Condensed soup is a staple in many pantries. It helps make sauces, stews, casseroles, curries, pot pies, side dishes, dips, marinades, gravies, and even cakes.
It can also be used as soup.
Since water was removed from the soup to condense it, you need to add water to make it palatable again if you want to eat it as soup.
Do You Add Water to Condensed Soup?
Water needs to be added for condensed soups with clear broths. Water or milk needs to be added to condensed cream soups. The usual amount of water or milk to add is one can, but this is not a hard and fast rule. Many recipes that call for condensed soup will not require little or no added water or milk.
Generally, condensed soup is a product that you find for sale in the soup aisle of your grocery store, that is shelf stable for years to come.
It is cooked with minimal liquid so the result is a thick, stew-like consistency that begs for some additional liquid prior to heating or serving.
Condensed soups often look like sauce, rather than soup, and is often used as a disaster or stockpile essential that can be used in times of need.
The fact that it is condensed makes it a pantry-friendly item that can keep for years while not taking up much space.
Depending on the types of condensed soup that you choose, some have a dairy base (like cream of chicken condensed soup) while others have a broth base (such as chicken noodle) which can impact your choices when it comes to diluting the soup.
Various Liquids to Add to Condensed Soup
Sure, you can add water to condensed soup, but why limit yourself to that one option?
There are many interesting and inventive ways to add depth of flavor to a simple condensed soup by adding the right liquids- which might include water, but also perhaps broths, milk, wine, or juice.
The sky is the limit!
When it comes to cream-based soups, like creamy chicken or mushroom varieties, adding milk makes sense.
But, you also have the option of adding non-dairy milks like oat milk, almond milk, or soy.
This can turn a condensed soup into a more diet-friendly option if you are limiting your dairy.
Also, why not give the soup a bit of flavor enhancement by substituting half of the liquid recommended with canned or boxed broth?
It is quite astounding how a bit of broth can change and improve the flavor of a canned soup.
If you really want to get fancy, go for a splash of your favorite wine, a drizzle of Worcestershire sauce, or some coconut aminos to give your condensed soup a deep, rich flavor that elevates the entire meal.
Soups are often cooked with acids, like vinegar or juice, to help extract flavor from the meat or bones in the pot.
Consider adding a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to your chicken soup before serving.
Not too much- but enough to freshen and liven up the flavor of the canned soup product.
Since wine has acidity, skip this step if you have already added wine or you may end up with a slightly fruity flavor that is less appealing.
Yet another option is to add vegetable juice to your condensed soup.
Vegetable juice, like tomato juice, has the necessary acidity and depth of flavor to elevate the soup, yet will also thin it to the desired consistency.
Consider how the rich taste of tomato may affect the soup that you are using- it can create a tasty vegetable or beef soup from a simple can of condensed soup that is enough to feed the whole family.
Adding Water or Milk to Condensed Soup: A Personal Choice
Condensed soups come in two main varieties, with a clear broth or a cream-based broth.
Water is only used for condensed soups with a clear broth, while water or milk can be used for condensed soups with cream-based broths.
In the instructions of most soup can labels, one can of water or milk is recommended.
You may like it better with less or even more.
Using only half to three-quarters of a can of water works well with condensed soups with clear broth, since this produces a stronger-tasting broth.
It also produces less broth, which may be a concern for people with small soup bowls.
Condensed soups with cream-based broths have the consistency of Jell-O, so more water or milk may be needed to get the desired consistency.
You can pour all of the water or milk at once or add it bit by bit while stirring the soup.
Campbell’s recommends the latter method.
Whatever method you use is also a matter of personal choice or what is most convenient for you at the time, since it does not really make a difference to the final results.
What Kind of Milk to Use for Condensed Soup?
When the first instructions for use went up on the first can of Campbell’s condensed soup, the only milk available was whole dairy milk, also called full-fat milk.
Over the decades, the instructions have not changed, although the milk landscape has.
Whether to use dairy-based milk or a milk alternative like almond milk is also a matter of personal taste.
Many alternative milks do not have the fat or creaminess that most kinds of dairy milk have.
Skim milk, also called fat-free milk, is the closest to the consistency of most non-dairy milks.
Some people do not notice any difference when using milk alternatives rather than diary milk, while others notice it a great deal.
There’s no way of knowing for sure until you try it.
Eating Condensed Soup Straight from the Can
Suppose you are stuck at home without power or water and have only cans of condensed soup on the shelves.
Or maybe you were lost in the woods and came upon an abandoned cabin that held only a can of condensed soup.
Or the zombie apocalypse happened and all you could grab from looting the local grocery store before the zombies took it over are cans of condensed soup.
Is your condensed soup safe to eat cold straight from the can without adding any water or milk?
Actually, yes. Condensed soup, when stored continuously in a cool, dry place, can even last for years after its expiration date.
However, if there is a bulge in the lid or if the soup explodes after you open the can, then gasses from bacteria have built up, making the soup unsafe to eat.
Condensed soup is cooked soup, so many pathogens in the ingredients, like meat or cream, have been cooked away.
Although not a culinary delight, the soup is safe to eat.
When the can is opened, microorganisms like mold or bacteria can get in.
It’s best to eat the whole can within four hours.
Why Soup is Condensed in the First Place
Figuring out how much water or milk to put into the condensed soup may seem odd to us now since there are so many canned soups available where all of the water or milk is already added.
All you do is heat and eat. Why bother with condensed soup?
Back in 1895, the food company Campbell’s had a big problem. It had two ready to eat soups stored in glass bottles.
These bottles were placed in cases and then in the backs of horse-drawn wagons.
The wagons would go rattling over cobblestone roads.
Not many bottles of soup survived the harrowing trip to market.
In 1897, Dr. John T. Dorrance invented condensed soup. By removing most of the cooked soup’s water, the soup weighed less.
He also figured out that the new soup could be placed safely in tin cans.
This was lighter, easier to stack, and survived the trip from the factory to store shelves.
This also made condensed soup cost less than ready-made soup.
In the many years since, cooks have figured out that condensed soup, with concentrated flavor, could be used as a sauce base for many recipes.
Campbell’s even sold cookbooks featuring their condensed soups.
The first recipe that was ever printed on a soup can label was for tomato soup spice cake in 1960.
Most cans have been made with recipes on the labels ever since, even for brands other than Campbell’s.
Frequently Asked Questions About Do You Add Water to Condensed Soup
How Much Water Do You Add to a Can of Condensed Soup?
Condensed soup manufacturers usually recommend adding one can of water to the soup. You can add more or less depending on how thick you want your soup. For creamed soups, you can use the same amount of milk as you would with water.
Is Condensed Soup the Same as Regular Soup?
Condensed soup has a lot less water than regular or ready-made soup. This is why you need to add water or milk. Condensed soup makes it easier to transport and often costs less.
What is the Best Substitute for Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup?
Many recipes call for a can or two of condensed cream of mushroom soup. If your store is out of condensed cream of mushroom soup, try cream of celery, cream of chicken or cream of broccoli soup. It’s the creaminess that is more important than the particular type.
What is condensed soup?
Condensed soup is a product made with minimal water so it is thicker and saucier. It is up to you to add liquid to thin out the soup to your desired consistency, and there are typically recommendations for amounts on the label of the soup.
How do you thicken condensed soup without adding milk?
If you thin out your condensed soup too much, you can thicken it by adding a teaspoon of ground flaxseed, wheat germ, or rolled oats.
Are condensed soups good for you?
Condensed soups are often full of sodium to help preserve the product and make it taste good, so check the label for sodium content if you are on a restricted diet.
Should you add water to soup to thin it out?
You can add liquid, including water, to thin out any soup but remember to err on the side of caution to prevent thinning it too much.
How much liquid do you add to soup?
Typically, prepared condensed soups that you buy have recommended amounts on the label, but you can add less liquid to determine how you like it. Add a bit less than is suggested and try it before adding more liquid to the soup.
The Least You Need to Know
You need to add water to the condensed soup if you want to eat it as a soup.
Cream condensed soups may taste better using dairy milk instead of water.
How much water or milk to use depends on your personal taste.
If you are cooking with condensed soup, you may not need to add any water or milk, depending on the recipe.
Now you know that you can dilute or thin a condensed soup with a variety of liquids to create a tasty meal or snack that suits your distinct preferences.
Yes, you can add water to condensed soups, but try adding milk, broth, or even a splash of wine to condensed soups to come up with the consistency and depth of flavor that suits you best!
Daniel Iseli (Head Chef)
Hi, my name is Daniel and I am passionate about cooking. I have been cooking for the past 20 years and am happy to share my best recipes and cooking-related knowledge with you.