A Look at a Label: “Cream of” Soups

what is in cream of mushroom soup? recipe for homemade cream of mushroom soup

As consumers, we don’t always understand our food labels. They look long. They seem complicated. Sometimes it’s hard to understand why an ingredient with a chemical-sounding name would make it into our food products. Right?

As consumers, we want to know why food additives are added to food. We want to know if we’re being tricked about the products we purchase. And we want to know if we should avoid certain ingredients. Of course, we do!

Every now and then I like to write a post about a particular food label – an attempt to answer the many questions I get, and bring some transparency to a (perhaps misunderstood) food product. So, foodie friends, some info for your back burner.

In lieu of comfort food season…quick-fix casseroles, family potlucks, and your favorite Green Bean Casserole recipe…here’s some info about a product that as gotten creamed by foodies for years! Cream of Mushroom Soup (Also Cream of Chicken Soup, Cream of Celery Soup, etc, etc.)

What is in Cream of Mushroom Soup?

The below table includes ingredients that may be listed on the label of your “Cream of….” soup can. Listed on the table is the ingredient and whether it contributes to the flavor, appearance, and/or texture of the finished product.

Nasty or not…you decide! Another label, demystified. 🙂

Listed Ingredient Flavor Appearance Texture Other Notes 
Water X X Drives viscosity (thickness) of the soup, and contributes to stability.
Mushrooms/Celery/Chicken X X X
Modified Food Starch X You probably have a similar product, corn starch, in your pantry. Modified food starch can serve many purposes in food. In soups, food starch builds viscosity (thickness), helps to suspend soup inclusions/particulates, can improve mouthfeel, and it can help prevent a phenomenon called “syneresis.” (Syneresis is where products weep moisture – like when water comes out of your ketchup bottle.)
Wheat Flour X X X
Vegetable Oil X Contributes to mouthfeel.
Sugar X
Cream X X X Contributes to mouthfeel.
Salt X Impacts shelf life and product stability.
Potassium Chloride Sounds scary…but remember, salt is also called “sodium chloride.” Potassium Chloride is often used as a salt replacer for lower sodium products.
Calcium Carbonate Can serve a few purposes. In canned products, calcium carbonate is sometimes used as a firming agent.
Yeast Extract X Often added to enhance flavor. Many yeast extracts boost the meaty or umami flavor.
Lower Sodium Natural Sea Salt X Often used in products when a reduction in total sodium is desired.
Disodium Guanylate, Disodium Inosinate X Often these ingredients are added as flavor enhancers, bringing umami flavor to a food product.
Spice X X X
Dehydrated Mushroom/Chicken/Celery X X X

I don’t want to use canned soup in my cooking. What is a recipe for homemade cream soup?

If desired, “cream of” soups can be replaced with ingredients in your pantry.

Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup:

  1. Saute aromatics (onion/garlic, or mushrooms if you like) in olive oil/butter until caramelized and fragrant.
  2. Sprinkle in a little flour (in equal parts to the olive oil/butter you used), and stir/cook the mixture. Be careful not to let it burn!
  3. Then, whisk in milk (or chicken stock for a lower calorie version) while continuing to cook your sauce until the desired consistency is reached.
  4. Add this thickener to casseroles or soups, the same as you would with a can of creamed soup.

Are you saying canned cream soup is healthy?

It’s my opinion that many packaged foods (like most things) should be consumed in moderation. For information on nutrition, visit: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ Most food professionals would agree that a rounded diet is best.

Why do you defend packaged food and the use of food additives?

It’s easy to forget that fresh food is not always accessible. We are fortunate to rely upon one of the safest, most robust food systems in the world! And our grocery stores showcase an impressive array of food choices.

However, there is still a place for food additives. Additives can help food retain safety and quality standards, hit a particular price point for the consumer, and meet consumer needs (like ease of use/convenience).

4 thoughts

  1. Very interesting! Really like how you presented this information. I sometimes use these soups in my cooking because it is so much easier than recreating it from scratch. ( I can never get the exact flavor I’m looking for! ) Thanks for the informative post!

  2. There is nothing wrong with canned foods. I mean, I use canned beans and pineapple all the time. I would much rather have fresh sorts of things, but sometimes availability, ease, storage ability, or even coupon deals result in the purchase of canned stuff.

    1. So right!! And I know you are a great cook, Mr. Ramshackle Pantry! 😉 My pantry is full of canned products as well. (Beans are a staple for our lazy weeknight crockpot chili :D) There’s no denying the flavor of fresh foods…but sometimes canned is hard to beat – all those reasons you mentioned. So glad to get your comment!

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