A healthy French soup of fresh watercress, not only packed with vitamins but has a particularly gorgeous spicy flavour – even a bit cheesy without the cheese!

watercress beds for soup

Come join me on a wee jaunt up watercress road in the Pays-de-Caux in Upper Normandy to see the watercress beds, or Cressonnières in Veules-les-Roses.

Veules – Smallest River in France

Veules-les-Roses, one of the prettiest towns in France, has two main attractions: it’s home to the smallest river in France, the Veules. It’s the shortest sea-bound river at 1.194 km (about 3/4 of a mile), along which there are three restored 18th Century watermills.

The second principal attraction is the watercress beds, or cressonnières.

How is Watercress Harvested?

At the source of les Veules river, lies the watercress beds, or Cressonnières.

The clear running water’s current of Veules-les-Roses has favoured the cultivation of watercress since the 14th Century. Harvesting watercress is done here by hand with a knife and ties between September and May.

The bunches of watercress that are formed during harvesting are called chignons, when the roots of the stalks come outside the bunch.

Luckily these days, harvesting is done wearing rubber boots, rather than sodden feet steeped in 10cm of cold (about 10°C) water wearing clogs with heavy metal leggings!

The watercress of Veules is known for its fine leaves and particularly spicy taste. It isn’t bitter once cooked and if served as raw leaves in a salad, it’s deliciously peppery.

Watercress Soup – It’s Good for You

A comforting bowl of Soupe au Cresson is extremely healthy, as it contains iron, calcium and vitamins A and C – and is a great antioxidant. So, when stacks of neatly tied bouquets of watercress are stacked high at the local market, it’s time to make French Watercress Soup. For more on the benefits, see the watercress market page.

What’s more, the soup freezes well.  Leave the soup to cool and chill in the fridge in large jam jars or sealed bags then transfer to the freezer. Use within 3 months.

If serving as an elegant starter dish, swirl in a dash of cream and why not surprise your guests with a mini savoury MadMac herb macaron? The recipe is on page 97 of Mad About Macarons.

watercress soup or French soupe de cresson

French Watercress Soup (Soupe au Cresson)

watercress soup with macarons

French Watercress Soup (Soupe au Cresson)

Author: Jill Colonna
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course : Soup, Snack
Cuisine : French, British
Servings : 4 people
Calories : 64kcal


A deliciously French soup using fresh watercress, which is not only packed with vitamins but has a particularly gorgeous spicy flavour - even a bit cheesy!


  • 2 bunches of watercress (400g) smaller stalks included (big ones discarded)
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley leaves chopped
  • 25 g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes roughly chopped
  • 800 ml (1.5 pints) vegetable stock (or chicken)
  • good pinch Salt & pepper pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2-3 tbsp cream optional


  • Wash the watercress, drain and set aside.
  • Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan and sweat the onion until cooked but not browned. Add the watercress with the smaller stalks, roughly chopped potatoes and parlsey then cover with the water and stock. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook gently for 30 minutes.
  • Blitz the soup with a hand blender or in a food processor until smooth. If you prefer your soup less thick, then you could sieve at this point, although I personally love it with the fibre addition of the stalks.


Freezes well for up to 3 months.  Otherwise can keep in the fridge covered for up to 3 days.
If serving as an elegant starter dish, swirl in a dash of cream and why not surprise your guests with a mini Mad Mac herb macaron? The recipe is on page 97 of Mad About Macarons.
NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION: 64 Calories per serving; 3g Protein; 4g Lipids; 4g glucids.

From the market

From the kitchen

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Comments (17)

I’ve seen these gorgeous bunches of cresson at special marches and been soooo tempted.
NOW I know where to go and what to do
Big Merci!!

Highly recommended as another wee jaunt out of Paris – not that you’re stuck for great ideas, Carol!

Hi Jill! Sorry to hear about your back problems! Africa is a fabulous place!

Wanted to mention the email you sent me was full of blanks, weird designs, and stripes.

Thank you!

Linda, I hear you – love Africa too but I’ll go back one day (pardon the pun!)
Thanks for letting me know about the strange email – it’s perhaps a problem with Feedburner? Not good with techie issues like this but if anyone else had a problem with the email alert, please do let me know. Cheers!

I’ve never seen watercress harvested before. I do enjoy it on sandwiches but soup not so much. Maybe because I’ve never tried yours. I’ll do that and let you know. 🙂

Isn’t that funny, Maureen? Me too – my first reaction was I’m familiar with cress in sandwiches (favourite filling on Scottish summer picnics) but this is so different as watercress. The peppery taste is a bit like roquette but it’s not. The soup is delicious – hope you try it!