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From Thick to Just Right: Thinning Out Thick Soup

When your soup feels more like a stew, it’s time to thin things down. Let’s dish out the tips to get that perfect consistency.

Soup. It seems like such a simple dish at first glance, doesn’t it?

Yet, when you set out to make it, you may find yourself quickly humbled by the myriad ways something seemingly so simple can go so terribly wrong.

The issue at hand? Your soup turned out thicker than a bowl of oatmeal. So thick, in fact, that it’s nearing the territory of a hearty stew or, worse, a sauce!

But don’t panic. You’ve found this guide, which means that by the time you finish reading, you’ll know exactly why your soup turned out so thick and how to fix it. Shall we dive in?

Why Your Soup Turned Out Too Thick

Letting your soup boil too long can reduce it too much, leaving you with something much too thick. This often happens when you simmer the soup for a long time without the lid.

That steam getting drawn up by your range hood? It’s your soup’s water content escaping. The water turns to steam, then bubbles up and escapes the pot—leaving behind a denser liquid.

This can be a win if you’re after stronger flavors. A thicker soup packs more punch in every bite since it’s less diluted. But beware, there’s a fine line—go too far, and you might end up with a soup with a weird mouthfeel.

Like other things in cooking, it’s about finding the right balance.

How to Fix Overly Thick Soup

When your soup turns out more sludge than liquid, don’t despair. Thinning it down is the answer. Let’s go over the technique to get that perfect consistency back.

First off, give your soup a little taste test: Is it too salty? Is it a little too bland? Or does it taste just right? Your taste buds will guide you on what exactly to do next.

If the soup is on the salty side, add water. It will not only thin it but also dilute the salt content. If it’s on the bland side, go with a flavorful broth or stock to amp up the taste. And if’s just right, after adding, give it a stir, taste again, and season if necessary.

The key here is to go slow—add a little liquid at a time. Let the soup simmer on medium heat for a few minutes to help the flavors come together nicely.

Be careful not to add too much liquid, or you’ll end up with soup that’s too thin. And then, well, you’ll find yourself in a soup cycle of having to reduce it again, risking mushy ingredients. Remember, patience is a virtue!

How Not to Cook Thick Soup in the First Place

Now that the, “Mom, why is the soup so thick?” crisis has been averted, let’s chat about how you can avoid landing in this sticky situation again.

Here’s the golden rule: boil your soup just long enough to cook the ingredients, not a minute more. But, of course, it’s not always that simple, right? The devil, as they say, is in the details. The heat level and whether you cook with the lid on or off can affect how quickly your soup loses its water content.

Simmer your soup over medium heat, and keep that lid on. Why? Turn that heat up too high, and the water starts disappearing fast, leaving you with thick soup before you know it. The water won’t get hotter than its boiling point, 212°F (100°C) under regular circumstances. Your soup will still cook without a full boil.

Putting a lid on does two things to your soup. It amps up the temperature inside the pot, helping your soup ingredients to cook faster and more evenly. It also locks the moisture in.

As the water in your pot turns into steam, it rises and meets the cool(er) lid. And voilà, it transforms back into droplets. This neat little cycle ensures the moisture keeps returning to your soup instead of escaping through the range hood.

Now, it isn’t a “keep the lid on at all costs” situation. There are moments when lifting that lid is exactly what you want to do.

For example, maybe you’re looking to thicken the soup a bit by reducing the liquid, or perhaps it’s just time to give everything a good stir. Either way, go ahead and take that lid off when necessary.

What to Remember

If your soup got too thick, it probably happened from boiling it with too high heat and without a lid. But not to worry, there’s a quick fix!

If it’s too salty, add a bit of water. If it’s bland, go with some broth. If it’s just right, add water and season to taste with salt. Then let it simmer for a few minutes to get those flavors mingling again.

Know your author

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.