Make the most out of your stock pot during the course of your Whole30 experience.
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Spicy Thai Coconut Chicken Soup image
Credit: Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Missie Crawford

Winter is one of the most common times to embark on the popular Whole30 program, whether you’re fulfilling a resolution to eat more nutritiously or are trying to shed a few of those hibernation pounds before the start of summer. However, giving up some of your favorite warm and comforting recipes in the midst of the coldest time of year can be a struggle for even the most diligent clean eaters.

Luckily, many rich soups and stews can be easily adapted to be compliant with the rules of the Whole30 program, coming to the rescue as the ultimate homemade remedy for your winter blues. In addition to being simple, satisfying, and economical, soups and stews are also a great dinner solution for divided households who aren’t following the same strict diet plan, as your family and friends aren’t likely to notice subtle ingredient adjustments in the comforting bowl in front of them.

Whether you’re a soup making novice or have plenty of go-to recipes already up your sleeves, use these simple tips to make the most out of your stock pot during the course of your Whole30 experience.

Make Small Adjustments to Your Favorites

While there are tons of Whole30-approved soup and stew recipes to be found on the internet, learning how to make adjustments to your existing favorites will not only be a rewarding process, but also help you to quickly get a sense of some of the easy substitutions that can be made to a variety of dishes throughout the program. While certain soups—like heavily dairy-based cream soups—can be slightly trickier to recreate instinctually, many others need just a couple of minor adjustments.

For example, a rich Ginger Chicken, Shiitake, and Scallion Soup can be made completely Whole30-compliant simply by withholding one ingredient—rice noodles, which can be replaced by a healthy substitute like sweet potato noodles. Similarly, this classic Soulful Chicken Noodle Soup is completely compliant with the exception of the noodles, which can be taken out altogether, leaving a comforting chicken and vegetable soup, or replaced with zucchini noodles.

Simple swaps and substitutions like these—whether it’s omitting legumes from the recipe or holding off on the recommended addition of wine or sugar—are easy to make and won’t significantly affect your final product. We’ll bet that once you start adjusting some of your favorite go-to soup recipes, you’ll be shocked to realize how easy it is to make subtle changes to make them Whole30-friendly.

Learn How to Build a Solid Base

One of the best parts about crafting amazing soups and stews is that once you’ve got the hang of a simple, reliable recipe, you can begin to branch out and add the proteins, produce, and seasonings of your choice. Not only will crafting custom soups give you a huge sense of pride, but it will also guarantee you won’t fall into a slump of eating the same dish over and over.

Start with the base of a recipe you already love and build from there, or if you don’t have one in mind follow a fundamental soup making equation. Nearly all soups and stews start with the process of softening base vegetables like finely chopped onions, peppers, and garlic in olive oil or another compliant oil base before adding your protein, like ground turkey or paleo bacon, to cook. From there, you can begin to build your soup using the liquid of your choice—such as a broth, crushed tomatoes in sauce, or coconut milk—seasonings, herbs, and additional produce. With this simple equation you can make countless combinations of ingredients for a new soup or stew every time.

You earn major bonus points if you make your own homemade chicken broth or vegetable broth, which both can act as the base to countless combinations of ingredients.

Become BFFs with Coconut Milk

While creamy soups are undeniably one of the best winter comfort foods in existence, the dairy bases that they heavily rely on are obviously off limits. However, for those who are hankering for a super creamy creation, there is one Whole30-approved ingredient that could be your saving grace: coconut milk. This rich ingredient—which is sold in cans, rather than in the refrigerated dairy section—is packed with healthy natural fats that will thicken your recipes and recreate the creamy texture you crave, sans dairy.

To help you get the hang of using coconut milk as your cream base, start with flavorful recipes like Butternut Soup with Coconut Milk, Spicy Thai Coconut Chicken Soup (omitting the sugar), Coconut Shrimp Soup, and a hearty Chicken Chowder (leaving out the corn and flour, and upgrading to full-fat coconut milk to make up for the omitted flour on the texture front).

Whether you’re into spicy Asian-inspired dishes or healthy takes on homey classics, once you get the hang of using coconut milk to create creamy, dairy-free soups you’ll feel like a master of the comfort food craft. In addition to its thinner counterpart, Coconut Cream is also a great, highly concentrated cream product that can be used for thickening up soups, dips, and dressings.

However, if you’re absolutely anti-coconut, steer clear of this ingredient as it will infuse your dish with a subtle coconut flavor, even in the presence of other powerful flavors.

Watch: How to Make Instant Pot Butternut Squash Soup

Embrace the Chili

One of the easiest varieties of stew to make Whole30-friendly are chilis, which are generally fairly compliant with the program’s rules. Not only are chilis easy and affordable dishes to whip up quickly, they’ll also satisfy everyone you’re dining with, whether or not they’re on the Whole30 bandwagon.

The main adaptation to keep in mind while creating compliant chili is to leave out the legumes, including corn and all kinds of beans. To make up for the bulk of the omitted beans, add some additional filling root vegetables, like diced carrots, potatoes, and turnips in their place.

To get a feel for crafting compliant chilis instinctually, start with a classic Chunky Beef Chili recipe, which has a completely Whole30-approved ingredient list. Once you’ve got the feel for a super-simple recipe, you can start to branch out with different varieties of proteins and produce. We’d recommend trying out a hearty batch of Cincinnati Chili, made with sirloin and garam masala, a flavorful (bean-free) White Bean Turkey Chili, or a Chunky Vegetable Chili (Ieaving out the brown sugar).

To save some serious time during the Whole30 process, once you’ve found a chili, soup, or stew that you want to eat over and over again, make a big batch and freeze the leftovers in individual or big batch portions using our guide to freezing every kind of soup. That way, it’ll be super easy to quickly grab a soup on your way out of the door to reheat for lunch, or to prepare a satisfying dinner in no time.

The good news is no matter which recipe you try to riff off of, soups and stews are some of the least fussy recipes around, and can be easily adjusted until you’ve achieved the perfect balance of ingredients and flavors to keep you well-fed and satisfied all winter long.