Is There A Right Time To Add Grains To Soup?

Soup doesn't quite work as a full meal unless you have some carbs worked in the mix — grains, pasta, or a side of bread to serve with it. Many, like folks at The New York Times, often opt for healthy and hearty soups by using whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice, or even barley. Adding grains to soup is a great way to make dinner easier since everything can come together in one pot. 

While making a grain soup seems simple and straightforward, using one pot can sometimes mess up your sense of proportions since those grains are going to soak up a portion of the liquid. In truth, soup is a delicate gastronomic form that requires paying close attention to liquids, seasoning, cooking time, and viscosity. So when is the best time to add our grains to the mix, and is it best to boil them in the soup?

Cook the grains separately and add at the end

As it turns out, the best way to add grains to soup, according to Oldways Whole Grain Council, is to cook them separately. Although this means that there will be an extra pot and more steps, it guarantees the best proportions of liquid to seasonings while ensuring that the grains are not undercooked or overcooked. The method of cooking grains in a stock or soup is useful for dishes like paella or jambalaya, which both require that the rice be cooked in a flavorful stock with vegetables and seafood. This method is appropriate for something saucy and viscous but not for soup. If you enjoy sipping your soup, cooking rice or any type of grain with it could potentially turn it into a porridge. As they cook, grains will significantly reduce the amount of liquid in your soup and thicken it with excess starches, per Eating Well.

Additionally, because grains (especially whole grains) take a long time to cook, the time spent boiling them can reduce the soup and make it taste much saltier than it should. For the best results, start cooking your grains on the side before you begin working on the soup, and add them to the soup during the last few minutes of cooking. This way, the rice, barley, or what have you can be incorporated into the broth while maintaining the soup's ratio of liquids to meats, starches, and seasoning.