Jacques Pépin’s One-Ingredient Trick for Thicker Soup

updated Feb 24, 2021
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

There’s no doubt about it: It’s soup season. Whether you’re all about classic potato leek, creamy chicken noodle, or hearty minestrone, there’s nothing better than a big pot of soup simmering on the stove when it’s cold outside. And even when a soup doesn’t turn out like you thought it would, it’s usually pretty darn delicious, or easy to fix with a couple of smart tricks.

If your soup comes out too thin, or you want to bulk it up into a more substantial meal, I recently learned a super-smart pantry tip in the Cooking forum on Reddit. The poster suggests adding instant mashed potatoes to help your soup thicken after it’s done cooking. If you think about it, instant mashed potatoes at their simplest consist of just dehydrated potatoes, so it’s similar to using a powdered potato starch or cornstarch in a soup, but without the clumping worries. The plain potato flakes thicken the soup with little effort or added flavor. Brilliant!

Here’s the thing, though: The technique is not as new as the poster assumes, but they are in good company in suggesting it. Jacques Pépin, the storied television chef and master of French cooking, recommended the technique himself in an episode of More Fast Food My Way. In the episode “Dinner Party Special,” he shows how to make a quick leek and potato soup by sautéing chopped leeks and mushrooms, simmering them in chicken stock, and then stirring in the potato flakes. “They give you the thickening, the richness, and that’s what you want,” he explains. “It’s great.”

Some commenters on the Reddit post suggest other techniques for making your soup thicker, like making a roux, adding actual potatoes, or using a cornstarch slurry, but most require at least another extra step or two; the simplicity of the potato flakes trick is a big part of the appeal. Plus, instant mashed potatoes last forever in the pantry, which makes them easy to always keep on hand for soup emergencies.

More Tips for Making Soup

Have you ever tried this tip before? Let us know in the comments!