What thickener will add least calories to soups and stews, producing effects similar to "regular" thickeners? All the ones I know are either pretty high-calorie, or produce results that are quite off "regular".

  • roux - lots of fat and carbs
  • flour + sour cream - same.
  • potato starch / mashed potatoes / instant potato puree - lots of carbs.
  • mashed beans - high protein content
  • xanthan gum - weird texture (shear-thinning liquid).
  • gelatin - very temperature dependent, almost no thickening effect on hot meals.

What are my other options?

  • 8
    you're rejecting anything that's actually food. You reject high fat, high carbs, and high protein. Then you reject non food thickeners like gums and gelatins. What's left? Mar 3, 2017 at 14:22
  • 2
    @KateGregory: Non-food thickeners that give texture similar to food thickeners, and food thickeners that are very low calorie (e.g high fiber). Also, if the answer was simple, I wouldn't need to ask.
    – SF.
    Mar 3, 2017 at 15:26
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    Have you perhaps tried blending or partially blending the soup or stew? In form this is similar to mashed potatoes or mashed beans as a thickener, except blending in some or all of whatever chunky ingredients are already in the soup or stew - though clearly this does not work well for thin soups without something solid-ish to blend in. Since those ingredients were already there it would not mean adding extra calories.
    – Megha
    Mar 3, 2017 at 23:16
  • @Megha: Mashing beans was my method for beans based foods. Didn't think to blend anything else, but that's actually a very good idea! That way I'm not adding any extra ingredients (and breaking the painstakingly calculated calorie count), just "transforming" part of the dish.
    – SF.
    Mar 4, 2017 at 0:43
  • Okay, folks, the whole reason for editing the question was to avoid off-topic discussion of health/nutrition/diets. If you want to go to Seasoned Advice Chat or something, go for it, but this is a cooking site, not a health site.
    – Cascabel
    Mar 4, 2017 at 5:41

6 Answers 6


You could use a corn starch and water slurry. Less corn starch is needed as compared to flour and no oil. Thickens quite well.

  • Note that you don't actually need the oil for flour either, it just helps prevent clumping, so it's the using less that really matters. I believe you need roughly half the volume of cornstarch for a similar amount of thickening. It also has more carbs than flour (116g per cup, compared to 92g per cup), because it's a more refined starch. So in the end, for similar thickening, this gets you to about 60% the carbs. For example, if you were replacing 2 tablespoons of flour with 1 of cornstarch, you'd go from 11.5g down to 7g carbs; not sure if that counts as "not high-calorie" for the OP or not.
    – Cascabel
    Mar 3, 2017 at 22:37
  • According to thekitchn.com/… potato starch has more thickening power than corn starch. That may result in even fewer carbs. Mar 3, 2017 at 22:57
  • @ShannonSeverance: How is it texture-wise? I've only seen it as Kissel and it wasn't very compelling. Never tried it with savory foods.
    – SF.
    Mar 4, 2017 at 12:00
  • @SF I do not remember. I've only used it a couple of times when making: blogs.kqed.org/essentialpepin/2011/09/17/… Mar 6, 2017 at 21:30

Take one or two scoops of your soup (prefer the solid parts), put it into a blender, blitz until smooth and put it back into your soup.

You'll get zero additional calories and zero awful stuff your grandma wouldn't identify as food.

This obviously only works if we're not talking about a broth.


I would suggest Arrowroot powder; it is a powerful thickener, has no real flavor of its own, and can be used at lower temperatures. It is a bit more expensive, but if you can afford it, I would say it is probably the best overall option with the most flexibility.


I have good success with either instant Masa powder (nixtamalized and dried corn flour) or powdered dried mushrooms. Both suck up water quite well.

  • A very interesting suggestion with the mushrooms! Wherever their aroma doesn't clash with the dish they would be excellent; they are nearly 0 calories, and yes, they soak up water incredibly well, plus maintain density across a range of temperatures, no "thin broth when hot, solid jelly when cool" problem. I wonder what the texture will be, but I suspect something quite similar to flour-based thickeners.
    – SF.
    Mar 4, 2017 at 22:35
  • @SF. Dried mushrooms are 300 calories per 100 g, so not "nearly 0", but quite close to flour (about 350 calories per 100 g).
    – rumtscho
    Mar 5, 2017 at 0:50
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    @SF. About 90% comes from carbohydrates and 10% from protein - pretty run-of-the-mill for nonanimal food. It's what the mushroom is made out of :) The reason why fresh mushrooms have almost 0 calories is that they are almost all water, but once you dry them, you are left with the nutritious rest. nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/… for the more exact data.
    – rumtscho
    Mar 5, 2017 at 14:28
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    @SF. The use of "per 100g" was because that's a good way to compare calories between foods, not because I was suggesting that you put 100g in your soup. I meant that you are already counting the calories from traditional thickeners like cornstarch or flour, so it makes sense to count the calories of dried mushrooms, which are in the same ballpark, especially since my hunch is that you will need more mushroom powder than flour to achieve the same soup thickness.
    – rumtscho
    Mar 5, 2017 at 22:03
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    I'm not calling them bad, and they sound like a good thing to try. Just wanted to make sure you are not overlooking the calories, since your question and the chat comments sound like you have to count even small amounts. I hope your soups get better with these answers - I certainly saw some interesting ideas here I'd like to try in mine (including the mushrooms) and I'm not even restricted by the calorie count.
    – rumtscho
    Mar 6, 2017 at 9:02

Eggplant. I often fooled my kids into thinking the Alfredo sauce was classic, but it was just pureed cooked eggplant and cheese. I often thickened my soups this way. It was a way to get vegetables into their tummies without whining. Eggplant has very little taste on its own once peeled.


I like rolled oats to thicken a broth soup, potato flakes for a cream soup, and for my jalapeno broccoli asiago, I just blend some of the broccoli.

I really like the dried mushroom idea. I had never heard of that.

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