some of the best Penang laksa in Malaysia, take notes from Air Itam Laksa, one of the most famous (and long-running) restaurants in Penang.
Ciorba de Vacuta (Romania)
No, you may not be able to pronounce it, but ciorba de vacuta is a serious feast for the senses. Loaded with sour cream and fresh dill, this traditional Romanian beef soup is also chock-full of veggies — it’s on the hearty side, to say the least.
Regional varieties of ciorba de vacuta can be found throughout the country, with it being quite the popular menu item.
Roata Norocului in Brasov serves some of the tastiest ciorba de vacuta in the country.
This restaurant is also just a fun place to be, with regular live music and a lively atmosphere.
A light, summertime soup, šaltibaršciai is basically cold borscht (or beet soup). It’s stuffed with crisp and tender textures, all of them bold in flavor — pickled or boiled beetroots, kefir (or buttermilk), hard-boiled eggs, grated cucumbers and a healthy smattering of fresh dill.
Šaltibaršciai is usually served chilled, and it’s the ultimate refreshing soup on a hot day.
To get your šaltibaršciai fix, head to Lokys in Vilnius, which is famous for this local dish.
For just 5 euros, you can enjoy a big bowl of cold beetroot soup served with potatoes and kefir.
Mercimek Çorbasi (Turkey)
A classic Turkish soup, mercimek çorbasi is simply prepared, yet dazzlingly flavorful. Red lentils comprise the soup’s base (never green or brown lentils, as these don’t break down as easily), and these are cooked with chicken stock, onions and carrots, along with seasonings like cumin, paprika, salt and pepper.
Garnishes usually come in the form of lemon, mint or a sprinkling of red pepper. Spicy, filling and nutritious, mercimek çorbasi is consumed throughout rural Turkey.
Kapta Soupasta in Istanbul serves an array of homemade soups, all of them quite tasty. But there’s nothing quite like their mercimek çorbasi, which is lovingly prepared with slow-simmered stock and served with Kapta’s trademark sourdough bread.
Khao Soi (Thailand)
Khao soi is a beloved Thai soup that’s rich, creamy and spicy, with just a hint of sweetness. A signature dish of Northern Thailand, this soup is made with homemade egg noodles, coconut milk, red curry paste and a choice of meat.
The best part? It’s always served topped with a handful of crispy fried noodles, which provides a yummy mash-up of textures and flavors.
Chiang Mai has several awesome food markets, but check out the Wui Lai Market for the best khao soi. (Though be prepared to wait in line.)
Ramen, actually a Chinese soup that arrived in Japan in the 19th century, is a Japanese culinary touchstone and easily one of the most popular soups in the world.
It consists of noodles in a salty broth prepared with meat, vegetables or fish, and it’s often flavored with soy sauce or miso. Common ramen ingredients include shiitake mushrooms, tuna flakes, kelp, onions and dried sardines.
Hot Pot (China)
The hot pot has a long, storied history in China, and though it’s made many different ways (depending on the region), the basics tend to stay the same. Thinly sliced meat or tofu, seafood, potatoes, mushrooms, potatoes, leafy greens, egg dumplings and udon are some of the ingredients you’re most likely to find in your hot pot.
It’s traditionally prepared in a giant metal pot that’s cooked at the center of the table.
When you’re in Shanghai and craving hot pot, there’s no better spot than Hong Chang Xing, the city’s oldest halel restaurant.
Fanesca is an elaborate Ecuadorian soup that’s traditionally prepared and eaten during Holy Week (Easter time), and it features dozens of ingredients, many of which are unique to the region.
This soup combines 12 tender grains and dried cod in a creamy base, along with hard-boiled eggs, peanuts, mini empanadas and fried plantains.
Casa Gangotena isn’t just one of the best hotels in Quito (though it certainly is), it also has a fantastic restaurant. Of all the authentic, traditional dishes served here, its fanesca is an utter delight.
Acqua Pazza (Italy)
A classic Italian dish, acqua pazza consists of tender fish (Neapolitan poached white fish like halibut, perch, cod or bass) and vegetables, all swimming in a sweet, simple broth.
Other ingredients could include olive oil, carrots, capers, celery, onions, parsley and white wine.
The aptly named Ristorante Acquapazza in Florence is well-known for its exquisite acqua pazza.
Harira is a traditional Moroccan soup that’s prepared year-round, although it’s usually associated with breaking the fast during Ramadan.
Made of lentils, chickpeas, tomato and meats (and seasoned heavily with fresh herbs and harissa paste), harira is a hearty, savory dish that’s full of flavor.
For the best harira, foodies should look to Nomad in Marrakech, a super-cool rooftop restaurant that serves up an inventive, modern take on the beloved soup as well as outstanding views of the city and the Atlas Mountains.
Zagorska Juha s Vrganjima (Croatia)
From the Croatian region of Zagorje, zagorska juha s vrganjima is a mighty tasty concoction that’s made using garlic, white wine, cured meat products, potatoes, wild mushrooms and sour cream, plus seasonings like paprika, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
A staple food of many different feasts in Zagorje, zagorska juha s vrganjima is often served in a hollowed-out loaf of bread.
Try the zagorska juha s vrganjima at Vuglec Breg, an adorable inn in the picturesque village of Skaricevo, and enjoy the views on the terrace while you eat.
Carne en Su Jugo (Mexico)
The ultimate Mexican comfort food, carne en su jugo is, at its heart, steak, beans and bacon (carne en su jugo translates to “meat in its own juice”) stewed in a savory broth.
The broth is often flavored with diced onions, chile de arbol, lime juice and other seasonings.
In Mexico City, the popular taco chain, El Califa, offers excellent carne en su jugo.
Prepare for a meaty, juicy, insanely delicious feast.
Kulajda (Czech Republic)
Kulajda is a bowl of deliciousness that’s popular in the Czech Republic — the thick broth is traditionally made from potatoes, cream and mushrooms, although every region has its own take on it.
Popular toppings include a healthy dollop of sour cream and a jammy soft-boiled or poached egg.
Cafe Imperial in Prague is a wonderful place to try kulajda soup.
It’s also one of the best cafes in the city, with its opulent decor and grand architecture.
This fortifying Georgian soup is very popular throughout the country — in wintertime, especially, kharcho is a dinnertime staple. The soup (almost stew-like in its consistency) gets its tangy, sweet flavor from dried fruits, and it typically features either beef or lamb, along with rice, herbs and walnuts.
A thick slice of country bread on the side is all you need to make it a meal.
Mapshalia in Tbilisi is a gem, and a great place to sample kharcho.
Just be sure to get a bottle of the (divine) house wine to accompany your meal.
Tangy, smokey and delicious, zurek is a popular Polish soup made with fermented rye flour, sausages, potatoes, eggs and plenty of spices.
On certain special occasions, it’s served inside a bread bowl or with halves of hard-boiled eggs on top as garnish.
At the cheerfully decorated Miod Malina in Krakow, enjoy an enticing menu of Polish and Italian cuisine.
The zurek here is flavorful and filling.
Avgolemono is lemony chicken and rice soup that’s easily the most iconic of Greek soups. Whisked egg acts as a thickener here, while the lemon adds a pop of bright, citrusy flavor.
Other ingredients include shredded chicken, chicken stock, orzo, salt and pepper, and minced dill.
To taste authentic avgolemono, the unassuming and lovely Kefte Des in Thessaloniki is the real deal.
Sopa da Pedra (Portugal)
Made from simple, inexpensive ingredients, sopa de pedra is a crowd favorite in Portugal.
Even though it translates as “stone soup,” there are no rocks involved in the making of sopa da pedra — just beans, blood sausage and potatoes (although different regional varieties may include cabbage, carrots and pasta).
Almeirim (a city not far from Lisbon) is considered the birthplace of sopa de pedra, and its Restaurante O Forno offers perhaps the best soup in town.
Buttery and cool, vichyssoise is a French soup that consists of onions, pureed leeks, potatoes, cream and chicken broth.
It’s traditionally served cold (although it can technically be eaten hot) and garnished with chives.
For the best vichyssoise in France, try Le Coupe-Chou in Paris, in the heart of the Latin Quarter.
You’ll likely want to linger for hours at this non-touristy spot, tucked away on a cobblestone street, away from the hustle and bustle.
Tom Yum (Thailand)
One of the most-recognized soups in the world, tom yum is spicy, delightfully aromatic and divine-tasting.
It typically consists of lemongrass, shallots, minced ginger, lime juice, kaffir lime leaves, minced Thai chile peppers, mushrooms and fish sauce, and is sometimes served with rice and fresh cilantro or other herbs.
When in Bangkok, do as the locals do: Slurp up tom yum soup at Tom Yum Goong Banglamphu, a street food stall in the Banglamphu parking lot.
A traditional Vietnamese soup, pho is wildly popular throughout the Western Hemisphere, thanks to its simple-yet-genius flavor pairings. Fragrant beef (or chicken) broth is made aromatic by simmering with scallions, fresh ginger, and toasted spices, and then served atop chewy rice noodles.
Typical pho toppings include bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, thin slices of hot peppers and maybe a dash of lime juice.
For classic pho, there’s no better place to go than Pho Gia Truyen in Hanoi.
Though this beloved spot doesn’t look like much from the outside, you’ll find a world of riches — in the form of yummy pho — on the inside.
Beloved throughout Slovakia, kapustnica is a tasty (and very meat-heavy) sauerkraut soup that’s made with smoked ham or ribs, sausages, onion and dried mushrooms.
And don’t forget the seasonings like fresh garlic, pepper, salt, caraway seeds, crushed nutmeg and bay leaves, along with a dollop or two of sour cream.
The kapustnica is next-level good at Slovak Pub in Bratislava.
Expect friendly service and truly tasty food.
Nourishing, creamy and bursting with flavor, lohikeitto is a traditional Finnish salmon soup. It’s made from just a few simple ingredients — chunks of salmon fillet, boiled potatoes, sauteed leeks, butter, fish stock, cream and lots of fresh dill — but it tastes like something fancy and expensive.
More than just a hearty winter dish, lohikeitto is pure decadence.
Try out Ekstrom Seafood in Helsinki if you’re hankering for a fragrant, mouth-watering bowl of lohikeitto.