Soups can be thickened in so many ways. The best method for thickening varies by soup. In this handy guide, I’ll explain for how to thicken soup by every method I know of. There are 14 different methods! As a bonus, there are five soup flavor enhancers listed at the end.
If you have a pot of soup on the stove RIGHT NOW and don’t have time to read the whole post, just do this:
- Turn the stove on high to bring the soup to a simmer
- In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup flour with 1 cup of cold water until smooth
- Add about 2 tablespoons of the flour mix to your soup while stirring
- Wait until it comes back to a simmer to see if it’s thick enough
- Repeat until it’s the right thickness.
(If your soup is clear, use cornstarch instead of flour)
Now that your crisis is averted, keep reading to learn about all the ways you can thicken soup.
Is there a single best way to thicken a soup?
Not really. The best method depends on the type of soup you’re trying to thicken. But, if I had to pick one method that works for the most types of soups it would be modified food starch. Modified food starch is one of the most versatile thickeners you can find. It sounds a bit sciency, but it’s usually just a form of corn or wheat starch. If you start reading the labels of foods you buy, you’ll see modified food starch mentioned on many of them.
Modified food starch works well because it is highly stable at extreme hot and cold temperatures. It thickens instantly. It won’t make clear foods cloudy. It’s also really inexpensive. You can buy it online easily. Here is my favorite brand on Amazon
Common methods to thicken soup
|Method||Best for||How to use|
|flour||This is the most common way to thicken soup and sauces. Good when you aren’t sure what to use.||Start by dissolving 1 tbsp of flour in 2 tbsp cold water. Next, slowly whisk into simmering soup until desired thickness. Add in batches and wait until it comes to a simmer to determine whether you need to add more.|
|cornstarch||Soups based on clear broths, like chicken noodle. Broth will still remain clear.||Dissolve 1 tbsp of cornstarch in 2 tbsp cold water. Then, slowly whisk into simmering soup until desired thickness. Add in batches and wait until it comes to a simmer to determine whether you need to add more.|
|roux||Great for soups and stews where you want a browned flavor like Cajun gumbo from the start.||Add equal parts flour and oil or butter to a sauce pan on medium heat. Cook until desired color. Anywhere from off white to a dark chocolate is possible. Be careful not to burn it or you’ll have to start over. The darker the roux, the less thickening power it has.|
|beurre manié||Great for when you want to thicken a soup but also add a bit of richness, like bouillabaisse.||Mix equal parts flour and butter until completely blended. Whisk into simmering soup a little bit at a time until desired thickness is reached. Add in batches and wait until it comes to a simmer to determine whether you need to add more.|
Alternative methods to thicken soup
|Method||Best for||How to use|
|beans||Beans add thickness without any fat. Good for soups that already have beans like chili and ham and bean.||Blend some cooked beans with liquid from the soup. Add to the soup and repeat until desired thickness. We have a full post on this technique.|
|potatoes, potato flakes||Cream of broccoli or asparagus, or chowders. Good for soups that already contain potatoes.||Blend cooked leftover potatoes with liquid from the soup. Add to the soup and repeat until desired thickness. Potato flakes can be added directly to the soup.|
|cauliflower||Creamy, low carb soups. This will thicken creamy soups but still keep the carb count low||Blend cooked cauliflower WELL with liquid from the soup. Add to the soup and repeat until desired thickness. See our Cream of Asparagus recipe for an example.|
|bread, breadcrumbs||Rustic soups like Spanish sopa de ajo or Italian minestrone. Thickening can take longer than other methods.||Add breadcrumbs directly to soup and simmer for 15 minutes, or until thickened. Bread can be blended with liquid from the soup and added back to the pot.|
|rice||Peruvian aguadito de pollo, chicken and rice. Good for soups that already contain rice. Best when you only want a small amount of thickness||Blend cooked rice with liquid from the soup. Add to the soup and repeat until desired thickness.|
|lentils||Lentil soups or stews. Will add heartiness to a vegetable soup.||Blend soup with a stick blender or remove some lentils and liquid to a blender and add back to soup. Repeat to desired thickness.|
|masa||Chili and tortilla soup. Best for hearty soups with a Latin flavor.||Whisk masa into simmering soup. Add in batches and wait until it comes to a simmer to determine whether you need to add more. You can also use the masa to make homemade corn tortillas! Available on Amazon|
Exotic methods to thicken soup
|Method||Best For||How to use|
|xanthan gum||Gazpacho or fruit soups. Great for cold soups since it does not require heat to reach full thickening power.||A little xanthan gum goes a long way, so start with a tiny amount. Too much can also result in a slimy texture. Mix with an equal part oil to and stir until smooth. Add to soup with a whisk. Let sit for 5min to thicken. Available on Amazon|
|modified food starch||Any soup that is already cooked that you don’t want to bring to a boil.||Modified food starch is corn starch that has been treated so that it does not need to be heated to reach full thickening power. Sometimes called “clear gel”. Whisk into soup and wait 5min to see if you need more. Available on Amazon|
|agar agar||Clear, cold soups.||Agar agar is often used as a vegan substitute for gelatin. Most commonly used for making gummy bears! It can get super thick and stays clear. Available on Amazon|
Texture and flavor enhancers
The following ingredients are commonly added to soups to enhance the flavor or texture. These won’t thicken your soup, but can turn something basic into a masterpiece.
- Cream provides richness to soups that already have a milk base. Good for chowders and cream of something soups.
- Gelatin provides the “lip smacking” characteristics of soups based on meat bones. It has no taste on it’s own. It is great for meaty soups when your broth is a bit thin, but already full of flavor. Gelatin does thicken cold dishes like jello, but when hot it’s completely liquid.
- Butter provides richness and buttery flavor. Butter makes just about everything better (except your health!)
- Coconut milk/cream provides a tropical flavor common to Southeast Asian recipes and richness. Great for curries.
- MSG boosts the savory flavors in any food. MSG naturally occurs in meat, cheese, tomatoes and other super delicious foods. It is all natural and most of the MSG in the US is made from corn.
- How do I thicken my soup?
The quickest way to thicken any soup is to mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with a tablespoon of cold water and add it to your soup. Let it come to a simmer and then repeat if you want it thicker.
- How can I thicken soup without flour?
You can use cornstarch in place of flour to thicken soup. Combine equal part cornstarch and cold water and add to your soup. Let it come to a simmer and then repeat if you want it thicker.
- How do I thicken soup with flour?
Mix equal parts flour and cold water. Start with 1 tablespoon each. Add to your soup and bring to a simmer. Once it reaches a simmer, repeat if you want it thicker.
- How long does it take for cornstarch to thicken soup?
As soon as your soup comes to a simmer, it's as thick as it's going to get. If it still isn't thick enough, add more cornstarch.
- How do you fix runny soup?
This guide includes many methods for fixing runny soup. The easiest and most common method is to mix equal parts flour and cold water and add to your soup. Let it come to a simmer and then decide whether it needs more.
- Can you use almond flour to thicken soup?
No. Almond flour will not thicken soup.
- Is it better to thicken soup with flour or cornstarch?
It depends on the type of soup. If the broth is clear, use cornstarch as that will maintain the clarity. If it's not clear, you can use flour or cornstarch.
- How much cornstarch does it take to thicken a gallon of soup?
1 cup of cornstarch is required to thicken 1 gallon of soup. Mix the cornstarch with equal parts water and bring soup to a simmer for it to reach full thickening power.