10 Best Substitutes For Cream Of Chicken Soup

We all have them. Those go-to recipes, like casseroles, we can whip up in no time. They're great in a pinch, usually taste pretty good, and can feed a crowd. Some are even generations-old family recipes that can conjure up a hint of nostalgia. And many of them rely on creamed soup as a key ingredient. That's why, if you dig deep into the pantries in most American homes, you'll likely find a can or two of old-fashioned Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup lurking behind the curated spices and fancy oils. Like an old friend, you know it will always be there, ready to help when you're in a pinch.

While there were casseroles being made before canned cream of chicken soup, they took more preparation. Campbell's opened the door to a new market — using canned soup as an ingredient — when the company began selling them in significantly smaller containers than their competitors (via Marketplace). They introduced cream of chicken in 1947, and by 1968, Campbell's had a whole cookbook of soup-based recipes (as seen on Click Americana). 

While canned cream of chicken soup remains a popular and convenient ingredient today, and is still a good way to bind casseroles, it's come under fire for its comparatively high sodium content (via Healthfully). According to Campbell's, a half-cup serving (or two-and-a-half servings per can) contains 870 mg of salt. That's about 38% of the FDA's daily recommended allowance.

So, whether you're looking for a healthier option or found out that the only can you have left in the pantry is from the last century, fear not. We have a few suggestions for substitutions so you can still get dinner on the table. They may not be a perfect replacement for the old standby, but these ideas still work like a charm.

1. Sour cream

While cream of chicken soup is also a flavoring, its primary purpose in most recipes is to serve as a binder, pulling together diverse ingredients in a casserole or pasta dish, for example. According to Healthfully, sour cream works in much the same way, especially in bean-based preparations (think enchiladas) that also include cheese. It's also a decent substitute in creamed vegetables, especially when used in conjunction with spices that help replicate the flavors of cream of chicken soup. 

According to Taste of Home, you can replace one can of cream of chicken soup with one cup of sour cream in most recipes. The Kitchen Community takes it a step further, suggesting sour cream with a touch of chicken broth for a near identical swap.

2. Chicken broth

Another option is condensed chicken broth in place of cream of chicken soup (per CookinDocs). Though, the key word being condensed. Regular chicken broth on its own probably won't have enough body to do the double duty work for cream of chicken soup. CookinDocs also advises this is a "last resort" option, but can work well when the broth is combined with a bit of flour to thicken it up. 

Taste of Home concurs, pointing out that, while chicken broth may give you the flavor you're seeking, using it comes at the expense of the creamy texture. The Kitchen Community says it's all in the eyes (maybe even the taste buds?) of the beholder, noting some people won't think twice about the creaminess you'll lose when using chicken broth to replace cream of chicken soup. After all, it's a pretty easy swap.

3. Plain yogurt

Opting for yogurt to replace cream of chicken soup has its share of pros and cons. On the plus side, Healthfully notes plain, fat-free yogurt works as a calcium-rich, lower-calorie binder and thickener. On the flip side, it lacks the bold chicken flavor. 

But, if you want to try it, Healthfully suggests starting with Greek yogurt because it is already thicker than other traditional varieties of the dairy product. To make it even thicker, run it through a paper towel-lined sieve to extract as much moisture as possible before adding it to your dish. The yogurt replacement works particularly well in dishes that include rice and lean protein like chicken.

4. Roux

Roux is just a fancy name for a simple-to-make binder consisting of a flour and a fat blended together over stovetop heat. All Recipes says basic roux was commonly used as a thickener in French cooking as far back as 300 years ago. Pronounced "roo," it brings a subtle nutty flavor to recipes. Make as much or as little as you need. It freezes well, so some cooks choose to make a batch and freeze portions for easy access.

The key to success is using equivalent amounts of fat or oil to starch or flour. For example, one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of flour. To make it, you'll want to heat the fat until it melts. Add the starch a little bit at a time, whisking constantly. Keep whisking until you have a paste. Continue the process by adding a liquid to the mix. Milk and cream are commonly used in roux. When replacing something like cream of chicken soup, chicken stock would be a good choice. 

Roux will progress through four stages — white, blond, brown, and dark brown. Each stage brings its own distinct flavor, so it's easy to adapt to a variety of preparations.

5. Shelf-stable whipping cream

Faced with the challenge of finding a suitable substitute for cream of chicken soup, one Reddit user turned to the r/cooking community for suggestions. One follower on the thread advised them to try Trader Joe's Shelf-Stable Whipping Cream. "I always keep a few cartons on hand," they wrote, adding that, when it's combined with roux and chicken stock, it makes a "basic white bechamel base" they use for a number of dishes.

According to TheKitchn, the shelf-stable whipping cream is a pretty decent product, especially when it comes to having a heavy cream option that can be tucked away in your pantry any time you need it. If you want to give it a try, TheKitchn notes it has a "velvety" texture and can be a little bit bland. But, as they explained, "The lack of flavor is not a surprise, however, because in order for the cream to be shelf-stable, it needs to be exposed to a very high heat which kills much of its subtle and complex flavor compounds." Adding some spices or seasonings can punch it up.

6. Thickening agents

If the dish you're preparing will work without the chicken flavor you get from cream of chicken soup, but you still need a creamy texture, you may want to explore alternative thickening agents. According to Jessica Gavin, the right thickener can give your dish the body it needs in sauces, stews, and casseroles. For the best results, choose a thickener that complements your dish. 

Common plant-based thickeners include products derived from rice, wheat, oat, tapioca, and arrowroot. By and large, wheat-based thickeners work well in dishes like gumbo. Thickeners derived from cornstarch are a good choice in Asian-style stir-fries. Arrowroot has a neutral flavor, so it's a good choice in a variety of applications. For best results, it's a good idea to combine powdered thickeners with liquid before incorporating them into your dish.

7. Slurry

A slurry (sometimes also called a whitewash) is an easy fix when you don't have a can of cream of chicken soup at the ready. It works well in dishes that rely primarily on the creamed soup as a thickening agent, as you can address the flavor differential with seasoning. Recipe Tips says a slurry is a blend of equal parts flour and water. 

The key to success is to be ultra sure the flour is completely incorporated into the water before adding it to your dish. Use a whisk to blend while adding the mixture, and don't skimp on cooking time. The slurry will also need several minutes over heat to blend with the other ingredients and lose its raw flour taste.

8. Other creamed soups

If you are the kind of cook who usually keeps a well-stocked pantry, odds are you have other varieties of canned cream soup tucked away in the back of the cabinet. So, if you forgot to replace the cream of chicken when you used your last can, no problem. Just sub in cream of mushroom or cream of celery, or pretty much any other creamed soup to do the trick. 

Ashcroft Family Table says canned cream of mushroom soup is among the most popular replacements as it has a subtle flavor that blends well with most ingredients without overpowering the primary flavors. The second most popular substitute is cream of celery soup, which particularly works well with meat-based dishes, especially recipes calling for ground beef or sausage. Cream of shrimp soup is a good alternative in seafood-based dishes. Cream of asparagus has a somewhat distinct flavor, but if you like asparagus, it's another good choice. And cream of potato is a go-to substitute for — you guessed it — potato-based dishes. You can use in a 1:1 swap.

9. Beurre manié

Saveur calls beurre manié "one of the best ways to thicken a sauce or a soup, period." Well, then. Let's give it a look. Don't let the fancy name deter you from giving it a try. Beurre manié is just kneaded butter, plain and simple. To make it, measure out equal parts softened butter and flour. Rub, or knead, the flour into the butter until it reaches a paste-like consistency. Separate the mixture into individual portions of about a teaspoon each. Roll each portion into a ball. Use what you need immediately. Wrap and store the rest in the freezer. When you need use the excess, simply bring them to room temperature before continuing.

But back to the task at hand. With beurre manié ready, you're all set to begin thickening your dish. If it's a sauce or gravy, bring it to a simmer and add one ball of beurre manié at a time, whisking between each addition, until the ball is completely absorbed and your sauce or gravy has reached your desired consistency. The balls will melt and quickly thicken the sauce up as it simmers, and the additional butter will add a sleek luster, similar to the effect of mounting a sauce with cold butter.

10. Homemade cream of chicken

Canned cream of chicken soup is a convenient item, good to have on hand in a pinch, but not necessarily the healthiest food choice for anyone trying to keep an eye on their intake of sodium or fat. But, if you're so inclined, it's pretty easy to whip up a home-made batch that can do the trick and where you can control the amount of sodium. The Art of Simple starts with a basic white sauce thickened to the consistency of a cream soup. 

To make the equivalent of a 10-ounce can of creamed soup, The Art of Simple's white sauce-base starts with a blend of 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons flour, a quarter-teaspoon salt, and 1 cup milk or stock. For a chicken-flavored substitute, use chicken stock instead of milk and add in a quarter-teaspoon of poultry seasoning or sage. Depending on how you're using it, you may want to incorporate diced, cooked chicken or play around with seasonings like curry, nutmeg, Worcestershire sauce, or fresh and dried herbs to add more nuanced flavor.