Thickener for Low Carb Veggie Soup

I have been on a ‘modified’ Low Carb diet since last May and have lost 41 pounds. The last soup recipe I made was very tasty, but very thin -I did put 3/4 of the veggies through the blender to chop them as directed. My Mom always used flour & water, or Arrowroot & water. Flour has 95 gr carb per cup and arrowroot has 57 gr carbs. Am trying to stay between 40 and 55 grams per day. Have Xanthan Gum, but have been read about some allergic reactions and I have severe allergies. Thanks for any help. :slight_smile:

Joandogs -

I hope this helps -

Regular Flour - White flour is the most common thickener used in sauces. In some recipes, you might be fine using it. There are 6 grams of carbohydrate per tablespoon of regular flour. This will thicken one cup of a gravy (which has some thickeners from the meat), or a thin sauce.

It takes two tablespoons of flour to thicken a sauce of medium thickness, and three for a thick sauce. Whole wheat flour has 4.5 grams effective carbohydrate plus 1 gram fiber per tablespoon. It takes slightly more to thicken a sauce than white flour.

When you use flour to thicken a sauce, you can’t add it directly, as it will create lumps. The best way to add it is in a roux , where you heat it with a fat like oil or butter and cook it for a minute or two (stirring constantly) to get rid of the raw flour taste. Then whisk in the liquid. A roux will slowly get darker the longer you cook it, and some recipes will call for darker rouxs, however, their thickening power decreases as you cook them, so for low carb purposes, a white roux is best.

Other ways to add flour to a sauce are a slurry, where you stir or shake up the flour with cold water and then add to the sauce, or a beurre manié , where you mix the flour and butter into a paste and add it bit by bit. You can also add the flour to vegetables or meat as you are browning or sauteing them.

Cornstarch - Cornstarch has 7 grams of carb per tablespoon, but more thickening power. According to the corn starch manufacturers you only need half as much cornstarch as flour, but experts seem to vary on this point. Sauces thickened with cornstarch are less opaque and glossier. Cornstarch is generally added to cold water and then to the sauce. You don’t have to worry about cooking it first.

Arrowroot - Arrowroot is similar to cornstarch and used the same way, except it makes a totally clear sauce and lends a glossier appearance. Stands up to acidic liquids better than cornstarch.
Making a Low Carb White Sauce
To make a low carb white sauce (Bechamel sauce), you can use any dairy product (see carb counts ), or unsweetened soy or almond milk (check the ingredients carefully to make sure no sweetener is added), with any of the thickeners on this page.
Alternative Thickeners
If you want to avoid starches altogether, there are quite a few alternatives. Which one you choose will depend a lot upon what you’re making.

Reduction - Simply simmering the sauce until enough water evaporates that the sauce is thicker works in some cases.

Vegetable gums - Yum! They may not sound really appetizing, but vegetable gums are just a type of fiber that absorbs water to make a sort of gel. They are often used as thickeners in commercial products. The most common are guar gum and xanthan gum, which can be purchased at most health food stores or online.

To use vegetable gums to thicken sauces, sprinkle them into the sauce while whisking. Often it only takes a small amount, so go slowly. Too much will overthicken and/or give the sauce a “slick” feel.

An alternative to plain vegetable gums are products based on them which are a little easier to use. Expert Foods makes several of these products for different uses. I particularly like the not/Starch.

Pureed vegetables - This is especially good for creamy soups, but works for other sauces as well. Almost any cooked vegetable can be blended and used to thicken a soup or sauce (think broccoli or pumpkin soup). Tomato paste is a great thickener. Eggplant, zucchini or other squash, cauliflower, or the lower carb root vegetables are all excellent choices when you don’t want the vegetable to add too much flavor.

Cream - Cream will thicken as it reduces, so if you add cream to a sauce and boil it, the sauce will thicken more than reducing without the cream.

Sour cream is already thickened - whisk it into a sauce.

Cream cheese is thicker than sour cream, although it obviously has a distinctive flavor.

Butter - If you add cold butter at the end of cooking a pan sauce, it will have a thickening effect

Egg Yolk - Think of mayonnaise - at it’s heart, it’s nothing more than oil and egg yolk. Or think of hollandaise sauce. An egg yolk can really bring the right kind of sauce together, especially if there is oil or fat in it. Don’t add the yolk directly to a hot sauce or it will scramble. To avoid this, “temper” the yolk(s) by adding a small amount of the sauce to the them to gradually bring them up to temperature. Then add the tempered eggs to the sauce.

Nuts and nut butters - Ground nuts were traditionally used to thicken sauces in olden times. Nut butters (peanut, almond, etc) work even better.

Flax seed meal - Flax seed meal does thicken liquids, but it’s so grainy that I haven’t found it to work well in many sauces. I like it to thicken shakes, though.

There is a product called ThickenThin onthe market that can also be used.

and also from my notes:

The low carb thickener - Konjac flour

The most popular food thickener is the starch type thickener, such as cornstarch, potato starch. Konjac glucomannan is a natural, odorless soluble fiber that is found in the konjac plant. The konjac glucomanan is the most viscosity food gum in nature. It has about ten times the viscosity than the cornstarch. Konjac glucomannan is also called konjac flour or konjac gum. Unlike the cornstarch, the konjac flour is the soluble fiber, which does not contain starch and sugar, it does not have calories.

How to use konjac glucomanan as thickener?
Konjac flour can be used as a thickening agent in food application. When using konjac flour for thickening, always mix it with a small amount of liquid (cold water, stock, wine, etc.) till smooth, then add this mixture to the food that you want thickened. If you add konjac flour directly to your food you will end up with a lumpy mess. Konjac flour can be used as a thickener for smooth gravies, sauces, glazes, soups, stews and casseroles. It is also a thickener in pies, puddings, custards and cake fillings. This naturally odorless, vegetable powder is also gluten-free, making it the perfect substitute in cooking and baking when flour and other glutinous starches must be avoided.

Konjac flour doesn’t thicken very much when mixed with cold water, but quickly thickens when it’s heated. This is why you don’t add dry konjac flour directly to hot liquids. It will seize and immediately turn into lumps because the konjac flour that contacts the water so quickly and fully absorbs the liquid before the adjacent konjac flour can. Mixing konjac flour with cold water allows it to absorb the water slow enough that it’s easily and fully dissolved first. The dissolved konjac flour can then be added to a hot liquid to absorb it without lumping.

Konjac flour is an ingredient to thicken sauces and gravies or any other cooked recipe. To use konjac flour as a thickening agent, first disperse it in a little cold water or other “watery” ingredients such as soy sauce, and slowly add it (with constant stirring) to the other ingredients while they are cooking. About 1 teaspoon of konjac flour will gel about one cup of liquid. If you have not used konjac flour as a thickening agent before, it is best to experiment with it by beginning with lesser amounts, and adding as necessary until the desired consistency is reached.

Konjac flour has about ten times the thickening power of cornstarch. Dissolve the konjac flour in a little cold water before adding it to the sauce. Konjac flour thickens nicely when it’s heated to boiling temperature, so it usually works well for savory sauces.

You could also use a konjac flour to thicken your broth - konjac flour is a very powerful thickener and does not add much taste.

How should Konjac flour be stored?
Close the package tightly and store in a dry place.

How long can Konjac flour be stored?
Konjac flour may be stored indefinitely if it’s kept dry.

How is konjac flour used in cooking?
Konjac flour can be used as a thickener for gravies, sauces and glazes, soups, stews and casseroles. It also thickens pies, puddings and cake. In cakes, cookies and pastries, konjac flour can be mixed with flour to produce more tender baked goods.

What are the advantages of using konjac flour rather than all purpose flour?
Konjac flour is pure soluble fiber, without starch and sugar, no calories. It is also gelatin free. Unlike the starch type thickener such as all purpose flour and cornstarch, konjac flour is the most viscosity soluble fiber in natural, it does not have calories. From the national library of medicine we know, Water-soluble fiber appears to have a greater potential to reduce postprandial blood glucose, insulin, and serum lipid levels than insoluble fiber. Viscosity of the dietary fiber is important; the greater the viscosity, the greater the effect.
Konjac flour is the most viscosity soluble fiber in the nature, which have about ten times stronger thickener powder than the cornstarch. Konjac flour thickens with a satiny smoothness and glossy appearance. It adds no taste of its own to mask the flavor of foods. Recipes thickened with konjac flour have a brighter, more translucent appearance than those thickened with all-purpose flour.

Can you use konjac flour in place of starch type thickener like cornstarch or all-purpose flour?
Konjac flour has the much stronger “thickening power” than potato starch and cornstarch. Konjac flour has about ten times the “thickening power” of cornstarch.

What are the basic techniques for cooking with konjac flour thickener?
Cooking with konjac flour is easy when you follow a few simple guidelines. The following basic techniques assure good results every time.
Amount of stirring:
Gradually stir konjac flour into cold liquids until completely smooth. Continue to stir gently during entire cooking period. When adding ingredients after cooking, remove the mixture from the heat and stir them in quickly and gently. Stirring too vigorously may cause mixture to break down and thin out.
Temperature.
Cook over medium-low to medium heat. Cooking over high heat can cause lumping. If mixture contains egg, high heat may curdle it.
Cooking time:
Stirring constantly, bring mixture to a full boil and boil 1 minute. After boiling 1 minute, the konjac flour will have swelled to their full capacity, causing the mixture to thicken. Significantly overcooking thickened mixtures such as puddings, pies and cake fillings may cause mixture to thin out as it cools.

Is konjac flour gluten-free?
Yes. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other cereals. Gluten is not present in konjac flour, which makes it an excellent substitute for flour in many recipes.

Konjac flour recipes

Hot Wing Sauce
2 Tbsp butter
1 Bottle Crystal or Durkee Brand Hot Sauce
1 (or more) Tbsp ground ceyanne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 teaspoon konjac flour
Mix everything but konjac flour together in saucepan and heat till butter is melted. Mix konjac flour with cold water. Add to sauce to thicken.

Chili Paneer
Paneer 250 g
2 red chillies (crushed)
2-3 green chillies (crushed)
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp tamarind pulp
1/2 tsp soya sauce
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 Tbsp oil
salt to taste
1 teaspoon konjac flour
Cut Paneer into 1 inch cubes and fry/bake as desired. Heat oil in a wok and fry onions till slightly brown. Add ginger-garlic paste, crushed chillies and soya sauce. Saute for a minute. Add a little water to make some gravy and salt to taste. Add tamarind pulp.(proportion can vary depending upon sour taste). Finally add konjac flour dissolved in cold water to thicken gravy. Let it boil till thick enough to your liking. Just before serving, put in Paneer cubes and give it one boil. Can be served with Chinese fried rice or with Paratha and regular rice.

Tomatoes Sauce
Thicken the tomatoes mix in a very small bowl, konjac flour with cold water, just enough water to make it look like thick milk, add a little at a time, while tomato mixture is keeping hot, not to high a flame, the mixture should thicken, if not add a little more until you see the thickness you like as you use the konjac flour, more and more, you will be able to figure your own amounts of each to put in, use a little salt and pepper to taste.

Thin White Sauce
1 Tbsp. margarine or butter
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 teaspoon konjac flour
Melt butter in saucepan. Blend in konjac flour, salt and pepper. Gradually add milk.
Heat to boiling; 2 minutes stirring constantly. For soups add 1 1/2 cups chopped, cooked vegetables to 2 cups sauce

Chicken Chop Suey
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/2 cup onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced
1/2 cup water chestnuts
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup water
1 Armour chicken bouillon cube (crumbled)
1/2 cup red pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup green pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 teaspoon konjac flour
Pinch white pepper
1 pound cooked chicken sliced in thin strips
Makes 4-5 Servings
Combine 1 cup water and Armour chicken bouillon cube and set aside. Combine 1/2 cup water, konjac flour, soy sauce and pepper and set aside. Saute onions in oil over medium high heat until translucent. Add remaining vegetables and saute for 1 minute. Stir in bouillon mixture. Add konjac flour mixture stirring constantly until translucent. Add cooked chicken. Heat thoroughly and serve over rice.

Chicken/Beef Microwave Gravy
1 cup water
1 armour chicken bouillon cube (crumbled)
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 teaspoon konjac flour
Combine 1 cup water, bouillon cube and margarine or butter and microwave on high for 2 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine 1/3 cup cold water and konjac flour and mix well. Add konjac flour mixture to hot bouillon mixture and return to microwave. Heat on high until slightly thickened. Stir until well mixed.
For Beef Gravy, use Armour beef bouillon cube in place of Armour chicken bouillon cube.

Lemon Sauce
Makes 1-1/2 Cups
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
4 tablespoons cold water
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 lemon, juiced and grated rind
1 teaspoon konjac flour

Add chicken broth and butter to saucepan and heat. In small dish, blend konjac flour with cold water until smooth. Slowly stir konjac flour slurry into hot chicken broth. Cook mixture over low heat, stirring constantly. Beat 2 tablespoons of thickened broth into the egg yolks; then add broth-yolk mixture back into broth and mix well. Add lemon juice and rind, cook 1 minute more. DO NOT BOIL.
Chicken broth can be made by mixing 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon and 1 cup water.
(This sauce is good served over any of your favorite vegetables)

Low carb dressing
Makes 1-1/3 Cups
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 cup cold water
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/4 cup catsup
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon konjac flour
In a small saucepan, combine konjac flour and dry mustard. Slowly stir in cold water. Cook mixture over medium heat stirring continuously until thickened and smooth. Cool. Add remaining ingredients, use whisk to stir well. Put dressing in container and chill. Shake well before using.

Pork Mandarin
Makes 4-5 Servings
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 cup onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup green pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup water
Mandarin oranges
1/3 cup toasted almonds
1 Armour chicken bouillon cube (crumbled)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 cup orange juice
Pinch white pepper
1 pound lean pork, cooked sliced in thin strips
1 cup pineapple chunks
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoon konjac flour
Combine 1 cup water and Armour chicken bouillon cube and set aside. Combine 1/2 cup cold water, konjac flour, soy sauce, cider vinegar, orange juice, and white pepper and set aside. Saute onion in oil over medium high heat until translucent. Add remaining vegetables and saute for 1 minute. Stir in bouillon mixture. Add konjac flour mixture, stirring constantly until translucent. Add cooked pork, pineapple chunks and almonds, and heat thoroughly. Garnish with mandarin oranges. Serve over steamed rice.

Shirataki noodles in konjac flour Soup
Shirataki noodles 2 lbs
Chicken (white meat) 2 lbs
Bean sprouts 6 ounces
Celery 2/3 sprigs
Duck/Chicken eggs 3
A dash of pepper
Salt To taste
Soya bean sauce
Ginger 1/2 ounce
Garlic (raw) 5 cloves
Garlic (fried) 5 ounces
Fish paste 5 ounces
Green pepper to taste
Lemon Half
3 teaspoon konjac flour
Boil chicken together with crushed ginger and raw garlic till tender then remove it and set aside to drain. Then dice the meat. Put back soup on stove and when it boils put in the diced meat together with Soya bean sauce, pepper and salt. Dissolve konjac flour with cold water and add to soup. Beat eggs thoroughly and add to boiling soup.
Boil bean sprouts. Drain water and set aside.
Cut the celery into small pieces and put in dish.
Roast the fish paste and mix with thoroughly pounded green pepper and juice of lemon and the relish is ready to be served with the noodles and konjac flour soup.
To serve, put in noodles in a medium sized bowl. Pour soup over noodles and garnish with bean sprouts and celery. Mix in relish to taste.

I hope this helps!

KW

Thank you so very much for all this wonderful information. Have printed it out twice [I tend to put things in a ‘safe place’ and not find them for days! Also saved your message, again in 2 places! The recipes look great, though I’m going to have to substitute a few ingredients due to allergies [soy, peppers, peanut, paprika, etc]. I am truly grateful to you. JoanDogs

You’re very welcomed! I’m glad to help.

If you need any special recipes because of allergies - please let us know! You just never know how much help you will find here!

KW

Whhat an amazing amount of very useful information, Kitchen Witch!
Thank you!
Thank You!

You’re welcomed and thank you!!!

Where can you find that stuff? Sounds great! I’m supposed to be on a low-carb diet, but I still add flour to my soups to thicken them-- can’t help it! Something calorie and carb free sounds… well, perfect.

-Karen

karen - try your local health food stores - they should have it.