I Made Dolly Parton’s ‘Stone Soup,’ and Now I See Why Her Mama Loved the Recipe

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Dolly Parton's stone soup is flavorful comfort food that comes with the sweetest story about her mama.

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Long before she became a Grammy-winning country singer, theme park owner, author and philanthropist, Dolly Parton was a country girl growing up in rural Tennessee. She talks fondly about the love and support from her mother Avie Lee Parton, who taught her children to appreciate good, home-cooked Southern food.

This recipe for stone soup is the perfect example. It’s a simple vegetable soup that’s flavorful and filling, but Avie Lee made it extra special for her children.

What Is Stone Soup?

There are many children’s books about stone soup, including the classic Stone Soup by Ann McGovern. This story is based on a folktale that goes back centuries. It tells of a hungry traveler who convinces villagers that he can create a delicious soup with only boiling water and a stone. Little by little, the curious villagers offer to contribute—a turnip here, a potato there—until finally there’s a big pot of hearty soup for everyone to share. And in the end, the villagers believe a magic stone created the wonderful soup.

How to Make Stone Soup

The recipe makes a big pot of thick soup that will feed at least 8 people. It’s a great way to use up the odds and ends of leftover vegetables from your refrigerator.

Don’t forget to choose a special stone for the soup! Dolly Parton told The Hallmark Channel that her mother would send each kid out to the farmyard to choose a stone and scrub it clean. Their mother would then pick one stone, always the one belonging to the child who needed extra love that day, and add it to the soup pot with whatever scraps of vegetables and meat were available. The children believed that it was their stone that made the soup so good.

Ingredients

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  • 2 quarts low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and diced
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 1 small head cabbage, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound turnips, peeled and diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 1 very clean stone
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Step 1: Put ingredients in a pot

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Pour the chicken broth into a large stockpot. Add in the diced potatoes, diced tomatoes and their liquid, chopped cabbage, diced turnips, diced carrot, diced onions, minced garlic and ham hock.

Place the stone into the soup.

Step 2: Simmer

Bring the soup to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer it uncovered for about 2 hours. Stir the soup occasionally during simmering.

Step 3: Add the meat from the ham hock

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Scoop the ham hock from the soup and place it on a cutting board. Remove the skin and discard. Remove the meat and use a sharp knife to dice it. Add the diced meat back into the soup, discarding the bone.

Step 4: Season and serve

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Taste the soup; it will have some saltiness from the stock and ham hock, but you can add more if it needs some, along with black pepper to taste. Remove the stone from the soup. (You can wash the stone and save it for the next batch.) Serve the soup while it’s hot.

What Does Dolly Parton’s Stone Soup Taste Like?

The soup has a wonderful, savory flavor with a touch of smokiness from the ham hock. The vegetables are tender and make the soup really thick and hearty.

Of course, as the legend says, it’s that carefully chosen stone that gives the soup the most flavor!

Leftovers are easy to reheat in the microwave and taste even better on the second day. If the soup seems too thick, add a small splash of water or stock to loosen it up.

Next, we’re making Dolly Parton’s chicken and dumplings.

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Nancy Mock
Discovering restaurants, tasting bakery treats, finding inspiration in new flavors and regional specialties—no wonder Nancy loves being a food and travel writer. She and her family live in Vermont and enjoy all things food, as well as the beautiful outdoors, game nights, Avengers movies and plenty of maple syrup. Find Nancy’s writing and recipes at her website: Hungry Enough To Eat Six.