12 Best Ingredients To Upgrade Homemade Potato Soup

There is something uniquely comforting about a bowl full of potato soup on a cold winter's night. Its pleasures extend beyond the simple act of eating it: they begin in the very process of creation, whether you're making a classic version with just a few basic ingredients or upgrading it with inventive twists. Either way, potato soup possesses a unique charm that has made it a culinary classic across cultures, invading kitchens across Europe, Asia, and Africa even though the tuber was only discovered along with the New World.

At its core, potato soup is a simple pleasure, both in terms of flavor and ingredients. All it takes to make a quick potato soup dish are potatoes, onions, broth, and seasoning to taste (and an immersion blender if you like things smooth). If you're a minimalist through and through, this may be more than enough for you, but if you like to change things up once in a while or try new ingredients in your cooking, we have some ideas on how you can upgrade your potato soup. After all, despite its simplicity, potato soup is versatile, and can accommodate diverse culinary influences. Let's take a look at some of the best of them.

Smoke it with hickory wood chips

When we talk about ingredients in a recipe, we mean everything you need to make said recipe, even if a particular item doesn't actually go in the soup. In this case, that element is the hickory wood chip, which we propose to put in the oven and use to smoke some whole Yukon Gold potatoes, which will then go in your soup. This is definitely an extra step, or two, than you would take for your usual potato soup, but the flavor is well worth the effort.

Start making this smoked potato soup by placing the hickory chips in a stockpot covered by a steamer in which to hold the potatoes. Cook this in the oven for about 1 ½ hours at 350 F. The rest might be very similar to what you're used to: melt the butter in a pot before adding onions, leeks, celery, water, cream, and salt and pepper. This recipe also calls for some miso, to keep things interesting. Cook this concoction until you're ready to peel and add your smoked potatoes, which go in along with buttermilk and sherry vinegar. Blend it all together into the smooth, velvety potato soup you know and love.

Blend in cauliflower

Cauliflower can literally be your secret ingredient when it comes to flavoring potato soup. It's practically the same color as most potatoes, and when cooked, it's also very similar in texture. This means that you can add cauliflower to potato soup, blend it up, and no one would be any the wiser.

But don't be fooled by this cauliflower potato soup recipe. Just because the main ingredients are white and colorless doesn't mean the end product is in any way bland. In fact, the recipe calls for the potatoes, cauliflower, and onions to be roasted in the oven at 350 F for 30 minutes before you can even think of adding them to your soup. This gives them a depth of flavor that just doesn't come to the table when you simply steam something. Once the roasting is complete, add the vegetables to chicken stock along with a bay leaf and heavy cream, though you can also get away with making this recipe without the cream –- it'll be lighter, but just as creamy. Once the potatoes and cauliflower are thoroughly cooked and soft, blend them into that creamy soup you love so dearly. Serve it with some chives and bacon bits for that pop of color you know you're craving.

Add peas for color and flavor

Most potato soups come thoroughly blended into creamy perfection. Indeed, that is part of the dish's appeal. But that doesn't mean chunky potato soup should be a turn-off, and in fact, it certainly has its draw as well. Clam chowder, anyone? The benefit of leaving things a bit chunky is also two-fold: you get a nice potato texture that you miss out on with the creamy versions, but you can also add other ingredients that wouldn't necessarily make much sense with a blended potato soup.

Enter the pea. Blending peas and potatoes might result in an unappetizing brownish color, but adding whole peas to texture potato soup actually makes it prettier. To see for yourself, try our creamy potato and pea chowder. Saute leeks and garlic in olive oil and wine before adding broth, potatoes, and seasoning. Cook until the potatoes are soft enough to mash. Just be careful not to mash all of them –- it's essential that some of them keep their shape. Finally, add the peas, cream, and soy sauce and serve with fresh dill for added color.

Load it up like a baked potato

A loaded baked potato is a real treat on a cool evening, but what if you're in the mood for both a loaded potato and potato soup and just can't decide which one to cook? That's where this copycat O'Charley's loaded potato soup recipe comes in. And if you've heard of O'Charley's, a restaurant chain scattered about the south and midwest, you may also find this recipe familiar.

Now before you start cooking, know that this isn't a matter of putting together a loaded baked potato and mashing it into soup. The process is a little more refined than that. Start by boiling cubed potatoes in chicken broth as you fry up some bacon. Then create a roux with butter and flour before adding heavy cream, whole milk, Velveeta, and shredded cheddar cheese until everything is melted and well mixed. Add seasoning and garlic powder and cook for another 30 minutes. Top with crumbled bacon and chopped chives. Between the cream, whole milk, butter, and cheese, this recipe packs a calorie punch, but it won't disappoint.

Go classic with leeks

Leeks and potatoes go together like eggs and bacon or peanut butter and jelly. The mild creaminess of the potato seems to be complemented extremely well by the mild oniony bite of the leek, and vice versa. Each ingredient on its own tastes good in many applications, but together, the two are invincible.

This is why creamy potato leek soup is a classic. But with that said, we have a recipe that strays a little from the typical blended velouté and instead incorporates a bit of texture and unexpected ingredients like coconut milk. To try our version, saute diced potatoes, minced garlic, as well as chopped onions, shallots, and leeks before adding your broth and water. Simmer until the potatoes are soft before adding coconut milk. Cook a little longer, or until the potatoes break down on their own, giving the soup that signature creaminess. Top with sour cream, cheddar cheese, and scallions. This couldn't be more simple, and it doesn't even involve a blender of any kind.

Make it cheesy

Truthfully, you could top pretty much any soup with some grated cheese and everything would work out. No need for a fancy recipe. But we have something a little more involved in mind when we suggest adding cheese to your potato soup. In fact, our suggestion even has its own name. Our cheesy potato soup is called caldo de queso, which literally means cheese broth in Spanish. So look forward to lots of cheesiness here.

But don't expect melted cheese. Here, you'll want to select a type of cheese that will hold its shape even when dunked in hot broth. Queso, of course, is the best way to go, meaning a Mexican queso blanco from your local grocery store, because this is not your typical creamy potato soup. As the name suggests, it really is more of a broth containing diced potatoes and cheese. The recipe says it all: saute onion and garlic in oil before adding fresh, diced tomatoes along with the broth, cilantro, oregano, and seasoning, then add the diced potatoes and cook until tender, whereupon the green chiles and milk come in. Finally, add the chunks of queso before serving. As you can see, no blending required.

Lighten up with fennel

If you're in the mood for something heavy to keep you warm this winter, potato soup is the way to go. But if heavy foods tend to just sit in your gut, weighing you down rather than warming you, try spiking that potato soup with some fennel. It'll still do its warming job — just without all the added digestive distress.

To make this work, you can simply prepare your fennel and add it to a classic leek and potato soup. "Great British Baking Show" star Flora Shedding does so by roasting the fennel with leeks, onions, and a few sprigs of thyme. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in your stock until tender, and combine them with the roasted vegetables. Blend it all together without adding any of that heavy cream or whole milk. The potato will ensure the soup remains creamy in texture, while the fennel and its hints of licorice will give it a brighter flavor tending toward light and airy. The trick here is to select good quality fennel by looking for the bulbs that appear most tightly packed and with the lushest fronds. These are the hallmarks of a young and healthy fennel specimen.

Combine it with corn chowder

You can hardly make a good corn chowder without the use of a few potatoes, so you may as well accept that corn chowder, in turn, can help upgrade a plain homemade potato soup. Although corn is a summer crop and is enjoyed at its best in July and August, the wonders of canning have made it accessible all year round, including when you want to add your favorite ingredient, corn, that is, to that warm and comforting potato soup.

To succeed with your roast potato and sweet corn chowder, you'll also need to make sure you have some smoked gouda on hand. Once that's settled, start by baking diced potatoes with garlic, seasoning, and olive oil at 375 F for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, mix canned sweetcorn with maple syrup and seasoning, and bake this, too, for about 15 minutes at the same temperature. Saute the celery and onion in butter along with canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, and whisk in the flour. Add the chicken broth and then stir the roasted potatoes and corn into the soup along with the milk. Lastly, stir in that good gouda until completely melted.

Prepare Instant Pot soup with instant mashed potatoes

When the Instant Pot first came out back in 2010, it was all anyone could talk about, in the culinary world and outside of it. It seemed that everyone was getting one for Christmas, and if they weren't, it was only because the item had sold out. Soon a whole new dimension of recipes emerged, populated solely by instructions on how to make this or that in the Instant Pot. It was as if ovens and stoves had vanished.

Even so, Instant Pot isn't perfect, and you'll know this if you've ever tried to make potato soup with it. Although the result may taste fine, and the convenience factor cannot be overstated, you may have noticed some unwanted wateriness or unwelcome thinness. This is common, and you're not alone: it happens because the Instant Pot is sealed throughout the cooking process, making the water condense and return to the soup, instead of evaporating as it would in a pot. But luckily, we have a solution from the dark days of cooking, which is the humble instant mashed potato packet. All you have to do is toss in a packet as your secret ingredient for Instant Pot potato soup and those granules will immediately start absorbing the excess moisture and bring your potato soup that desired thickness. This way you'll get all the flavor and nutrients of fresh potatoes with the convenience of the Instant Pot, all without sacrificing the creaminess factor.

Use frozen hash browns

So you're all ready to make your potato soup but realize you don't have any fresh potatoes in your pantry. That's a pretty big omission on the ingredient list. Luckily, you're a lover of breakfast potatoes, so you have a bag of frozen hash browns in your freezer. These will do nicely. Although using this ingredient in soup may seem odd at first, once you remember that frozen hash browns are nothing more than shredded potatoes in a bag, you'll understand.

In fact, frozen hash browns are the perfect shortcut to creamy potato soup. They're far quicker than if you were using fresh potatoes, which require peeling and cutting. Now all you have to do is saute the hash browns in bacon fat with onions and garlic, then add broth until the potatoes are cooked, which takes a surprisingly short amount of time. Blend your ingredients until smooth, and top with crispy bacon or any items of your choice. This exercise will show you just how quick and easy potato soup can be –- although it may sometimes seem like a drag to prepare, the most labor-intensive part is preparing the potatoes. Once that task is out of the equation, you're practically home-free.

Turn it vegan with coconut bacon

Potato soup, at its most basic, is already vegan. It's only the addition of cream, milk, cheese, or that decadent bacon topping that makes it a big meat-eater pleaser. But since we're dealing with ways to elevate the most basic potato soup here, we thought we'd include a few ways to do that with vegan-friendly options, too. In this case, we're talking about having your bacon and eating it too — by making coconut bacon, that is. with which you can create your guilt-free loaded baked potato soup.

The secret to this magical concoction is selecting the right ingredients to replace real cream and bacon, which is no easy feat. In our vegan loaded baked potato soup recipe we start by soaking raw cashews in boiling water for 20 minutes before blending them into a creamy substitute for heavy cream. Then, for the soup itself, we saute the onion and garlic before adding potatoes, vegetable broth, nutritional yeast, salt, thyme, smoked paprika, pepper, and liquid smoke. Lastly, we make our special bacon: mix together coconut flakes with soy sauce, maple syrup, liquid smoke, and smoked paprika and bake for about 5 minutes at 350 F. The key here is to make sure the coconut flakes come out as crispy as real bacon. Sprinkle this on top of your potato soup blended together with the cashew cream. This recipe is so full of flavor that you'll barely notice, or care, that it's vegan.

Swap in sweet potatoes

One of the best things about sweet potatoes is that they add sweetness to a dish while also providing a lower glycemic index (GI) than a regular potato, meaning it won't cause your blood sugar to spike as much as a Yukon Gold would, for example. Indeed, the GI of a boiled sweet potato is only 63 on average, compared to an average of 78 for a boiled regular potato.

So why not take advantage of this added health benefit and just use sweet potatoes instead of russets in your next soup recipe? We have just the ticket. Our spicy sweet potato soup recipe comes with all the warmth and creaminess of your usual potato soup but with extra sweetness. Start by roasting your sweet potatoes in the oven covered with seasoning, olive oil, curry powder, chili powder, and cumin for 45 minutes at 350 F. Meanwhile, saute the onions with more spices and seasoning before adding the garlic, roasted sweet potatoes, chopped carrots, and diced apples. Deglaze the pan with some red wine to show that you mean business, and then add water and cook your ingredients for a good 15 minutes, making sure everything is tender. Blend everything with an immersion blender and add coconut creamer and red wine vinegar.