For the extremely online among us, it’s been nearly impossible to miss the rise of soup as the latest embodiment of our collective need for comfort. It arguably began in late 2021 with the “soup girl” phenomenon, which gave us viral TikTok audios like “gorgeous, gorgeous girls love soup” and “good soup.” More recently, the New York Times food culture reporter Kim Severson used her annual trend predictions to crown soup as 2024’s “dish of the year,” calling it “bone broth’s more interesting younger sibling and the perfect vehicle for cross-cultural mash-ups.” Soup even came out on top in the National Restaurant Association’s annual What’s Hot Culinary Forecast, which pegged soup as both a “social media sensation” and the “ultimate comfort food.”
But if you want to maximize your soup consumption this year, you really need a soup mug.
When I’m eating soup at home, it feels counterintuitive to sip it daintily from a low-lipped, ecru porcelain bowl, spoon raised to the lips the way Emily Post instructed. It likewise feels almost disrespectful to relegate it to the same day-in, day-out bowls that hold everything from raisin bran to triple-scoop butter pecan ice cream. This is soup, dangit — it’s practically medicinal in its healing properties, both physical and mental. You wouldn’t dollop caviar with a metal spoon or pour an IPA into a champagne flute, so why shouldn’t soup be granted the dignity of its own dedicated vessel?
With their chunky shape and suffer-no-fools visual heft, soup mugs are hearty vessels reminiscent of the mid-20th-century, an era when America’s comfort food was unabashedly unsexy and had cookware to match (think: aspic wishes and Corningware dreams). With a wide bottom for stability, a taper around the rim to hold in heat, a handle that allows for portability, and a volume that screams “full meal” and not a starter course, a soup mug takes soup seriously. Eating it from a regular bowl feels shallow and unsatisfying by comparison.
Thanks to the ingenuity of the soup mug’s handle — some versions of which even feature a small resting place for your thumb — you can go mobile with your mug for a chilly front-porch souping session. Need to reach the final bits of carrot and potato at the bottom? Simply tip the mug and slurp everything down — it’s been perfectly engineered for you to get every last scrap of warming goodness, no awkward spoon clanking required. A portable soup mug and thermos combo is ideal for outdoor adventures, primed for full-belly warmth by the campfire and toting along, spill-free, while birdwatching. (It beats a flimsy ham sandwich and bag of chips by a long shot.)
There’s also a soup mug style for every cozy personality. If you’re feeling 1970s retro, look no further than Ebay or Etsy for soup mugs with serious kitsch. (Some even have soup recipes printed on the side!) Childhood nostalgia can play a role in soup mug design, so if you’re aiming to reconnect with your elementary school years, opt for a vintage E.T. lunchbox and soup mug or compact half-thermos, half-soup-cup. One-of-a-kind stoneware soup mugs abound, and local hand-thrown potteries across the country specialize in these homey pieces of crockery: some of my favorites are made by Salvaterra Pottery in Weaverville, North Carolina.
So, go ahead: splash, slurp, and scoop up some more. Soup isn’t a meal meant for daintiness or taking a hard line about manners. It is all about comfort, and the humble, stocky soup mug is the emotional support vessel you need.
Sarah Baird is a Kentucky-based journalist and author whose work appears regularly in the New York Times, GQ, Saveur, the Believer and beyond. A 2019 Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, she writes frequently about cultural issues impacting rural America.