Thickening soup

How to Thicken Soups, Sauces, Stews and Other Foods.

by Seraphina's Kitchen on April 29, 2014

We’ve all been there – we’ve spent precious time and effort on a meal and ended up with something that tastes great but is much  ‘runnier’ than we want it to be. Fortunately there are a number of ways to thicken our dishes and nearly all of them use kitchen cupboard staples.

A Roux is a mixture of equal measures of flour and fat. It is made by mixing the two components over heat, where the cooking improves the flavour of the raw flour. It is called a white roux when it’s just beginning to turn beige (this takes 5 to 15 minutes) and a blond roux when the mixture has become golden.

A roux can be used at the start of the cooking process, where additional ingredients are added to it (eg cheese sauce) or to thicken already prepared meals such as soups.

A Slurry is a mixture of equal amounts of flour and cold water. You do not need to mix it over heat but once it’s been added to the mixture that needs thickening, the mixture should continue to cook for at least another 5 minutes so that  the flour’s raw taste is cooked away.

For something more ‘powerful’ than flour try Arrowroot or Cornstarch. Simply add a little liquid (stock, water, wine etc) to make a paste, remembering to always add the liquid to the dried arrowroot or cornstarch instead of vice versa, or you’ll end up with lumps! The paste can then be added to your mixture.

NOTE:  Always use a whisk when adding any starch-based thickener to a hot dish. To get the best results, whisk rapidly as you are slowly adding the paste.

pouring custardEggs are effective for thickening custards, soups and sauces – you can use whole eggs, just the yolks or a mixture of the two.

The important thing to watch out for is not to heat the eggs too quickly. This can be avoided by lightly beating the eggs and then rapidly stirring in some of your hot mixture. Then over a low heat add this warmed egg mixture to your dish and stir until the desired thickness is achieved.

Combine cooked Potatoes with a little liquid, purée, and then stir into the mixture that needs thickening. This works very well for soups and stews.

Cooked Rice can also be used – just combine with a small amount of liquid, purée into a thick sauce and add as required!

Bread or fresh Bread Crumbs also make good thickeners. Make fresh bread crumbs by placing bread slices into a food processor or blender and ‘pulsing’ until you have bread crumbs. Or remove the crusts and crumble the bread by hand. Start by adding around a quarter of a cup of bread crumbs, adding more as needed.

Quick-Cooking Oatmeal and left-over Cooked Oatmeal can also be used in the same way as bread.

For mixtures such a soups and stews a thicker consistency can often be easily achieved by removing some of the mixture, blending it into a smooth consistency and stirring it back into the pot. This method requires no additional ingredients and will not affect the flavour of your dish.

Is there anything not covered here that you’ve had success with? Let us know by leaving a comment!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Connie April 30, 2014 at 8:01 pm

All of these are fairly obvious but not one has crossed my mind when I’ve needed to thicken soup Great list.


Caroline June 10, 2014 at 6:59 am

Cornflour is a staple in my kitchen and I use it to thicken pretty much everything. Like the idea of adding rice or potatoes as it’ll make the meal go further.


Julie July 2, 2014 at 7:20 am

No more runny soups. Yay!


Karen July 3, 2014 at 8:49 pm

I’ve used crushed crackers on occasion – they’ve worked well.


Tara July 23, 2014 at 8:40 am

Very useful. Thanks.


Kay July 29, 2014 at 10:30 am

Great article. I’m a fan of adding potato to soups. Thickens it and also makes it more filling – great for winter. 🙂


Audrey August 25, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Use pureed vegetables and you’ll get extra goodness as well!


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