Cheesy Potato Soup is one of my family’s favorite and most beloved recipes. Some of my earliest memories in the kitchen with my mom involve standing on my turtle-shaped step stool stirring soup while she prepped the rest of dinner. However, while this recipe is a family classic, it is also a dish that took me a while to figure out how to cook on my own, but one I insisted on mastering since it is one of Cole’s absolute favorites.
My mom writes recipes the same way my great grandma did, and the same way I do when I’m creating a new dish – in shorthand. This means the recipe she passed down to me included phrases like, “fill the pot half-full of milk.” These notes work great for a chef that has made a recipe over and over again.. However, the first couple of times I made this soup on my own, I absolutely ruined it. Turns out my dishes weren’t the same size or diameter as my mom’s, so my pot half-filled with milk was quite different than hers. I had to work with this recipe through trial and error to figure out what the correct amount of each ingredient would be to make a thick and creamy potato soup. Of course, this also involved multiple video chats to my mom for advice as I was cooking.
It may have taken about four different tries, but eventually I figured out how to make this soup with actual ingredient amounts written down instead of short-hand notes. Now, I get perfect potato soup every time, and I don’t stress out beforehand about whether or not it is going to turn out. Instead, I KNOW it will.
After figuring out the necessary formulas for this recipe, it is now one of my favorite convenience dishes to make. It requires very little ingredients, and all of them are items that I typically have in the house anyway.
6 tbsp Melted Butter
4 tbsp Flour
4 tbsp Dried Parsley
2 heaping tsp Salt
¼ tsp Black Pepper
7 medium Potatoes (about 5-6 inches long)
4 cups Water
2 tsp Onion Powder
6 ½ cups Whole Milk (do NOT substitute other milks. It MUST be whole milk)
2 cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar
1. In a small bowl, melt butter and whisk in flour, parsley, salt, and pepper. Set aside for later. (It’s okay if the butter hardens a little while setting off to the side.)
2. Pour water and onion powder into a 2 quart pot and boil on medium high heat.
3. Peel potatoes, and chop them into half inch cubes. Once the water is boiling, pour the potatoes into the pot. Turn down to medium heat and boil for 15 minutes.
Kitchen Tip 1: The water will disappear as the potatoes boil. This is intentional so that it won’t need to be strained. However, this means it needs to be stirred occasionally during the first 8 minutes, and constantly during the second 7 minutes to make sure the potatoes aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning.
4. Take the pot off the heat and using a masher, mash potatoes up slightly. Only do this to the top layer of potatoes, leave the bottom layer in chunks. The consistency of the dish will be off if you don’t leave some bites of potato.
5. Pour the milk into the pot, and put it back on the burner, but turn it down to medium low. Stir to combine, and bring to a low simmer.
6. Once simmering, add in the butter mixture and cook on low for 20 minutes until thickened. I’ve attached two pictures below so that you can see what this should like before and after the 20 minutes of thickening time.
Kitchen Tip 2: At this point in the recipe, it is crucial to stir the dish every 3-5 five minutes to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot. This is the task my mom always gave me as a kid so she could work on the rest of the meal. It is a very important step because the soup will be ruined if it isn’t stirred frequently enough. It is very easy for potato soup to begin to stick to the bottom of the pot and burn, but frequent stirring prevents this from happening.
7. Add in the shredded cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Cook on low for five more minutes, stirring constantly. Serve warm.
Kitchen Tip 3: This is one recipe where I always use pre-shredded cheese because I find that the fancy shredded cheese melts more quickly, and with less grease, into the soup. None of my cheese graters can get as fine of a shred as the fancy shreds, so in this instance it is best to rely on the pre-shredded bags, even though usually I insist that block cheese is the best choice when cooking.
Overall, this soup is relatively easy to make, it just takes some time and attention to stir everything together and prevent burning. I find that if you have a great TV show to watch during the required stirring time is hardly an inconvenience. Although I prefer to serve this soup with a side of ham that I can chop up and mix into the bowl, this is an equally great dish to make for a meatless Monday meal! Enjoy!