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9 ways to thicken (and enrich) soups, stews and creams

22 mayo, 2021

Lovers of spooning know that few things are more disappointing than a stew or soup as watery as the most bland of aguachirris. The success of stews, stews and creams depends largely on that irresistible texture, which can be ruined if we make a mistake in calculating the ingredients or do not control the cooking time well. Fortunately, there are several ways to correct it.

In the same way that you can fix a spoiled sauce, we can apply different techniques to thicken our spoon dishes. We already saw some tricks to improve our creams and soups a while ago, but today we are going to focus on more or less quick solutions so that no one else has to suffer stews without substance.

Types of thickeners used in our kitchen

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1. Starches to the rescue: popular starches and stale bread

My partner Esther He already gave us a good lesson on the most commonly used thickeners in the kitchen, highlighting starches and their different applications. Let’s say it is the most popular resource because allows to thicken quickly also a posteriori, when time is thrown on us and there is no way that the pot is reduced.


Esther focused more on its application for the preparation of sauces that start from a roux, such as béchamel, but they are still a wild card that is used even in professional kitchens to fatten stews and creams quickly, almost instantly. Let’s say it’s a tricky but effective trick.

  • Wheat flour. Without forgetting that it contains gluten, it must be applied at the beginning of cooking, before adding the broth or water, as it must be cooked to avoid the aftertaste of raw flour, and also lumps. If we are going to cook meats, for example, browning the pieces with a little flour will help to thicken them.
  • Starch or cornstarch. The popular cornstarch and its commercial variants require prior dissolution in cold liquid before adding it to the hot broth; it will thicken in a few minutes.
  • Rice starch. We can apply it in practically the same way as cornstarch.
  • Potato starch. It is also used as cornstarch even in pastries, and a good substitute is instant mashed potato flakes. In this case it is not necessary to dilute them cold, it can be added directly to the hot stew or broth.
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Although it is much more than a simple starch, let’s not forget that the old tradition of take advantage of stale bread in stews offers another help in thickening dishes. Either adding it at the end, allowing it to hydrate little by little in the diner’s plate, or halfway through cooking so that it melts in the pot. A good example is the typical garlic soup with egg.

two. Beurre manie, a wild card to keep in the fridge

It would literally translate to “kneaded butter.” It is a French technique that consists of mix the same weight of butter and flour until obtaining a malleable dough without lumps. Usually a ball is formed from which pieces or pinches are added to a stew or sauce to thicken it, already at the end of cooking.


Well kept, the beurre manie lasts several days in the fridge without problems, so it is a good wild card to have on hand if we are always in a hurry or we lack the technique to thicken our dishes in another way.

It is important to remember that it has to be added towards the end of the recipe, not just before serving. Although it takes little to take effect, raw flour needs to be cooked completely if we don’t want to give the food an unpleasant taste.

3. The power of dairy (and its fat)


When so many recipes for creams and purees include dairy ingredients, it’s not just on a whim. Liquid cream, créme fraîche, sour cream, buttermilk, milk, butter, yogurt or cheeses have the power to thicken all kinds of elaborations, also adding flavor and a creamier and more palatable texture.

Butter, for example, can be incorporated at the beginning when browning the ingredients -one or combined with oil-, and right at the end to butter, in the style of a risotto. Cheese is also added at the last minute to allow it to melt properly, although we can add another final touch at the time of serving to better appreciate its flavor as a dressing.

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A good natural yogurt – the authentic Greek and skyr types are thicker – and other creamy dairy products do the same, thickening the liquid base and also putting the decorative note at the end. The more fat they have, the thicker it will be the plate; That is why using skimmed milk is not such a good idea, it will only make the result more watery.

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We could resort to powdered milk like so many industrial manufacturers do, but it seems to me too easy a resource and it does not provide any of the flavor and richness of a good quality cream or yogurt. Yes we have the alternative to vegetable “dairy”, from coconut milk to soy, oatmeal, rice or quinoa “creams”.

4. Silky tofu


The call silken soft tofu it is a fantastic ingredient for substitute dairy in the kitchen. It is undoubtedly an ideal product for vegetarians, vegans, lactose intolerant or allergic to milk protein, but it is worth trying for everyone.

His honeyed texture and neutral flavor make it a wild card thickener for salty and sweet recipes, and it also enriches the dish by providing a good amount of vegetable proteins, making it more satiating.

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5. Potato, tubers and other vegetables

The humble potato fattens pots and pans of all kinds and conditions, a cheap and energetic ingredient, satiating and a magnificent natural thickener to give much more body to a multitude of recipes. The key is in break them into irregular pieces so that they release the starch little by little, but they can also be used at the end.


If we have gone too much liquid, we can fatten the dish by adding a cooked and crushed or grated potato towards the end of cooking, although the result will not be so tasty. Other tubers They can also help us to thicken, such as pumpkin -which almost melts in a short time-, turnips or parsnip.


The advantage of the potato is its taste and neutral color which goes well with almost everything, but we can play with other vegetables depending on the recipe. Roasted or cooked and mashed cauliflower, in small doses, also helps to thicken without adding practically calories, although its flavor is more perceptible.

As a personal trick I recommend using roasted garlic and / or onion puree until they become almost a honeyed pate. The flavor they provide is spectacular, as well as helping to thicken.

6. Nuts


Nuts open up another world of gastronomic possibilities for play with the different nuances of flavor. Cashews or almonds, raw, are much more subtle, but with others such as hazelnuts or pistachios we can take advantage of it to add another touch to our dishes.

If we add the ground nuts, in flour format, directly to the stew, we could have a grainy texture that is not always interesting. A more neutral way to take advantage of them to thicken is grind or crush them at the moment to form a kind of paste, as if we were making vegetable butter. It only remains to dilute it with a little broth before adding it to the pot.

Peanut Butter

We can always turn to vegetable creams already commercial or that we have lists in the fridge, including tahini or peanut butter, unsweetened. Logically, the energy and nutritional content of the dish will increase.

The typical chopped almonds, pine nuts or hazelnuts, fried or toasted, alone or with garlic and bread, presents another traditional resource that collaborates in the task of enriching and fattening a stew or sauce.

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7. Apple, avocado and other fruits

I learned the trick from enrich stews and sauces with apple of Japanese curry, and it has become one of my favorite tricks. Grated directly, cooked, roasted or pureed, the apple provides a light thickness with a sweet and aromatic point, perfect for more robust stews or highly spicy dishes.


Pear works great too and is great to pair with dairy in milder vegetable creams. Avocado, very fattyIt has the power to thicken even more, although it is advisable to reserve it for creams and green purees. Another fruit that I personally like a lot to give texture to sauces and stews is the mango, delicious in curries, cold soups and with fish.

8. Cereals and grains

Whole rice is another well-known resource that is very typical of traditional cuisine to fatten casseroles. Again, it has the advantage of being a very neutral product that is also gluten-free, and allows cook it directly or incorporate it last, cooked separately and crushed with some liquid.


The ideal is to use a variety of round grain, type bomb, and we are interested stir it during cooking so that it releases its starches, as we would do with a risotto, or rice pudding style.

But rice is not the only cereal available; nothing prevents us from experimenting a little with barley, millet, polenta, quinoa, wheat, rye, spelled… Some need more time to cook, but if we have leftovers in the fridge they are a good resource to dip into if necessary. The oatmeal finer would be the faster alternative.

9. Grind a part or some ingredients

It is perhaps the simplest trick of all, which almost always works and does not require using more ingredients. Something as easy as mashing the stew a bit, or separate a part of the ingredients at the end of cooking to grind them, and again return them to the pot.


It is a technique widely used in the preparation of legume stews, but it can be applied to other stews. We have the option of shred only the vegetables -ideal for children who find it more difficult to eat them- or to also include a part of the legume itself. If the soup has eggs, the crushed yolk it is perfect to fatten the broth.

To achieve a delicious finish, you have to make an effort to achieve a very homogeneous puree, without lumps or traces of skins or fibers, so it is advisable to pass the mixture through a Chinese before thickening the casserole with it.

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