A Guide to Soup Bowls

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A Guide to Soup Bowls

By Cindy Edwards

A chill is in the air, and it is the perfect time to prepare and serve hot and hearty soups. The aroma fills the kitchen and the steaming soup warms body and soul. I really enjoy looking through Paula’s cookbooks or going online and trying new varieties.

Soup can easily be hearty enough for a main course, and I thought it might be fun to explore soup as a course at a dinner party. The type of soup that you serve dictates the type of bowl and spoon served with it. Let’s start with a few of the basics of soup etiquette.

Bouillon, Consommés and Broths

These are all very similar because they are light and thin. Bouillon is a concentrated brown stock, and consommé is a clarified double-strength stock. A broth is a clear liquid usually from meat, fish or vegetables.

This cup with saucer is silver with a porcelain insert. It sets an elegant table and
is perfect for clear, light soups or even a small serving of a cream soup.


This covered bouillon and stand are from the same set as the cup and saucer. It belonged to an American family in the Northeast and was made by the Mauser Manufacturing Company at the turn of the century. I really like this covered bowl and have also used it for fruit salads and desserts.

Silver expert Michele Howe of Michele’s Antiques, located in Austin, Texas, and Beaver Creek, Colorado, recommends using the size of bowl that suits what you are serving. “If you are serving a soup course during an elegant meal,” she says, “then a smaller serving or lighter soup is perfect because it will not fill up your guests before the main course.”  Howe also advises that your spoon should match your bowl. A hearty soup in a larger bowl requires a larger soupspoon or tablespoon; likewise, a smaller bouillon spoon would complement a small soup cup.

If a hostess serves you one of these clear soups in a two-handled cup, you may use the spoon or lift the cup and drink. Another option is to use the spoon to eat any solids and then pick up the cup to drink the broth. While many consider this proper, a survey conducted by the American Dairy Association Survey on soup etiquette showed that the majority of Americans prefer to use a spoon rather than sip their soup. This may be a good time to wait and watch the hostess!!

Cream Soups

These soups are thickened with cream, butter or egg.  Sometimes they may have a vegetable or shellfish base. Be sure to check out Paula’s recipes for cream soups like her crab soup and creamy squash soup.


At dinners and luncheons, a hostess may serve cream soup in a handled bowl with stand, a bowl with an underplate or a cream soup cup with plate.  Once you pick up the spoon, you should rest it on the underplate between bites and when you are finished.

At most formal dinner parties, a hostess uses soup plates. A soup plate is a wide, shallow bowl with a depth of about 1 1/2 inches.  It should always rest on an underplate.  The spoon, which you will pick up on the right-hand side of the place setting, should be parked in the bowl between bites.  The wide, shallow soup plate will hold it comfortably.  In contrast, the two-handled cream soup bowl is too high and small to hold the spoon.

Hearty Soups


Soups such as chili, gumbo, chowder or beef stew are hearty enough to be stand-alone meals. These thick, chunky soups are usually served in a soup-cereal bowl. It should also be presented on an underplate.  Soup-cereal bowls are usually narrower and deeper than soup plates. They are more casual and used at informal, everyday meals.

Winter is the perfect time to explore the soup options that are available. And what better place to look than on Paula’s website!  She has some easy recipes that would be beautiful and delicious for company or your family.

As always, thanks for reading.

Happy New Year,

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Reader Comments:


Cindy, Truly a lovely, eloquent article full of information. This delightful article coupled with those photographs brings back such a warm nostalgia, ahhh. I hope to pass this on to my own children through family meals. Thanks for encouraging me to add more soups to my menu!

By Karen on May 25, 2012


I love to entertain, so your guide to proper soup bowls is incredible! Thank you so much for the information. I will definitely copy your article to use as a reference in the future! Can't wait to read your next blog! Thanks again!

By Taylor on February 14, 2012


Wonderful article! Very informative and interesting. The different place settings reminds me of holiday gatherings at my grandparent's house. One of my favorite soups is squash soup. I am going to start including more soups in my dinners. Thanks again for the article. I really enjoy all of your blog posts.

By rebekah on February 08, 2012


I really liked your article about soups and loved the pictures of the different soup bowls. My mother makes the best vegetable soup, cream of potato, and chili. This article reminds me of those wonderful times when I was growing up. I have tried to carry on those wonderful memories with my own children. Thanks again for such a great article!

By Tera on February 08, 2012


Excellent article! Love the pictures. Reminds me of all my mother's recipes for soup. She loved to fix them during the winter months. I have tried to carry on that tradition with my family. Look forward to your next article.

By tracey on February 08, 2012


Enjoyed the pictures & the information, esp. where to put the spoon between bites and the use of the soup plate. Henrietta

By Henri Etta Tharpe on February 06, 2012


Very interesting and beautiful photos of the china. It is nice to learn that at times it is actually is appropriate to drink from the soup bowl. Thanks for another informative column.

By Temple on February 04, 2012


Wonderful info Cindy! Love reading your blogs and I always learn so much!

By Winslet on February 03, 2012


Great article! So many good tidbits I never knew.

By Amy on February 03, 2012


Beautiful, Cindy!!!! As always, you embody everything graceful, beautiful, elegant and welcoming!! I always enjoy reading your posts!! I am already looking forward to the next one!!!

By Ginny Rice on February 02, 2012


Thank you! Who knew there was so much information about soup bowls and such pretty settings..

By Anita on February 02, 2012


I always learn so much from Cindy's wonderfully written and presented blog. Now I want some nice dishes and Paula's soup recipes. Cindy teaches me how to go from Southern so-so, to Southern elegant. Love all her blogs.

By Susan Reinhardt on February 02, 2012


I serve so many soups in the winter months and am so happy to have some advice. Thank you so much. Your articles always answer, for me, things that I need. Keep up the good work! Carolyn

By Carolyn Nowell on February 02, 2012


very informative. The settings used in the pictures are just beautiful!

By Linda Parton on February 01, 2012


Who knew it was proper to drink from a soup bowl with handles??!! I can't wait to use my proper etiquette to educate others at the next dinner party I attend. Enlightening and well-done!

By Lois on January 31, 2012


Wow!! Thanks for the great tips and info and sharing the beautiful china. I think I need to go shopping!!!!!

By sandra on January 31, 2012


Great Photography!! Awesome attention to detail!

By Pamela Bowen on January 30, 2012


I have learned so much, as always! Thank you, Holley J.

By Holley Jaakkola on January 30, 2012


Wow! Thank you so much for such great information. I have always wondered about all of the different types of soup bowls, but never knew when to use which one. As usual, your knowledge of proper etiquette is amazing! Yet again, another great article for my Etiquette notebook!!!

By Marci on January 30, 2012


I did not know there were so many types of bowls, but found your advice to be very helpful. Thanks again for great topics.

By Michelle on January 29, 2012

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