Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

My First Roux (and a Cream of Potato Soup Recipe)

October 27th, 2009 · 36 Comments · Do It Yourself, Fat Full Fall, Frugality, Recipes, Upgraded Nutrition

I can still picture standing in the kitchen my first summer in an apartment, talking on the phone with my mother.  I called her a lot to ask how to do things!  I just wanted the recipe for cream of potato soup, one of my favorites, and there she was explaining how to make a “roux” that can be used in other recipes…  I rolled my eyes.

“Mo-om!”  (You know, the two-syllable “Mom” that teenagers use in exasperation.  I was still young enough to use that tone of voice.)  “I only want the recipe, plain and simple.  You don’t need to give me a whole cooking lesson.”

cream of potato soup

Well!  Now that I will tell anyone I know that learning to make a roux (pronounced “roo” like Kanga) is a really easy, important step in cooking things from scratch. It’s the basis for not only my favorite childhood soup, but also wanna-be Pasta-Roni side dishes, “cream of _____” soups for casseroles, and homemade gravy.  You use a roux to make an even fancier sounding word, a bechamel, which basically means a cream sauce.  I’ve used that knowledge to fiddle with pasta and vegetables and more and create really great, simple dishes.  Now it’s your turn!

UPDATE: I updated the recipe with new ideas to make it more flexible with any veggies you have on hand plus a video of the gluten-free version. Check it out HERE.

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How to Make a Roux

Use equal parts fat and flour.  Melt the fat and whisk in the flour.  It’s as simple as that!  To make the bechamel (cream sauce), you just whisk in milk or cream and bring to a boil, stirring fairly constantly.

  • 1 Tbs butter or olive oil (pan drippings if you’re going for gravy)
  • 1 Tbs flour (white or whole wheat both work great)
  • 1 cup whole milk (or part cream)

Increase the amounts depending on how much of the final product you need. If you want it thicker, use more flour.

October Fest Carnival

The healthy fats (butter and whole dairy fats) make this recipe the perfect candidate for the final October Fest Carnival of Super Foods: Healthy Fat Recipes this Thursday.

1.  Gently melt the butter so it doesn’t burn:

roux making2.  Whisk in flour:

roux making 33.  Until it looks like pasty gunk:

roux making 44.  UPDATE:  (Thanks, Mom!)  Cook for a minute to get rid of the “flour” taste, then slowly add the milk, whisking constantly to mix up the roux.  (This is where you’d add broth or stock to make homemade gravy.)

roux making 6

5.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring as often as you can to prevent scorched milk, until bubbly and thickened.  (I don’t know why I don’t have a picture of this step…must have gotten too many things going in the kitchen by this point!)

You can use the white sauce over pasta (add salt, pepper, spices and Parmesan cheese and you’ve got alfredo), make a baked chicken dish by adding cheese and jalapenos and pouring over chicken breasts, or use this knowledge to make cream of potato/vegetable soup.

Cream of Potato/Vegetable Soup

cream of potato soup 2

One of the things I love about cream of potato soup is its versatility.  It’s a perfect mid-winter, mid-Lent meatless option, and it’s delicious enough that you don’t mind eating it in the summer either, especially with the bounty of fresh produce you find that time of year.

It’s also incredibly frugal and great for using up leftovers, like the bag of random vegetables I have in my freezer.

The other thing I love?  The taste. Simplicity at its best!

I’ve posted this recipe before, but I’ve made some changes in the way I prepare it since then, and I’m excited to share the updates.

Ingredients

~4 potatoes
carrots
any other veggies you have on hand (broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, zucchini, green beans, corn…)
2-3 Tbs butter
4-5 Tbs whole wheat flour (gluten-free version below)**
2 cups whole milk (why full fat dairy?)
2 cups chicken stock (or additional milk if you want meatless)
salt, pepper, herbs to taste (see below for ideas)

Directions

Wash and cut potatoes (with or without skins – for taste’s sake, peel them, for health’s sake, leave the peels on), a few carrots, some broccoli, and other veggies.  Boil the potatoes in salted water about 15 minutes or until soft.

I used to put the veggies right in the water too and use the veggie water to thin the cream sauce (to add nutrients, I had heard!), but now I understand that it’s not recommended to reuse cooking water if (1) you don’t use organic produce and (2) you’re using broccoli, kale, spinach, or cauliflower (and a few other lesser known cruciferous veggies).  The chemicals from non-organically grown produce reside in the cooking water, and the oxalic acid and/or goitrogens (see this post for explanation) from the cruciferous veggies also sit in the water.

My solution to get all the vegetables cooked and do it nutritiously — and without adding extra dishes — is to get the potatoes going:

making cream of potatoThen rest my steamer basket on top, either using its own tripod like above, or just sitting on the potatoes if there are too many:

making cream of potato 2And yes, this is a great opportunity to use some broccoli stems.

Meanwhile, as soon as you get your veggies on the stove, start your roux/bechamel.  (It always takes longer than I think it will.)  For potato soup, I usually use 2-3 Tbs butter, 3-5 Tbs flour (extra thick) and 2 cups milk.  Once it is pleasantly thick, pour in a few cups of chicken broth for added nutritional benefits.

**Gluten-free version: Use 2-4 Tbs. arrowroot starch, and instead of adding it to the fat, whisk it in with one cup of the cold milk. Put the other 3 cups of liquid into the pan, bring to a low boil, and stir in the starch/milk mixture, whisking constantly until bubbly again. I always think it is not going to thicken up, and I usually add more starch mixed with water or milk, then get my soup too thick. Be patient; arrowroot does thicken better than flour, so you use less.

When the vegetables are all soft, add them to the creamy base using a slotted spoon.  Just discard the cooking water.

Season with salt and pepper to taste (1 tsp or less salt and ¼-1/2 tsp pepper is safe).  Other herbs like thyme, marjoram, basil and taragon are good to add flavor, too.  Lately I’ve used about a tsp of marjoram and taragon, in case you’re not adventurous in the kitchen with trying your own measurements.

cream of potato


**This is a good recipe to play with…

  • You can fry up some bacon and onions and use a little bacon fat for the roux, then add bacon to the soup and sprinkle with cheese for “loaded baked potato” soup.
  • My dad calls it “end of garden vegetable soup” with potatoes, green beans, carrots and corn in August.
  • Add a cup or two of shredded cheese, frozen corn and some ham and you have a cheesy ham chowder to die for.

You can make a basic homemade cream of chicken/mushroom base recipe (also see three easy casseroles in the above post).

Print This Recipe

Cream of Potato Soup Recipe
 
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Ingredients
  • ~4 potatoes
  • carrots
  • any other veggies you have on hand (broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, zucchini, green beans, corn…)
  • 2-3 Tbs. butter
  • 4-5 Tbs. whole wheat flour (gluten-free version below)**
  • 2 c. whole milk (why full fat dairy?)
  • 2 c. chicken stock (or additional milk if you want meatless)
  • salt, pepper, herbs to taste (see below for ideas)
Instructions
  1. Wash and cut potatoes (with or without skins – for taste’s sake, peel them, for health’s sake, leave the peels on), a few carrots, some broccoli, and other veggies. Boil the potatoes in salted water about 15 minutes or until soft.
  2. I used to put the veggies right in the water too and use the veggie water to thin the cream sauce (to add nutrients, I had heard!), but now I understand that it’s not recommended to reuse cooking water if (1) you don’t use organic produce and (2) you’re using broccoli, kale, spinach, or cauliflower (and a few other lesser known cruciferous veggies). The chemicals from non-organically grown produce reside in the cooking water, and the oxalic acid and/or goitrogens (see this post for explanation) from the cruciferous veggies also sit in the water.
  3. My solution to get all the vegetables cooked and do it nutritiously — and without adding extra dishes — is to get the potatoes going.
  4. Then rest my steamer basket on top, either using its own tripod like above, or just sitting on the potatoes if there are too many.
  5. And yes, this is a great opportunity to use some broccoli stems.
  6. Meanwhile, as soon as you get your veggies on the stove, start your roux/bechamel. (It always takes longer than I think it will.) For potato soup, I usually use 2-3 Tbs butter, 3-5 Tbs flour (extra thick) and 2 cups milk. Once it is pleasantly thick, pour in a few cups of chicken broth for added nutritional benefits.
  7. **Gluten-free version: Use 2-4 Tbs. arrowroot starch, and instead of adding it to the fat, whisk it in with one cup of the cold milk. Put the other 3 cups of liquid into the pan, bring to a low boil, and stir in the starch/milk mixture, whisking constantly until bubbly again. I always think it is not going to thicken up, and I usually add more starch mixed with water or milk, then get my soup too thick. Be patient; arrowroot does thicken better than flour, so you use less.
  8. When the vegetables are all soft, add them to the creamy base using a slotted spoon. Just discard the cooking water.
  9. Season with salt and pepper to taste (1 tsp. or less salt and ¼-1/2 tsp. pepper is safe). Other herbs like thyme, marjoram, basil and taragon are good to add flavor, too. Lately I’ve used about a tsp of marjoram and taragon, in case you’re not adventurous in the kitchen with trying your own measurements.
Notes

You can fry up some bacon and onions and use a little bacon fat for the roux, then add bacon to the soup and sprinkle with cheese for “loaded baked potato” soup.
My dad calls it “garden soup” with potatoes, green beans, carrots and corn in August.
Add a cup or two of shredded cheese, frozen corn and some ham and you have a cheesy ham chowder to die for.

 

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36 Comments so far ↓

  • Megan

    This soup looks divine! I am most certainly going to try it!

    I’m loving your blog, its theme and posts, as a fellow Catholic and cooking-lover! :)
    .-= Megan´s last blog ..Gratituesday: The Value of Human Life =-.

  • jsprik@blog-diggidy

    yummy!! i think i’m gonna add veggies to my potato soup to make it healthier!! :)
    .-= jsprik@blog-diggidy´s last blog ..Tempt My Tummy Tuesday…. =-.

  • Jen

    I use a roux for SO many things. It is a very helpful technique to know. This soup looks and sounds so good! I will be trying it very soon.

  • Jen @ Happy Little Homemaker

    I’m not usually a fan of cream soups but this sounds fabulous!!

  • Gail

    Great looking soup and a terrific lesson in roux!

    Blessings!
    Gail
    .-= Gail´s last blog ..Another Pie Day =-.

  • Emily @ Live Renewed

    Katie, I am loving your blog! I have been going back and reading some of your past posts and trying to keep up with the current stuff. It’s all such great info and exactly what I need right now!!

    Thanks for the potato soup recipe! It’s perfect timing for me, because my hubs wants me to make cheesy potatoes, but it calls for 2 cans of cream of potato soup and I am trying not to use the store bought processed foods so much and was wondering if I could just make a cream of potato myself to use in the recipe. I’ll definitely be trying this out!

    I just recently learned to make a roux myself, and use it to make homemade mac & cheese, and I’m excited to begin to experiment with the many other uses for it. It is definitely one of the those simple, basic, must-know things for cooking from scratch!

    Katie Reply:

    Emily,
    Yayyy! Welcome on board! I just love that some of these posts are just *when* people need them. :) If you’re subbing for canned stuff, remember that’s probably condensed, so either use more of your potato soup and less milk than the recipe calls for, or make the potato soup super thick with extra flour. I’ve done it in a casserole before (subbed for canned) and it was better than ever! :)
    Katie

  • Sherry

    Oh, yum! I Love potato soup!! THank you for sharing!
    .-= Sherry´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday – Princess Parking =-.

  • Mary

    FYI: Most references to roux that I have seen say to cook the flour/butter combination for a minute and to add the cold milk all at once. I have done it that way with success. The above flour/butter combination looks like it’s had some time to ‘cook’ the flour. I suspect that is to avoid a flour flavor.

    Katie Reply:

    Excellent additional info. Um…thanks for the cooking lesson, Mom! ;) Good thing you’re around!

  • Anjanette

    Made this last night and it was a hit!!!
    .-= Anjanette´s last blog ..Introducing Cora Ruth =-.

  • Pennywise Platter Thursday 10/29

    [...] Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship I’ve always billed this soup as under $2 a pot, versatile ingredient-wise and flexible enough to feed a crowd. You can use up leftover vegs that you freeze as you go in this cream of potato/vegetable soup. [...]

  • Good Reads: Candy Corn – Yea or Nay? : Domestic Cents

    [...] Stewardship presents My First Roux (And A Cream Of Potato Soup Recipe). Perfect for the chilly [...]

  • Jolyn @ Macomb Money Savers

    We LOVE a good roux – it’s a cooking staple! :)Just a note for those with dairy allergies or sensitivities – this works just as well with soy margarine and soymilk as substitutes!
    .-= Jolyn @ Macomb Money Savers´s last blog ..Vince & Joe’s: November 2-8, 2009 =-.

    anne Reply:

    thanks, so I assume rice milk works too?
    I was wondering about the soymilk, so thank you!

    Katie Reply:

    Anne,
    I wouldn’t know, but there’s nothing special about this being milk, instead of another liquid. Love to know if these alternative milks are tasty! :) Katie

  • Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet

    Looks good!
    .-= Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet´s last blog ..The Healthy Dollar Menu & Gift Carnival =-.

  • SnoWhite

    we made something very similar this week – it was mighty tasty.

    thanks for the tips on steaming the veggies – great idea.
    .-= SnoWhite´s last blog ..Christmas Cookie Favorites =-.

  • Staci

    I can’t wait to try the soup. We need to mix it up a bit on these cold winter days here.
    thanks for joining me this week. Spread the word, and I look forward to next week.
    Staci
    .-= Staci´s last blog ..Meatless Monday Carnival – Kids in the Kitchen =-.

  • How to Make Fabulous Soup From Scratch Without a Recipe | Keeper of the Home

    [...] for me is to heat up some oil in the pot, with no liquids added. It might be butter if I'm making a roux for a creamy soup, or just some coconut oil or beef tallow to fry up some onions and garlic [...]

  • Roberta

    Please don’t discard the very nutritious veggie water from this delicious potato soup recipe. Use in other soups or to feed sourdough starter. Potato water makes in bread dough gives a great texture and flavor. Or cool and use to water house plants.

  • Tara

    I don’t eat grains so can’t use regular flour to make a roux. I bake with almond flour but assume it wouldn’t work in this case. Would coconut flour or some other flour be an acceptable substitute to make a roux?

    Katie Reply:

    Tara,
    Can you use arrowroot starch or cornstarch? I never tried coconut flour, but those two work well. I think you can use slightly less arrowroot starch (up to half?) compared to flour. If your roux doesn’t thicken up well, just mix more starch with COLD water thoroughly, and then add it into the hot milk mixture, stirring until you see bubbles, and it should thicken even more.

    Good luck! :) Katie

  • Cynthia

    I made this soup with leftover roast veggies (potato, onion, carrot & celery). I had separated the leftover meat from the veggies and both containers had a generous amount of drippings. I added the veggies and drippings to the thickened roux and it was fabulous. I didn’t need to season much at all. YUMMY!

    Thanks for the roux lesson.

    Katie Reply:

    Cynthia,
    We had it this week, too! Mmmmm… ) Katie

  • Rose

    Oh man this recipe sounds sooooo yummy! And here I have been buying Alfredo sauce in the jar! ughhhhh knowing it’s full of sodium! Will make my own from now own!
    Thanx for sharing!

  • Lesley

    Can this soup be frozen? I’ve heard that cream based soups separate when thawed…

    Katie Reply:

    Lesley,
    It works “okay” but not great – if it separates, it goes right back together, but the potatoes do get a bit mushy. :) Katie

    Kelly Allen Reply:

    then you could put it in the blender and have creamy potato soup. :)

  • Katie

    That looks so delicious! Do you know approximately how many it serves?

  • Katie

    Hey, I just commented above :) also, just made the soup tonight and it was amazing! I guess I was a little over zealous with the veggies because I had to add a lot more than 2 cups of broth (I didn’t really keep track, I keep my broth in frozen cubes), but it turned out totally delicious anyways. Oh and my boyfriend, who doesn’t normally like soup, actually liked it :D

    Katie Reply:

    Katie,
    That’s awesome! I wasn’t sure how I was going to answer your first question, anyway, because I always just make it until the pot has enough and it feeds everyone I need to feed. ;) I love soup for that reason! :) Katie

  • Heidi

    Made this tonight with tiny diced carrots, broccoli, and diced, sautéed leeks. Would probably work well with yukon or red (waxy) potatoes instead of russets…. lower glycemic index and they hold together better.

  • Budget-Friendly Meals That Kids Like | Life As Mom

    [...] Cream of potato/vegetable soup is a favorite all around, and it’s a great way to use up little bits and ends of cooked veggies, plus it’s meatless so quite frugal. [...]

  • 1TahoeGal

    Hi Katie, I learned how to make Cream of Potato Soup in 8th grade Home Economics (1978) I vividly remember the magic of how the roux turned into this amazing luxurious soup. I will forever be blown away that it comes from the humble ingredients it does! Thank you for all your tips and recipes! And sometimes reminders of things we used to know and just needed a prod to remember!

Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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