Pureed vegetable soups are a common menu choice for people who eat a pureed food diet. We make several different kinds of pureed soups at our facilities. There are many easy to make varieties that have just a few ingredients. Although, many of these soup recipes can get quite complicated – especially many of the classic french pureed soups. Read this guide to learn how to make pureed soup at home.
How to Make Pureed Soup
Generally, pureed soups are made by cooking a single vegetable or a combination of vegetables in a fat, usually butter. Once the vegetables become tender, liquid is added and the vegetables are allowed to simmer until soft. Then, the food is pureed in a food mill, a food processor, or a blender. This gives it a smooth consistency.
Food mills, though, are preferred though because they also strain the puree. This removes the larger particles that can make a soup taste gritty. This is also important for people with dysphagia who need smooth, consistent purees.
Simple Pureed Soups
People who are creative in the kitchen can easily come up with simple pureed soup recipes at home on their own. Just cooking a few ingredients that taste good and have strong flavors in broth or milk can make a very flavorful soup. Once the ingredients are soft, they can be blended in a blender, food processor, or food mill to make a smooth soup.
Broth is the most common liquid used for these simple soups. Chicken, vegetable, and beef stocks are available at every grocery store. Most every home cook also has these in their pantry. Milk, cream, or even water could be used too.
Sometimes, the thickness of the soup has to be adjusted because it comes out too thin or too thick. People who are recovering from jaw surgery or on liquid diets need a thinner soup. If the soup is too thick after pureeing, liquids like cream, broth, or water are added. (Although, my personal opinion is, don’t use water – it just dilutes the puree and doesn’t add any nutritional value.)
A soup that is too thin isn’t good either. Thin, watery soups aren’t filling or appetizing for most people. People suffering from dysphasia can even get choked on soups that are too thin.
Here are ways to thicken a pureed soup:
Simply whisk flour into an equal amount of hot butter until combined and add to the soup. Then whisk it into the soup while simmering. This will thicken the soup as it cooks just as it does when making gravies and roux.
The drawback for flour though is it may change the color depending on the veggies being used. It can also lead to a glue-like consistency or top coat as the soup cools.
Using flour to thicken pureed soups is the choice of most home cooks. Everyone has flour in their kitchens, so it is quick and easy to use this method.
Cornstarch / Arrowroot Powder
Either of these ingredients can be made into a thin paste with water then added to the pureed soup at the end. Keep the soup hot and whisk the paste into the soup just before you serve it.
Be careful: if you don’t whisk it, it will clump up into very unpleasant tasting lumps. These thickeners won’t change the color of the soup though.
This is the method most of the cooks in our facilities use. It is easy to adjust and the consistency doesn’t change much as the soup sits in trays.
If you know ahead of time that the soup will be thin, potatoes can make a great thickener. Simply peel a potato, dice into cubes, and add to the vegetables while they are cooking. Then, simply puree the potatoes with the vegetables. Cooked rice can be used in the same way.
Using potatoes to thicken pureed soups is a great way to add nutrition and texture to a soup. And, most potatoes are mild enough to not alter the flavor of the final puree.
The practice of using bread as a thickener goes back more than a thousand years. It is also a common practice in fine french cooking.
To use bread as a thickener, cut the crusts off and saute the bread (both sides) in butter until it is lightly toasted. Then, float the bread in the liquid, before it is pureed, for a few minutes until it is soft. Finally, puree the mixture with the bread.
- Beans are sometimes used for thickening too. If starting with fresh beans, they should be soaked and drained before cooking. And, they should be cooked separately and added to the vegetables just before pureeing.
- Egg yolks are also sometimes used. But, this is one of the more difficult ways. The scrambled egg yolks must be tempered to avoid ending up with scrambled eggs in the soup.
How to Puree Soup
Once the vegetables are softened, it is time to puree. You can check for proper softness by using a fork. If the fork easily mashes the vegetable but the grain of the veggie still shows, it is time to puree. Vegetables that have overcooked and are too soft can still be pureed. The final soup, though, may need thickening.
I find it easier to puree the veggie solids with a little of the cooking liquid rather than pureeing everything at once. This makes it easier to adjust your final thickness without adding additional ingredients.
To do this, strain the mixture through a sieve or a colander into a large bowl or pan. This way, you can keep the flavorful cooking liquid to add back as needed. Then, add the solids and a small amount of the retained liquids to your puree machine of choice.
There are several methods for pureeing soups. Some manual, some electric. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks.
Food Mills are the preferred by professional chefs for pureeing soups. These machines both puree and strain the solids at the same time. This saves a few steps and yields a consistent puree.
Many food mills come with three grinding disks: a fine one, a medium one, and a coarse one. To get the smoothest, finest puree, you should push the soup through the food mill twice -once with the course and then again with the fine disk.
Most food mills are operated manually by turning a crank. This crank turns the disk which breaks the food into smaller particles. At the same time, it pushes the smaller particles through a strainer leaving the larger particles behind.
It takes a bit longer to puree soup in a food mill. But, the final product a food mill gives may be worth it. Because of the built-in strainer, the food mill yields a smooth, consistent puree.
There are many helpful uses for a food mill in the kitchen. Read about some other uses in this article.
Food Processors and Blenders
Most every kitchen today has at least one of these devices, if not both. Because these are electrically powered, they are easier to use for pureed soups. But the final puree may not be as consistent. It often will contain larger chunks of vegetables. For people with dysphagia or swallowing difficulty, these larger parts should be strained out.
CAUTION! When using blenders or food processors to puree the soup, do not fill up the container. Only fill it 1/4 to 1/3 full before turning on the device. Hot soup will expand when you turn the machine on. Often this results in hot soup spewing out the top of the machine. This will make a huge mess and could even cause burns and injury. It is best to blend hot soup in batches. Another safety measure is to throw a towel over the lid and hold it down while blending.
Straining the Puree
For a smooth puree, strain the puree to remove lumps and larger particles. Most kitchen strainers are fine enough to use with most pureed soups. Although, fine mesh strainers are best if you want a really smooth soup.
Once you have the pureed vegetables, you may need to add liquid or thickener to the puree to get the desired consistency.
If the puree is too thick, put the puree in a pan and add back some of the retained liquid from earlier. Then simmer for a few minutes to reconstitute everything.
If the puree is too thin, use any of the thickening methods discussed above.
Pureed soups are a great-tasting way to get good nutrition. They are a staple for people who have swallowing difficulties or those recovering from surgeries. These soups are also served by some of the finest restaurants in the world.
It is also easy to make pureed soup at home. Following these steps, using good ingredients, and having the right gear makes it even easier.
Have you ever made pureed soup at home? Tell me about your experience in the comments below. Do have any tips or recipes you’d like to share?
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