They may seem like something created in a lab, but instant potato flakes are little more than cooked and dehydrated potatoes. The product is useful for making mashed potatoes, but also works well as a thickening agent. Combined with vegetables and soup stock, for example, instant potatoes turn thin vegetable soup into a rich, satisfying meal.
Using instant potato flakes to make cream soups works because root vegetable starches are thickening agents. In addition, whipped potatoes have a creamy quality that gets imparted to the soup. As the name indicates, traditional cream soups rely on cream to create a velvety-smooth texture, although some recipes use milk or even sour cream. For people avoiding dairy, mashed potato flakes provide a useful alternative to milk products. Add potato flakes to your prepared soup little by little so you can control the thickness and avoid lumps.
In potato soups that contain instant flakes, it helps to add flavor by sautéing onions and garlic in butter first. Your liquid options include combinations of stock, water, wine, milk and evaporated milk. Add liquid and potato flakes to the pot in roughly equal amounts, pouring the liquid in first, then blending in the flakes. Thicken or thin the soup to your preference by adding either more flakes or more liquid. Season to taste before serving.
Creams of the Crop
Instant potatoes add thickness and creaminess to soups other than potato-based ones. To make the soups, you'll often start by cooking fresh or frozen vegetables, such as broccoli, mushrooms or asparagus, until they are tender. Use chicken stock, wine, water or milk individually or in combination for the liquid. Add the soup liquid and the potato flakes at a ratio of about three parts liquid to one part potato flakes. At this stage you can puree some or all of the soup, either by cooling it and putting it into a conventional blender, or by using an immersion blender in the stock pot.
If you've made masses of instant mashed potatoes and have extra, use the leftovers for cream of potato soup. Cook minced vegetables in oil or butter to add texture, then pour stock or another liquid into the pot. If you used milk to make the instant potatoes originally, stock or water may be a better choice to counter the milkiness. Next add room-temperature leftover mashed potatoes by whisking them in gradually, until your soup reaches the consistency you desire.
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Ellen Douglas has written on food, gardening, education and the arts since 1992. Douglas has worked as a staff reporter for the Lakeville Journal newspaper group. Previously, she served as a communication specialist in the nonprofit field. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Connecticut.