Long, long ago, when I was a tot, creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup was one of my absolute faves. Decadent, comforting and delicious, this is my idea of the perfect soup. But we all know that I try to keep animal products out of my diet as often as I can, so I decided to make a version of this soup that’s just as hearty and tasty, but also vegan.
In my version, chickpeas replace chicken and simple cashew cream replaces the flour/butter/milk combination (aka a bechamel sauce). Carrots, onion, celery and garlic add veggie goodness. Dried thyme, bay leaf and poultry seasoning give this soup the same flavor vibes as it’s chicken-filled counterpart. The end result is creamy, dreamy perfection.
For this recipe I use a brown rice/wild rice blend. Mainly because that’s what I had in my pantry, but also because wild rice is on the expensive side. But this recipe works just the same with all brown rice or all wild rice. The choice is yours!
Another choice you have here is between canned or dry chickpeas. Use two cans of drained and rinsed chickpeas or cook up 1.5 cups dry chickpeas. I prefer the taste of freshly cooked beans, however I’m also a fan of the canned convenience factor. See notes below recipe for more information on cooking your own beans instead of using canned.
Creamy Chickpea & Rice Soup
vegan | gluten-free | clean eating
Serves: 4-5 Start to Finish: 1 hour
2 large carrots, peeled & diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
sea salt, fine grain
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
4 cups vegetable stock (low-sodium preferred)
1 cup wild rice, brown rice or wild rice/brown rice blend
3 cups cooked Chickpeas, 2 cans drained/rinsed or 1.5 cups dry chickpeas, cooked (see notes)
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning (see notes)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 dried bay leaf
1.5 cups cashew cream (see notes)
black pepper, to taste
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook for about 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add garlic, cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, being careful to not let garlic burn.
Add rice, stock, chickpeas, poultry seasoning, thyme, bay leaf, 2 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to boil, cover and simmer until rice is full cooked. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed.
When rice is cooked, add cashew cream (or bechamel) and stir to combine. Season with additional salt and black pepper, to taste. I suggest starting with 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and adding more from there. Simmer for a few more minutes to fully incorporate cream.
Using Dry Beans: technically, you’re supposed to soak dry beans before cooking, however, when working at a produce-forward restaurant in NYC, we always cooked chickpeas from dry, skipping the soaking step. Make sure to cover beans with lots of water, then bring to boil, reduce to simmer and partially cover pot, simmering until beans are tender. Check water level from time to time.
If soaking, I use the quick soak (aka hot soak) method just about every time I cook with dry beans – soaking the beans overnight is too much planning and too much of a commitment for me – to quick/hot soak, add dry beans to a pot with a tablespoon of salt and enough water to cover the beans by a few inches – bring to boil – boil for 2 minutes – turn off heat – cover with lid – let beans soak for 1 hour – drain off the old water. To cook soaked beans, add fresh water and soaked beans back into pot. Bring to boil and simmer until cooked, about 1 hour.
Poultry Seasoning: this traditional seasoning blend is a mix of dried sage and thyme, plus other herbs/spices like marjoram, black pepper and rosemary. Don’t save this seasoning blend for poultry, it adds savory flavor to all kinds of dishes, including vegetarian.
Making Cashew Cream: Chicken & Wild Rice Soup is traditionally creamy using a basic roux of butter, flour and milk. I adapted the classic recipe to be meat-free, dairy-free and gluten-free using a simple cashew cream. To make cashew cream, blend 1 cup soaked raw cashews with 3/4 cup water and 3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt in a high-speed blender. Voila – dairy-free cream perfect for soups and stews!
Soaking Cashews for Cashew Cream: submerge cashews completely in water and allow to sit at room temperature for 2-3 hours or in the fridge over night. You can also hot soak the cashews by adding nearly boiling water to raw cashews and letting them sit for 15-30 minutes. Drain off the soaking liquid and blend with 3/4 cup fresh water and 3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt.
Using a Bechamel Instead: if you’d prefer making this soup a bit more traditional, add a simple bechamel sauce to the soup instead of the cashew cream. Check out this recipe from Epicurious. The 1 cup yield of this recipe should be enough, but make 1.5x for added creamy-ness.