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6 Healthy Ways to Thicken Soup

I'm interested in healthy eating and always looking for ways to improve the nutritious value of the comfort foods I love to eat.

Thicker or creamier soups often contain ingredients like butter, cream, or white flour, ingredients that detract from the naturally healthful nature of soup. Here are some healthy and easy alternative ways to thicken soup that add taste and nutrients to your already healthy soups.

Below, you'll find instructions for how to use each of these ingredients as thickeners:

  1. Vegetables
  2. Beans
  3. Potatoes
  4. Flax
  5. Rice
  6. Bread

1. Vegetables

If you want to thicken soup but are watching your carbohydrates, pureed vegetables are an excellent alternative to creams and other traditional thickening agents. Just remove some of the vegetables from your soup and puree them in a blender. Stir the puree back into the soup and you're done.

Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and zucchini are excellent vegetables to use to thicken soup and contain a wealth of vitamins and minerals. For example, broccoli is rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, and loaded with antioxidants. It also contains generous amounts of folic acid, vitamin A, and vitamin C. A diet rich in vegetables can have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar that can help keep appetite in check. Adding pureed vegetables to your soup will also intensify the flavor of the soup, making it more satisfying.

Pureed vegetables are an easy and healthy way to thicken soups.

Pureed vegetables are an easy and healthy way to thicken soups.

2. Beans

Beans are filling and are a good source of B vitamins, potassium, and fiber. Many varieties of beans are available already canned, making them an easy and quick ingredient to use to thicken soup. Just puree and add to your soup. Because they are high in protein, they can be a healthy alternative to meat and the fiber will help satisfy a hearty appetite. Just be aware that some canned beans contain a lot of sodium so rinse them ahead if time if that is a concern.

3. Potatoes

Potatoes have gotten a bad rap over the years. But potatoes are filling, moderate in calories, and high in certain nutrients like potassium and vitamin C. Adding pureed potatoes to thicken soup will add extra vitamin C and potassium and is an excellent use for leftover mashed potatoes. Potatoes are a vegetable but because they are starchy and have a high glycemic index, people who are watching their carbohydrates may want to avoid them. However, they are also filling and are much better for you than butter, cream, or white flour.

4. Flax

Flax seed is high in B vitamins, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and high in fiber. In addition, flax seed is very low in carbohydrates, making it ideal for people who want to limit their intake of sugars and starches. You can purchase ground flax seed meal or you can grind your own in a coffee grinder. To thicken soup with flax seed, bring the soup to a boil and gradually add the flax seed, stirring constantly, until the soup thickens. Coarser flax seed grinds may add some graininess to your soup.

The vast majority of the fats in flax seeds are polyunsaturated fats, which are good fats essential for good health. Photo:  eliane@istockphoto

The vast majority of the fats in flax seeds are polyunsaturated fats, which are good fats essential for good health. Photo: eliane@istockphoto

5. Rice

Leftover rice can be used to thicken soup in the same way as vegetables and potatoes. Simply puree in a blender and add it to your soup. Just make sure the rice is properly cooked and pureed or it could add graininess to your soup. Brown rice is a healthier choice than white rice due to its higher vitamin and mineral content and will add fiber as well as texture. It is an excellent source of manganese and a good source of selenium and magnesium.

6. Bread

Bread isn't often thought of as an ingredient to use to thicken soup, but it can add a nice, silky texture to your soup if done properly. Just remove the crust and add it to your finished soup, allow a few minutes for the liquid to be absorbed into the bread, then puree the soup. Just make sure your bread doesn't contain any seeds or nuts, unless you don't mind those in your soup.

Comments

786ash on February 24, 2012:

quina gluten free pasta and add that into the soup:))

PrettyPanther (author) from Oregon on July 12, 2010:

Lady E, I agree about flax seed. I'm honored you stopped by to read my hub! :)

Elena from London, UK on July 06, 2010:

Thanks for a healthy Hub - I always give the Flax Seed funny looks when I visit the health shop - Now I have found a good use for it. :)

PrettyPanther (author) from Oregon on June 21, 2010:

Thanks, Cosette. I've never heard of Sprouts. We must live in different areas of the country. Maybe I'll see one on my cross-country trip this summer. :)

cosette on June 19, 2010:

these are great ideas. i see that flax at Sprouts sometimes...they sell it loose in these big bins. i think i will try it. thanks for an entertaining and informative hub! :)

PrettyPanther (author) from Oregon on June 13, 2010:

Thanks! glad you like them.

carolina muscle from Charlotte, North Carolina on June 11, 2010:

Some great ideas here!