How to Thicken Soup

How to Thicken Soup?

Soup is said to be as old as cooking itself.  The discovery of fire and advancements in pottery allowed man to boil meats, grains, roots, and vegetables, instead of roasting them.  

Boiling food allowed for food to cook faster since it was submerged in water.  With the juices coming out of the meat and bones, it made for a tastier meal. Starches added in the soup made it thicker, more filling, and taste better. 

In the 10th and 13th Century, food was scarce – soup played an integral role in alleviating hunger. Soup was made by dumping all sorts of ingredients.  It was also easy to make and digest for both the sick and the healthy – not to mention it was very economical. 

Through the passing of time, soups became more fancy and complicated with the addition of vegetables, legumes, beans, various meats, herbs, and in some regions, fruits. Various cooking methods to enhance its taste, texture and health benefits also came about turning soup from simple boiling of meats to a culinary specialty on its own.

Unfortunately, nowadays soup is regarded as an appetizer or a side dish unlike in past centuries where it was actually a meal in itself.  It’s actually a healthy meal since the cooking method gives you the entire nutritional value of its ingredients.  It just really depends on what you put in it. 

Types of soups

It seems the French have the most complicated methods when it comes to soup.  But since most of us are proud home cooks, we want to make a simpler classification of soups that we can easily make and enjoy in the comforts of our home.

We can classify soup into three basic types: thin soups, thick soups, hearty or chunky soups, and national soups.  This classification is based on how they are prepared, so it will be easy for us non-chefs to distinguish.  National soups have their own classification since each region’s traditional soups have specific techniques in preparation. 

Thin Soups

Thin soup is the most basic soup type.  It’s basically made by boiling meats, vegetables and flavorings in water for a long period of time to extract the favor and cook its ingredients. They are usually clear and served with a garnishing of meats or vegetables.   Thin soups or broth are used as base for the other three types of soups and even as a liquid base for stews, rice, and pasta sauces.  

Thick Soups

Thick soups are usually opaque due to addition of thickening agents.  So the result is a liquid that is rich and more filling.    Thin soups are usually made from thin soups or use thin soups as the base flavor. The French further classify thick soups depending on the type of thickening agents used.  Cream of mushroom or Chinese egg drop soups are examples of thick soups.

How to thicken soup?

Add cream or yogurt

cream adds richness to any dish and makes it more luscious.    If you prefer a healthier and lighter alternative, you can add yogurt instead. But do taste your soup after, just in case you’ll need to add a bit of salt or herbs.

Add puree

Purees are a good way to make your soup creamy and rich.  To make a puree, simply boil your preferred vegetable and blend them with some of your soup in a blender.  Then, whisk this into your soup.  Some people also use pureed cooked oatmeal or rice.

Add stale bread

Get some of your soup in a bowl, add a few slices of stale bread to it.  Let them soak up all that yumminess.  Then, puree them in a blender and stir it back in the soup.  Add this little by little, though you don’t want to end up with clumpy soup.

Add ground nuts

Nuts are actually one of the first thickeners used for soups and sauces.  Grind a handful of nuts in a food processor until they are paste-like.  Place them in a small bowl and add some of your soup, then whisk it into the main soup.  Cashews are a good choice for this since they are pretty tasty and fragrant.

Make a Beurre Manié

Sounds fancier than what it really is.  Beurre Manié is a dough consisting of equal parts of soft butter and flour.  It is used to thicken soups and sauces.  Knead butter and flour into a paste and whisk it into your soup until completely dissolved.

Add a Roux

Most thick soup recipes call for this already.  A roux is made by cooking flour in melted butter.  Once cooked, add this into your soup to thicken it.

Add a slurry

In culinary language, a slurry is a thickening mixture made from equal parts of flour or cornstarch and cold water.  Start with one tablespoon of each, mix both in a small bowl until completely dissolved. Then whisk it into your soup until incorporated.  Let it simmer a bit then check the consistency.  You can add more as preferred or needed.

Hearty or Chunky Soups

Hearty soups are thick soups cooked with chunks of vegetables and meat like fish, chicken, or shellfish.  This makes them more filling and tasty.  In texture, they are a bit richer than thick soups and resemble stews but they contain more liquid than stews.  These are more commonly known as chowder in the US or is ‘Bouillabaisse’ for the French.

You can also use any of the thickeners mentioned above to make your chunky soup richer and creamier. 

The Power of Soup

We hope this closer look into soup will make you to take another look at soup and inspire you to make your own soup from scratch and not from a can.  Have it with a side of toasted garlic bread or crackers. 

As the French chef and culinary writer said, “Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refine the appetite.” 

I could not agree with him more.

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