All the Ways to Thicken a Soup

Broth is great, but sometimes you get too much of a good thing.

Bowl of broccoli soup with a couple saltine crackers and a spoon

Cappi Tompson / Getty Images

Soup is the perfect winter food. Warm and satisfying, it takes relatively little effort to make, fills the house with an enticing aroma, and keeps well for leftovers. The ingredients are usually pretty cheap, making it an economical choice, and the varieties are endless. Sounds like the perfect food, right?

Well, sometimes it doesn't quite turn out that way. I made a pot of soup last night and added far too much broth early on. I thought the barley, lentils, and frozen peas would thicken it up, but they hardly did anything. Instead I was left stirring a pot of very flavorful water, knowing it was far from the stick-to-the-ribs quality I'd been aiming for, and wondering what to do.

It turns out there are a few tricks for thickening up an overly brothy soup. I happened to have a pile of leftover mashed potatoes in the fridge that did the trick nicely; it added a whitish tinge, but at least there was more substance. Other tricks include:

1. Rice

A handful of uncooked rice, to be precise. Bon Appétit writes, "Any kind will do: jasmine, basmati, short grain, long grain. When added to a brothy (or watery, even) soup, and left to simmer for 20-30 minutes, the rice breaks down, releasing its starch and thickening the liquid that it's cooking in."

2. Pasta

If uncooked, it has the same effect as rice, releasing starch as it cooks. That's why I usually pre-cook macaroni or ditali before adding to minestrone, because it thickens it up too much! But there are times when it is useful.

3. Roux

I'm a fan of using a roux when making cream of vegetable soups. Particularly cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, and other fairly watery vegetables, a roux made of butter, flour, and milk or cream add rich thickness to the pot. You can also mix a quick blend of flour with soft butter, oil, or ghee, and add this by the teaspoonful to a pot of soup; it will thicken as you stir and keep adding.

4. Full-Fat Coconut Milk

A can of coconut milk will add liquid to the pot, but it's a richer, thicker liquid than the broth, which helps to give it more body. You can also scoop out the solidified fat from the top of the can and mix that in for more flavor.

5. Starchy Vegetables

Grate a starchy vegetable like squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, or white potato into the soup and let it simmer. It will release that starch and help to thicken the liquid as it cooks.

6. Grains and Legumes

A handful of red lentils will cook quickly and add body. Some people add oats, bread crumbs or pieces of stale bread, couscous, cream of wheat, refried beans, etc.

7. Slurry

Whisk some cornstarch, all-purpose flour, chickpea flour, or tapioca with water in a small bowl and slowly stir into the soup pot. It takes about 1 tablespoon of flour to thicken 1 cup of broth, or 2 ounces of cornstarch to an equal amount of water of water or broth to thicken 1 quart of liquid, and the thickening action won't start until the soup simmers for a few minutes (via Our Everyday Life).

8. The Soup Itself

A handy trick for bean soups, use an immersion blender to partially purée the contents of the pot; it will thicken it right up. If there are bigger chunks that you want to keep, ladle out a portion of the soup, blend it, and add it back in. You can use a potato masher right in the soup pot, too. Remember that some soups will thicken on their own as they sit and cool; the ingredients may continue to absorb liquid, so yours might just need another day to reach perfect consistency.