Healthy Ways and Techniques to Thicken Soup
Soup is one of those foods that everyone likes--it can be creamy or thin, smooth or chunky, sweet or savory. It can be hearty and filling for lunch on a cold, winter day or it can be light and chilled for a pleasing summer appetizer. Homemade soup can also be one of the easiest and healthiest foods to prepare; it can contain vegetables, meats, pasta, grains, or even fruit.
Thicker or creamier soups often contain ingredients like butter, cream or white flour that detract from the naturally healthful nature of soup. Here are some healthy and easy alternatives to thicken soup that add taste as well as extra nutrition to your already nutritious soups.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.