This potato and parsnip soup is creamy, hearty, and filling. Top it with bacon and cheddar cheese for a delicious satisfying treat.
I have always loved potato soup. Growing up my mom used to make it for dinner during colder months and serve it along with Grandma’s cornbread. It was one of those meals no one complained about, well, at least I didn’t complain about it. As we all got a bit older, someone brought home the idea of adding bacon and cheddar on top, just like a loaded potatoes. Today, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Potato soup just isn’t potato soup without bacon and cheese. It’s like having tomato soup without grilled cheese – you just don’t do it.
Today, I’m bringing back the comforts of loaded potato soup in the form of this potato and parsnip soup. The combination of these root vegetables create a thick soup with a starchy heartiness and a nutty sweet essence. This potato and parsnip soup has a rich and creamy texture that comes from a combination of the roux, pureeing the vegetables and a small amount of cream – only 1 tablespoon per 1 cup serving. You can opt for a thick puree, a chunky soup, or somewhere in between, it’s up to you. The toppings are optional, but who doesn’t love an excuse for bacon and cheese! I’ve tried it with cheddar as pictured, but it works well with gouda or parmesan as well.
My first introduction to the parsnip was only 3 years ago. It was shortly after we moved to San Francisco and some friends of ours hosted a British themed Sunday roast. Being that her husband and my boyfriend are both from England, it made perfect sense. Since I was fairly new in my British foods education, I was assigned the dessert and our friends made the main entree. I made an amazing sticky toffee pudding, that totally turned me on to British desserts, but that’s another post for another time. The meal itself was absolutely delicious, but the one thing that really stood out to me was the parsnips. I had never heard of them before this, let alone seen or tasted one. She had oven roasted them with a honey glaze and I was hooked.
The parsnip is a root vegetable, similar in shape to a carrot. The flesh is a creamy white color, and the taste is like a mild turnip, nutty, earthy and slightly sweet. I’ve also heard them described as a cross between a carrot and a potato. They are best after the first frost of the season, as the freeze causes them to sweeten slightly. I usually find them with the tops already trimmed off, but if you find them with the greens intact be careful as the greens can irritate your skin. I haven’t discovered if they are actually poisonous to ingest, but I am erring on the side of caution and not trying it for myself.
To prep the parsnips, rinse them with water and rub away any dirt spots. Peel off the outermost layers with your Y-peeler and then chop into small pieces. The consensus on the core depends on your preference. The core can be very fibrous when it’s thick. I typically remove the cores from the top section when I’m roasting, but include the cores when boiling the parsnips for soup.
Now that you know all about parsnips, let’s make some potato and parsnip soup. This recipe makes 8 cups of soup, which is enough for a family of 4 – 6 for dinner time or 8 – 10 for a first course. I’ll be serving this soup up as the first course at our Christmas table this year.
Start with the bacon. Heat your soup pot or dutch oven over a medium flame. cut the bacon strips in half and lay them out in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Keep an eye on them as you prep the rest of your ingredients. Peel the parsnips, chop the parsnips, potatoes, and onions. If you opt for russet potatoes peel those as well, but if you are using a thin skinned variety peeling is unnecessary.
Check your bacon and flip as necessary. Once the fat has rendered and your bacon reached the desired degree of doneness, remove it from the pot and lay on 2 – 3 layers of paper towels to cool. Carefully remove most of the bacon grease from the pan by pouring it into a heat safe container. A ramekin or coffee mug works well. Reserve the bacon grease for later, or allow it to cool then wipe it out with a paper towel for disposal. Do not wipe the remaining bacon grease out of the pot.
Add the onions into the bottom of the pan and cook 3 – 5 minutes over medium heat in the leftover bacon grease. Once the onion is tender and a translucent, add in the butter, swirling to melt. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the chicken broth whisking to smooth out the flour. Add in the vegetables, milk, salt, pepper, and bay leaves. Cover and allow to come to a boil. Lower the heat and let simmer for 20 – 30 minutes or until the vegetables are softened, stirring occasionally.
Remove the bay leaves from the pot and stir in the heavy cream. At this point you can choose to have a chunky soup, by serving it as it or opt for a creamier puree. I prefer something in the middle, a little bit chunky and and a little bit pureed. A note of caution: if you choose to fully puree it, you may want to add extra chicken broth to thin it out. The easiest way to puree (or partially puree) the soup is by using an immersion blender. Stick it in, turn it on and puree until you have the desired consistency. If you don’t have an immersion blender, KitchenAid is now making them to match their mixers. When using a standard blender, some of the newer ones can handle the high heat, but most of them require that you wait for the soup to cool down, then blend and reheat. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for blending hot foods.
The beauty of this soup is that it tastes delicious on the second and third day as well. It does thicken the longer that it sits, so having a bit of extra chicken broth on hand to thin it is a good idea. Alternatively, you can also freeze part of it to enjoy later.
Once it’s ready, top it with about 1 tablespoon of shredded cheese and 1/2 a strip of crumbled bacon. A meal sized serving is between 1 – 1 1/2 cups and a first course serving is 1/2 cups to 1 cup depending on how many courses you are serving. This hearty potato and parsnip soup will fill you up right and get you ready to go back out into the cold.
What’s your favorite type of winter soup? How do you like to top your potato soup? Have you ever had parsnips? Let me know in the comments below!
If you like this recipe, don’t forget to Pin or Yum it for later use!!
Potato & Parsnip Soup
- 4 strips thick cut bacon
- 1/4 cup butter
- 3 TBSP flour
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1 1/2 lbs of parsnips
- 1 lb of yukon gold potatoes
- 3 cups of chicken broth
- 2 1/2 cups of fat free or low fat milk
- 3/4 tsp of salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup heavy cream or half & half
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Heat a soup pot or dutch oven over a medium flame.
Cut the bacon strips in half and lay in an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Keep an eye on the bacon, flipping when needed and adjusting the temperature as necessary while you prep the vegetables.
Dice the onion.
Peel and chop the parsnip into small bites.
Chop the potato into small bites.
Remove the bacon from the pot when it has reached the desired degree of doneness. Place it on 2 - 3 layers of paper towels to cool.
Carefully remove the bacon grease from the pot by pouring it off into a heat safe container. A ramekin or coffee mug works well.
Add the onions into the still hot pan and cook 3 - 5 minutes or until translucent.
Add the butter and swirl to melt.
Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
Stir in the chicken broth whisking to smooth out the flour.
Add in the vegetables, milk, salt, pepper, and bay leaves.
Cover and allow to come to a boil.
Lower the heat and let simmer for 20 - 30 minutes or until the vegetables are softened, stirring occasionally.
Remove the bay leaves.
Serve as a chunky soup or puree for a smoother creamy soup.
You may wish to add additional chicken broth to thin the soup if you puree it completely.