20 Hearty (and Affordable) Soups and Stews for the Holiday Season

Italian Wedding Soup I
Italian Wedding Soup I.

Cooking for the holiday season can be a joyous occasion, especially when you're working with time-honored recipes that deliver both sentimental value and flavor. However, the process of whipping up festive meals for your family, friends, or a combination of both can prove both time-consuming and expensive.

If you're seeking a one-pot meal (or a memorable first course for a larger repast) that provides seasonal and holiday-appropriate flavors without breaking the bank, a wintery and rib-sticking soup or stew is a smart solution. We found 20 recipes in the Allrecipes archives that can work either in the context of a bigger feast or as a stand-alone meal, and they all feature in-season ingredients and taste notes that feel cozy, celebratory, and just nostalgic enough.

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Escarole and Beans

A dark, leafy vegetable with pronounced bitterness and a peppery hint, escarole makes a distinct impression in the context of a soup, and its bold flavors and robust texture give it a hardiness that's ideal for the chillier months. This soup keeps its ingredient list brief and budget-friendly, and both the escarole and the white cannellini beans offer enough substance to turn this vegetarian-friendly dish into a satisfying main course for a holiday luncheon.

02 of 21

Chef John's Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Rich, creamy, subtly sweet, and primarily made of vegetables, butternut squash soup is an easy way to serve a dish that feels special while adhering to your budget. This version is excellently suited to be a flavorful holiday first course, but if you'd like to turn it into the main attraction of your meal, take Chef John's advice and top it with diced ham. (In fact, this is a clever way to utilize any baked ham leftovers you might have from other holiday events.)

03 of 21

Greek Avgolemono Chicken Soup

A hearty broth bolstered by beaten eggs and a bright zing from lemon juice sets this Greek spin on chicken soup apart from the standard American rendition. In terms of cost, the only "investment" that you'll need to make is the purchase of a whole chicken. The other ingredients on the five-item list are white rice, lemons, eggs, and salt and pepper, so this soup deserves credit for its affordability.

04 of 21

Real Hungarian Goulash

Real Hungarian Goulash (No Tomato Paste Here)

Goulash, a classic beef stew native to Hungary, feels like an ideal fit for a chilly December evening. This recipe pares goulash down to its essentials, and its use of beef chuck (an especially affordable cut of meat) makes it highly affordable. Serve with egg noodles, spaetzle, or polenta.

Hungry for more? Check out our collection of Hungarian recipes.

05 of 21

Ultimate Guinness® Beef Stew

"Winter" and "beef stew" go hand-in-hand for excellent reasons, and this recipe's inclusion of Guinness and holiday-friendly herbs like rosemary and thyme give it plenty of festive flair. The stew uses generic stew meat (which tends to be one of the lowest-priced beef cuts at any grocery store) and a single can of Guinness); t he other ingredients are vegetables, herbs, beef stock, and simple seasonings.

06 of 21

World's Best Potato Soup

It's tough to think of a better example of a filling, crowd-pleasing, and reliably cheap ingredient than potatoes. This soup is easy to make (you don't even need to peel the potatoes) and gains its engaging flavors from accessible ingredients like cream of mushroom soup, chicken bouillon, and shredded Cheddar.

07 of 21

Vegetable Tom Yum Soup

A staple on Thai restaurant menus, tom yum soup can be prepped in just over an hour, and its picturesque presentation and multifaceted flavor profile deserve a showcase like a holiday meal. While some of the ingredients listed (like fish sauce and makrut lime leaves) can be difficult to find or expensive to obtain at a regular supermarket, a visit to a local Asian market will get you everything you need at a great price.

08 of 21

Spanish Garlic Soup

A comforting soup that's sure to clear your sinuses and activate your tastebuds, Spanish garlic soup is inherently low-cost, featuring chicken stock as its biggest expense. It's a lighter soup, so if you want to serve it as an entree for a holiday gathering, try adding in some cooked chicken or Spanish chorizo.

09 of 21

Portuguese Chourico Stew

Portuguese cooks take great pride in their country's signature sausage, chourico (also known as "linguica"). This richly spiced pork sausage lends a unique and delicious flavor to this main-course-ready stew, which is also packed with low-cost vegetables. If you can't find Portuguese chourico, then Spanish chorizo or Cajun andouille make suitable alternatives.

10 of 21

Polish Borscht

Borscht, a vegetarian soup made from beets, is present in numerous Eastern European cuisines, and in Poland, it's a regular part of a traditional Christmas menu. This recipe uses pricier seasonings and ingredients (like allspice and dried wild mushrooms) in extreme moderation, so it can still be made at an affordable price without compromising its festive vibes.

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Roasted Green Chile Stew

Green chile stew appears on many a holiday table in the American Southwest, and this recipe, which features pork shoulder and an abundance of New Mexico chiles, is relatively affordable as written. However, if you want to trim a few more dollars, try making it a vegetarian stew, which creator Six Pack To Go says is a completely valid option.

12 of 21

Leek and Fennel Soup

Leek and fennel soup possesses an undeniable mid-century charm that gives it a "special occasion" energy. This version, which is made entirely from vegetables and vegetable broth, adds a classy polish to a holiday spread without adding much to your grocery tab.

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Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings
Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings.

The set-it-and-forget-it nature of slow cooker meals appeals to many a home cook during the hectic holiday season, and this chicken and dumplings recipe with a short ingredient list and very easy instructions aptly addresses the love of nostalgia that the holidays inspire for many.

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Curried Sweet Potato Soup

The warm, spicy notes of curry powder play beautifully off of the natural sweetness of sweet potato in this smooth cool-weather soup. In addition to curry, sweet potatoes, and vegetables, this recipe makes use of ingredients that many folks already have in their kitchens during the holiday season, like ginger, cinnamon, and maple syrup.

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Fabulous Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Cauliflower is a true jack-of-all-trades in the kitchen, with the flexibility to transform itself and to blend into any number of dishes. Plus, its low price tag makes it an easy choice for budget holiday cooking. This soup picks up homey toasted notes from roasted cauliflower, which is then pureed and seasoned in true holiday style with thyme and bay leaf.

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Italian Wedding Soup I

Italian Wedding Soup I
Italian Wedding Soup I.

As its name suggests, Italian wedding soup was designed to serve at an important social occasion, so it smoothly fits into any holiday menu. Affordable ingredients like chicken broth, lean ground beef, orzo pasta, and escarole keep costs down, and this soup can work as either a hearty first course or as an entree.

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Lentil Soup

pot of Lentil Soup

Lentil soup has plenty of nostalgia value, and because it's vegetable-based with no pricey ingredients, it's a smart move for price-conscious hosts. This recipe also reheats beautifully, so you can get a lot of mileage out of its leftovers (always a perk for holiday dishes).

18 of 21

Rich and Simple French Onion Soup

Rich and Simple French Onion Soup
Rich and Simple French Onion Soup.

It's rare to see French onion soup in a list of budget-friendly dishes, since it traditionally includes high-priced ingredients like Worcestershire sauce, wine, and Gruyère cheese. Luckily, this version makes some adjustments that boost its affordability quotient, like calling for only a small amount of dry sherry (a wine that's relatively easy to find for a low price) and replacing high-dollar Gruyère with cheaper cheeses like Provolone and Swiss.

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Chicken Tortilla Soup I

Chicken Tortilla Soup V
Hannah Culbertson

With its red broth and green garnishes (like scallions, cilantro, and avocado), chicken tortilla soup aesthetically fits well into a holiday theme. The lively acidity of lime juice, the savory depth of flavor from chicken broth and herbs, and the smooth, substantial texture provided by hominy makes this reasonably-priced soup a surefire hit.

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Slow Cooker Pumpkin Turkey Chili

Chili isn't always associated with the holiday season, but this recipe dives into classic holiday flavors by using ground turkey as its primary protein and fresh pumpkin as a major agent of both taste and texture. Brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice drive home the traditional holiday associations, while chile powder preserves the spiciness we all expect from a great bowl of chili.

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