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Make It Hearty! The 5 Best Ways to Thicken Soup

Make It Hearty! The 5 Best Ways to Thicken Soup
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From flour to dairy to grains, these tricks will help you turn that thin, lackluster soup into a creamy, hearty masterpiece.

It’s time to talk about soups. We all know nothing hits the spot quite like a warm, comforting bowl of soup on a cold day, or a cold, refreshing gazpacho in summer. But sometimes, you just need a little more oomph, you know what I mean?

Well, my friends, that’s where thickening comes in. Whether your soup is lacking body by design, or you accidentally went too heavy on the liquid, don’t worry! I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve that’ll turn that thin, lackluster soup into a creamy, hearty masterpiece that will have you licking the bowl clean.

You’re in for a treat today, because we’re about to dive into some serious soup-thickening techniques. Are you ready?

Add Starches: So Many Options

Now, we all know adding starches is one of the most popular and effective ways to get that soup to thicken up real nice and good. But here’s the thing: not all starches are created equally. You’ve got your flour, your cornstarch, and your potato starch—each with its own unique thickening properties.

Flour is most people’s go-to choice, but you’ve got to use it right. Add it at the beginning of cooking, so it has time to cook properly and not leave a raw taste behind. Cornstarch and potato starch are faster to dissolve and are best mixed with a little cold water before being added to hot soup. This prevents clumping and ensures even thickening.

But if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can also incorporate grains—think rice, barley, or even pasta—into your soup. These bad boys will absorb some of the liquid as they cook, and they’ll give your soup that thick, hearty body you’re looking for. Plus, they add a whole other level of texture and flavor complexity to the mix.

Related: The Italians have mastered the art of pasta soup. If you’re in mood for some Mamma-Mia! food, then Pasta in Brodo is a deliciously simple recipe to get you started.

Thicken with Dairy: Cream, Yogurt, And More

Cream is the go-to option for soups that need a rich, velvety texture. It takes your soup from basic to boujee with just a few splashes. But, listen up, folks, when using cream as a thickener, you’ve got to add it slow and steady, and over a low heat or it will curdle. A little at a time, stirring well after each addition until you get that perfect consistency.

Now, if you’re on the lookout for something tangier, then yogurt is your jam. It thickens beautifully and stays smooth, even in acidic soups like tomato soup. But it’s not just tomatoes, my friends. The tanginess and slightly sour note that yogurt adds complements many other types of savory soups, from lentil soup to vegetable-based stews.

And let’s be real, who doesn’t love some tangy goodness in their soup? I don’t know about you, people, but I sure do.

Make a Roux: The French Way of Thickening

Alright, alright, alright, let’s talk about my favorite method of thickening a soup: making a roux. This is the French way to thicken your soups and stews, folks. It’s a classic technique that never fails to impress, and—despite the fancy name—it’s surprisingly easy to do.

Grab equal parts flour and fat, usually unsalted butter, and melt it down over low heat. Keep stirring until it forms a smooth paste. That’s your roux right there. Next, add it to your soup to give it that thick, luxurious texture that’ll have your taste buds doing a happy dance.

Now, here’s the thing: the longer you cook the roux, the darker it gets. And the darker your roux gets, the deeper its flavor becomes. A white or blonde roux will thicken your soup without adding much flavor. A brown or dark-brown roux? Oh, man, that thing will give your soup a nutty taste and aroma. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure for your taste buds!

Related: Learn how to make roux from Cajun cook and Home Cook World contributor Wayne Hebert.

Purée Solids: The No-Fail Way to Thicken

Pureeing solids is one of the easiest ways to take your soup game to the next level.

I’m talking about taking those veggies, beans, and grains and turning them into a smooth, velvety puree that’ll add body and heartiness to your soup in no time. And, let’s not forget the added bonus of nutritional value!

Take pureed beans. They’re an excellent source of protein, while grain powders are chock-full of dietary fiber. So not only are you getting a more satisfying and filling meal, but you’re also giving your body some extra love. Let’s get blending, baby!

Simmer It Down: Intensify Flavor and Consistency

Reduction is a great technique to thicken your soup while also adding depth and complexity to its flavors. It’s perfect for soups with a high water content, like broths or stocks; it concentrates their flavors and gives them more body. Plus, the longer you let your soup simmer, the more the flavors meld and intensify, making it even more delicious.

Just remember that reduction is a gradual thing, so don’t expect to see results straight away. It takes time for the liquid to evaporate and for the flavors to develop. Be patient and let your soup simmer low and slow, my friends. And don’t forget to stir occasionally to prevent the ingredients from sticking or burning!

Avoid These Mistakes: What Not to Do When Thickening Soup

Now that we’ve gone over how to thicken soup, let’s talk about some common mistakes we make when trying to do it, and how you can avoid them to make sure your soups come out banging.

Using too much thickener, too fast. Whether it’s flour, cornstarch, or a roux, adding too much too quickly can lead to a gloopy mess. Start with small amounts and gradually add more until you reach the desired thickness. And remember, some thickeners like flour need time to cook properly, so don’t rush the process.

Not properly mixing in the thickener. Listen up, no matter if you’re using cornstarch or a roux, make sure to mix it thoroughly with cold water or dissolve it in the stock before adding it to your soup. This will prevent clumps from forming and yield the smooth, creamy consistency you’re looking for.

Not taste-tasting and adjusting seasoning. Taste your food, people. Salt, pepper, and other spices can enhance the flavor of your soup and balance out the sweetness or acidity of the other ingredients. But you have to know how much to add—and the only way to know is to taste it!

And don’t forget, if you accidentally over-thicken your soup, you can always add more liquid to thin it out. (Especially that you know how to reduce it. 😉 )

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Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.


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