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Pureed Soups -- How Do You Make Them More Interesting?

Yesterday I made a roasted root vegetable soup. It was delicious... but BORING. What I mean is that after I pureed it with the immersion blender, every spoonful was like every other spoonful. There was no crunch, no chewing... you know what I mean. I couldn't even bring myself to finish the whole bowl; a cup would have been more than enough. Afterward, I thought maybe some ditalini pasta might have been a good addition. Or pepitas. Or croutons. Or maybe I should have left some of the veggies unblended (but then I would have had to have cut them up differently for roasting).

I've had this same thought before, for example, when I make butternut squash soup. So I'd love to know -- what does everyone else do to add texture and interest to a pureed soup?

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  1. Lardons or pancetta used even sparingly can make soups decadent!
    Try a swirl of pesto or plain yogurt flavored with paprika and a squeeze of lemon.

    1. My husband always makes a delicious pureed asparagus soup for Easter, and he puts a parmesan custard in the middle of each bowl. It is fabulous.

      1 Reply
      1. In my butternut squash soup if I have time I often put a goat cheese crouton. Take a log of goat cheese, cut into slices and freeze on wax paper. When ready to serve, dip frozen circles in egg, then seasoned cornmeal and quickly fry in some oil. Really good!

        2 Replies
        1. re: DGresh

          in our squash soup we add thin slices of fresh granny apple with a dollop of greek yogurt. that adds the crunch and some tang.

          we were at nola in the french quarter a few years back. my friend had a cream of asparagus soup. it was topped with a drizzle of good olive oil and a few crawfish.

          1. re: DGresh

            I've done that on salads, but I'm going to try it next time I make butternut squash soup.

            Some other suggestions-
            fried shallots on split pea soup
            a mini grilled cheese sandwich floating on tomato soup
            parmesan crisps on creamy mushroom soup
            a slice or two of breaded/baked zucchini on a pureed veg/lentil soup

          2. Garnish, garnish, garnish; crunchy things, sauteed or raw diced veggies, pepitas, croutins, strips of fried tortillas, pesto, small pasta, different grains like couscous, farro, or wild rice, a unusual rice like forbidden, cripsy bacon, chorizo or pancetta bits, toasted nuts like walnuts, peanuts, almonds, a mix of fresh chopped herbs, crumbled cheeses, chopped egg, either hard boiled or strips of omelet, popcorn, potato chips, roasted chick peas, crumbled toasted nori, garnishment is seemingly endless. I like popcorn on tomato and apple in butternut to start.

            Don't forget to set some the vegetables in the soup aside for garnish, whole peas, cubes of butternut or apple cubes or butternut, tomato dice, fennel fronds...

            2 Replies
            1. re: bushwickgirl

              +1.

              Definitely save some finely diced veggies for garnish, or toasted nuts, or whatever goes with the basic soup.

              1. With butternut squash soup, I like to add creme fraiche. With split pea, balsamic vinegar makes a big difference. Texturally, I rarely have soup but will add panini or some sandwich, most likely grilled. I can dip, or not.

                1. I sometimes throw in other things after I puree it. I did a pumpkin soup with additional roasted pumpkin chunks and pinto beans thrown in. I only did that because I had them in the freezer though-- I wouldn't want to do separate prep either. I think crispy fried garlic would be really good on top of almost anything. Or crispy fried herbs.

                  1. I like to leave a few chunks of whatever kind of soup I am making. Such as when I make butternut squash soup, I leave chunks of squash, celery and onion. Makes such a difference in the soup. If necessary, you may need to cut a little bit of ingredients and sautee or steam them separately. Just depends on the type of soup.

                    1. The best croutons I know of are if you have access to a Mexican market that sells "bolillos" bread (small loaves used for big sandwiches, usually sold @ 3 x $1). Sliced and toasted, preferably in the oven, this has a lovely tender consistency that just explodes in your mouth when you bite into it. Very fine in any soup.

                      1. Or maybe some sliced fried onions?!

                        1. I have a book of Italian recipes (from a UK publisher) that has a good pumpkin soup. It includes small pasta. Short lengths of spaghetti would be fine as well as other small 'soup' shapes. I cook the pasta separately, and add it after pureed the soup. The texture addition works well.

                          1. with my velvety chipotle corn, i like to top with charred/roasted corn kernels and diced scallions.

                            broccoli or cauliflower puree does nicely with some crushed almonds or hazelnuts or pistachios.

                            another great addition for texture are some pan-toasted lentils.

                            1. I have but one question for you. If you're looking for soups that have crunch and chewiness, why are you pureeing? Wouldn't it be better to leave the soup in the original form that has those qualities? But along the lines of what you're asking, there is a type of gazpacho in which all of the ingredients are pureed, chilled, then the same kind of vegetables that are in it are diced small and used as a garnish for the soup. Maybe this would work for you?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Caroline1

                                Yep. I don't like pureed soup, but I know a lot of people do. You can just not puree some of the soup and get some texture while still pureeing enough to get that silky type puree. Either by not adding all of the soup into the blender or not totally chopping everything up with the immersion blender.

                                1. re: Caroline1

                                  I did consider leaving some of the veggies unpureed, but, truth is, by the time they're roasted and simmered in stock, they're kind of mushy. Also, if I was going to do that, I'd probably want to cut the veggied into nice, bite-sized pieces to begin with, and that can be somewhat labor-intensive.

                                  I've done exactly as you've suggested with gazpacho, Caroline, but that's uncooked. I guess I'd have to steam the additional veggies and then add them into the soup. Actually, I kind of like that idea.

                                  1. re: CindyJ

                                    I LOVE steaming! It's the method I use to cook the veggies for my pureed soups. Boiling them, as you say, makes for mushy ugly veggies and all of the vitamins (well, most anyway) are left in the water. I think you've solved your problem with gazpacho-like steamed veggies with beautiful bright vibrant color! Enjoy! Maybe a little crumbled bacon and/or some crumbled cheese to highlight it? And now *I'M* hungry and I just finished lunch!

                                2. I love pureed soup. And most soups I make end up pureed.

                                  But, if you want texture, then don't puree all of it. Or don't puree it at all.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Harters

                                    Adding something like pasta to a creamy pumpkin soup gives a different texture contrast than leaving the soup chunky or partly so. Both can have their place.

                                    1. re: Harters

                                      I often puree half and then add back to the original mixture. It seems to strike the perfect balance.

                                    2. I add cream to most of my pureed soups and at the last minute I add cayenne just until I can taste it at the back of my throat. It adds a bit of a surprise but it is never overpowering.

                                      I first did it with split pea soup. It was great.

                                      1. Garnish, garnish, garnish.

                                        I made a butternut squash soup once in a competition, adding crispy fried squash slivers, sauteed stone crab meat, and just a couple drizzled drops of sriracha on top (which BTW was WAAY better than had I just evenly mixed sriracha into the soup in the first place - it looked cool and you would get these bright fiery bursts of tangy peppery goodness). It went over pretty well.

                                        A few drops of flavored oil or hot sauce or some other sauce drizzled on the soup rather than mixed in can add nice taste (and visual) contrast as well.

                                        1. There are so many GREAT ideas here! I've just saved this thread so I can find it easily next time I'm pureeing a soup. Thanks to all!

                                          1. I had the same issue, but even more so, because I like making a pot of pureed soup at the beginning of the week and eating it for lunch every day. You can quickly get bored.

                                            What I do is buy rolls and make my own croutons out of them. I particularly like multigrain rolls because they have more flavor, texture, and crunch, but the best part is that you can get so many different types of rolls for variety...

                                            Anyway, I just preheat the oven while I chop up a roll or two (depending on size) into .5-1 inch cubes, spray with olive oil (and salt/pepper if you want), arrange on a pan, put in the oven for however long it takes to warm up the soup, and then throw the croutons into your bowl a few at a time to keep them from getting too soggy. Totally livens up the soup (and each bite!). And it's quite easy/quick.

                                            1. - toasted pumpkin seeds for squash soup
                                              - fried capers for cauliflower, potato-leek or tomato soup
                                              - crispy bacon for corn or sweet potato chowder, or split pea, cream of mushroom or potato-leek soup
                                              - shaved or diced fennel for potato-leek, beet or tomato soup
                                              - shaved or diced broccoli stems/stalks for broccoli soup
                                              - fried onions for cauliflower, potato-leek or cream of mushroom

                                              1. Pecorino fricos. Heat up a non stick skillet and pack a thin layer of the grated cheese in the center until it crisps up. I got this technique from a Melissa Clark article on yogurt gazpacho, it works well with that soup(which is delicious) and other soups that pair well with pecorino, though it can also be done with other cheeses to suit the mood.