Spring, summer, fall, or winter, soups are both comforting and easy to digest—provided they don’t contain gluten. That’s an essential qualifier for those of us who are gluten sensitive.
Until recently, it’s been very difficult to avoid gluten in soups. Gluten itself has been used as an ingredient in broth, but it has also turned up in soups in countless hard-to-detect forms such as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, soy sauce, modified food starch, natural flavors, or seasonings. It also is found in ingredients like noodles, barley, or flour used for thickening.
Fortunately, there are clever ways to work around gluten when you’re making soup at home. And it’s also getting easier to find healthy gluten-free soups at natural food stores and restaurants. Just try these tips for ladling up safe soups for you and your family:
Make soup from scratch. It might seem old fashioned, but it’s really not all that difficult when you get the hang of it. Just combine poultry or meat with bones with vegetables, and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low, cover, simmer until done, and cut the meat into pieces. You can also use a slow cooker for this purpose. The beauty of making soup or stew from scratch is that you can customize the dish with any ingredients you like.
Take a shortcut. If you’re short on time, start with a gluten-free stock such as Shelton’s Organic or Pacific Foods Organic Chicken or Vegetable Broth. Use it in place of water. Add chopped assorted vegetables, herbs, and poultry or meat if desired, and you can prepare hot inviting soup in a jiffy.
Use substitutes for gluten grains and pasta. In place of wheat noodles in soup, try brown rice noodles—or add nutritious, low-calorie Sea Tangle Kelp Noodles just before serving. In place of barley, try white or red quinoa, brown rice or wild rice, each of which adds its own unique flavor.
Thicken creatively. Look for natural ways to create slightly creamy soups without wheat flour or milk, another common allergen. A classic Greek recipe that’s traditionally made during Easter uses whisked eggs for creaminess (see recipe). Other ways to naturally thicken include simmering leeks, potatoes, or white beans in soup and blending the soup before serving. To thicken stew, add arrowroot dissolved in liquid to boiling stew during the last five minutes of cooking, and stir until thick and clear. If you aren’t sensitive to milk products, prepare a cream of vegetable soup by making a roux with organic butter and brown rice flour instead of wheat flour, then slowly whisk in vegetable stock and organic milk or cream, and stir in cooked vegetables.
Seek out certified gluten-free soups. Look for packaged soups with the Certified Gluten Free seal. Products labeled with the Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO) mark, a program of the Gluten Intolerance Group, meet strict standards. Certified gluten-free products that taste like homemade include Kettle Cuisine gluten-free frozen soups, such as Chicken Noodle, Angus Beef Steak Chili with Beans, and Organic Mushroom & Potato, as well as Boulder Organic refrigerated soups, including Red Lentil Dahl, Potato Leek, and Garden Minestrone.
Enjoy a cup of safe restaurant soup. In response to consumer demand, both independent and chain restaurants have begun offering gluten-free soups on their gluten-free menus. A few examples: Tuscan Tomato Bisque, now offered at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse locations; Lobster Bisque soup at Fleming’s Steakhouse & Wine Bar; and traditional Egg-Drop soup at P. F. Chang’s China Bistro.
Here’s a quick, easy version of an authentic Greek soup that’s made creamy with eggs and spiked with lemon. To make the soup a meal all by itself, mix in chopped cooked chicken meat.
4 cups gluten-free chicken broth
1½ to 1¾ cups cooked organic short or long grain brown rice pilaf
3 extra-large, organic eggs
¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, plus additional lemon juice if desired
unrefined sea salt and pepper to taste
PER SERVING: 308 CAL; 3 G PROT; 42 G TOTAL FAT (6 G SAT FAT); 20 G CARB; 0 MG CHOL; 243 MG SOD; 2 G FIBER; 1 G SUGARS
* Reprinted from the Going Against the Grain Group, 2011, by Melissa Diane Smith