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How do I thicken my soup?

  • j

I made a winter squash soup to serve tomorrow night and it came out thinner than I intended. I may have blended it too much. The recipe (can't find it online) is from Cooking Light and it includes a butternut squash, russet potato, leeks, chicken broth, and half and half, plus spices. It's delicious but thin. Is there any way to thicken the soup before I serve it? Thanks.

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  1. I'd cook some rice in the liquid and puree it again.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MMRuth

      You serve each portion with a spoonful of Greek yogurt or sour cream on top. That way, when your guests mix it in, the soup will thicken a bti.

      Or you could roast another butternut squash in small cubes and add it into the soup as a sort of garnish. (I do this with the frozen kind)

    2. A buerre manie would work nicely to thicken the soup. Take equal parts flour and room temperature butter, and mix into a paste. Add to warm soup and increase heat to a bubbling simmer. This will activate the thickening.

      6 Replies
      1. re: monavano

        This sounds really good. How much flour and butter would should I use for about 7 cups of soup? Do I add all the paste at once?

        1. re: JennS

          I would start with 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp. flour. Add the paste all at once and wisk. Bring up the heat, and wait for it to thicken. If you desire more thickness, go ahead and and addiditional 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. flour. This way, you can thicken it up in increments and adjust. It will be easier than trying to thin it down. Be sure to have patiencte while thickening and allow the ingredients to have time to work and stay close by so you can stir the soup often and determine if you are happy with the progress.
          Let us know how it turns out!!

          1. re: monavano

            I agree with mona - a roux type thickener.
            Easier than making a paste at room temp is melting the butter (margerine will work too) in a pan - use the 2 TBL, but this might be a small amount, I'd go with about 6 TBL spoons.
            When melted, whisk in the flour, TBL by TBL until a thick paste is developed. Bring your soup up to a boil and whisk in the paste TBL by TBL (keeping it on the heat, so it at least returns to the boil). As mona points out, do it in increments for control, cause it is a powerful thickener as a little goes a long way.

            Cornstarch will work as ispe suggests (and is simpler), but it tends to break in the soup as it cools down.

            Funny thing, I made almost exactly this soup last week with buttercup squash. I gave it a thyme seasoning with a hint of cayenne. I also thickened it at the end...

        2. re: monavano

          Im so glad i found your suggestion! i was making my own chicken and sausage gumbo to put over rice but it just wasnt coming out as thick as i wanted it so i mixed this paste and stirred it in on low heat and it made it perfect :) I am new to cooking and creating my own recipes so being able to find good suggestions like this is sooo nice...Thank You!!

          1. re: crackerjackclaire

            Oh wonderful! It's always fun to pick up a new technique.

            1. re: crackerjackclaire

              Even easier: 1) reduce to desired thickness over medium heat, stir occasionally to prevent scorching the bottom. If it DOES scorch, pour out the food but do not scrape up the burnt stuff until the food has been removed. OR
              2) stir in instant baby cereal or instant mashed potato flakes or Wondra flour (doesn't clump), over heat and stir as mixture thickens.

          2. Cornstarch.

            Dissolve some cornstarch in water, bring soup to boil, then mix in the cornstarch.

            5 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              The trick with cornstarch is to make sure that it is the same temperature as the soup. That's how you avoid lumps and breakdowns. If the soup is cold, dissolve the cornstarch in cold water, and mix it in; if the soup is warm, then use warm water for dissolving the cornstarch. The problems happen when you have cold into warm, and vice versa.

              You also could cook your soup some more and reduce it. But if it has cream already in it, you might end up with an un appetizing texture.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                I like cornstarch or arrowroot instead of flour as the thickener is less noticeable than flour or, say, mashed potatoes.

                1. re: Scargod

                  The cornstarch is sounding like the best option now. Sounds like it will change the taste of the soup the least. How much cornstarch would you suggest I start with for 7 cups of soup? A tablespoon? My soup is in the fridge right now so I'm thinking I will try the cold method. Thanks again for all the helpful replies.

                  1. re: JennS

                    I would start with a teaspoon and see if it does what you want. Remember you must heat the soup to thicken it.
                    To thicken more, have set aside a quarter cup of the broth. Mix in cornstarch and mix back into the soup. Give it two to five minutes to thicken, if hot. I do not agree with brendastarlet that you must use hot with hot. With the cornstarch wetted and dispersed in cold or lukewarm liquid, slowly pour it into hot soup as you stir. Also, concentrated Cornstarch will settle-out quickly if you let it.

                  2. re: Scargod

                    If a northerner, spuds, if a southerner, crumble corn bread for fine flavour and texture!

                2. Some excellent soup thickeners are ...
                  potato flakes, okra, pureed beans, heavy cream, as well as any others already mentioned.

                  1. Mash in a boiled potato or add some mashed potato.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                      assuming your goal was "cooking light" - i'd go with the potato and avoid adding any sort of additional fat.

                    2. I would dice another potato, cook together, add powdered milk, and then blend before serving.

                      1. As others have said, the easiest way is with potatoes. Instant potatoes. Then melt in some butter -- not margarine! -- to enrich the flavor. You do have to be careful of over thickening. Another way that's not so easy is to "cook it down." In other words, reduce the amount by simmering and evaporation. With squash, do be careful of scorching. I would not recommend corn starch as it effects the color and texture in an "un-squashlike" manner. If you use buerre manier, then I would over-thicken some chicken stock with it, then stir it in.

                        You can also thicken soups with bread crumbs. They're an important ingredient/thickener in many soups. Sourdough or rye will modify the flavor. Crumbs from French bread are best choice if you don't want a lot of flavor modification.

                        And then there is always the time-honored method of letting guests thicken their own soup with soda or oyster crackers. Or croutons. Really good home made buttery garlicky croutons can be delicious!

                        Any of these should give you an "I meant to do that!" finish. Enjoy your party!

                        1. Can we take a step back and smile? This recipe comes from Cooking Light and has potatoes and half and half. very interesting. :-))

                          Jfood uses arrowroot as his thickening agent, no taste, very easy to use and you blend outside the dish and add until the correct consistency.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: jfood

                            One potato and one cup of half and half for 8 servings so it's not THAT bad. I found the recipe: http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/rec...
                            Next time I think I'll omit the half and half -- I tasted the soup before I added it and it didn't make much of a difference. I also added nutmeg and cloves.

                            I hadn't heard of using arrowroot -- that's interesting. I found a source that says arrowroot is better for acidic dishes and cornstarch is better for dairy-based?

                            1. re: JennS

                              next batch, add an extra measure of your vegetables when you cook, then at the end, remove and puree and return to the mix... I have also used ground up dried bread.

                                1. re: JennS

                                  The problem with arrowroot as a thickener for hot soups is that it thickens at a much cooler temperature than cornstarch or flour (or most other thickeners) and will allow the soup to revert to whatever thinness you began with if you let it boil. I do like arrowroot for puddings and sauces, and it helps keep ice cream from growing ice crystals. If you know you're not going to reheat the soup, it should work okay if you take the soup off the flame, add the arrowroot, stir until thickened and serve.

                              1. If you'd l like to make it a little richer and thicken it at the same time, try egg yolk.
                                Reduce the soup temperature below 125 degrees. Blend a bit of the soup with egg yolk then blend it into the soup pot - bring to simmer and allow it to simmer a few minutes; sitrring periodically.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: todao

                                  Remember that adding egg yolk can be tricky...unless you want it to curdle as in Asian cooking. You have to keep it from boiling; They say below 190F. Here's a good link: http://www.foodsubs.com/Thicken.html

                                2. I often use a rice flour slurry to thicken soups. I don't know how much is needed though. I just guess.

                                  1. For a dairy- based soup, cornstarch is a better choice of non-fat thickener than arrowroot (use arrowroot for more acidic soups). Max of 1T cornstarch for each 2 cups of liquid (start with less, until you reach the thickness you like).

                                    1. It's a bit late now but I thought I'd mention that red lentils make an excellent soup thickener. I guess it's not the best solution if you're going for a velvet-smooth soup, but I've used them a couple of times when a veg or bean soup wasn't quite thick enough. They cook really quickly, provide texture, and don't add significant flavor.

                                      1. Barley and other grains... and of course there's rice. Beans got me thinkin'. Split peas. Black-eyed peas, etc.
                                        Depends on how thick you are aimin' for, too; to me, cornstarch is the most transparent and innocous.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Scargod

                                          Blend some dried Hatch red chiles in boiling water, add to squash soup to thicken and you have a real southwest Native American/ Hispanic dish.

                                        2. Very funny bunch of posts.

                                          Egg yolks coagulate at 65C. Need to keep them under 147F or so to keep from cooking. At 190F, you've got egg drop soup. Cornstarch adds flavor and that makes no sense. Anyone think of Xanthem? (available at any health food store or Chinese market) No flavor kids! Rice was funny too. Roux in to a healthy soup?

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: antrogers1964

                                            Not so much. Excuse me; I went with a temperature that was found on the internet since I wasn't really sure. You obviously can thicken yolks over boiling water and get away with it.
                                            I contend that the flavor of cornstarch is insignificant. I think Xanthum gum adds an unnatural sliminess. I've never seen a rice comedian.

                                            1. re: antrogers1964

                                              Cornstarch is as flavor neutral as you can get. Certainly more flavor neutral than things like roux, potatoes, rice, beans, butter, etc.

                                              And xanthem? Surely, you jest.

                                              1. re: antrogers1964

                                                Well, antrogers1964, you’ re not so bad at comedy yourself!

                                                It’s highly unlikely anyone on these boards has ever heard of “Xanthem,” since there is no such thing. Perchance did you mean xanthan gum? Not exactly a common ingredient on the average spice shelf. The problem with needing thickener for soup is that you need it NOW, A shopping trip isn’t the first thing you think of.

                                                As for eggs or egg yolk as a thickener, try tempering the eggs/yolks before adding them to a very hot liquid. When I make avgolemono soup, I temper the eggs first. When I make egg flower soup, I don’t. Never have a problem.

                                              2. Not for squash soup but very good for milk-based chowders (clam, mixed seafood, corn), thicken to taste with a little bit of instant mashed potato.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Querencia

                                                  Pace the recipes that are based on food service recipes designed to hold chowders over heat, the only thickening that belongs in chowder is from the diced potato (or corn kernels) and dairy. No added starch of any kind, please!

                                                  1. re: Querencia

                                                    The OP soup already had potatoes in it, so using instant mashed to add some thickening would be appropriate.

                                                  2. I would add either pureed chestnuts, or even some chestnut flour.

                                                      1. Here's another method...

                                                        the way I thicken my clam chowder for instance is to cook a potato (boil) add some of the soup to the fully cooked potato, then use my stick blender to blend. Add this mix back to the pot. viola thicken soup.

                                                        For a short cut you could add instant mashed potatos as well - but cooking them is just as easy.

                                                        1. Depending on the soup and depending on your confidence level, creamy natural peanut butter will enhance and thicken most soups. The taste can be amazing (especially if you like PB). I was inspired to try this after doing a little research on various Asian and African peanut soups.