9 Ways to Make Rich, Creamy Soups — without Any Dairy
Soup is a worldwide staple that takes many delicious forms, whether they’re built thick with cream, or light and broth-based. But as much as traditional cream-based soups might taste great, we might want to favor recipes using alternative components that achieve a rich, creamy texture, without using any actual cream.
Here, we found nine totally satisfying ways to make creamy soups that skip the cream, and incorporate a nutrient-packed ingredient to take its place. Whether we’re using avocado, cashews, potato, or simple beans, we can enjoy the richest soups that taste like home — and are super healthy, to boot.
1. Add Eggs: Creamy Chicken, Lemon, and Rice Soup
Not just for breakfast, egg is also a delicate and dairy-free way to enrich broth. When gently heated with a ladle of hot stock, “tempered” eggs create a silky soup base without so much as a scramble. (Try this trick with your next bowl of ramen.)
This traditional Greek chicken soup is thickened using tempered eggs, and it feels like a ticket to wellness. The essential addition of lemon juice is vibrant, balancing the richness of the egg and chicken stock. Black pepper is the perfect garnish, so add plenty of it.
2. Try Tahini: White Bean & Tahini Soup
Tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds, is a traditional ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking. It’s nutty in flavor, smooth in texture, packed with protein, and the superhero of creamy-textured hummus.
When tahini meets beans, the result is ultimately always creamy. This simple pureed soup features a time-saver Instant Pot option, and helps cook dried white beans at speed. Alternatively, you can cook this recipe quickly on the stove top using canned white beans. Finish the bowl bright and fresh with mint and dill leaves. Include a light vegetable with a spoon of finely diced raw zucchini, and a sprinkling of za’atar. We’d recommend roasting a tray of broccoli tossed with oil and salt for a healthy side dish.
3. Blend Up Beans: Creamy Chile Verde with Cannellini Beans
Beans are a staple of healthy diets because they’re heart-healthy and rich in fiber. They lend a creaminess to soups with just the help of an immersion blender. A weeknight one-pot winner, this Creamy Chile Verde with Cannellini Beans can be made in a slow-cooker throughout the day, or on the stovetop in thirty minutes. Boost creaminess by blending one of the required cans of cannellini beans to a puree, and add to the pot. Increase the protein content and color variety by adding a can of drained red kidney beans. A jar of tasty salsa verde is called for, but you can substitute three roasted and peeled poblano or hatch chillies, which you should blend with the white beans — it’s a nice twist if you have a little extra time.
4. Mash a Potato: Sweet Potato & Caramelized Onion Soup
Potatoes are a great backdrop for complex flavors, and they’re also full of starch, which creates creaminess when stirred. Much like kneading dough, when potatoes are mashed, it develops thickness. Mix just enough to form a thick puree, but avoid over-mashing, which will create a gluey consistency.
This Sweet Potato & Caramelized Onion Soup is one of those simple soup winners that uses very few ingredients, and has surprisingly complex flavors. I suggest caramelizing the onion for greater depth: Start by cutting the onion into thin moons, then add to a warm skillet with olive oil and a good pinch of salt. When deeply golden, add the onions to the boiling pot of sweet potatoes before you puree. Boost the finished soup with whole grains: Spoon a small mountain of cooked barley into the center of a soup-filled bowl. Drizzle chili oil and olive oil to finish before serving.
5. Pour in Coconut Milk: Laksa Noodle Soup
Coconut milk is a plant-based go-to for non-dairy cream soups. We believe it’s always a good idea to keep a couple of cans of coconut cream or coconut milk in the pantry. Coconuts are typical of Thai, Indian, and Malaysian cooking, but this fruit historically traveled the world for use by washing up on distant shores.
A favorite Malaysian coconut curry soup, Laksa Noodle Soup is addictively good, with so many fresh vegetables, herbs, and healthy protein options. This does involve some ingredients that can be hard to find in many American grocery stores, but we promise you that the hunt is worth it. Though this recipe is presented with chicken and fried tofu, it would be delicious served with small filets of white fish, prawns, or cubes of plain tofu which cook quickly over the last 10 minutes.
6. Blend Up Some Cashews: Cream of Mushroom Soup with Cashew
Cashews are such a mild, buttery nut. When blended with a small amount of water, a wonderful thing called cashew cream emerges. This is a light paste that can be utilized to enrich your soup with a creamy, smooth texture.
Nutrient-rich mushrooms offer a meaty texture in this decadent-feeling Cream of Mushroom Soup, which gets its rich texture from cashew cream. Round out the meal with additional fiber by serving this bowl with a side of wild rice. Cook with a bay leaf and pinch of salt, and serve drizzled with olive oil. For those who enjoy meat protein, steam a seasoned chicken breast, then tear into your bowl of mushroom soup to serve.
7. Add an Avocado: Avocado & Cucumber Soup
The love affair with avocado continues — it turns out that avocado adds a wonderful creaminess to soup. Naturally rich and buttery, when blended, an avocado makes a perfectly smooth puree to accompany fresh ingredients.
This is a bowl bright in color and flavor, and it’s delicious served either warm or cold. The very best part: this Avocado & Cucumber Soup is ready in under 10 minutes, just the time it takes you to cut ingredients and place them in the blender. Increase the filling nature of this dish by cooking French lentils, then spoon the seasoned lentils onto a serving of this bright green soup. Sprinkle with chopped onion, a squeeze of lime, and a scatter of red chili.
8. Thicken with Lentils: Mung Dal & Rice
A legume rich in micronutrients, lentils cook in a short amount of time and unite in the pot to create a smooth consistency. When you choose split yellow lentils as the star, they also become incredibly creamy.
Interchangeably called Moong Dal, Mung Dal & Rice is a rich Indian dish that is thick like a stew. It’s traditionally made with split mung beans, and it’s spiced with notes of cumin, ginger, and garam masala. Serve over whole grains such as cooked farro, or opt for simple basmati rice. Rice and legumes in unison create a complete protein for those enjoying a vegan or vegetarian diet.
9. Add Almond Milk: Creamy Pumpkin Soup
This healthy variation on a comfort food classic incorporates both almond milk and almond butter to increase the protein content and develop an extra-creamy texture — a goal that velvety canned pumpkin also supports. We think it’s not worth roasting a pumpkin for this soup; pumpkin is one ingredient where the canned version requires way less effort and tastes 99% as good. This Creamy Pumpkin Soup stands alone as a whole meal, but for those who enjoy meat protein, a chile-spiked seared pork loin would be a delicious addition. Rub a small pork loin with olive oil, salt, pepper, and ancho chile powder then pan sear on all sides until medium temperature has been achieved. Thin slices may top the bowl, or serve on the side with fresh thyme leaves. I recommend using finely clarified butter — aka ghee — as the fat in this dish. It has the benefit of adding richness, sans milk solids, and brings vitamin A, omega fatty acids, and potential gut health benefits.
Heather Anderson is a food writer based in Seattle, WA. After working in restaurants around the world, she has devoted herself to making refined food accessible to the home cook. Follow her on Instagram @heatherscottagekitchen.
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