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Yesterday, I had some cooked rice and poured in coconut milk. The can turned out to be bigger than expected so the contents got a bit too "loose".

One way was to cook some more rice, of course. However, I wonder, is there another commonly usable ingredient to thicken up things?

I'm thinking - if it's too thick, I'd pour in some water or milk. Possibly oil too. But what if I want to accomplish the opposite?

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There are lots of potential thickeners, but you often need to select the one that works best with your given need (temperature, if it has dairy, resulting mouthfeel, etc).

In your case, you're already using rice, so you may want to stick with a starch -- corn starch, potato starch, tapioca, etc. For these, you add a bit to cold liquid, mix it well, add it to the soup and heat it up. As it approaches boiling, it'll thicken.

You can use flour (wheat, rice, yam, etc.), but in the case of wheat flour and possibly the others, you may have to deal with a raw taste. You fix this by cooking the flour with butter or oil into a roux, and then adding that, and heating it up to a near boil.

You can also use pureed vegetables. Cook them in the soup, then put it through a blender so the vegetables add body to the soup.

  • Could you heat up the starch-liquid mixture separately and then add it to the soup? – Joe May 13 '17 at 0:39
  • @Joe if you cook a strong starch-liquid mixture I think it will form a lump in the soup and be difficult or impossible to mix in. Better to mix it in first and then let it cook as part of the soup base. – bdsl May 13 '17 at 14:24
  • @bdsl : that's the reason for the slurry. Lumps form when a clump of flour gets the surface wet and warm so it creates a gelatin layer preventing water from penetrating to the interior. The slurry ensures it's fully wetted before being heated. There are also pre-gelatanized starches available specifically for thickening (eg Wondra flour). Roux and kneaded butter coat the flour in fat, so you don't have the same problems with lumps if you work it in properly. If you're afraid of that, add some of the broth into the roux until it takes on a looser consistency, then add it back to the soup. – Joe May 16 '17 at 1:47
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If you are looking for the basic and common ingredient to thicken the soup then I would suggest to go with Corn flour.

All you need to do is mix corn flour in cold water. Add it into soup and stir it well. And you are done.

  • Good no-nonsense advice to quickly rescue things. – dougal 5.0.0 May 12 '17 at 12:52
  • +1 for the no-nonsense, but not the perfect solution with coconut milk, since it that combination can thicken up in a rather stodgy way... – rackandboneman May 12 '17 at 13:52
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    ...And best mention it needs to be stirred into the HOT soup :) – rackandboneman May 12 '17 at 13:53
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    Corn flour? Could you be more specific what you mean by that? That is, I believe, a British term? In the US, we use both corn meal and corn starch... we don't have a term for "corn flour". – Catija May 12 '17 at 20:31
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    Corn starch, I would think. I've used 'corn flour' that is basically corn meal that's been ground to the consistency of wheat flour. Not the best thickening agent (read: really not good). – Keith Davies May 12 '17 at 21:52
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@Joe has provided an excellent all-purpose answer, but there's one possibility I don't see mentioned: egg.

A beaten egg stirred into your rice mixture will bind and help thicken things up. It will also make your dish a bit richer.

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    Oh, that's an awesome suggestion. We love pre-chickens in our household so I'm surprised I haven't thought of that myself! – Konrad Viltersten May 15 '17 at 8:49
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This is just an opinion. I am not in too keen on using potentially gelatinous materials like corn starch or gums in this specific situation with coconut milk and rice.

Unless I had misunderstood your intention, thickening the excess liquid will only completely alter the texture. It is a bit like you having put too much milk into your breakfast cereal, thickening the milk is not going to work "normally", you need more cereal. So, more rice is the real solution.

Even if you wanted to improvise and make the liquid thicker, I would want to use rice flour or blend some cooked or uncooked rice with excess coconut milk taken from your pot, and then use it as your "invisible" thickener and cook the whole pot for a short while until you get the desired viscosity.

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Just drain it - treat the rice like pasta. When it is done cooking, use a fine mesh strainer to drain the excess liquid.

I can't find an online source, but I remember (hopefully accurately) reading a James Beard cookbook where he suggested this as a general method for cooking rice.

  • Actually, while this is a good suggestion, it does not answer OP's question which is quite specifically about thickening agents. – user110084 May 12 '17 at 19:05
  • I view this as addressing OP's problem, though your correct that it doesn't necessarily address the type of solution OP presumes in the question. (I say necessarily because one could argue that the rice-coconut milk mixture will indeed be thicker after draining.) – Gregor May 12 '17 at 20:01
  • Your solution seems to be "throw away the soup liquid". That seems very wasteful if the OP is looking to thicken the soup instead. – Catija May 12 '17 at 20:29
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    It could be saved for another purpose, of course. I'm just proposing that, if the problem is "soup has too much liquid", then "remove some liquid" is a viable option. – Gregor May 12 '17 at 20:33
  • @Gregor, you offered a simple and very effective fix. I would do the same. If you put too much milk in your cereal, the most natural thing to do is pour some milk out! However, I am learning to play by the rules here and OP was explicit about thickener in the question. I initially gave a +1 to your answer, but felt obligated to retract. Sorry about that. – user110084 May 13 '17 at 8:29

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