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.
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 or a light soup with firm, diced vegetables?
- Different varieties of potato have different starch content and skin thickness. They also react to heat differently.
- Starchy varieties do not keep their shape very well when they are cooked. These potatoes are best for frying and baking because their starch and high moisture content make them fluffy and absorbent. The starch content will also help to quickly thicken stews.
- The starchy variety include the classic Idaho Russet and Katahdin.
- The opposite to this is waxy potatoes. As the name suggests, they do not absorb much moisture, which makes them superb for soups and stews and allows 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 categories are the all-purpose potatoes, which contain a medium amount of starch and 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 will have on the soup and anticipate how each specific variety can affect the outcome of your dish.
One Potato, Two Potatoes
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 that can make the perfect bowl of potato soup:
1. Red Potatoes
The low starch content means these potatoes will not mess with the thickness of your soup. Red potatoes and fingerling potatoes are good examples of the boiling variety.
Just as the name suggests, boiling potatoes - also known as round or new potatoes – are great for boiling and roasting. Their waxy texture makes sure they do not absorb too much water, which helps them to keep their shape despite the moisture and high heat.
Try out this Loaded Potato Soup which combines two kinds of preparations that potatoes excel at: baking and soup. It is creamy, cheesy, and slightly spicy.
The potatoes are diced into chunks in Slow Cooker Potato and Corn Chowder, and this dish is a great example of how the reds are able to hold their shape.
2. Yukon Gold
Yukon Golds are considered to be all-purpose potatoes. They are somewhere in-between the waxy and starchy varieties, and their flexibility means the Yukons are worth their weight in gold!
These potatoes are said to be good for boiling, frying, salads, and are also great when they're mashed.
Just be sure to treat them gently, however. While they hold their own when boiled, these all-purpose Yukon Golds can fall apart if they are overcooked, like round potatoes.
3. Purple Majesty
These elegant sounding potatoes are an all-purpose variety. They are oblong in shape and have a dark purple skin with purple flesh. They keep their color when cooked, which can make for an interesting looking bowl of soup.
This superior variety has a high level of antioxidants and can be eaten roasted, baked, in potato salad, and, of course, soups.
4. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes, which are often confused with yams, have a bright orange flesh and a myriad of health benefits. With their unique flavor, they are an interesting soup potato.
Rich in vitamin A, antioxidants, and beta-carotene, they are best taken with some fat if you want to take full advantage of the benefits. So hello, bacon! Keep that fat to a minimum, however. One of the best ways to prepare sweet potatoes and reap their health benefits is boiling.
Try this recipe for Cinnamon-Spiced Sweet Potato Soup with Maple Croutons, which will surely satisfy your sweet tooth! For an exotic soup with layers of flavor, whip up a Sweet Potato Peanut Soup that is spicy with garlic, ginger, cumin, and cayenne. It is unique when you include some creamy peanut butter.
5. Russet Potatoes
Russets or Idaho potatoes are the standard potato that most people think of. They are high in starch and low in moisture. This hardy root crop is mealy in texture. Because they soak up liquid quickly, russets lose their shape, so they are not the best potatoes for soups.
They are ideal instead for fluffy mashed potatoes. Being highly absorbent, they also make delicious, crisp fries and hearty baked potatoes, as they perfectly seep up the butter and oils. However, be sure you do not to overwork them, especially when making mashed potatoes, or they will become gluey in texture.
The starch content of russets makes the liquid in soups thicken quickly and become creamy – so, be sure you use them sparingly.
Interestingly, despite being less than ideal for soups, they do appear in many recipes for the “perfect” potato soup, including this one by The Pioneer Woman.
Have you ever had problems cooking potato soup? Do you have any great tips about picking potatoes to share? 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.