An Immunity Soup to Light up Your Insides

A soup built on a monster white pepper broth. White pepper with jolts of ginger, and stabs of garlic - clear and strong topped with tofu, mushrooms, watermelon radish, and lots of green onions.

An Immunity Soup to Light up Your Insides

This soup is built on a monster white pepper broth. White pepper with jolts of ginger, and stabs of garlic. I like it just shy of scalding, racing down my throat, sweeping through my sinuses in one boisterous, fragrant swoop. This is a soup I make often, particularly when I need a boost. And, while I float other ingredients in the broth, mostly to make a meal of things, that part of the equation is usually an after thought. For me, this soup is all about the clear strong broth, the invigorating way it makes me feel, and the way it lights up my insides. This is a soup for the coldest days, the runniest noses, and the shortest days of winter. You should make it too.
An Immunity Soup to Light up Your Insides

An Immunity Soup to Light up Your InsidesImmunity SoupAn Immunity Soup to Light up Your Insides

A couple words of wisdom here. Serve hot. As hot as you can stand without betraying your tongue. It's an experience that's just not the same when the soup is served lukewarm. On occasion, I'll whisk in a bit of brown or red miso for a fuller-bodied, creamier broth experience - also the beneficial miso nutrients. But, try it straight and clear first. -h

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Immunity Soup

4.79 from 19 votes

Treat the broth seasonally - if it's summer, toss some corn in. Late spring? Go for sliced asparagus. Also, for a more substantial meal, serve over brown rice or soba noodles. All tasty. Also, a mandolin makes quick work of all the slicing here, but watch those fingers! I like enoki or nameko mushrooms, black trumpets are good, and regular brown mushrooms do the job as well.

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger, peeled
  • 3/4 teaspoon finely ground white pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, trimmed
  • 8 ounces firm tofu, sliced into thin slabs
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
  • to serve: lots of chopped green onions, sliced watermelon radish, and/or pea shoots
  1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat, and stir in the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and ginger. Gently sauté just until soft, you don't want any browning. Add a small splash of water if the pan drys out in the process. 

  2. Stir in the white pepper and 10 cups of water. Dial up the heat to bring the broth to a simmer, and hold there for about 15 minutes. Add the mushrooms, tofu, and salt, and gently simmer for another 5 minutes. Stir well, taste, and adjust with more salt or water if needed. Ladle the soup into shallow soup bowls and top with lots of green onions, pea shoots, and a few watermelon radish slices. Add a finishing drizzle of olive oil, and enjoy!


Serves 4-6.

Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
25 mins
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Recipe Rating


The first time I made this was on or before 1/20/2014. (I found an email raving about it that day.) The most recent time was an hour ago, on 4/23/24. Heidi, thank you for crafting the recipe that has nourished me and loved ones through countless sick days across the past decade. This is a timeless gem!5 stars


    Aww! Thanks for the note Casey – I love that this soup has been a part of your cooking for a decade. To feisty soups!

    Heidi Swanson

Where do you get the watermelon radish’s? For the immunity soup.4 stars

Bobbie Maronpot DMD

    You can often find them at farmers markets, or at some grocery stores. Whole Foods here often has them. Or, if you have a garden – plant some. 🙂

    Heidi Swanson

I loved this! Interestingly enough came across it in the coronavirus craziness, trying to boost my weak immune system. This was great! I added some lemon juice, and some turmeric (the root, just chopped up a couple pieces to add to the soup while it boiled). Also added scallions into the actual soup base itself, and added some Thai chiles (I added too many and it was very spicy, I recommend a different pepper or much less ). I couldn’t find watermelon radishes so regular had to do, and I couldn’t find pea sprouts so micro greens had to do.

Not very filling but good!


Looking forward to trying these!

Lynne Lashlee

Thanks for this lovely recipe! I think I am gonna recommend this to a friend who has been a little under the weather. This might do the trick.
What do you think about adding some noodles and chicken to it?

Happy New Year to you and your family 😀5 stars

Corrie Duffy

As a vegan I love this recipe. I will need to try to without the tofu though. I should still taste wonderful.

Aqiyl Aniys

Made this for lunch on a snowy Wisconsin day. Used black pepper and ground ginger, omitted tofu, and added done egg noodles. Delicious!


Thank you for to delightful recipie. I’ve just returned home to HK, from a trip to chilly and windy Europe, feeling a cold brewing from the cold weather and 12 hours on flight with coughing passengers, ad this did the trick in allowing me to feel human again. I added rice noodles, kale and some poached chicken. Absolutely delightful.


This recipe is perfectly delicious just the way it is Heidi(served over brown rice) . While I reheated leftovers, I spurted cumin, curry leaves in sunflower oil and added to it and the taste was different, albeit very yummy.


Going to be making this tasty looking soup tonight. As someone who limits his soy intake, especially non-fermented, best to just leave out the tofu or is their a suggested substitute?

HS: Hi Drew – you can certainly leave it out and swap in something that better fits your preferences!


looks amazing. love anything ginger this time of year. can’t wait to try. beautiful images.


I really like how you create a spicy broth, but then minimally cook the rest of the veggies.

Adena Harford

I wish I would have read this article before my entire family came down with a nasty cold. The ginger and pepper would have been perfect. The watermelon radish really makes quite the visual effect in the dish and photos.Thanks again!


I made this soup for dinner tonight and I also used black pepper. Except for that substitution I made it as written and it was delightful. Certainly will keep this recipe close at hand. Thanks for sharing.


The local tofu looks incredible. Do you know if they ship their tofu?

HS: Hi Kellie – My guess is no :/


This soup was fantastic. I made it with freshly cracked black pepper. Didn’t have white on hand. It was wonderful. I’ll be making it again. Thanks !

HS: Thanks for reporting back Kelly – I was curious about the black pepper swap – happy to hear it was a success. I think more people keep black pepper on hand, so it’s nice they might be able to pull this together without a special run to the store for white pepper.

Kelly Turnbull

This looks like a really great recipe considering the weather outside! I will definitely give it a try this weekend as the temperature goes down as I write. At the beginning after looking at the pics I thought there is a blue cheese in there! To find out after reading the post it is tofu:) Do you reckon it would be crazy wild to use the blue cheese instead? Have you ever tried it?

Ewelina Bubanja

I used this as the inspiration for a chicken soup I threw into the slow cooker this morning – ginger, garlic, onion, celery, radish, a couple of chicken carcasses from the farmer’s market and someone’s suggestion of astragalus root – can’t wait to get home and eat it! Going to throw in some kale and radish slices later, super excited!


I love this soup! I sounds like a drink of summer. I have copied your recipe and made 2 notes to use 1 teaspoon of turmeric and to use Maitake Mushrooms.
Maitake Mushrooms are high in nutrients including Vitamins B-2, C, D, niacin, magnesium, potassium, fiber, and amino acids, naturally stimulates the immune system and lowers blood pressure, plus other benefits.
Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antibacterial properties and a natural a in killer.

Kelly R

LOVE the soup! I’ve been giving it to sick friends.


What a beautiful soup. This looks like just the thing to quell the nasty cold that’s been going around; that broth sounds wonderfully intense. Thank you for sharing!


So I made this last night…substituting meat removed from roasted organic chicken wings in place of tofu + added parsley as a topping in place of pea shoots…and it was fantastic. From the first tickle of the nose and throat to the last invigorating bite, we all {kids included} loved it! Thanks again!!


This soup is marvelous. I’m having a mug of it (leftover from last night) right now, and am certain it has and is curing all that ails every member of my family (from sniffles to homework aversion to sibling squabbling). Thank you!

HS: 🙂


Ooo looks yummy, I have full of cold at the moment and the fresh garlic smell and aroma I can imagine that the soup gives off would make me feel lots better. Defo have to try this recipe even if it’s just for the smell lol. Thanks a bunch!


Hi, I’m wondering where the “broth” part of this comes from as I don’t see any liquid? thanks so much

HS: It’s in there Laurie – just a bit hard to see (clear)…


My son came home with a bit of a cold yesterday. I made this today in hopes of staying well. I used what I had on hand and adding a few ingredients to finish out my CSA box. I omitted celery, but stirred in a little celery salt and turmeric with the white pepper. I also added chopped red pepper to the onion mixture. I subbed chickpeas for tofu, and cauliflower for mushrooms. Added a little chopped kale and thinly sliced yellow squash. Daikon radish instead of watermelon, with the green onion and pea shoots. Delicious and invigorating!


Perfect time to post this soup recipe – I feel that everyone is getting sick around me, and I’m terrified of catching something!

Shikha @ Shikha la mode

So I just made this. It is really good! Thanks.


Might this freeze well (aside from the toppings)? This sounds like a truly perfect antidote for anything that ails you, but usually when I’m under the weather, the last thing I want to do is stand in the kitchen and slice a bunch of veggies.

HS: Hi Casey – I might make a big batch of the broth, and freeze that. And then chop whatever else I’d like in the soup while the broth is coming up to a simmer after thawing? Something like that.


Lovely soup recipe for a cold rainy weather. Will definitely give this a try the next time I’m up for some soup! Thanks.

Andy | Food Smok'r

Heidi, I’m allergic to mushrooms. What would you suggest to give the broth the depth that the mushrooms do?

HS: Hi Melissa – you could just take it in an entirely different direction altogether – skip the mushrooms, asparagus season is coming up, or shelled fava beans, thin slices of winter squash is nice…..


Your photographs are alway so beautiful and food so appetizing. Everything about this calls my name.
Is that tofu from hodo soy? (spelling?) I remember always seeing a black flecked tofu from them when I was living in the bay but I never picked it up.


Oh, I’ve been searching for something just like this in recent days! I got cold and needed something to boost my immunity that wouldn’t be ginger broth or garlic soup, or any of the usual recipes. And the pictures and the talk are awesome as usual, thank you very much for the post!

Julie Kinnear

That local tofu looks so interesting in this soup!! I wish I had something like that near me. Oh, how I love San Francisco. Thank you for the soup goodness, Heidi. It’s so cold here in the DC area. I know this will warm me right up. xo

Lisa Cohen

I may be totally insane, but I am contemplating making this. I am in Australia and its around 43c/104F at the moment,……


Six years I’m following you not just for what you make, but how you describe it.


Made this last night for dinner. Warmed us up heads to toes. Perfect for a cold Maine winter night. Thank you Heidi for this beautiful recipe!


This soup looks beautiful and sounds like just what I want right now. I love the idea of mixing raw radishes with cooked vegetables… the must give the soup a nice zip!

Kate in New York

Made this last night for dinner. Warmed us up heads to toes. Perfect for a cold Maine winter night. Thank you Heidi for this beautiful recipe!


Perfect recipe for me right now, I have a cold that wont let go..

Madelein - mother to three boys and three girls

Its funny, it looks refreshing and cool in the photo–put me at ease just looking at the bowl of goodness.


What a wonderful looking soup, perfect for the alkaline diet my husband is on.


Wonderful idea, this immunity soup. What’s more, one form or another of it is always in season! Thanks for sharing this one.

Dan from Platter Talk

I can almost feel this soup doing me good. Love all that garlic.


Having just feasted with my eyes on this gorgeous bowl of soup, Heidi, I already feel healthier. Thank you.


I love the name you’ve given this soup! I’d like to use it in a reality TV segment involving cook-offs…

phi @PrincessTofu

Sounds delicious, my whole family could use some immunity with this flu going around our house. Thanks for sharing!


Where was this recipe when I needed it?! I’m still going to try it, although my flu has passed and even though I think white pepper smells like horse manure. Am I alone in this? Thx


Your photographs are breathtaking! The soup looks wonderful too. Since my family are purging the holiday excess right now, I think this broth would be a bright and bracing change. Thank you!


This soup looks stunning and just what the Dr order.. or rather what the Dr won’t need to! Thank you.


Despite the lack of cold weather here in the SF Bay area I still find myself drawn to restorative broth soups…a fresh, light start to the New Year perhaps. I recently enjoyed a spicy ginger one and two nights ago we had a lovely chicken bouillon flavored with star anise, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seeds and of course peppercorns. This one will be on our dinner table next week. And those beautiful watermelon radishes…they add such a rosy glow to winter plates!

Kristin | The Dinner Concierge

I adore the flavour of white pepper and really need to use it more often than I do! Love the sound of this and I too am intrigued by your tofu!?

Emma Galloway

I am also curious about this marvelous looking tofu


This will be dinner tomorrow night!!

David Crossfield

Hey! I seldom share on facebook, but this is such a wonderful recipe – has to be passed on 🙂 Thank you!


@gluttonforlife– I totally know what you mean! I always tell my husband that it smells like sheep (really lanolin-y). It’s a weird experience eating it. I tend to stick to black pepper. Heidi, have you tried it with black?

HS: I haven’t – I kind of thing white pepper is key though. If you give it a go with black (perhaps lots of whole peppercorns?) – report back!


Would a good Vietnamese Pho soup–without the meat and with more veggies–be a similar type of soup? Is there a good recipe for Pho handy? This soup sounds gorgeous.

Jan Fanning

This recipe just came through my email and it was exactly what I didn’t know I had been wanting for lunch today! I can’t wait to try some seasonal versions of this soup. Thank you!

liz b.

I always love your photos! So simple and beautiful – I wish my kitchen was so pretty when making food! Great recipe, I’m going to make that this weekend.


this looks delicious. i make something very similar this time of year but add a length of dried astragalus root, a few shiitake mushrooms and a pinch of turmeric powder to the simmering broth to promote lymph drainage and enhance immune function. the astragalus doesn’t impact the flavor and can be discarded before eating. it packs quite an immune boosting punch.


Could a Beauty Radish work with this recipe?

Gail Carlson

Mmm this sounds so good!! Such a fun flavour!

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

Just made a pot of this after a day of blowing my nose. Didn’t have all veg ingreds and used miso and soba with avocado on top. Delish!


I posed a soup 3 days ago called Immune Boosting Soup with similar ingredients! Mushrooms, green onion, ginger, carrots but I added some lemon, bok choy and turmeric so it’s really golden! I love that sliced watermelon radish on yours. SO pretty! I would love a big mug of this!

Averie @ Averie Cooks

Hi all – a number of you are asking about the tofu. A local company makes a pepper-flecked tofu I like – the one that looks like blue cheese in the photo :)….It’s what I had on hand, so I used it in the soup, but any good quality tofu will work well here. xo -h


I am curious about the watermelon radishes. Can you please give me some more information? I have never seen them in any grocery stores.

HS: There’s a chance you’re overlooking them Kelsey – as they look like an ordinary white radish until you slice into them. Check your local farmers market as well – watermelon radish.

Kelsey Smith

What a beautiful soup! I love all of the colours. It looks so pretty. I would never have thought of using that much pepper, does it have a strong kick?

Jennifer @ Delicious Everyday


Denise | Chez Danisse

Perhaps the tofu is the sprouted tofu I have seen available in stores.


Looks great! Curious about your tofu. It looks a little like blue cheese…Tell me more (please).


What kind of tofu is that in photo, with the speckles and streaky spots? I’m guessing it’s the tofu, or???


This is simply a clean and pure way to experience such lovely vegetables. I can see way your soup would boost your immunity; all that ginger, clove and garlic have to keep the nasty illness away.
I love these style of chunky broths; they make you feel clean and I have one at least everyday. Perfect for the people with health resolutions.


What kind of tofu are you using in the photos? It looks almost like slabs of blue cheese to me.


Lovely recipe! What kind of tofu is pictured here, specifically? Thanks!


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