How To Thicken Soups & Stews {7 Basic Methods}

Why Did My Soup Not Thicken?

Why do your soups and stews sometimes turn out thinner than you’d like? It’s a common kitchen challenge. One reason is that when you overcook vegetables, they tend to release more water into the broth, making it thinner.

Another culprit is not paying attention to the amounts of liquid you add. Sometimes, a heavy-handed pour of stock or water can dilute your soup’s thickness.

If you don’t let your soup simmer long enough, it won’t have the chance to reduce and thicken properly.

Soup is a comforting and versatile dish, but achieving the perfect thickness can sometimes be challenging. Whether you prefer a hearty, creamy texture or a thicker broth, this article will guide you through seven straightforward methods to thicken your soup.

These techniques, from creating a roux to using cornstarch or potatoes, will ensure your soups are both delicious and satisfying. Say goodbye to watery broths and hello to perfectly thickened soups – let’s dive right in!

Roasted green tomato soup served in a sourdough bread bowl on a plate on a wooden table.

This is my roasted green tomato soup. It’s thickened by pureeing the vegetables.

How To Thicken Soups & Stews (7 Ways)

Roux Method

In a pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of flour and stir continuously until it forms a smooth paste, usually in about 2-3 minutes. Then, add this roux to your pot of soup. Allow it to simmer and stir occasionally, and you’ll notice the soup thickening in about 10-15 minutes.

Cornstarch Slurry

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 1/4 cup of cold water. Mix until the cornstarch is fully dissolved. Pour this cornstarch slurry into your soup while stirring constantly. Simmer for a few minutes, usually 5-7 minutes, until the soup thickens and becomes clear.

A large bowl full of Bosnian bean soup grah with a spoon in it. The soup is very thick and full of beans and other vegetables.

The famous peasant Balkan grah soup or stew, whether it’s Croatian grah or Bosnian grah, is thickened by a traditional roux.

Potato Starch

Peel and dice 2 medium-sized potatoes into small pieces. Add them to your soup and allow them to cook until they break down and dissolve into the soup, which usually takes around 20-30 minutes. You can use an immersion blender to puree the soup if you prefer a smoother texture.

Beans and Legumes

Mash 1/2 cup of beans or lentils with a fork or a potato masher. Stir the mashed beans or lentils into your soup and let it simmer for approximately 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally to achieve the desired thickness.

A large bowl full of Jamaican oxtail stew with butterbeans. Rice is served on the side and green onions are used as a garnish.

This traditional Jamaican oxtail stew (highly recommended) is thickened by reducing the liquid and the butterbeans.

Cream or Milk

Pour 1/2 cup of heavy cream or milk into your soup. Stir well and let it simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes. The soup will thicken, and the cream or milk will infuse the flavors beautifully.

Cheese

Grate 1/2 cup of your preferred cheese, such as cheddar, Parmesan, or cream cheese. Add the grated cheese to your soup and simmer while stirring continuously. It usually takes 5-7 minutes for the cheese to melt and the soup to thicken and become creamy.

A black bowl full of golden glow soup. The soup is bright orange from the sweet potatoes and turmeric and very creamy. It is full of cooked rice, shredded chicken, and kale.

The rice will help thicken this golden glow soup, just as potatoes will break apart and help thicken this green bean soup..

Reduction

Simmer your soup uncovered over low to medium heat for 15-20 minutes. This allows excess moisture to evaporate, naturally thickening the soup as it cooks down. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking or burning.

Final Thoughts

Achieving the ideal thickness for your soups and stews is a fundamental skill that can transform a disappointing meal into something extraordinary. Remember, mastering the art of thickening is not about adhering to strict rules but rather about adapting these techniques to suit your preferences and the ingredients at hand. Try different things and see what you prefer.

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