After our recipe rescue, this rich and creamy soup has 40 percent fewer calories and 62 percent less fat than the heavy original.
Credit: Randy Mayor

THE READER: Amanda Farmer, University of Georgia accounting instructor, Bishop, Georgia

THE STORY: A childhood favorite, this creamy soup is a weeknight go-to for Farmer. She received the recipe from her mother, Brenda ­Geiger, and wanted to give it to a friend for a cookbook project. Yet Farmer felt some guilt. “I know it’s high in calories and fat, and I want a healthier recipe that’s still satisfying,” she wrote with her request to Cooking Light for an overdue makeover of the recipe.

THE DILEMMA: Several ingredients contributed to the soup’s heavy nutritional report card: processed cheese, butter, whole milk, and half-and-half add a hefty amount of fat. Its canned cream of mushroom soup, regular chicken broth, and processed cheese added significant sodium.

THE SOLUTION: The soup’s base warranted the bulk of our attention. We halved the amount of processed cheese and swapped to a lighter version, maintaining a satisfying taste and texture but cutting 79 calories, seven fat grams (five grams of which were saturated), and 286 milligrams of sodium per serving. We made a white sauce for the soup’s base with just three tablespoons of butter and a little flour to thicken low-fat milk; omitting the can of soup cut 25 calories per bowlful. With half the rich half-and-half, we added an extra cup of low-fat milk (instead of the full-fat type) to ensure a silky texture and saved 35 calories, four grams of fat, and two grams of saturated fat. Instead of using one-half cup butter to sauté the onion, we used cooking spray and added fresh mushrooms to enhance the taste. Reducing five tablespoons of butter (three tablespoons are used in the white sauce) shaved 50 calories and six grams of fat (31/2 grams saturated) per serving. We switched regular chicken broth for the fat-free, less-sodium type, and used less to shave 216 milligrams sodium. Since we broke the long noodles, which are easier to eat, we could also halve the amount to eliminate another 40 calories.

THE FEEDBACK: Farmer and her husband, Lee, commend the revised recipe. “None of the creaminess is sacrificed, and the addition of fresh mushrooms enlivens the soup’s flavor,” she says. Farmer can feel good about preparing―and passing along―this restored childhood favorite.


Calories per serving
534 | 317

33g | 6.8g

Saturated fat
18.6g | 6.8g

1,289mg | 723mg