I’ll preface this review by saying I’m not really a “soup person.” But on my journey toward a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, I recognize the value of a food category that’s nutritious, plant-based, and easy to prepare. There’s a reason soup has been part of the human diet for centuries, a staple meal of which you can find some iteration in nearly every culture.
In fact, it was half a world away in the Himalayas that Yvon Chouinard, famed mountaineer and the founder of Patagonia, discovered the inspiration for his company’s version of Tsampa soup. A mix of sprouted, roasted barley and veggies, the dehydrated soup is one of four varieties offered by Patagonia Provisions.
For a company aggressively committed to sustainability and to “solutions to the environmental crisis,” food is a natural progression in Patagonia’s scope. The food industry is facing a crisis — overgrazed prairies, antibiotic-laden livestock, unsustainable crop systems — and Patagonia wants to find solutions to repair the broken food chain. That starts with an offering of food products under the name Patagonia Provisions that seek to understand their own sourcing.
Which brings me back to soup: If you’re looking to culinary roots, this is a good place to start. And because there are few things more disappointing than being stuck in the backcountry with a subpar dinner, we decided to taste test Patagonia’s entire soup line to know which variety to reach for next time we ventured out for an overnight backpacking trip.
Patagonia currently offers five varieties of soups and chilis, plus a series of savory grain mixes and breakfast grains. Each dehydrated blend is vegan, certified organic, and non-GMO, and comes in a shelf-stable bag.
All of the soups cook similarly: boil 2 cups of water, cook for a minute, then let sit while covered for approximately 10 minutes (you can continue to heat if you aren’t trying to save fuel).
The bags aren’t resealable, and didn’t hold up well to having hot water poured in them, making them slightly less convenient for backpacking than other blends on the market. In all fairness, the instructions don’t say to cook in-bag, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to try since I’m all for saving weight in a backpack. I poured the mix back in a pot and cooked over a camp stove instead.
At $7 per bag and two servings per bag, the retail price isn’t all that high for such high-quality and organic ingredients. However, for a big day in the mountains, a single bag feels like just enough food for one person, and even then you may need to add in some of Patagonia Provisions’ sockeye salmon for a truly filling meal.
Most protein: Organic Black Bean Soup. Chipotle and sweet corn make for a more flavorful take on black bean soup than I was expecting, and with 17 grams of protein, it’s your most filling option. Patagonia suggests adding some avocado slices, Cotija cheese, and a tortilla — I think that’s the ticket to making this one a meal.
Most comforting: Organic Original Red Bean Chili. This is your soup if you’re looking for true comfort food — Patagonia’s version of classic meatless chili tastes home cooked. With red and pinto beans, tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers and both spicy and original options (I tried the original version), this blend is packed with both protein and flavor. It’s a bit salty, but that might be just the ticket after a big day of hiking, so take that with a grain of, well, you know.
Easiest on stomach: Organic Green Lentil Soup. Made with whole-grain bulgur wheat, veggies, spices and green lentils, this soup is hearty without giving you that lead-in-the-stomach feeling. It’s less flavorful than the other varieties, and my least favorite tasting of the bunch, but it left me feeling the most energetic after eating.
Best overall taste: Organic Tsampa Soup. I knew this would be my favorite when I smelled it cooking. It’s a bit salty, but not overpowering, and the chewiness of the barely gave the whole soup a nice texture. A splash of hot sauce or a drizzle of olive oil (and some bread) is all you need to make this a back-at-home dinner favorite, too.
In my one-woman throw down, comparing Patagonia Provisions soup flavors made for a rather non-controversial competition — mostly because all of the soup varieties were nutritious, easy to cook, and really tasty. With every version stacking up on the right side of the taste scale, it’s easier than ever to eat lower on the food chain. I may not be a “soup” person quite yet, but knowing my next backpacking meal is helping transform the health of our food systems certainly makes me want the title.
All photos by Johnie Gall.
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