Monday, March 2, 2009

Potato Leek Soup with Bacon

Potato Leek Soup with Bacon

When I was a college student living in a apartment with 3 other girls and a tiny kitchen and a small, small budget, I loved going to Costco and getting a big tin of Bear Creek Creamy Potato Soup. It was delicious by itself, but once you added some cheese, broccoli, corn, or bacon, it became awesome. And because it came in powder form, you didn't have to worry about it going bad if you didn't end up cooking for a while.

Now that I'm grown up and getting potatoes from Boston Organics, I figure it was time to learn how to make a potato soup from scratch, especially after reading the ingredients of the powdered soup: Dehydrated Potatoes, Food Starch-modified Corn Starch Solids, Sweet Whey, Partially Hydrogenated Canola, Cottonseed, and Soybean Oil, Onions, Salt, Monosodium Glutamate, Sodium Caseinate (Milk Protein), Titanium Dioxide Color, Maltodextrin, Disodium Inosinate and Sodium Guanylate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Spices, Parsley, Dry Sherry Wine, Garlic Natural and Artificial Flavoring, Chicken Broth Arabic Gum, Rendered Chicken Fat, Casein (Milk Protein), Citric Acid, Silicon Dioxide, Yellow No. 5, Mono and Diglycerides, Annatto Color.


This recipe from The Kitchn, on the other hand, only has 2 ingredients. Well, 4, if you add bacon and substitute homemade chicken stock for water. And 5, if you count salt. (I don't like pepper, so it doesn't count.) Take that, Bear Creek!

Potato Leek Soup with Bacon (based on this recipe)
makes 4 servings

5 cups peeled and cubed potatoes
2 1/2 cups sliced leeks
3-4 slices bacon
1 quart homemade chicken stock (or water)

Wash the leeks very, very well. Leeks are notorious for having a lot of dirt and sand in between layers. Drain and set aside.

In a large saucepan, brown bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and let drain on some paper towels.

Saute the leeks in the hot bacon fat left in the pan until wilted. Add potatoes and toss to coat. Add chicken broth to cover, about 1 quart. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer until potatoes are soft and cooked through, about 30 minutes.

With an immersion blender, or very carefully in batches in a food processor, or even with a potato masher and your own brute strength, blend until the mixture reaches the consistency you prefer.

Salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with crumbled bacon, grated cheese, and chopped scallions on top, if you prefer.

Potato Leek Soup with Bacon

Other variations: Add chopped broccoli stems at the same time you add the potatoes. Add fresh or frozen corn kernels after blending the soup and heat through. Top with sour cream or creme fraiche.

I found that the soup needed a lot more salt than I thought it would, but otherwise I was very pleased with the result, especially since I was able to get a nice, creamy consistency without needing any dairy products. Adding the fresh, chopped scallions also brings out an unexpected vibrancy to the soup.


  1. Interesting. I've made this soup from probably 3 or 4 recipes (which don't really vary much, given the simplicity of the ingredients) and found them to be invariably thin and meager without adding cream to them. For example, this is from James Peterson's "Splendid Soups":

    3 medium waxy potatoes
    4 leeks (4 cups)
    4.5 cups water, milk, or stock
    salt to taste
    add butter to each serving

    How many potatoes did you use to end up with 5 cups? Did you use red (waxy) potatoes or russets (bakers)? I'm thinking now that maybe the starchy russets would work better than the waxy reds because the potato will tend to break down in the soup and thus thicken it.

    1. I used russets for this soup, and it was very creamy. I didn't miss the milk at all.

  2. Oh, about all those unpronounceable ingredients in the powdered soup -- here's a nifty article that explains them. If you want to know even more details, type any of these ingredients into Google Book Search and it'll come back with reference works used in the food-processing industry. Man, I'm getting to love this service.

  3. BoP - I got the potatoes from my biweekly Boston Organics delivery. On the website they listed them as yukons, and they seemed pretty starchy to me as compared to a waxy red.

    I ended up using all the potatoes (8-9? They were different sizes so hard to quantify) and supposedly it was 1.5 lbs.

    The soup I ended up with was definitely quite thick You can kind of tell in the pictures that it doesn't even "settle" into a flat plane in the bowl; I had to smooth it out with the ladle to get it to look like a soup.

  4. Thanks. Yukon (golds, I presume) are halfway between reds and russets in terms of starch content. And I just now read the original recipe from -- besides ueing starchier potatoes, there's also a higher potato-to-liquid ratio since russets are generally bigger than reds. Makes sense. I'll have to try that some time.

  5. I finally got around to making this tonight. 2 russets (ended up weighing 1.75 lbs), 2 leeks, 1 quart stock. It's thick, like it should be. I didn't bother peeling the potatoes because, well, I like it better that way. Re-reading your post reminded me that I had wanted to add broccoli to this soup, too, but forgot. Duh.

    (Oh, in case you get confused, I changed my name.)