The Unlikely Ingredient to Quickly Thicken Your Soup

This soup-thickening hack makes use of a *very* popular takeout order.

A bowl of creamy soup
Photo: Dotdash Meredith / Sarah Maiden

Creamy, rich soups are one of winter's best comfort foods. There are plenty of ways to thicken homemade soup, but until recently, we had never considered leftover French fries. Turns out, this method for making soup even creamier is a clever way to use those soggy fries from last night's takeout order — and it turns any blended soup into a luxurious bowl that tastes even better.

Why You Should Blend French Fries in Your Soup

You probably already know that potatoes are a great thickener for homemade soup. Even if you don't purée the soup with a blender, potatoes release starch as they cook — thickening the broth with a satisfying velvety consistency. In fact, we've written before about how helpful frozen hash browns can be when cooking creamy soups.

But recently, we noticed a new tip we couldn't ignore. In an Instagram story, The New Yorker food writer Helen Rosner mentioned that she uses leftover French fries to thicken soup. Scaachi Koul, a culture writer for Buzzfeed, asked for more details. (Thanks, Scaachi! We were wondering, too.) Helen shared more in a follow-up story, explaining that not only do French fries thicken soup, but putting them in the pot is a smart way to use leftover fries which — let's be honest — are usually pretty soggy and not very tasty.

a plate of french fries with a ramekin of ketchup
Chef John

How to Thicken Soup with Leftover French Fries

So how does this French fry magic happen? It's simple. "...Chop them up and add them to your soup and then purée the soup!" Helen explained in the story. Of course, this technique won't work with clear soups, or soups that are not supposed to be blended. (If you put chopped fries in chicken noodle soup, for example, you'll just have a bunch of wet fries.)

Because fries are already cooked, you can add them once your soup is almost done and ready to be blended. Putting the fries in the pot a minute or two before turning off the heat will ensure that your soup stays piping hot; otherwise, the fridge-cold temperature of the fries will temper the soup.

You can use a handheld immersion blender to purée your soup, or transfer the soup to a traditional blender, working in batches if you have to.

There are just two matters to consider when thickening soup with fries. The first is the salt level. Most restaurant fries are very salty. If you're planning on adding French fries to a homemade soup, consider dialing down the amount of salt you use to season it. Battered fries are also not ideal for this, because the dredging batter may not purée well. Fries that have been battered with wheat flour are not gluten free, which matters if you are cooking for someone with a gluten sensitivity.

Other Ways to Thicken Soup

No leftover French fries on hand? That's okay! You can also thicken soup by puréeing it with cooked beans or lentils. White beans like cannellini beans or navy beans are especially good for puréeing. This recipe for Creamy Italian White Bean Soup is a great place to start.

Puréeing hearty winter vegetables like butternut and kabocha squash will also do the trick. This recipe for Sweet Potato, Carrot, and Red Lentil Soup is the best of all three worlds, using potato, squash, and lentils to make a super creamy soup.Finally, adding cream, half-and-half, or any dairy with a high fat content will also thicken soup, as in this recipe for Cream of Asparagus Soup.

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