Vegan Welsh Cawl Soup is adapted from the traditional welsh lamb soup or Cawl Cymreig and it is a nice thick and chunky soup or stew that is ideal for wholesome, hearty, tasty, budget-friendly family meals. Ladle up this easy meal-in-a-bowl and garnish with pieces of cooked smoky vegan bacon and fresh parsley. Enjoy with chunks of crusty bread and a wedge of vegan cheese for a traditional Welsh experience, albeit a meat-free one! This veggie packed Welsh Cawl Soup can be easily prepared for gluten-free diets.
This vegetable packed Welsh Cawl Soup is perfect for vegans, vegetarians, plant-based diets, flexitarians, Meat-free Mondays, or for anyone looking for amazing meat-free, budget-friendly meals that are also traditional family favourites.
📜 History of Welsh Cawl soup
Welsh Cawl Soup is considered the National Dish of Wales and originates way back to Welsh Medieval Times. The Welsh word Cawl translates to mean soup or broth.
A large pot of Cawl soup would have bubbled away on the open fire for hours ready to feed the hungry family at the end of the long working days in the fields, hills or valleys.
The broth was usually a meat and vegetable one and the ingredients would have been whatever was available, so recipes do vary widely. The meat was generally lamb, but bacon or beef may have also been used.
The traditional vegetables used for Cawl soup tended to be of the root variety such as turnips or swedes, carrots, and parsnips. Potatoes would have been eventually added to the Cawl soup sometime during the 1700s-1800s as they did not arrive in Britain until the 16th Century. Also, as swedes originate in Sweden, hence its other name - The Swedish Turnip - the swede would not have been added to Welsh Cawl before the 1800s, as it was simply not available.
As was fashionable during the middle ages, the Cawl broth would have been strained from the cooked meat and veggies and served as separate dishes. The broth would be drunk on its own, with the meat and veggies served on a separate dish. This way of presenting soups was quite common even during the Victorian ages.
Nowadays, Welsh Cawl Soup is popularly served as a one-pot meal, with home-made crusty bread and a wedge of the Welsh speciality Caerphilly cheese on the side or crumbled over the soup.
🐉 The Welsh leek tradition
The leek has been associated with Wales for centuries, and it's considered one of the national symbols of the country. The origin of this tradition can be traced back to an old Welsh legend. According to the legend, during a battle between the Welsh and the Saxons in the 7th century, Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, advised the Welsh soldiers to wear leeks in their hats to distinguish themselves from their enemies. This supposedly helped the Welsh emerge victorious, and the leek became a symbol of Welsh pride and identity!
St. David's Day, the national day of Wales, is celebrated on March 1st, and it's the perfect occasion to celebrate the leek and enjoy a tasty bowl of home-cooked Cawl soup. On this day, it's a common tradition for people in Wales to wear a leek or a daffodil (another national emblem) as a symbol of their Welsh heritage. Traditional Welsh dishes, including leek and potato soup, Bakestone Cakes, Welsh Onion Cake, and Welsh Apple Cake are often prepared and enjoyed during these festivities.
🥒 Vegan Welsh Cawl soup
For this veggie Cawl soup recipe we use dried textured vegetable protein [TVP], also known as soya chunks, as they are an inexpensive protein source, nicely soak up the soup flavours, and add a good chewy texture to the finished soup. Soy curls are a good alternative.
Alternatively, feel free to sub the textured vegetable protein chunks for your preferred meat alternative either dried, fresh or frozen or simply omit. Instead you could use a can of drained beans such as butterbeans, cannellini beans, or haricot beans [navy beans], or some nice juicy mushrooms, thickly sliced.
Before beginning the soup, the chunks are soaked in hot vegetable stock as this helps soften the dried chunks up before cooking while allowing the chunks to soak up the flavours of the stock.
While the TVP is soaking, the Cawl soup begins by sautéing the veggies in a tablespoon of vegan margarine as this adds extra flavour as well as calories to the veggie soup which is actually quite low in calories and fat.
However, if you are following a no-fat or no-oil diet then replace the fat with a little veggie stock.
The vegetables required for this Welsh Cawl soup are carrot, swede [turnip in Scotland and rutabaga in the US], onion, leeks, and potatoes. Some recipes also include parsnips so if you have one lurking around your fridge needing used up then do throw that in to the soup pot as well. More veggies are always a good idea!
Once the veggies have sautéed a sprig of thyme and a bay leaf is added, along with a few tablespoons of soy sauce, a tablespoon of white wine vinegar, and the vegetable stock that was used for the TVP chunks, including the chunks, all go in the pot.
Now all that needs doing is for the Cawl soup to gently bubble away, the veggies to soften, and the soup to thicken up. Depending on the thickness of your veggies this can take anywhere between 30-45 minutes.
Cawl soup is designed to gently bubble away so feel free to leave the soup until required. Of course do check the liquid levels frequently as extended cooking will likely require a top-up of veggie stock.
After the soup has finished cooking, a few rashers of pre-cooked vegan bacon, sliced into chunks, is a delicious accompaniment scattered over the soup, and a sprinkle of fresh parsley finishes the soup of nicely.
If preferred a few chopped cooked vegan sausages or meatballs can replace the vegan bacon, or perhaps a few slices of ripped up vegan Quorn smoky ham deli slices or similar. Or even some chopped smoked tofu, which always works well in soup, as we like to add smoked tofu to our traditional Scottish Vegan Cullen Skink Soup and it just tastes amazing.
Finally, a big chunk of crusty bread along with a wedge of vegan cheese is an authentic accompaniment to a delicious Welsh soup. The traditional Welsh cheese that usually accompanies Cawl soup is Caerphilly cheese. We especially like Asda's Free From garlic and chive cheddar alternative cheese which is particularly tasty especially when little bits of the cheese are crumbled over the soup and melt within the heat.
As with all tasty vegan soups and stews the flavours just improve and develop the longer it sits in the refrigerator, so to save time and energy do prepare the soup a day in advance.
👪 Budget-friendly recipes
This recipe for Vegan Welsh Cawl Soup is such a wholesome budget-friendly frugal meal that is easily adaptable, and can be served with various different toppings and accompaniments, and it is a great addition to any family menu or menu rotation. Especially during our world-wide cost of living crisis and increasing food shortages.
Our family recipe blog is packed with our everyday family plant-based meals and we need to work within a budget and the limitations of living on a small Scottish island with no major supermarkets at hand. Oh how we wish we could just pop to Aldi or Lidl! In reality they are over 130 miles away!
So it is tough, especially now, but we try and aim to prepare and cook frugal but wholesome recipes. So we hope you keep coming back to our family blog and check out what money-saving traditional recipes we have posted lately!
A lot of the veggies we use for my recipes are reduced sticker finds so I do recommend looking regularly at the reduced sections of any supermarkets you have available, if this is possible. And freeze what you don't use for future recipes.
Although, saying that our reduced sticker section at our local supermarket [its a Co-op so is not actually classed as a supermarket rather its known as a convenience store!] is sadly getting smaller and smaller!
🔪 How to prepare
This soup is a nice and easy one, just how we like our soups. We like using dried textured vegetable protein chunks [TVP] as they are inexpensive, last ages, are packed with protein yet have no fat content, and when cooked correctly they have a pleasant chewy texture that nicely soaks up the soup flavours. Although do have a look at the recipe notes below for alternatives.
The ingredients you'll need - TVP chunks, margarine, butter, or oil, onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, leeks, swede, white wine vinegar, soy sauce, thyme, bay leaf and vegetable stock. We also like to add a vegan bacon garnish along with some chopped parsley.
Step 1: Soak the TVP chunks in hot vegetable stock while the vegetables are prepared.
Step 2: Melt the margarine in the soup pot or heat ½ cup [120 millilitres] of veggie stock instead.
Step 3: Add the swede, carrot, potato, and onion.
Step 4: Cook the vegetables for 5 minutes over a medium heat. Place a lid askew on the pot and stir the veggies often.
Step 5: Chuck in the leeks and chopped garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Step 6: Next, add the sprig of thyme or dried herbs, along with a bay leaf.
Step 7: Pour in the soaked TVP chunks along with the vegetable stock that was used to soak the TVP. Also add the soy sauce and white wine vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.
Step 8: Bring the soup to a gentle boil and over a low-medium heat cook for 30-45 minutes.
Step 9: Meanwhile cook the vegan bacon and prepare the fresh parsley.
Step 10: Once the soup has cooked, stir through the extra tablespoon of white wine vinegar and season to taste.
Step 11: Sprinkle the fresh parsley and sliced cooked vegan bacon pieces over each bowl as a tasty garnish.
🧾 Recipe Notes
Leftover soup can be cooled and placed into the refrigerator within a covered food-safe container. Store for up to 3 days. The flavours of leftover Cawl soup just gets better as the days go on so if possible do prepare the soup a day in advance. Or freeze for 2-3 months, thawing out completely within the refrigerator before reheating.
Pour the soup into a pot and gently reheat until piping hot. Once the soup has come to the boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Yes, with a few changes Welsh Cawl is a delicious gluten-free option. First ensure that your vegetable stock is certified gluten-ingredients, and replace the ordinary soy sauce with gluten-free Tamari. Also, ensure that any vinegar you use is also free from gluten ingredients.
Textured vegetable protein, the unflavoured kind, is usually gluten-free as its generally one ingredient - defatted soya flour - but do check any ingredient that is packaged for gluten ingredients just to be sure. Also, if using the meat-free bacon use a gluten-free one.
Anything that you would normally enjoy with soups or stews such as crusty bread like Irish Soda Bread or Australian Damper Bread, or Quick Dinner Rolls, crackers, Oatcakes, mashed potatoes, American biscuits, cornbread, or plain scones, are all delicious sides.
Vegan cheese is also particularly nice with this soup so a cheese and cracker platter would be tasty, as would a nice vegan cheese toasted sandwich or a sandwich such as our Vegan Tofu 'egg' and Cress Sandwich or our Old-Fashioned Walnut and Celery Sandwich. Although, we always welcome a simple round of cucumber sandwiches or tomato sandwiches for tasty, quick, and easy soup accompaniments.
Other ideas include meat-free sausage rolls, vegan burgers, vegan hot-dogs or Vegan Carrot-Dogs in a bun.
Yes, as with all soup recipes you can adapt the recipe to your own preferences and requirements, as all good cooks have done throughout the centuries!
Vegetables that can take the place of one or some of the soup vegetables include - parsnips, celeriac, butternut squash, sweet potato, celery, green bell pepper, fennel, cabbage, kale, collard greens, spring greens, spring onions, green beans, peas, courgette [zucchini], sweetcorn, broad beans, asparagus, broccoli, or cauliflower. This list is not exhaustive so use whatever veggies you like, are in season, or need to use up.
Of course, many of these vegetable options are not strictly traditional for a Welsh Cawl soup, but again, as with many cooks throughout the centuries -needs must!
Other substitutions include replacing the white wine vinegar with apple cider vinegar, and the ordinary soy sauce with Tamari soy sauce, liquid aminos, or coconut liquid aminos.
Coconut liquid aminos is used as a condiment and seasoning similar to soy sauce but is made from the sap of coconut blossoms instead of soybeans. Whereas liquid aminos, with one of the main brands - Bragg Liquid Aminos,- is a liquid seasoning that serves as a soy sauce alternative and is mainly composed of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, derived from soybeans.
The vegan bacon can be simply omitted but if you would like an alternative try one of the following:
* smoked tofu or tempeh sliced into pieces, this can usually be used straight from the package but it can also be heated up
* tempeh bacon can also be purchased in some wholefood stores
* our smoky flavoured Carrot Hot-Dogs sliced into small pieces
* carrot bacon, is prepared with thinly sliced carrots that are seasoned with smoky and BBQ sauce like flavours, and baked or fried until they become crisp
* coconut bacon, which is made by marinating coconut flakes with a smoky, savoury sauce and then baking or dehydrating them until crispy. It can provides a crispy bacon-like texture and flavour
* seitan bacon
* Rice paper bacon, rice paper sheets can be brushed with a smoky sauce, baked until crispy, and then crumbled over soup
* mushroom bacon bits or crumbles, these can be prepared by finely chopping and sautéing mushrooms seasoned with smoky spices such as smoked paprika or BBQ sauce
* likewise, shiitake bacon can be prepared by slicing shiitake mushrooms and seasoning with soy sauce, liquid smoke, paprika or BBQ sauce, maybe a touch of olive oil, then roasting or pan frying until crispy
Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), also known as Textured Soy Protein, Soy Meat, or TSP, is a versatile plant-based protein made from defatted soy flour. It's a common ingredient in vegetarian, plant-based, and vegan cooking due to its ability to mimic the texture of meat when rehydrated. TVP usually comes as a small chunk or crumbled mince shape.
Also, lots of processed meat products such as pies, as well as noodle pots that are meat flavoured but actually suitable for vegetarians or vegans, also tend to replace some, or all, of the meat with TVP as it is a convincing meat alternative especially when its cooked within strong flavours as it absorbs any cooking flavours like little sponges!
TVP is also a sustainable plant-based ingredient compared to meat and it is less expensive, which are other reasons why food manufactures like to add TVP to their products. So even if you have never cooked with TVP before, its quite likely you have already eaten it as a by product!
Yes, the TVP can be replaced with a variety of options, such as:
* Replace the textured vegetable protein chunks [TVP] with any vegan meat-free alternative you wish either dried, fresh or frozen, or soy curls, canned beans, mushrooms, or omit this ingredient.
* Soy curls can replace the TVP, and as soy curls are usually dried these can be rehydrated the same method as the TVP.
* Vegan sausages, burgers or meatballs can be sliced into smaller pieces and used instead of the TVP. It may be best to pre-cook the meat-free sausages, etc., before adding to the soup near the end of cooking just to heat through, as this can help preserve the texture and flavour.
* Replace the TVP with a 400gram [14oz] can of drained beans such as butterbeans, cannellini, or haricot beans [navy beans].
* Large mushrooms sliced into thick pieces, or smaller whole mushrooms can replace the TVP.
* Seitan is also a good alternative to TVP.
* Pieces of tofu or tempeh, either plain or smoked can also replace the TVP.
🥬 More recipes with textured vegetable protein
We love adding TVP into our meals because its chunks are composed of just one ingredient: defatted soy flour. They can be purchased in large bags, which are quite inexpensive, considering it's a dried product that rehydrates to much more than its dried weight, making one bag suitable for many meals.
A few of our favourite recipes that feature TVP chunks include this Vegan Hungarian Goulash, and our family favourite Vegan 'meat' and Potato Pie, and for a delicious curry our Vegan Thai Red 'beef' Curry which is so easy prepared in a slow cooker, and for the ultimate in meat-free comfort food is this Slow Cooker Vegan 'beef' Stew and Dumplings. For more easy vegan dinner recipes do check out our growing collection of Vegan Dinner Ideas.
🍲 More vegan traditional soup recipes
There's absolutely nothing better than tucking into a hot bowl of home-cooked traditional soup that's been sustaining folks for centuries. Even though recipes change over time the essence remains the same so we can connect to our ancestors or appreciate different cultures with each bite or slurp!
Even with vegan and plant-based adaptations the history, tradition, and culture is still an integral part of the dish, all that is missing is the meat, but with the right extra tasty veggie recipes you certainly won't be missing the meat for long!
***please note: for US measurements click the 'US customary button' within the recipe and the measurements will switch to tablespoons, cups, and ounces.***
Vegan Welsh Cawl Soup
- Heat-proof large mixing bowl
- Large soup pan, Dutch oven, or similar with a lid
- 60 grams textured protein chunks [TVP] [dried soya chunks, or similar such as soya curls or dried pea protein/fava protein chunks, or use about 150-200 grams fresh or frozen meat-free pieces [about 2 cups]
- 1.5 litres vegetable stock [boiling hot, choose a vegan 'chicken' flavour or 'beef' stock if available, such as OXO meat free beef or chicken flavour cubes]
- 1 tablespoon vegan margarine [or vegan butter or oil, or for oil-free diets replace with ½ cup of veggie stock, adding more as required]
- 1 large onion [170 grams, sliced]
- 4 cloves garlic [fine chopped]
- 2 large carrots [thick sliced at an angle]
- 2 large leeks [thick sliced, about 360 grams, weight is after trimming]
- ½ medium swede [sliced into thick chunks, about 270 grams, known as turnip in Scotland and rutabaga in the US]
- 3 medium potatoes [about 450 grams, sliced into thick chunks]
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig fresh thyme [or 2 teaspoons of dried thyme or dried mixed herbs]
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce [use Tamari soy sauce if gluten-free required]
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar [or apple cider vinegar]
Add at end of cooking:
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar [or apple cider vinegar]
- 4 slices vegan bacon [cooked according to package, sliced]
- 3 tablespoons parsley [chopped]
To serve, optional:
- chunks of crusty bread, wedges of vegan cheese
Pre-soak the textured vegetable protein [TVP]:
- Add the hot vegetable stock to a heatproof large bowl and add the dried TVP chunks, stir the chunks through the stock and leave to soak while the vegetables are prepped.60 grams textured protein chunks [TVP], 1.5 litres vegetable stock
Prepare the soup:
- Melt a heaped tablespoon of vegan margarine or butter in a soup pan.1 tablespoon vegan margarine
- Add the onion, carrot, swede, and potato, to the pan and place a lid over the pot but don't completely cover the pot, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.1 large onion, 2 large carrots, ½ medium swede, 3 medium potatoes
- Next, add the leeks and garlic, stir well and cook for a further 5 minutes.2 large leeks
- Pop in the bay leaf and sprig of thyme or mixed dried herbs. Pour in the soy sauce, white wine vinegar and the vegetable stock that has the TVP chunks soaking, also adding in the TVP chunks.Season with a few pinches of salt and black pepper.1 bay leaf, 1 sprig fresh thyme, 2 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- Bring the soup to the boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 35-45 minutes.
Prepare the vegan bacon and any optional sides:
- While the soup is cooking, cook the vegan bacon according to the package instructions and once cooked slice it up and set aside until required. If having bread and vegan cheese also prepare this now, as well as the fresh parsley if using.
Season the soup:
- Once the soup is ready season with one tablespoon of white wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- Serve the soup ladled into bowls and topped with fresh parsley and chopped vegan bacon. A few bits of vegan cheese crumbled over the soup is tasty, or go with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast flakes.A few chunks of crusty bread to dunk in and soak up the veggie soup juices is always aa tasty addition.4 slices vegan bacon, 3 tablespoons parsley
- Nutritional information is for guidance only and is not a strict calculation as ingredients vary.
- Nutritional information does not include the 4 slices of frozen vegan bacon as this ingredient is optional and will vary.
- As this is a low calorie meal serving with chunks of crusty bread and vegan cheese helps bulk out the meal and calories.
- Store leftover Cawl soup in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Or freeze for 2-3 months.
- Reheat by gently bringing to the boil within a pan and simmer for 2-3 minutes until piping hot.
- Replace the TVP chunks with soya curls, sliced thick mushrooms or small whole mushrooms, tempeh, seitan, can of drained beans [400g/14oz], or any dried, fresh or frozen meat-free alternative.
- For gluten-free Cawl use a gluten-free stock as well as a gluten-free soy sauce such as Tamari soy sauce, and a gluten-free vegan bacon.
- For more useful substitution ideas do check out our recipe notes and FAQ section above the recipe.
Prepared our tasty Vegan Welsh Cawl Soup? Do let us know how you got on with the recipe by dropping a comment below and clicking the star ratings. We love hearing from you. Thanks so much, Jacq x