While some broths are destined to remain thin and wispy, other soups taste best when served thick and creamy. But what do you do when it's too late to add a slurry to a meaty soup? Or you’re gluten-free and must skip flour and bread? Or are vegan and don’t like the idea of butter in your soup?
The answer to all these culinary obstacles lies in white beans. Blended white beans.
What's a Slurry?
When you find yourself in a soup situation where there’s too much liquid for you liking, you can fix the texture with a handful of simple techniques. The most obvious being a slurry — or a combination of the broth and flour (or starch).
Other options for thickening a soup include blending some of the cooked soup vegetables and adding them back in; throwing in some bread; or adding in a beurre manié — aka the “reverse roux” — made from flour mixed with butter. But white beans are my own personal choice for a quick and healthy way to thicken a soup.
The White Bean "Slurry"
I first encountered the magic of the “white bean slurry” when making minestrone a few years back. Stuffed with aromatics, vegetables, and carbs, my favorite kind of minestrone finds a delicate balance between the smooth texture of the tomato-based broth and the slightly toothy, just-cooked carrots, celery, white beans, and noodles.
While some people prefer minestrone a bit more on the watery side, I like mine a little thicker. A craving that requires a bit of finesse, as reducing the soup too much will potentially overcook the vegetables and pasta. And a badly mixed-in slurry will result in a clumpy mess. But I found an easy solution right under my nose: a half-used can of white beans.
How to Make a White Bean Slurry
To make the "bean slurry," I blended together about 1/4 cup of drained cannellini beans with 1/4 cup of the bubbling broth. Once smooth, I added the pureed bean mixture back to the soup and with a quick stir, it disappeared into the minestrone, which no longer rested in tomato-tinged water, but a buttery broth.
No clumps. No dairy. No pureed pasta. And as an added plus, I found that I actually preferred the milky taste of the beans over a starchy slurry.
How to Use a White Bean Slurry
Since then, I now use blended beans all the time to thicken stews, gumbos, chowders, and even sauce for lasagna; really, any recipe where a slurry or reverse roux comes in handy when attempting to thicken a sauce or soup towards the end of cooking. (Although I'd skip it in an egg drop soup).
I’ve even made a super-quick, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free Country Gravy just with the white bean slurry, some mushroom broth, and a good dose of freshly cracked pepper. And I may never go back.
So whether you have a food intolerance, a propensity for not following directions, or just some leftover white beans hanging around, give this new kind of thickening agent a try.