The Ingredient Hack To Effortlessly Thicken Most Soups

Nothing goes better with cool weather and sweaters than a thick, creamy soup. But also, there's nothing more disappointing than spending time trying to make a hearty soup only for it to turn out thin and watery. Luckily, there are plenty of easy ways to thicken a soup. However, suppose you don't want to spend time making a roux or adding a cornstarch slurry and worrying about lumps of raw powder throughout dinner. In that case, there's one easy solution you should try –- instant potatoes.

This hack works so well that French chef and cookbook author Jacques Pépin even recommended it. However, despite being super easy and useful, the instant potato trick doesn't work for all soups. It is best used in soups that are already cream or potato-based, like clam chowder, cheddar and broccoli, cream of mushroom, or a loaded potato soup. Since creamy potato soups are the perfect fall and winter meal, it's worth it to have a box of instant potatoes on hand just in case you need a quick thickener. Also, instant potatoes can be found at any grocery store and are a super cheap dinner saver.

Why instant potatoes work so well

The reason that instant potatoes are a great thickener is because they are made from dehydrated cooked potatoes. This means they are full of starch, just like regular potatoes, which can help naturally thicken broths. Dehydrated potatoes work even better than mashed or cooked potatoes because they don't add any liquid to the soup and work to soak up some extra liquid and turn it into a smooth potato-y cream.

So, how do you do it? Simply add some instant potatoes to your soup, one spoonful at a time. After adding, stir the soup and allow the potatoes to incorporate completely. Then, after a minute or two, you can decide if you've reached the desired consistency or would like to add more to make the broth even thicker. Of course, if you accidentally make the soup too thick, you can always add more cream, stock, or water to even it out. Then, once you've reached the desired thickness, go ahead and give it a taste test and add any extra spices required.

What to do for a soup when instant potatoes aren't a good option

While the instant potato hack is perfect for many soups, there are some soups where the added potatoes will change the flavor or appearance negatively. These soups include those that naturally have a thin and clear broth like chicken noodle and French onion soup and those with tomato-based broths like pasta fagioli and stews like chili. For these soups and stews, adding instant potatoes will change the nature of the dish too much, and while it still may taste good, the result probably won't be what you were going for. So, what can you use to thicken your soup instead of instant potatoes?

If you don't want to try the cornstarch slurry or butter and flour roux methods, there are still plenty of other options. First, a quick and easy way to thicken soup is to add cheese. While any cheese will work, you can also effortlessly upgrade your soup's flavor and thickness by adding a leftover frozen parmesan rind. The parmesan rind hack is especially great in soups with tomato-based or clear broths and even works in soups that aren't necessarily meant to taste cheesy. Another secret ingredient that can help you thicken soup is leftover bread, which you can place whole at the bottom of each soup bowl or toasted and added as breadcrumbs.