Immunity Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms
Immunity Soup is comfort food during the cold and flu season. Thick and savory with a rich umami flavor, this mushroom soup features ingredients that have a long tradition in supporting immune health.
In this video, I demonstrate how to make this soup from start to finish. I include an explanation of special ingredients and where to buy them. If you want the “Cliff’s Notes” version, skip to the text below.
Here is our list of immune-boosting ingredients. If you can’t obtain them all, just use what you have available to you. It will still be a delicious immunity soup!
Medicinal mushrooms are said to reduce inflammation, fight free radicals, increase Natural killer cells, and regulate the immune system. Look for these types that have special qualities to support your immune system. Add them to immunity soups, smoothies, and teas during the winter months when your body is more vulnerable to infection.
- Lion’s Mane
- Turkey Tail
Typically, grocery stores only carry oyster and shiitake mushrooms. The other types can be ordered online in dehydrated form. Note that medicinal mushrooms may be more bitter than culinary ones. But to get the benefit, you only need a teaspoon of mushroom powder.
Plain old garlic is actually quite beneficial against illness. It is esteemed as a natural antibiotic. This study reports it may ward off and reduce the severity of the flu and common cold. Use fresh garlic where possible. Dehydrated garlic flakes are a convenient alternative in immunity soup. Use 1/2teaspoon of dried minced garlic for every garlic clove in your recipe.
Ginger has long been used in traditional and alternative medicine to bring down inflammation. One laboratory study found it effective against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. Buy whole roots that are not shriveled. You can find them in the produce department of your grocery store. Store them in the freezer for ease of grating when you make immunity soup.
Astragalus is the dried root of the milkvetch plant. It has a pleasant, sweet taste. Astragalus may increase your body’s production of white blood cells, according to this study. You may be able to find strips or shreds of astragalus in an herb shop or health food store in your community. I found mine online at Mountain Rose Herbs.
Hearts of Palm
These tender centers of certain types of palm trees are surprisingly high in zinc, which, of course, is critical to immune health. Hearts of Palm are also high in other crucial minerals and in antioxidants. You can find them on the canned vegetable aisle of your grocery store.
If you can’t locate them, use dairy cream or coconut cream for the base of your immunity soup. Then for extra zinc, add oysters to the soup, or garnish with pumpkin seeds. Another idea is to substitute artichoke hearts for the hearts of palm. You will still want to add a food that is high in zinc.
Vitamin A is an unsung hero of immune health. Purportedly, pastured egg yolks contain 38% more Vitamin A than conventional eggs, and overall contribute a modest amount to your RDA of Vitamin A. You won’t even know the egg yolk is in the soup because you blend it with broth before cooking.
Everyone knows Vitamin C helps fight a cold, and citrus fruits contains lots of Vitamin C. But did you know that bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, red cabbage, cauliflower, and kale are also high in vitamin C? If you don’t like kale, you can substitute spinach for a lower vitamin C content.
Here is my trick to chopping my leafy greens very fine: I don’t! When I bring my greens home from the grocery store, I tear off the thick stems, then stuff them in a sealable bag. I put them in the deep freezer (-10 degrees centigrade or lower) until I need them. When they are well-frozen, I squish and massage the bag. The leaves crack and crumble. Then I can measure out what I need for immunity soup. The frozen leaves are also good in stews, marinara, and stir-fries.
Nigella Sativa (Black Seed, Black Cumin)
This pungent, onion-like seed, found in Egyptian tombs, may have been used in mummification because of its antibacterial properties. Today, many people use to boost immunity & reduce inflammation. You may find it in an herb shop or online. Although it comes in capsule form, you will want a packet of whole seeds for this immunity soup recipe.
Now, you are ready to cook.
Shiitake Immunity Soup Recipe
- 1 Tb. coconut oil or tallow
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 2 large carrots, thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tb. grated fresh ginger root
- 10-12 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
- 3 c. bone broth or stock
- 1 14-oz. can of hearts of palm, drained
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 Tb. low-sodium soy sauce or soy substitute
- ½ oz. of dried mushroom powder (about 2 Tb.)
- ½ oz. dried astragalus root (1/4 c. shredded or 12-15 two-inch strips)
- Salt to taste
- 1 cup chopped kale
- Nigella sativa for garnish – optional
In a skillet, heat the cooking fat, then sauté the onions, celery, and carrots until softened. Add the minced garlic, grated ginger and sliced shiitakes with a splash of water to keep them from sticking to the pan. Continue sautéing until mushrooms release their liquid and change color.
Meanwhile, blend the broth, hearts of palm, egg yolk, soy sauce, and mushroom powder until smooth. Pour into a 1.5-quart soup pot and bring to a simmer. Wrap the astragalus in a bit of cheesecloth or a coffee filter and drop into the pot. Continue simmering 5-10 minutes.
Remove the astragalus from the pot. Stir in the sauteed vegetables and the kale. Adjust seasonings. Heat just until the kale wilts and turns bright green.
Serve with Nigella sativa seeds if desired. Makes 6 one-cup servings.
Tip: If you ever have a batch of soup that seems bitter, think, “salt, fat, acid, and heat.” Increase salt and cooking oil, add a splash of balsamic vinegar, then cook a little longer. Dark leafy greens can be very bitter if not cooked adequately.