How to Thicken Broths and Soups
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Consistency is vital in everything, especially when it comes to your soup!
A thicker consistency in your foods can make you feel full for longer.
Depending on what you include in it, thicker soups can also provide extra nutritional benefits.
But what happens if the soups you purchase or make at home tend to be on the thinner side? You’ll need to add another ingredient – but with so many options available across different food categories, it’s not always easy to know which one.
This guide will help you understand the best thickening agents to use to fit your diet.
You’ll learn about paleo, keto, dairy-free, and traditional options for thickening your soups and broths. You will also learn thickening agents to avoid.
3. Paleo-friendly thickening ingredients
These thickeners are compatible with the paleo diet, emphasizing whole natural foods like free-range meat, fish, vegetables, and nuts. Paleo adherents steer away from most dairy products and other processed foods. Here's a list of paleo-friendly ingredients you can add to your soup to give it more body:
1. Arrowroot powder
Arrowroot powder, also known as arrowroot starch and arrowroot flour, is a tuber native to Indonesia and is similar to a sweet potato. It can serve as a paleo-friendly thickener in powdered form that also boosts carbohydrates for energy. Research indicates it may also support your immune system. Add the arrowroot powder one tablespoon at a time once your soup or broth has already cooked until you have the desired thickness. You do not want to cook with the arrowroot because it breaks down very quickly, compared to starch, and will make your soup feel sticky.
Avocados are well-known as a healthy source of fat, promoting healthy skin, hair and nails and improves satiety. It can also add a very distinct flavor to your soups and broths, making it an excellent fit for vegetable blends or other dishes with an earthy palette. Use a ripened avocado, blend it with a portion of your broth, and then combine it with your soup or broth for a nice creamy texture.
3. Nuts or nut-based flour
Nuts are rich in proteins, lipids, and minerals that help promote good health. A quick and easy paleo-friendly way to add more thickness to your soups is to grind down 1-2 cups of nuts. Use cashews, peanuts, almonds, or any other nuts that you have at home. Almond flour is also a commonly available substitute that you can find in almost any grocery store today. Adding nuts to your broths or soups will add great flavor and release the nuts' fatty oils, proteins, and aroma to your recipe.
3 Dairy-free thickening options for soups and broths you have at home
Sensitivity to dairy is common, especially for certain population groups. If you need to avoid milk-based thickeners, there are plenty of good options for you.
While this classic fruit-derived snack is often found in children's lunchboxes, it's also a healthy way to add a nice kick of sweetness to any soup or broth. Applesauce is especially lovely for those hearty autumn soups and gumbo blends. Make homemade applesauce from scratch, or pick up applesauce (no added sugar option) from your local grocer.
5. Chickpea flour
Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are a protein-rich, gluten-free source of carbohydrates. A staple of South Asian and Greek cuisine, chickpea flour is an excellent thickener because it has a naturally creamy feel that adds a smooth yet rich texture to soups. You can also use regular chickpeas instead of the flour. Mash your cooked or canned chickpeas into a paste before adding them to your broth or soup.
Eggs are often served together with dairy products like milk and cheese, but eggs themselves are not a dairy product. Specifically, egg yolks are a great thickening agent to add texture and body to your soups. Beat your eggs in a bowl, with one cup of your warm broth or soup to keep from curdling. Once you've beaten the eggs and soup together, add it to your pot so the eggs can cook.
Keto-friendly ways to thicken your soups
The keto diet is a popular one that involves minimizing carbohydrate intake to put the body in a state known as ketosis, which can lead to increased fat burn and muscle retention. The following thickeners are all suitable for the keto diet:
7. Coconut milk
Manufactured primarily from the “kernel” – the coconut's inner pulpy shell – coconut milk is a valuable source of proteins and amino acids. It also has a smooth texture that can be great for creamy types of soup or broth dishes.
Once your soup is nearly ready to serve, stir in coconut milk until you have the desired consistency. Allow the coconut milk and the soup to sit for at least 3-5 minutes so the flavors and aromas can come together. Coconut milk is also a great option to add to a bowl of soup when you may have accidentally added too much spice (ex: hot sauce, cayenne pepper) thanks to its fatty and creamy consistency.
8. Heavy cream
Use heavy cream as a keto-friendly thickening option for your soups and broths. Heavy cream has more fat than regular whole milk, so you can add it to your soup recipes without worrying about it curdling. Plus, you can whip heavy cream into what looks like whipped cream very quickly, and then add it to your soup.
9. Almond butter
Like almond flour, almond butter contains some beneficial proteins and lipids that are great for the keto diet. Almond butter is a versatile thickening agent used in everything from soup blends to baked goods. It also has a slightly sweet taste, which is excellent for soups with a sweeter taste like pumpkin and carrot soup and coconut-based soups.
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Tried and true ways to thicken any soup & broth
There are some traditional ways to thicken broth and soup dishes that have earned that status because they work and are commonly available for a relatively low price. Here are three conventional thickeners:
1. Just add Milk
Milk has often been an easy choice to thicken soups and broths for several reasons: You usually have some in your kitchen, it's easy to find some at your local grocer, and it's cheap. Choose high-fat organic milk without hormones and other additives to thicken your soup.
2. Make Roux for thicker soup (Butter and flour)
Butter and flour are in all sorts of recipes from pies, bread, and even soups. Traditional dairy butter is used to thicken sauces, and when combined with flour, you get what's known as Roux. Roux is easy to make and will instantly give you a flavorful and thicker soup. You can do this by melting butter in a saucepan and slowly mixing in flour until you get the consistency you want, then add your Roux to your soup.
3. Use Your Favorite Kind of Starch
Starch typically comes from wheat-based plants and is the most common carbohydrate in the world. In food, it is used as a thickening agent for baked goods and corn and wheat-based dishes. You'll find dozens of different starch varieties, including corn, tapioca, and others, at almost any local grocer or online food store.
Avoid these thickening agents in your soups and broths
The options above are all great choices to help add more body to your next soup dish. However, there are other types of thickeners that you should try to stay away from. These food items typically contain highly processed, artificial ingredients that don't properly move through the human digestive system.
1. Xantham gum
Xantham is a popular thickener derived from a natural bacteria. However, it is also known for its laxative properties and can cause bloating and stomach pain in certain groups. Additionally, the FDA banned xantham gum in infant formulas and foods after it was associated with increased infection and intestinal inflammation levels.
While soy was considered an early alternative to beef and chicken, it is commonly associated with genetic processing and alterations. A study showed that 90% of soy products in the United States were genetically altered. Soy also has phytoestrogens, which act like the hormonal estrogen in the human body and can cause problems for those with sensitivities.
3. Corn syrup
If you want to add some thickness and sweetness, use natural thickeners instead of the highly processed, sweet, thickener corn syrup. It's found in almost every kind of processed food because of how cheap it is to produce and its effectiveness at making liquids thicker.
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How to thicken your chili today without adding more beans
Here's how you can thicken your chili with just 3 ingredients without adding beans, to keep your chili recipe keto-friendly:
- 1. Stir in two tablespoons of arrowroot powder to your chili once your chili is cooked.
- 2. Add one can of tomato paste - Tomatoes are keto-friendly thanks to their low carb content. Make sure to use a brand that has low or now sugar.
- 3. Add grated cheese - Add one cup of grated cheese to your chili. Depending on how much chili you've made, you may need to add more cheese for your liking.
After adding in these three ingredients, your chili should be significantly thicker.
If needed, allow your chili to reduce further for a few minutes, or add one of the thickeners in this article when cooking.
With the right thickening agents, you can create hearty soups and broths that not only keep you full but also help you live the kind of healthy lifestyle you desire.