Cooking Tips

The Unexpected Soup Thickener: Arborio Rice

Enjoy hearty soups without compromising their delicate flavors.

Published Dec. 14, 2021.

In my part of the world, colder weather means more soup. But for vegetable soups, it can be difficult to achieve the body and luxurious mouthfeel that collagen provides to meatier recipes. Many recipes try to make up for this by loading up on the cheese and other dairy, but there’s another option: Arborio rice.

You probably think of risotto, not soup, when you think of Arborio rice. But the same attribute that helps it produce a creamy risotto—that is, its high starch content—also makes it the perfect thickener for pureed soups.

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As Arborio rice cooks, it releases starch more rapidly than long-grain rice does, and that starch thickens the liquid. The “chalkiness” that’s noticeable in risotto is destroyed when you puree the soup before serving. We’ve found that all you need is ⅓ cup of rice added along with the broth or water in your soup recipe.

Another advantage of using rice to thicken soup is that it doesn’t overpower the other ingredients. In our Nettle Soup, we tested using potatoes to achieve the creaminess we were after, but their earthy flavor was overwhelming. Arborio rice’s high starch content thickened the soup to a velvety, lush consistency without clouding its bright, vegetal flavors. 

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The same applies to our Super Greens Soup with Lemon-Tarragon Cream. Large amounts of kale, swiss chard, and arugula naturally give the soup peppery, earthy notes. Potatoes amplified the earthy flavors, but Arborio rice’s neutral flavor helped showcase the full complexity of the dish. Here, the lemon and tarragon cream is a finishing accent rather than the base of the soup.

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