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How does one make a thick soup, like Campbell's Chunky brand beef stew? I have already tried flour*, but it didn't work the way I was hoping. I'm cooking home-made beef bone brothers based stews.
Any suggestions?

* I added a whole cup and a half of flour slurry to about 2.5 gallons of stew, but it didn't have the thickness I was looking for. It also made the soup (borsch) look like greenish sewage water when it shpuld have just made it pink if anything

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The method that I learned from an Irish co-worker is to add instant potato flakes. You're basically making really runny mashed potatoes. As stew is often thickened by the starch from the outside of whatever potatoes are in there, it won't throw off the flavor.

I've found that I can hold back a potato from the stew that I shred directly into the pot after everything else is cooked to the degree that I want, but while it's still near a simmer. It will break down in minutes and thicken the stew. You might need to try it to find out how much potato you need for the viscosity that you like.

I suspect that the amount will change with the type of potato. I typically use yellow (medium starch) potatoes. I suspect that russet (starchy/floury) potatoes would work well, but that red (waxy) potatoes may require more and longer cooking to break down.

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I've never used slurry and only rarely use flour for thickening. Some ideas:

  • thickening requires some time and heat. Is it possible you added it too late?
  • too much liquid will cancel out the thickening. If the solid ingredients don't mind a bit more cooking you can reduce the stew a bit.
  • corn starch is a more potent thickening agent. This could help with the visuals.
  • is it possible your slurry was too thin? Adding both more water and less thickening agent than intended could be an explanation for your lack of success.
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What I usually do is cook stew for an extended period of time. Not only is the water reduced, through evaporation, but ingredients will start to break down - and this will thicken the liquid with little particles and released starches from the outer edges of vegetables, etc disintegrating.

a quicker method might be to separate some of the stew out, and mash or puree it for the same mechanical advantage of ingredient debris, but taking less cooking time.

As for not being pleased with your flour slurry, it might help to try some different things. I usually thicken with a roux instead of a simple slurry (flour fried in oil before adding to liquid), which ends up darker, and has more flavor (from mailliard reactions, as the flour browns, and the oil/butter used). broth from the stew can also be used, to avoid adding additional liquid to the stew broth.

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Have you tried increasing the amount of slurry? If you make your flour slurry with beef broth (assuming it's a beef stew- use chicken stock for lamb stew) instead of water you can add more slurry without making the stew too bland.

  • Thank you bob, I will try this later this week when I make more. – user65542 Mar 4 '18 at 20:50
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I've always had great results with cornstarch. Too much flour imparts a flavor I'm not fond of. In stews, I usually start with a half cup of water and 2 or 3 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed well. Sometimes I need more, sometimes it's just right. A friend of mine uses a thickener called Wonder. I've never used it, but never have complaints when eating her food.

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Have you tried to use Arrow Root as the thickener? Also, make sure to add it near the end of the cooking process. Check out this link for more info. http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/how-to-cook-with-arrowroot-powder/

  • I just realized you said you are making Borsht. Why are you trying to thicken it? Borsht is not supposed to be thick. It is not a stew it is a soup. – User 0505 Mar 7 '18 at 23:47

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