What is considered a clear soup?

Soups come in a wide variety of styles, ingredients, and appearances. While some soups are thick and creamy like chowders and bisques, others are light and brothy, known as clear soups. But what exactly makes a soup considered a clear soup? Here’s a closer look at the definition, characteristics, and examples of clear soups.

Definition of a Clear Soup

A clear soup is defined as a soup made with a translucent, thin, and light broth. The broth is normally made by simmering meat, fish, vegetables, or other ingredients in water or stock. However, the solid pieces are removed after cooking, leaving behind a see-through liquid.

The broth of a clear soup should be completely transparent. You should be able to see through to the bottom of the bowl. A broth that is cloudy or murky would not be considered a clear soup.

Main Characteristics of Clear Soups

Here are the key characteristics that define clear soups:

  • Made with a thin, clear broth as the base
  • Very little starch, cream or milk added
  • Fat and particles removed by straining and clarifying
  • Served transparent and translucent
  • Light mouthfeel andappearance
  • Delicate flavors from the broth
  • Often garnished with fresh herbs or other light ingredients

The broth of a clear soup is made clear through straining, skimming fat, and clarifying. The solids and particles are strained out. Egg whites or egg shells may be used to clarify by attracting and removing particles. The result is a polished broth that has incredible clarity.

Common Examples of Clear Soups

Some of the most well-known and beloved clear soups include:

Chicken Broth or Stock

Chicken broth is made by simmering chicken bones and meat in water with aromatics like onions, carrots, and celery. Once strained, the liquid becomes a simple clear chicken broth perfect for soups, stews, and more.

Beef Broth or Stock

Like chicken broth, beef broth is produced by simmering beef bones, meat, and vegetables in water. Straining results in a clarified beef broth ideal for soups and stews.

Vegetable Broth

For a lighter and more vegetarian clear broth, vegetables are simmered in water and then strained. Onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms and parsley may be used.


Consommé is an elegant clear soup made by clarifying and concentrating a broth. Meat or vegetable broth is combined with egg whites, ground meat, and mirepoix vegetables to further clarify and enrich the flavors.


Bouillon is a classic clear broth made by boiling meats, vegetables and herbs and then straining the liquid. Common varieties include mushroom, onion, tomato, and parsley bouillon.

Ramen Broth

Ramen broth features clear and concentrated pork or chicken broth flavored with dashi, soy sauce, mirin and more. It is served with ramen noodles and toppings.


Pho is a popular Vietnamese noodle soup made with a clear, yet robust beef bone broth seasoned with spices like cinnamon, star anise, and ginger. Bean sprouts and fresh herbs are added on top.

Instant Clear Broths and Stocks

There are also many ready-made broth products on the market for quick clear soup bases. Instant bouillon cubes, granules, power or liquid broths can simply be dissolved in hot water.

Key Differences Between Clear and Cream Soups

Clear soups differ greatly from cream soups in ingredients, preparation, texture, and appearance:

Clear Soups Cream Soups
Made with clear broth strained from meat, seafood or vegetables simmered in water or stock Made with a seasoned creamy base of milk or cream and thickened with starch
Fat and particles removed for transparent, see-through broth Blended or left chunky with vegetables, meats or starch to create thick, opaque soup
Thin, light mouthfeel Rich, velvety, coat-the-mouthfeel
Subtle, delicate flavor from the broth Thick flavor from cream and seasonings
Often garnished lightly to retain clarity Garnishes blend with cream base

As you can see, clear and cream soups provide very different textures and experiences. Clear soups allow the nuanced flavors of the broth ingredients to shine, while cream soups offer a richer, more indulgent feel.

Tips for Making the Clearest Soup Broth

Here are some tips and tricks to help make the clearest, most pristine clear soup broth:

  • Use bones and meats high in collagen like chicken feet, oxtails, or pork bones
  • Soak bones before cooking to remove impurities
  • Simmer broth on low heat for long periods, at least 2 hours
  • Skim fat and scum continuously as broth simmers
  • Add a splash of vinegar to help draw minerals and flavors from the bones
  • Strain the broth through a very fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth
  • Use egg whites to clarify by whisking them into simmering strained broth so they can attract particles
  • Allow broth to rest so fat rises to the top and can be skimmed off
  • Chill broth completely so remaining fat solidifies and is easily removed

Taking these steps helps extract maximum flavor while producing the clearest broth possible. A beautiful clear soup broth results in a visually stunning as well as delicious end product.

Serving Suggestions for Clear Soups

Clear soups can be served elegantly and artfully with careful garnishes. Here are some serving suggestions to keep clear soups looking pristine:

  • Garnish with fresh soft herbs like parsley, cilantro, basil, dill, or chives
  • Sprinkle with minced scallions, shallots, garlic, or leeks
  • Float a few thin lemon slices or lime wedges
  • Add a splash of lemon juice, vinegar, or hot sauce right before serving
  • Whisk in a spoonful of miso paste for rich umami flavor
  • Swirl in a drizzle of flavored oil at the last minute
  • Top with shaved vegetables like carrots, radishes, celery, or fennel
  • Nestle a soft poached egg into each bowl
  • Simmer sliced mushrooms or leeks separately and add to each bowl

The garnishes should complement the delicate broth instead of clouding it. Bright, fresh herbs and vegetables are perfect choices.

Ideal Clear Soup Ingredients

Certain ingredients are well-suited for producing clear broths and serving in clear soups. Here are some top ingredients to use:

Broth Bases:

  • Chicken, beef or fish bones
  • Meat with connective tissue like oxtail, short ribs, knuckles
  • Chicken feet for added collagen
  • Shrimp shells
  • Dashi made from kombu and bonito
  • Vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, parsley, mushrooms


  • Salt, white pepper, red pepper flakes
  • Bay leaves, thyme, parsley
  • Garlic, ginger, lemongrass
  • Miso, fish sauce, soy sauce
  • Mirin, sherry, wine vinegars


  • Soft herbs like chives, parsley, cilantro, basil
  • Thin sliced vegetables – carrots, radishes, peppers, mushrooms
  • Lemon, lime, chile oil, sesame oil
  • Poached eggs or egg whites
  • Thin rice noodles, bean sprouts, cooked leafy greens

Focus on ingredients that add tonnes of flavor but won’t cloud the broth. Vegetables can be simmered separately and removed when perfectly tender.

Benefits of Clear Soups

Clear soups offer several benefits:

  • Highlight subtle flavors – The clean background lets you taste delicate nuances.
  • Naturally low in fat and calories – Without added cream or starch, they are a light starter.
  • Easy to digest – The thin broth is gentle on sensitive stomachs.
  • Soothing – Warm broth is comforting, restorative and hydrating.
  • Nutrient-rich – Minerals are extracted from bones and shells during long simmering.
  • Versatile – Simple to dress up with quick add-in ingredients.
  • Attractive presentation – Clear broth shows off vibrant garnishes.

For all these reasons, clear soups are universally appealing. They can be simple yet sophisticated starters to refined meals or homey comfort foods.


In summary, a clear soup is defined by its transparent, crystal clear broth made by gently simmering ingredients and then straining out solids and particles. The resulting refined, delicate liquid highlights subtle flavors and is low in fat and calories. Some classic examples include consommé, chicken noodle soup, pho, and ramen. With simple yet thoughtful garnishes and seasoning, clear soups are nourishing and attractive starters. Their versatility allows them to be adapted in endless refined or comforting directions while letting the essence of the broth shine through.

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