Don't skimp on this ingredient when making cream of mushroom soup from scratch

There's nothing quite like a steaming hot bowl of soup on a cold day. Chicken noodle, tomato, vegetable beef — there are so many delicious options out there. If you're craving something heartier, however, cream of mushroom soup could be just what hits the spot. Thick, creamy, and bursting with flavors, it's pure comfort food. While you can buy it pre-made in a can (for those days when you just want something quick and easy), like most things, homemade cream of mushroom soup is even better and can be worth the extra effort if you have the time.

Want to whip up a batch for yourself? There are tons of great recipes to choose from, and all different variations, from a cream of mushroom soup that's made with just three ingredients to one that has skinless chicken breast. But while all of the recipes are slightly different, there's one key ingredient that many of them agree you absolutely cannot skimp on.

Be heavy-handed with the heavy cream

Besides mushrooms, what's the most important part of cream of mushroom soup? It should come as no surprise that it's the cream. And not just any cream will do. Based on these recipes by Cooking for Keeps and The Pioneer Woman (!), apparently, for the best bowl, you'll want to use heavy cream. It's richer, fattier, and more flavorful than half-and-half or light cream, containing at least 36 percent milkfat according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (which is double the fat content of half and half, for instance). Opting for heavy cream over other dairy options will give your soup that extra creaminess and heartiness that you're craving. 

Don't try to alter the amount of heavy cream you use, either. Going lighter or substituting it for something else can majorly affect the texture and consistency of the final product. Blue Flame Kitchen explains that swapping out for a lower-fat option can cause the cream to curdle and separate instead of giving your soup that nice creamy texture that the higher fat of heavy cream provides. Another tip: You might see heavy cream labeled as heavy whipping cream at the grocery store. Fear not, they're the same thing and both will work for your cream of mushroom soup.