It’s soup season. And when soup is loaded with vegetables and beans, it can be really good for you. But when it’s loaded with sodium, not so much. Consumer Reports’ food experts took a close look at minestrone, that Italian classic, to search for tasty ones that are healthier.
Consumer Reports tasters did a blind taste test of nine of the lowest-sodium minestrones, looking for well-blended flavors and tender—not mushy—beans and veggies.
Does less salt mean less flavor? Not at all! Salt is a flavor enhancer, but herbs and spices and acids like those in tomatoes give minestrone flavor.
CR found that the best-tasting soups come in glass jars—not in cans—and are frozen or refrigerated. In canning, soup can be processed under high heat, which strips away the flavor and makes vegetables, pasta, and beans too soft.
Here are three that got marks of Very Good for taste.
Tabatchnick Minestrone (510 mg sodium/110 calories/1.5 g fat) comes frozen and is described as thick and hearty. It has lots of veggies and beans with a slightly firm texture, and soft pasta shells. It has a slight salty flavor.
Trader Joe’s Organic Hearty Minestrone (630 mg sodium/100 calories/2 g fat) is boldly flavored with rosemary and other dried herbs, and is moderately salty with nicely textured red and white beans.
Instead of tomatoes, Zuppa Rustica Minestrone (530 mg sodium/330 calories/16 g fat) is loaded with beans, cabbage, and other veggies. It has 16 grams of fat, some of which come from olive oil. It has a moderately salty flavor.
But Consumer Reports’ top choice in the blind test is a homemade minestrone made by their trained chef. It had less sodium and the best flavor of all of them. So if you have a little more time, consider making your own soup. It just might taste better and be better for you. CR’s recipe is on our website.