Homemade Substitute for Condensed Cream of Something Soup Recipe

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Dear Home Ec 101,

Hi! I really enjoy your website and am constantly quoting it to my husband. He loves this, I promise. My question is regarding your previously posted recipe for basic béchamel and variations to use instead of “cream of something” soups in recipes. Your recipe suggests it will sub for one can of soup. Many of these recipes call for the soup, undiluted. This is a 10.75oz can (1.3c, approximately?) I got about 2.5c of a much more liquid product using your recipe. I just cooked it down today until it was goopy and will forge ahead. For tomorrow, is there a modification I can make to your basic recipe, to yield a sauce that equates to the UNDILUTED canned product? Less milk? Or just reduce as I attempted last night? If this is already addressed in comments or your site somewhere I apologize, but could not find it.


Cookin’ Casseroles in Charlotte

Bobbie says:

I’m with you on loving Home Ec 101 – that’s how I ended up writing for the site!

According to the label, a 10.75-ounce can of condensed Cream of Something Soup contains “about 2.5 servings” of one-half cup each. The word “about” used in the number of servings means there’s slightly less than the number it states. So, this works out to slightly less than 1 ¼ cups of condensed soup in each can.

Heather’s béchamel sauce recipe makes approximately the equivalent of one prepared can of condensed soup or not quite 2 ½ cups. This will work fine in some recipes but perhaps not so well in others. Let’s talk about why this is and how to make it work for you.

Sometimes you must be precise in the kitchen; sometimes you can wing it.

A bit.

Within reason.

Precision is required when making baked goods: cakes, pies, cookies, muffins, biscuits, pastries. Oh, and soufflés. Too much or too little of an ingredient, failure to use the proper method, or making a poorly chosen substitution can result in sunken cakes, chewy muffins, hockey puck biscuits, deflated soufflés, and other disasters. While they MAY still be edible, you wouldn’t want to bring them out for company, or anyone you actually liked. My baked goods often come out this way, because I compulsively fiddle with recipes. I rejoiced when my daughter* became interested in baking, so I didn’t have to do it anymore. Then she moved out. Meh. If I convince myself I’m Doing Science, then I’ll follow the recipe and get all precise, and everything’s copacetic. Capiche?

Cooking (by which I mean Not Baking) on the other hand, can be a little more forgiving. Approximations (as opposed to carefully exact measurements) are acceptable in some cases. But if you’re making something like a casserole, using too much liquid in the dish may result in a sloppy supper.

So, if you’re preparing a recipe that calls for milk or water or broth or some such liquid, in addition to a can of condensed soup, then one recipe of béchamel sauce will substitute for both the soup and approximately 1 ¼ cups of the required liquid in the recipe. If the recipe doesn’t have that much milk, stock, tomato sauce, water, or other liquid, in addition to the soup, then you have to do it a little differently.

You can reduce the amount of liquid you add to the béchamel – and by reduce, I mean “use less” and not the usual cooking definition of reduce, which is what Cookin’ Casseroles in Charlotte was doing when she “cooked down” the béchamel.

If you feel unsure about the substitution, or if you find fractions frightening, you can use the basic recipe below to create a variety of Homemade Substitutes for Condensed Cream of Something Soup. The proportions are slightly different, so they come out thicker and more like the canned product, and what you get will exactly substitute for One Can of Undiluted Soup, but without all those exciting preservatives and flavor enhancers.

Homemade Condensed Cream of Something Soup - Condensed Tomato Soup

I stopped using canned Cream of Something soups long ago, primarily because of those perennial favorites of food manufacturers: MSG (monosodium glutamate) and Way Too Much Salt. Instead, what I use is basically the same process as béchamel sauce, but it comes out very thick and makes the equivalent of one can of undiluted condensed soup. Last night, I used it to make condensed tomato soup. Yes, tomato. It tasted like Campbell’s Tomato Soup, only better. Then I melted some sharp cheddar into it and had it over toast.**

Homemade Condensed Tomato Soup - as thick as the canned version!

But, before I did that, I put it into a glass measuring cup and chilled it, so I could show you how thick this stuff is when it’s not heated. See? It’s as thick as the undiluted soup right out of the can and works just as well in any recipe.

Condensed Cream of Something Soup Substitute
(makes the equivalent of one 10.75 oz can)

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, if desired
  • 1 cup liquid of choice (See Notes after directions)
  • seasonings of choice (See Notes)

Have all ingredients measured and handy before beginning.

Homemade Condensed Cream of Something Soup - whisk flour into melted butter

Put the butter and salt in a small saucepan with a heavy bottom, and melt over low heat. Using a whisk, blend in the flour until the mixture is bubbly. Congratulations! You’ve just made a roux.

Homemade Condensed Cream of Something Soup - gradually whisk in liquid

Add a couple of tablespoons of the liquid to the roux, whisking as you add it. Don’t panic after the first addition – the roux may suddenly look all doughy. Just keep whisking and add a bit more liquid, and it will smooth out. After you’ve added about half the liquid in this manner, you may add the rest all at once, whisking it thoroughly as you do.

Continue cooking and stirring over low heat until smooth and thickened. Makes more than 1 cup, but not quite 1 ¼ cups, of a condensed creamy soup. You may use it as such in a recipe, or add an equivalent amount of liquid to serve as a creamy soup.

Notes: What liquids and seasonings to use?

Tomato soup: use tomato juice. Leave out the salt, unless you use no-salt juice. You may wish to add a dash of onion powder or a teaspoon or so of very finely minced onion (sautée the onion in the melted butter before adding the flour). Some like a tiny pinch of sugar or brown sugar to counteract acidity in the tomato.

Mushroom soup: use a combination of milk and mushroom stock, made by simmering mushrooms in water just to cover. I like to use half of each. Sautee a few tablespoons of the mushrooms, chopped, and half a teaspoon of finely minced onion in the melted butter, before you begin to stir in the flour. (If you prefer, you can forego the mushroom stock and use all milk, but in my opinion, it really does make the Best. Mushroom soup. Ever.)

Cream of Celery Soup: Saute ½ cup chopped celery and 1 tablespoon chopped onion in the melted butter, until vegetables are tender. Use all milk for the liquid.

Cream of Chicken soup: use half milk, half good quality chicken stock, homemade if you have it.  Add a fat pinch of sage or poultry seasoning and a dash of onion powder, or sautee a teaspoon of onion in the butter before adding flour. A few tablespoons of finely chopped cooked chicken is a nice touch if you have any on hand. If you decide to use broth made from bouillon cubes (I don’t want to know) please leave out the salt. You may also want to reduce or omit the herbs.

Can you make this ahead and freeze it? According to Hazel Meyer’s Freezer Cookbook – yes, you can freeze homemade creamy sauces and soups. When you take it out of the freezer, it may look a little funky. Let the condensed soup thaw in the refrigerator, or put the frozen soup in the top of a double boiler over very hot (not boiling) water, and whisk it thoroughly, it’ll be fine. If milk was used in the preparation, heating it too rapidly can cause coagulation of the milk proteins. For this reason, thawing it with the microwave may give unsatisfactory results. So, when you make up some condensed cream soup substitute, make a double batch. Cool the part you’re not using, and transfer it to a freezer-safe container. I’ve used a zipper-close freezer bag for this type of item – carefully squeeze out the air, zip closed, and label. Lay flat to freeze – this thinner shape thaws more quickly than a traditional freezer container.

*My daughter managed to get a job as the pastry chef at a local upscale bakery, just after turning 18, without any formal schooling in the subject. She did not get this ability from me, obviously.

**That’s a recipe called “Red Robin” – it’s from my first cookbook, a gift from my mom on my 10th birthday. It calls for condensed tomato soup and American cheese. My kids loved it when they were little, and they made it for themselves when they were bigger. This time I used the homemade condensed tomato soup and sharp cheddar….and it was awesome! (I passed the book down to my daughter on her 11th birthday because I couldn’t find it on her 10th. Another reason to be organized!)


Bobbie Laughman is an elder caregiver, freelance writer, and seller of things. She lives and cooks and Does Not Bake Much in Gettysburg, PA. Have a question you’d like Bobbie to answer? Just want to say howdy? Send it to Bobbie@Home-Ec101.com


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22 thoughts on “Homemade Substitute for Condensed Cream of Something Soup Recipe”

  1. I am currently dairy-free because my breastfeed baby reacted to the dairy in my diet. No dairy = far less reflux. That said, would soy or almond milk work in these recipes? Thanks!

    • @landerson731 Yes, you can use olive or canola oil and soy milk. You may end up with a slightly different flavor and consistency, but it’ll work for most cases. Be prepared to experiment a little to get it exactly as thick as you would like

      • @HeatherSolos@landerson731 I prefer using rice milk in circumstances like this, since to my palette it doesn’t have nearly the same taste as soy milk, and thus blends into things more like cow’s milk does. But your mileage may vary, I suppose.

        • @mydwynter@landerson731 whatever you do, use the plain varieties 🙂 I typically avoid soy. A quick search had pulled up soy in the top few versions, thus my recommendation 🙂

          Yes, it’s possible, experiment and figure out what best suits your needs.

  2. As soon as I saw this as an RT on twitter, I knew it had to be a roux, with a small amount of liquid added. I’d never seen any tips on using a roux to create cream and other soups like tomato from that base.. brilliant, thank you! BTW, I’m @ceolas

  3. So if i wanted to use this as a topping, I don’t need to add more liquid right? I’m thinking something along the lines of the campbell’s souip recepies where you pour Cream of Mushroom over chicken and bake.

      • @Bobbie Laughman Ok thanks. I did make the mistake once of using a can of not condensed cream of mushroom and it did not come out well. Tasted fine but looked like something you might find in a baby’s diaper. 🙂

  4. Do you use the same mushrooms to make the stock and then pull them out to saute them, or are the mushrooms in the stock separate (& if so, do they stay in stock or thrown away like when making other stocks?)

    • To be honest, when I’ve done this, I had mushroom stock in the freezer from when i simmered a whole bunch of mushrooms to freeze. And by “mushroom stock” I only mean “Water that mushrooms were simmered in” — nothing more.I don’t use a huge amount of water to cook them in, so I end up with mushroom-y flavored water and I felt it was a shame to throw out, so I started to freeze it in small containers to use in soup.
      If I ever set out only to make mushroom stock, I’d probably simmer the pot until no flavor whatsoever was left in the ‘shrooms, then pitch ’em, but I’ve never done that.  
      You can saute some already-simmered mushrooms, sure, and you wouldn’t have to cook them as long as you would fresh ones. I’ve even used canned mushrooms (don’t tell anyone) and some of the liquid from the can  — you may wish to leave out the salt in the recipe because the canned mushrooms may be salty. Use your judgement.

      •  @Bobbie Laughman
        When I made this yesterday I was working with fresh mushrooms, so no ready-made stock.  But it makes sense that the flavored broth would contribute more to the overall mushroom flavor in the cream soup than just using milk would.  I ended up reducing maybe 1/4 c finely chopped mushroom in 1 cup water down to 1/2 c total, and just used that as is in the recipe, along with the 2-3 T of additional mushroom sauted with the onion in the butter. 
        Turned out very nicely, but making stock just-in-time doesn’t do much for cutting down on cooking times.  I agree having some frozen ahead is definitely preferable.

  5. I am so excited to find this!  We are relocating out of the country where there is no condensed soup to found.  Since it is a necessary base for many of my recipes, I was hoping to recreate it.  How do you think this recipe would react to canning?  

    •  @Faith510  That would be pretty awesome if you could, wouldn’t it?
      But no, don’t do it.
      Every canning book I own and every authoritative source I’ve found online says NEVER to can soups with thickeners or dairy added (or noodles, or rice) but to wait and add those when you open the jars to heat and serve them.  Canning the thickened soup would risk spoilage and food poisoning. Don’t do it.
      Once, when I was young and stupid, I canned apple pie filling, thickened with cornstarch. When I went to grab a jar to use, I noticed that there were bubbles in the jar. Moving bubbles, inside the still-vacuum-sealed jars. Eeewww.
      I pitched every last jar, then went and learned about canning safety, glad for the OBVIOUS sign of spoilage in those jars of pie filling. Sometimes, it’s not obvious and that can be deadly.

  6. HELP!! I need to make a homemade cream of cheddar cheese soup, to use in a crock pot mac and cheese recipe. Any thoughts on how to use your base to make this kind of condensed soup?

    • My grandmother used to make Welsh Rarebit, some call it Welsh Rabbit, for dinner on Sunday nights. You start with a roux then add milk, my Scots-Irish Oma added cream, sharp cheddar cheese, seasonings, beer and an egg yolk. We ate it over crackers and topped with paprika. One of the meals I remember about her even though it was the simplest meal ever.
      You can use this recipe for Welsh Rarebit to make mac & cheese in the crock pot I suppose. It is the ‘bechemel sauce with cheese’ you were looking for.
      And, of course, you can double to the batch … for yourself … to have over crackers … as a reward for being so clever!

      2 Tablespoons Butter
      2 Tablespoons Flour
      1/3 cup Whole Milk
      1/2 cup Beer
      1 teaspoon (heaping) Dry Mustard
      1/2 teaspoon Paprika
      1/4 teaspoon Cayenne
      2 dashes Worcestershire
      1-1/2 cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Grated
      1 whole Egg Yolk

  7. How can I make cream of shrimp soup? We’re finding it very hard to find nowadays. Any help or direction would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Alicia
      It’s been a while since I answered any questions on this site, but since I actually have done this I thought I’d give it a try, even though I don’t have a recipe to give you.

      What I did was simmer a bunch of shrimp shells that I’d saved in the freezer, with making stock in mind. It takes a good amount of them to get decent flavored stock, and you want it strong because you’re making condensed soup. I used a lot of shells and not much water, and stirred frequently, pressing down to submerge as much of them as I could.
      Then I basically followed the recipe on this post, using the stock and a bit of heavy cream as the liquid. I added in some finely chopped cooked shrimp as well.
      I suppose you could use canned shrimp but I’ve never done that. In that case, use the liquid you drain from the can, combined with milk or cream and proceed as above.
      When I made it, I did enough to freeze two “cans” worth, as well as what I needed for that night’s meal.
      Hope that helps.


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