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Lightening Up Your Soup Recipes

Learn how to reduce fat and salt in just about any soup recipe.

Lightening Up Your Soup Recipes

Almost everyone has a favorite soup recipe or two. Maybe it's a recipe for Mom's Chicken Noodle Soup — the one she always made for you when you were sick. Or maybe it's a recipe for the Vegetable Beef Soup that took the chill off many a winter day. More than likely, though, your favorite soup recipe is a little high in fat — especially if it's a cream soup or if it contains meat. If the recipe uses a commercial broth, it may also be high in salt. Fortunately, it's easy to reduce fat and salt in just about any soup recipe you can think of. Here are some tips.

Reducing Fat

  • If your recipe contains beef, pork, or poultry, use the leanest cuts available, and trim off any visible fat. If you have to brown the meat before adding it to the soup, use a nonstick skillet and nonstick cooking spray, and be sure to drain off any fat before transferring the meat in the soup pot.

  • After preparing a meat stock or soup, refrigerate it for a few hours or overnight to allow the fat to rise to the top and harden. Then lift off the hardened fat for a fat-free broth that has almost no calories.

  • When there's no time to refrigerate your stock or broth, defat it quickly by placing it in a fat separator cup. This specially designed cup has a spout that pours stock from the bottom of the cup. The fat, which floats to the top, stays in the cup.

  • If you don't have a fat separator cup, quickly defat your soup with ice cubes. Just place a few ice cubes in a pot of warm — not hot — soup, and let the cubes remain in the stock for a few seconds. Then remove the cubes, as well as the fat that clings to them.

  • If you choose to use a canned broth, keep in mind that most broths are quite low in fat, and that any fat that is present will have floated to the top. When you open the can, simply spoon out and discard the fat. Now you have a fat-free broth!

  • If your recipe contains milk, substitute skim or low-fat milk for the whole milk. For a richer taste, add one to two tablespoons of instant nonfat dry milk powder to each cup of skim or low-fat milk.

  • If your recipe contains cream, substitute evaporated skim milk — or 7/8 cup of skim or low-fat milk mixed with 1/3 cup of instant nonfat dry milk powder — for the high-fat cream.

  • To add extra richness to low-fat cream soups, remove some of the broth and vegetables from the pot, and purée the mixture in your blender. Then return the mixture to the pot to thicken the soup.

  • If your recipe contains sour cream, substitute a nonfat or light brand for the full-fat product.

  • If your recipe contains cheese, use a nonfat or reduced-fat brand. Most reduced-fat cheeses melt well, although they should be finely shredded for best results. When using nonfat cheeses, your best bet is a process cheese, which is specifically designed to melt during cooking.

Reducing Salt
  • If your recipe has a stock or bouillon base, either use a commercial sodium-free or reduced-sodium broth, or make your own stock.

  • To make your soup more flavorful without using salt, reduce your stock or broth by simmering it uncovered until some of the liquid evaporates. This will intensify the flavors.

  • To prevent your low-salt soup from tasting flat, add a little lemon juice or vinegar to the finished product. These ingredients give the impression of saltiness.

  • When decreasing the amount of salt or salty bouillon in a recipe, increase the herbs and spices for added flavor.

  • Add a pinch of white pepper to your pot of low-salt soup. The pungency of the spice will reduce the need for salt.

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