Potatoes are the ultimate comfort food – from fries to chips and creamy salad to fully loaded baked potatoes – and what is better than a steaming bowl of potato soup on a cold day?
On one such rainy day, I was down with a cold and decided to make myself a big bowl of my grandma’s potato soup. So I dragged myself out of bed and started cooking. To my dismay, the soup turned into a thick, gluey mass.
What my dear grandma’s recipe failed to mention was that not all potatoes are created equal. Here’s what I have learned for the next time I try to make this bowl of potato goodness.
Best Potatoes For Soup
Not All Potatoes Are Created Equal
To be able to pick out the best potatoes for your soup, you must first determine what kind of soup you want to make. Is it thick and creamy? A chunky chowder? A light soup with firm, diced vegetables?
- Different varieties of potato have different starch content, skin thickness, and react differently to heat.
- Varieties that are starchy do not keep their shape very well when cooked. But the starch and high moisture content makes them fluffy and absorbent. These potatoes are best for frying and baking. The starch content will quickly help thicken stews.
- Under the starchy variety are classic Idaho Russet and Katahdin.
- Opposite to the starchy variety are waxy potatoes. As the name suggests, they do not absorb much moisture. This makes them superb for soups and stews, allowing them to hold their shape well.
- Some examples of waxy potatoes are Red Bliss, New Potatoes, Adirondack Blue and Red, Inca Gold, and Fingerling.
Between these two are all-purpose potatoes, which are of medium starch and will work well in most dishes. These include Yukon Gold, Kennebec, and Purple Peruvian. The list goes on and on!
The possibilities are endless, so just keep in mind the effects that the three main categories have on the soup to anticipate how each specific variety can affect the outcome of your dish.
The Best Potatoes For Soup
When it comes to making the best potato soup, you have to be picky about your potatoes if you don’t want to end up with a gooey mess. Here are some of the best varieties to try to make the perfect bowl of potato soup:
1. Red Potatoes for the best soup or stew
The low starch content means they will not mess with the thickness of your soup either. Red potatoes and fingerling potatoes are some examples of the boiling variety.
Boiling potatoes, just as the name suggests – also known as round potatoes or new potatoes – are great for boiling and roasting. Their waxy texture makes sure that they do not absorb too much water, helping them to keep their shape despite the moisture and high heat.
In many cases, red potato soup combines two kinds of preparations that potatoes are very tasty at. It is baking and boiling. Traditionally the soup ends up creamy, cheesy, and slightly spicy.
Slow cooker-made potato soup with corn chowder often contains red potatoes diced in chunks, showing off how reds are able to hold their shape.
2. Yukon Gold for the best soup or stew
Yukon Golds are considered all-purpose potatoes which are in between waxy and, on the other end of the spectrum, starchy varieties. With their flexibility, the Yukons are surely worth their weight in gold!
These are said to be good for boiling, frying, salads, and are great mashed.
Just be sure to treat them gently, however. While they can hold their own against boiling, like round potatoes, these all-purpose Yukon Golds can fall apart when they are over-cooked.
3. Purple Majesty for the best soup or stew
These elegant-sounding potatoes are of the all-purpose variety. They are oblong in shape and have dark purple skin with purple flesh. It keeps its color when cooked, which could make for an interesting-looking bowl of soup.
This variety is superior with its high antioxidants and can be eaten roasted, baked, in potato salad, and of course, in soups.
4. Sweet Potatoes for the best soup or stew
This is quite interesting as a soup potato, with its unique flavor profile. Sweet potatoes, which are often confused as yams, have bright orange flesh and have a myriad of health benefits.
They are rich in vitamin A, antioxidants, and beta-carotene. It is said to be best taken with some fat to fully take advantage of the benefits of the variety – Hello, bacon! – keep that fat at a minimum, though. One of the best ways to prepare sweet potatoes and reap their health benefits is by boiling them.
Try this recipe for cinnamon-spiced Sweet Potato Soup with Maple Croutons. You will surely satisfy your sweet tooth! For an exotic soup with layers of flavor, whip up this Sweet Potato Peanut Soup that is spicy with garlic, ginger, cumin, and cayenne and unique with some creamy peanut butter.
5. Russet Potatoes
Russets or Idaho potatoes are the standard potatoes that people think of. They are high in starch and low in moisture. The hardy root crop is mealy in texture. Because they can soak up liquid quickly, russets lose their shape, so they are not the best for soups.
They are ideal for fluffy mashed potatoes. Being highly absorbent, they make delicious, crisp fries and hearty baked potatoes, perfectly seeping up the butter and oils. However, be sure not to overwork russets, especially when making mashed potatoes, lest they become gluey in texture.
In soup, the starch content in russets makes the liquid thicken quickly and become creamy – so, be sure you use these sparingly.
Interestingly, despite appearing to be less than ideal for potato soup, russets appear in many recipes for “perfect” potato soup, including this one by The Pioneer Woman.
Have you ever had problems cooking potato soup? Do you have some great tips to share on picking potatoes? Let us know in the comments!
And, please do share your favorite potato soup recipe for those cold, rainy nights when we all need a nice, warm bowl of comfort food.