It’s not perfect but it certainly isn’t far off
- Easy to use interface
- Impressively smooth soup
- Attractive design
- Chunky soup setting doesn't work as well as it should
Ninja’s latest product is not your regular kitchen gizmo. From the outside it looks like any normal blender or smoothie maker – just the thing for producing those ultra-healthy seaweed and carrot smoothies – but this machine has a hidden talent. Hidden in the base is a heating mechanism that can sauté and gently cook ingredients so you can produce silky smooth, piping hot soups, sauces and drinks in one device.
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Ninja Blender and Soup Maker review: What you need to know
The extra elements mean the Ninja isn’t the sleekest of machines and it’s hefty, too, at 5.6kg including the glass jug, but it’s slim enough at 215 x 20 x 45mm (WDH) that it doesn’t take up much more room on your kitchen counter than a standard blender or juice maker.
Despite its multi-functional bent, however, this isn’t a device that comes with loads of accessories. In the box, all you get is the glass jug and lid (this holds 1.7l of cold liquid and 1.4l of hot liquid), the base with its heating element, a plastic tamper and a cleaning brush.
Ninja Blender and Soup Maker review: Price and competition
Costing £149, the Ninja is not the cheapest soup maker you can buy but you do get what you pay for. At the cheaper end of the spectrum, you have the Salter 1.6l Go Healthy soup maker which you can pick up for between £40 and 50. This is a great option if the Ninja is way out of your budget but be aware that it’s nowhere near as good at producing soup as the Ninja.
The small blade struggles to chop veggies and there’s no pre-cook function to soften them, meaning you’ll have to do a lot more prep beforehand, which – let’s be honest – defeats the point of having an all-in-one soup maker in the first place.
For a similar price to the Ninja, you could instead opt for the Scott Simplissimo Chef, which will set you back £159. This looks great and has an interesting interface that comines a turn dial with touchscreen features. However, when testing the two machines alongside each other, I found the quality of the soup to be noticeably better in the Ninja. The Ninja is also the easier machine to use.
Ninja Blender and Soup Maker review: Features and design
The Ninja has ten automatic cooking functions and these are all arrayed across the main control panel in the form of one-touch buttons. These functions automatically set the time and regulate the temperature for a variety of meals and drinks.
There are two settings for soup: one for chunky soup that runs for 30 minutes and one for smooth soup that runs for 20 minutes. Other buttons let you create jams, sauces, milkshakes, desserts, smoothies and frozen drinks, though you’ll need to add ice to do this. There are also two automatic cooking functions one for sautéing and one for chopping.
As well as the automatic functions, it’s also possible to manually control the machine with a pulse button for rapid chopping, and low/medium/high settings for the blend and cook functions. This is useful if you want to cook things like squash and potatoes, which take a little longer.
Alongside its multitude of features, the Ninja blender and soup maker looks the part, too. It’s stylishly designed and the touch-sensitive control panel is lovely to use. It’s an appliance you’d actually want to keep out on your countertop, which is lucky because it’s on the heavy side.
Ninja Blender and Soup Maker review: Performance
The Ninja soup maker’s chop function makes easy work of vegetables, including the tough ones like carrots and squash. During testing, I chopped carrots into three pieces before putting them into the blender but in all honesty, I probably didn’t need to. The automatic chop function blitzed them into an ultra fine dice in a matter of seconds, a level of precision you wouldn’t be able to achieve by hand with all the time in the world.
This microscopically fine chop isn’t just to show off though. It also helps along the soup maker’s sauté function to work efficiently, gently sweating vegetables, herbs and spices before the full cook. I was hoping it might brown the ingredients, too, but couldn’t see any sign of this during testing. That being said, it is a useful feature for sweating down things like onions and garlic, and being able to do this without having to dirty an additional pan is an obvious benefit.
One issue I did notice is that, with fewer ingredients in the jug, I had to take off the lid and scrape down the sides after processing. This becomes less of a problem when there’s more in the jug, though, so unless you’re only planning on making single portions of soup it’s not so much of a problem.
Both the chunky and smooth settings switch between cooking on low, medium and high throughout the cycle, although the hot setting never comes to a full boil. The smooth soup function periodically blitzes ingredients throughout its cycle, with a longer blend at the end for a super smooth finish, while the chunky soup functions just gives the ingredients a quick whiz every now and then.
I was particularly impressed at how smooth my tomato and carrot soup was after just 25 minutes. The ingredients were cooked through and there were absolutely no chunky bits left over.
I didn’t have quite as much luck with my chunky soup. The pre-set time of 30 minutes wasn’t quite enough to cook the chopped potato to my liking and I needed to give it an extra 15 to 20 minutes to fully soften. The end result, though, was again impressive: a flavoursome soup with lovely chunks running through it. It’s just a shame it doesn’t get hot enough to cook the veggies more quickly.
Once you’ve finished making your soup, or whatever else, you’ll need to clean the jug and a great way to do this is to use the blender’s automatic cleaning function, which is pretty easy to do. Just fill the jug with water and a squirt of washing up liquid, then press the Clean button and in seven minutes, you’re done. You’ll still need to use the scrubbing brush provided to get into any nooks and crannies but the brush is designed in such a way that it’s pretty easy to do.
Ninja Blender and Soup Maker review: Verdict
Despite struggling to lift it, I really like this soup maker. It has a simple interface which you can use without even reading the instructions and pretty much everything is done in the pot, so all you really need is a knife, a chopping board, a spoon and bowl. It made an impressively smooth tomato and carrot soup in 25 minutes and it made a great chunky soup too, although this did take longer than the 30 minutes advertised.
There’s no denying it’s expensive and unless you’re a serious soup (and smoothie) enthusiast it might be a little unnecessary. That being said, it does also make jams, frozen drinks, sauces and has a very powerful blending function. So, if you’re also lacking a decent blender too, it’s well worth a look.