Sometimes in the middle of making a soup, I decide that creamy is what I crave. Yes, definitely. A creamy, spoon-clinging soup to savor slurp by slurp while I catch up with my Netflix queue. It's time to travel off-recipe into improvisation territory: creamy soup or bust!
Of course, there could really be any number of reasons you might be looking for some creamy alternatives. Maybe you used the last of the heavy cream in your morning coffee. Or you'd love a thicker soup, but don't want the extra calories. Whatever your soup situation, I have some ideas to help:
1. Add Cream: Let's get the obvious one out of the way. Yes, you can definitely add cream to your soup. Whether you use a few tablespoons or a few cups, cream gives soup a silky mouthfeel and rich flavor. You can definitely add milk or other dairy as well, though it will taste gradually less creamy as you go down in percent.
2. Puree a Few Cups: Blend just a cup or two of your soup with a stick blender or in a food processor — not the whole batch, though. You just want to add a little body, but still keep the chunky goodness.
3. Add Stale Bread: A few slices of bread also help make a soup creamy. Tear them into pieces and let them soak in a cup or two of the hot soup before pureeing and stirring back into the main pot.
4. Add Yogurt: Plain yogurt works much like cream when added to soups like our Avocado Soup, but with a lighter result. I also love the tangy flavor it adds to my soups.
5. Add Ground Nuts: Nuts were actually one of the first thickeners used to thicken soups and sauces, historically-speaking. Grind a handful of nuts until they have completely crumbled and are just verging on becoming a paste. In a small bowl, whisk the nuts together with some of the soup broth and then whisk it into the main soup. Cashews are an especially good choice.
6. Make a Beurre Manié: Sounds fancy, but don't fret! Knead equal parts butter and flour into a thick paste, and then whisk it into your soup until it has completely dissolved. Adding beurre manié is like a making reverse-roux, and it will thicken your soup in a similar way.
7. Add Flour, Cornstarch, or Other Thickener: Starches thicken soup and give it body. Whisk a few tablespoons of starch into a little of the broth in a separate bowl before whisking it into the main pot. This prevents the starch from clumping and helps it dissolve into the soup evenly.
8. Add Coconut Milk: One of my favorite dairy-free options. Just a quarter cup or so adds creaminess without drastically change the flavor of your soup. Of course, use more for a subtle coconut flavor!
What other ways do you make soup thick and creamy?
This post has been updated. Originally published January 14, 2010.
(Image: Andean Potato and Cheese Soup / Emma Christensen)