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7 Easy Ways to Thicken Bean Soup

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There is nothing more comforting and warming on a cold winter’s day than a steaming bowl of soup that is thick and maybe topped with a dollop of sour cream and grated cheddar cheese and a sprinkle of chopped green onions. Makes me hungry just thinking about it!

But, if the pot of soup you’ve been cooking all day is a little watery, how can it be thickened so that the flavor isn’t altered?

The best way to thicken bean soup is to mash some of the beans with a potato masher and add them back in. Alternative methods include adding a can of refried beans, a slurry of cornstarch and water, a slurry of flour and water, a white sauce, a slurry of tapioca starch, or some mashed potatoes to the pot.

Pro Tip: To keep bean soup from becoming watery in the first place, try propping the lid up while cooking and simmer a bit longer than normal. This will allow for more evaporation and help keep prevent excess water from remaining after cooking.

It is important to thicken a good pot of soup without changing its taste, and in the following paragraphs, we will discuss each of these methods in more detail and whether they will change the flavor of the final product.

1. Mashing Some of the Beans to Thicken Bean Soup

One of the best ways to thicken bean soup is by removing 1 to 2 cups of beans from the pot, mashing them with a potato masher, and then returning them to the pot. Be sure the beans are hot when you mash them and return them to the pot because when hot, they will act as a naturally starchy thickening agent.

Thickening bean soup by mashing some of the beans will not affect the taste of the bean soup, only the texture of the soup will be altered.

2. Add Refried Beans to Thicken Bean Soup

Another good way of thickening bean soup that will not significantly affect the flavor of the beans is by adding refried beans. Simply thin the refried beans with some liquid from the bean soup or with milk, stirring well to avoid lumps, then add to the soup as a natural thickener. If you use milk to thin the refried beans, your soup will be creamy.

3. Add Cornstarch

Thickening bean soup by adding cornstarch is another good method, and though it could possibly affect the flavor of the soup, the change should only be slight. 

This method involves making a slurry of 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of cool water or broth from the soup, mixing it well, and adding it to the pot of soup.

If using broth from the soup, be sure to cool it before adding the cornstarch or the cornstarch will not mix well and there could be lumps in the slurry. Whisking the cornstarch and cool liquid together should make the slurry combine with the soup in the pot more easily and completely.

Cook the soup a little longer and stir well and the cornstarch should thicken the soup to the desired consistency.

4. Add Flour

This method is similar to using a cornstarch slurry, but instead of making a slurry of cornstarch and water, make a slurry of flour and water. For every cup of liquid to be thickened, mix 2 tablespoons of flour with ¼ cup of cold water, mix well, and add back to the pot. Whisking the flour and water together will help to make sure there are no lumps of flour in the slurry. Stir the beans well to incorporate the slurry and cook for at least 10-15 minutes more to thicken.

If too much flour is used to thicken the soup, it could possibly make the soup taste rather bland, so the least amount of flour added, the better.

5. Add a Little White Sauce

Adding a little white sauce as a thickener is very similar to using a slurry made of flour and water, but by making a white sauce with milk, the bean soup will be richer and the soup more flavorful.

To make a white sauce, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet or saucepan, stir in 2 tablespoons of flour to make a roux, and slowly add 1 cup of milk to the roux, stirring constantly. Then, start adding broth from the bean soup to the white sauce, stirring constantly until the white sauce has been completely incorporated into the pot of bean soup. 

This method of thickening will change the flavor of the soup, but it will taste as though you added milk or cream to the pot to make a creamy soup.

6. Add Tapioca Starch

Tapioca starch is made from the starchy pulp of the root of the cassava plant and can be used in baking and as a thickening agent in sauces, soups, puddings, and pies. Tapioca flour, which is the same thing as tapioca starch, is now used in gluten-free and paleo diets.

Tapioca starch can replace cornstarch at the rate of 2:1 by replacing 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of tapioca starch. Tapioca flour can replace regular all-purpose flour on a 1:1 basis.

7. Add Mashed Potatoes

Another good way to thicken bean soup is by adding mashed potatoes to the soup. The mashed potatoes shouldn’t significantly change the way the soup tastes, especially if the soup already has potatoes in it, but will only make the soup thicker and creamier.

While mashing potatoes and adding them to the soup will work for some types of soup, it will not work as a thickener for as many dishes as cornstarch, flour, milk, or cream.

Thickening Better During the Cooking Process

Bean-Soup-Cooking-in-a-Pot
Some bean soup in my kitchen, just starting to simmer.

The methods for thickening bean soup that we have been discussing are useful after the soup has been cooked and we discover that it is not thick enough. But, during the cooking process, there are some things we can do to make sure our bean soup thickens as it cooks.

Here are 2 of those suggestions: 

1. Prop the Lid up While Cooking to Reduce the Liquid

While the soup is cooking, if the pot is either left uncovered or the lid is tilted at such an angle to allow evaporation, the liquid will be reduced and the soup should be thicker and less watery.

2. Simmer Longer to Reduce the Liquid

While the soup is cooking, not only leaving the pot uncovered or tilting the lid to allow for evaporation will reduce the liquid making the soup thicker, but simmering at a lower temperature for a longer period of time will help to thicken the soup.

How to Thicken Crockpot Soup?

Anne-James-Crock-Pot
My trusty crock pot.

Making soup in a crockpot is very popular now because our busy schedules do not always allow sufficient time to cook those “from scratch” recipes that we all love. So, when cooking bean soup in a crockpot, if the soup turns out to be a little watery and not as thick as we would like, all the methods mentioned above can be used to thicken our crockpot soup.

How to Thin Your Soup if It Is Too Thick

One of the biggest problems when making soup is getting the consistency right. We have been discussing ways of thickening soup if it turns out to be a little watery. But, what would you do if your soup is too thick? 

The best way to thin bean soup if it is too thick is by adding vegetable or chicken broth, just a little at the time until it reaches the desired consistency. It is better not to use water as the thinned soup could possibly taste watery and not be as hearty and flavorful as we would like.

What to Serve With Bean Soup?

Once you have made your pot of bean soup, and it is just the right consistency and seasoned perfectly, the next question is what to serve with the bean soup. The kind of beans used to make the soup should determine what to serve with it. For example:

  • If you have black bean soup, consider serving corn chips and enchiladas for a southwestern meal.
  • If you have ham and white bean soup, consider serving cornbread, baked sweet potatoes, and a green salad for a southern touch.
  • Any type of bean soup would go well with some crusty French bread or crackers, a pasta salad, and fresh green beans.

Final Thoughts

There are so many kinds of dry beans available that the sky’s the limit as far as the beans that you use for making soup. Soup can be made from whichever variety of beans that happen to be your favorites. But, no matter what kind of bean soup you decide to make, if the consistency is not right, there are many options in this article for either thickening your bean soup or thinning it. 

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

For more, don’t miss The Four Best Ways to Thicken up Baked Beans.

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