In praise of Jacques Pepin’s Leftover Soup

I am a HUGE fan of Jacques Pepin. His show “Fast Food My Way” is my favorite way to unwind after a long day of baby-toddler rodeos. I get some great ideas for healthy meals from his shows. One such recipe is Pepin’s very easy and famous “Leftover Soup“. It is my go-to post workout lunch meal.

I’ve barely touched the ingredients list and instructions (below) from the original. When I make this, I add leftover or fast cooking grains such as whole wheat pasta, whole wheat couscous, or brown rice. This is easy to make allergy-friendly by replacing cheese, soy, or wheat ingredients. This is also easy to tailor to an athlete’s nutritional needs by adding more protein with an egg or leftover meat or tofu. I have already tripled the whole grain serving to account for higher carbohydrate needs of a runner.

Here is a quote of what Jacques says about this dish:

It couldn’t be easier or faster to prepare this soup from scratch. Gloria calls it “fridge soup,” because I make it with whatever leftover vegetables I have in the refrigerator. In the time it takes to bring the 5 cups of water (stock can be used instead, but I like the true taste I get of the vegetables when the base is water) to a boil, I can usually shred the vegetables to be added to the soup. I use the side of a box grater with the largest holes for grating the vegetables.

Instead of using the vegetables listed, I have also made this soup with broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, eggplant, and potatoes. I like to thicken it with a starch, selecting grits here but sometimes adding angel hair pasta, semolina, oatmeal, yellow cornmeal, or tapioca instead. Experiment — it will become your soup. A dash of butter or oil is a nice finishing touch, and we like to add shredded Swiss cheese at the end, although grated Parmesan is good, too. Another alternative: When I was a child, my mother used to add cold milk to our soup, and I still love it like this.


  • 5 c. water or stock
  • 1½ c. shredded zucchini
  • 1 c. shredded carrot
  • 1 c. shredded onion
  • 1 c. shredded white button mushrooms
  • 1/2-1 c. leftover protein such as: tofu, chicken, lean sausage, boiled egg, ground beef or tempeh, etc.
  • ⅓ c. minced scallions
  • 2 c. loosely packed, coarsely sliced greens, such as lettuce, kale, etc.
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4-1/2 c. whole wheat couscous or grits, or 1/2-1 cup cooked whole wheat pasta or rice, etc.
  • 4 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 c. shredded Swiss (Gruyère) cheese or vegan or allergy-friendly alternative such a almond cheese or sheep’s cheese


  1. Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan.
  2. Add all the vegetables to the boiling water along with the salt. Bring the soup back to a boil, and boil, uncovered, for 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle the grits on top of the boiling liquid, reduce the heat to low, add in protein if desired, and cook gently for 2 to 3 minutes longer.
  3. Serve hot in soup bowls, spooning about 1 teaspoon of the olive oil or butter on each serving and topping each of the bowls with about 2 tablespoons of the cheese.

The original recipe is here, for your reference:

1 thought on “In praise of Jacques Pepin’s Leftover Soup

  1. Oh YES! I call it garbage soup and it’s truly wonderful – the idea has been around forever, but once you try it, you’re hooked –


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