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

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.

Making a roux

Well! Now 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!

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How to Make a Roux

We actually teach kids this basic cooking technique in our Kids Cook Real Food eCourse, and I think it’s a skill that every home cook should have.

Here’s the method, and some screenshots from the lessons in the video course:

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

Ingredients in a Roux

  • 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 c. 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.

Detailed Instructions and Photo Tutorial to Make a Homemade Roux/Bechamel

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

how to make a roux - melt the butter

2. Stir in flour until it looks like pasty gunk:

how to make a roux - add the flour

3. Cook for a minute to get rid of the “flour” taste, then add the milk, stirring constantly to mix up the roux. (This is where you’d add broth or stock to make homemade gravy.)

how to make a bechamel sauce - add the milk

5. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring as often as you can to prevent scorched milk, until bubbly and thickened.

how to make a bechamel sauce - stir until thickened

Gluten-Free Cream Sauce

But…what if you’re gluten-free?

Even though it’s just a bit of wheat flour, it still counts.

Great news! There are 2 ways to make a gluten-free roux / bechamel that are tried and true:

Buckwheat Flour for a Gluten-free Roux

Not all gluten-free flours will work 1-to-1 for a roux, but buckwheat flour works just fine. Just stir it into the fat as you would with wheat flour.

The resulting cream sauce is quite thick and definitely has a different consistency than a wheat flour bechamel, but if you’re gluten-free, it can be a life-saver.

Arrowroot Powder Fakes the Roux

You won’t use arrowroot powder in exactly the same way as making a roux, because it doesn’t work to stir it into the fat.

You must add the arrowroot powder (HALF as much measurement as wheat flour; it thickens more effectively) into COLD liquid, typically the milk. Stir that mixture very thoroughly or shake it up in a jar with a tightly-fitting lid, then pour it into any broth or milk or soup after the liquid in the pot is boiling.

You can see a video demo at the end of this post

What to Do with a Roux / Bechamel

You can use the white sauce over pasta (add salt, pepper, spices and Parmesan cheese and you’ve got Alfredo) or a cheesy sauce for steamed broccoli.

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

Make your own baked chicken dish by adding cheese and jalapenos and pouring over chicken breasts, or use this knowledge to make cream of potato/vegetable soup.

 

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Kids watching a cooking lesson at a kitchen island

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My Favorite Use for a Roux: Cream of Potato Soup

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!

Roux for Cream of Potato Soup
 
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Have you ever made a roux or bechamel?

40 thoughts on “My First Roux (and a Cream of Potato Soup Recipe)”

  1. Great soup! I was looking all over for a soup base that included the roux/bechemel sauce. Amazingly hard to find. I made it according to your directions with potatoes and broccoli and it was perfect. Thanks for posting.

  2. I made this – more or less – last night for dinner. My son needed to practice cutting up baked potatoes for a secret project we’re involved with ;), so I had him do that and used those potatoes with frozen broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. Since the broccoli and cauliflower pieces were huge (thx Costco) and I was worried that my soup wasn’t thickening up enough, I used an immersion blender to blend it all in the pot. I mixed in a couple handfuls of cheddar cheese, it thickened perfectly, was a lovely pale green color (guess there was a lot of broccoli), and – most importantly – the whole family loved it and said I should definitely make it again. I seasoned it with some basil and quite a bit of dried parsley cause I didn’t realize I’d opened the pour side instead of the sprinkle side until after I dumped it in the pot :p.

      1. Thanks. Technically I was trying to follow your recipe 😉 but thanks to your open instructions and Better than a Box I felt confident enough to adapt your framework to what I had on hand :D. In the past I would also have freaked out when I accidentally dumped in 2-4 TBS of dried parsley, but having recently heard you say that parsley is really mild and hard to overdo, I just hoped for the best – and it really did have a great flavor. Btw I used mostly milk with a bit of water and the last 3/4 cup(ish) of my concentrated homemade chicken broth for the liquid. I’m now wondering if the parsley contributed to the color 😉 and hoping I can recreate this in the future since I didn’t really write anything down (other than in these comments :p).

  3. 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!

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  5. 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.

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  7. 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 😀

    1. 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

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

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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?

    1. 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

  11. 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.

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  13. 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 =-.

  14. 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 =-.

  15. Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet

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

  16. 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 =-.

      1. 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

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

  20. 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.

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

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

  22. 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!

    1. 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

  23. Great looking soup and a terrific lesson in roux!

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

  24. 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.

  25. 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 =-.

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