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The Surprising Secret to Thickening Soup: Jacques Pépin’s Unusual Ingredient

The unusual ingredient Jacques Pépin uses to thicken soup

When it comes to culinary legends, few can compare to renowned French chef Jacques Pépin. With an impressive career spanning decades, Pépin has solidified his place in the culinary world through his exceptional cooking skills and innovative techniques. One of his lesser-known secrets to creating hearty and flavorful soups lies in an unexpected ingredient: potato flakes.

Jacques Pépin: A Culinary Icon

Born in 1935, Jacques Pépin began his culinary journey at a young age, securing jobs in some of Paris’ finest restaurants by the time he was 17. His talent and dedication led him to take on increasingly challenging roles, eventually becoming the personal chef to three heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle.
After moving to New York in 1959, Pépin became closely associated with legendary figures in the American culinary world, such as James Beard and Julia Child. Among his notable achievements, Pépin has hosted 14 different programs on public television and published 25 cookbooks, including the groundbreaking “La Technique” in 1976 and “Jacques Pépin Fast Food My Way” in 2004.

Pépin’s soup-making expertise

One of Pépin’s most notable endeavors was the opening of a soup restaurant called La Potagerie in New York in 1970. This establishment showcased his extraordinary ability to create delicious and comforting soups.
In a YouTube video, Pépin reveals a surprising soup hack that adds depth and warmth to the final dish. While traditional methods of thickening soup involve flour or cornstarch blends, Pépin demonstrates that instant potato flakes can achieve the same result without the need for additional steps like preparing a roux or slurry. This time-saving technique eliminates the risk of lumps and provides a smooth and velvety texture.

The magic of potato flakes

Pépin’s use of instant potato flakes as a soup thickener may seem unconventional in the realm of French cuisine, but the results speak for themselves. By simply sprinkling and stirring in a cup of potato flakes as a final step, the soup thickens before your eyes, giving it a rich and satisfying consistency.
According to Pépin, the potato flakes not only provide the desired thickening effect, but also enhance the overall richness of the soup. With this technique, home cooks can easily take their soups to new heights of flavor and texture without the need for complex and time-consuming methods.

Advantages of using potato flakes

There are several advantages to adding potato flakes to your soup repertoire. Here are a few key benefits:
1. Convenience: Instant Potato Flakes are readily available at most grocery stores and are easy to store in your pantry. They provide a quick and convenient solution for thickening soups without the need for lengthy preparation.
2. Smooth texture: Potato flakes dissolve easily in hot soup, eliminating the risk of lumps and ensuring a smooth and velvety texture.
3. Enhanced flavor: The addition of potato flakes contributes to the overall richness of the soup, enhancing its flavor profile and making it more satisfying.
4. Versatility: Potato flakes can be used in a variety of soups, including vegetable, chicken and creamy bisque. They complement a wide range of ingredients and flavors, making them a versatile thickening agent.

How to use potato flakes in soup

Using potato flakes to thicken soup is a simple process. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
1. Prepare your soup: Follow your favorite soup recipe, making sure all ingredients are cooked to perfection.
2. Add potato flakes: When the soup is fully cooked, sprinkle 1 cup instant potato flakes evenly over the top of the soup.
3. Stir well: Use a spoon or whisk to stir the soup thoroughly, making sure the potato flakes are completely incorporated.
4. Allow to thicken: Let the soup simmer for a few minutes to allow the potato flakes to dissolve and thicken the soup. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking or burning.
5. Adjust the consistency: If the soup becomes too thick for your liking, you can add a little more liquid, such as broth or water, to achieve the desired consistency.
By following these simple steps, you can enjoy the benefits of Jacques Pépin’s ingenious technique and create soups of incredible depth and warmth.


Jacques Pépin’s use of potato flakes as a soup thickener is a testament to his innovative approach to cooking. This unconventional ingredient provides a simple yet effective way to achieve hearty and flavorful soups without the need for complex techniques. By incorporating potato flakes into your soup recipes, you can elevate your culinary creations and delight your taste buds with rich and comforting flavors.
The next time you’re making a batch of soup, take a page out of Jacques Pépin’s book and try potato flakes. You’ll be amazed at the difference this unusual ingredient can make in the texture and flavor of your soups. So stock up on potato flakes and get ready to impress your family and friends with your newfound soup-making skills!


Why does Jacques Pépin use potato flakes to thicken soup?

Pépin believes that potato flakes add thickness and richness to soup without the need for additional steps such as preparing a roux or slurry. They provide convenience and a smooth texture to the final dish.

Where can I find potato flakes?

Potato flakes are readily available at most grocery stores. You can find them in the same aisle as other dry ingredients and instant mashed potatoes.

Can I use potato flakes in any type of soup?

Yes, potato flakes can be used in a variety of soups, including vegetable, chicken and creamy bisque. They complement a wide range of ingredients and flavors.

Will using potato flakes change the taste of my soup?

Potato flakes enhance the overall richness of the soup and contribute to its flavor profile. However, they do not significantly change the flavor. The flavor of the soup comes primarily from the other ingredients used in the recipe.

Are potato flakes a healthier alternative to other soup thickeners?

Potato flakes can be a healthier option than flour or cornstarch because they are gluten-free and lower in calories. However, it’s important to consider the overall ingredients in your soup for a balanced and nutritious meal.

Can I adjust the thickness of the soup after adding potato flakes?

Yes, you can adjust the consistency of the soup by adding more liquid, such as broth or water, if it becomes too thick for your taste. Simply stir in small amounts of liquid until you reach the desired thickness.

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