Vichyssoise

Summer has officially arrived, and with it, the dry summer heat for which Sacramento is so well known. Chilled soups were invented for hot days like these. Vichyssoise, a chilled creamy potato and leek soup, was created by a chef at the Ritz-Carlton in New York in the summer of 1917, to help keep patrons cool. Chef Louis Diat was French, hence the French name of the soup. (Don’t try asking for a Vichyssoise in France, you’ll get puzzled looks; it’s an American soup). Chilled soups used to be a lot more popular than they are these days, especially before WWII and modern air conditioning.

The original Vichyssoise is a cream bomb, calling for a quart of broth, 2 cups of milk, and 3 cups of cream, for eight servings. Yikes. That’s almost a half cup of cream per serving! Our version is decidedly lighter, though still quite creamy because we use Yukon gold potatoes, which are naturally creamy potatoes (they make great mashed potatoes too). The soup is really easy to make, doesn’t use a lot of ingredients, and lasts for days. The trick is serving temperature. It’s great hot, though it is designed to be a chilled soup. I found the best serving temperature is just below room temp. Too cold and and the flavor from the butter, potatoes, and salt just disappears.

Vichyssoise Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Makes about 10 cups, serves 6 to 8.

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4-5 cups sliced leeks, white and pale green parts only (from about 4 large leeks)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped or sliced
  • 2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 6 cups water (vegetarian option), or chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt (more to taste)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Chopped fresh chives for garnish

Method

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1 In a large (6-quart) pot, heat the butter on medium high heat until it melts and foams up. Continue to heat until the foam subsides a little and the butter just begins to brown.

2 Immediately toss in the sliced leeks and onions. Stir to coat with the butter. Cook for several minutes, reducing the heat to medium if necessary, until the leeks and onions are translucent and wilted.

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3 Add the chopped potatoes, salt, and water or stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Cook, partially covered for 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes are completely cooked through. Remove from heat.

4 Purée using an immersion blender or working in batches, blend in a blender. (Careful! With hot liquids only fill the blender 1/3 of the way full, and hold the blender top on with your hand while blending.) Purée until completely smooth. If you want an even smoother soup, you can take the extra step of pressing the purée through a sieve with a rubber spatula.

5 Allow to cool a bit before stirring in the sour cream and whipped cream. Allow to cool completely and chill in the refrigerator. The soup should be served just below room temperature (maybe 65°F or 18°C). If it is too cold, it won't taste as good.

Add more salt to taste. Serve garnished with chopped fresh chives.

Links:

Vichysquash, cold crookneck and buttermilk soup - from The Runaway Spoon

29 Comments

  1. Jennie M

    What a great recipe! I love soup but with the heat of summer, hot soup doesn’t exactly give that same “cozy” effect and I’m not really a gazpacho kinda girl, so this is PERFECT! Our farmer’s market is this Saturday…I know I’ll be picking up a few things.

    I keep forgetting to ask you, where did you find those awesome flower bowls? I googled and googled but couldn’t find any just like them.

    They’re Limoge ceralene porcelain (“marly” pattern, melon bowl). I bought a couple at a china store closeout a few years ago. Pretty, aren’t they? :-) ~Elise

  2. rebecca h.

    Chilled soups are one of the joys of summer! I remember the first time I had one. My mum took me to a rather fancy lunch when I was about 16 and the restaurant was at the end of a steep uphill walk on an Australian summer day.

    The chilled cauliflower soup leaped off the menu in our heated state, and it was so good, I don’t remember the rest of the meal at all.

  3. Christina

    When I saw Vichyssoise, my first thought was the show Nunsense! When I was in the show, though, I never actually knew what kind of soup it wash. Looks delicious.

  4. Stella

    Oh I love Vichyssoise! I used to make this once in awhile… It’s been years now. I’ll have to do it again!

  5. Joannenicole

    I’m in the Phoenix area and we’re hitting temperatures of 110+ right now…anything cold sounds good! (I’ve been making granita at least once a day, and my family is devouring it!) I’m particularly fond of a leek and potato soup in the wintertime, but I’ve never actually tried vichysoisse. This is definitely going on the menu this week!

    As a side note, your picture here is gorgeous. I find that I almost always comment on your soup recipes, because the pictures are always stunning. I believe I referred to the seafood bisque recipe as “breathtaking”… :)

    Thanks! Soups, especially plain, white soups, can be a challenge to photograph. ~Elise

  6. Judith

    Vichysoisse is a wonderful soup, and a meal in itself. (Served hot cooked with stock and no dairy it is called potage Bonne Femme.) Just don’t make the mistake I made once: the soup needs to be pureed while it is hot. If you wait until it cools, it becomes gummy and unappetizing. Potatoes are funny that way.

    Good point, thank you! ~Elise

  7. Kathi Riley Smith

    When I make vichyssoise, I add a tiny bit of mace in the final seasoning. Something about the addition of mace to vichyssoise that makes it so perfect…

  8. Tina

    My potato soup recipe, inherited from my grandmother, is very similar. Grandma never knew what vichyssoise was, but she was practically making it at least once a week. The soup is made with almost equal parts chopped yellow onion and potatoes, cooked in salted water until the potatoes are starting to dissolve. the pan of potatoes and onions gets mashed, leaving some texture, add milk and butter, a bit of pepper and some fresh parsley and green onion tops (if you’re feeling fancy). The soup, served with really good buttered rye bread or pumpernickle, still makes me swoon.

  9. Kiran

    Love potatoes and leek combo. I remember tasting a stir-fry combo of leeks, potatoes and chicken in a spicy sauce at PF Changs. So yummy :)

  10. Ruth

    Wow! That really is a cream bomb! But it looks worth it anyway. I really love potato and leek together, so its a must for the summer.

  11. Cady

    This seems like the perfect way to use the immersion blender I just got for my birthday!

    Elise, would the spring onions in my Crop Share basket work well in this? I’m worried their greens are too coarse.

    You mean in place of leeks? Perhaps. If you try it, please let us know how it turns out. ~Elise

  12. tom Landshof

    One of my childhood memories growing up in Jersey City, NJ was my mother’s vichyssoise.
    She made it mostly in the summer and used Campbells frozen potato soup as the base. It was terrific. Since Campbell no longer makes this soup, I used as a starter a recipe from “The Complete Book Of Soups and Stews” as noted. I altered it based on the recipe I had from my mother. It turned pretty darn good. Enjoy! By the way,This same soup served warm is called Potage Parmentier

    Vichyssoise or Potage Parmentier Tom Landshof Aug. 2006

    (Modified from The Complete Book of Soups & Stews by B. Clayton)

    Ingredients

    4 large potatoes, about 1½ pounds, peeled and sliced

    5 cups chicken stock

    4 large leeks

    2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces

    1 white onion, sliced

    4 Tbs. butter

    1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

    1 cup milk

    ½ tsp. white pepper

    1 cup heavy cream

    2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or parsley, to garnish

    Preparation

    1. Melt butter in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks, celery and onions. Sauté a few minutes, then reduce heat, cover and sweat them till tender.

    2. Put the sliced potatoes in a heavy 4 quart saucepan or soup kettle. Add chicken stock and simmer till potatoes are done. Don’t over cook. (I throw in a few celery leaves if they look good for added flavor.)

    3. Add vegetable mix to potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Puree in batches and return to pot.

    4. Add cup of milk. Bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add more pepper and salt as needed to your taste. Add cream, blend, and chill.

    5. Serve very cold. Garnish with chopped chives or parsley

    Note: Use the white of the leek plus about 1½ inches of the green to give the soup a pleasant off-white shading. Split the leeks lengthwise and wash thoroughly to remove all traces of grit and sand for which leeks are notorious. Slice thinly after washing.

    r

  13. Madeline

    What a yum photograph! It looks smooth, creamy, rich and simply yum. I need to request my sis to make this for me. I got her an immersion blender. It’s a gift that keeps giving back to me!

  14. c

    try it with a shot of vermouth in the final product. that’s how I learned to make it in cooking school, and it’s a wonderful addition. also, where’s the nutmeg?

  15. Jody Kinney

    I’ve got the leeks and potatoes just waiting for this recipe to show up. I’m wondering whether the potato-leek base could be frozen, then the dairy added to the thawed base before serving?

    Good question. Don’t know the answer. If you try it, please let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise

  16. Iris devadason

    Hi,
    I am from Bangalore,India where Western cooking is well-known.I love leek and potato soup so much and first learnt it from Adele Davis’ famous cook book which I got as a gift from my husband , who was Manager of a book store. [Showroom copies were not meant for sale ,and so naturally they came to me if I was interested .]How I love that book…and the soups there.
    I bought free chicken legs for stock (Ms.Davis advises buying a whole lot and making delicious and cheap stock. No chicken legs are not dirty.When the outer skin ius removed they are very clean, I assure you! )I served it hot, with croutons. That was long ago.I wonder whether I could digest this fab.soup now,as I am old.
    Its no fun without the cream !
    Iris

    Hi Iris. My mother learned how to cook from her Adele Davis cookbook. She still refers to the battered old copy. We often make stock from chicken feet; it’s so packed with gelatin. How fun to hear that you’ve had similar experiences all the way from Bangalore! ~Elise

  17. Jackie

    Yum! Making this for lunch today, because it’s really hot now in central Florida!! I don’t have any leaks on hand, so I left those out but added celery and summer squash. Also using sour cream but using lowfat milk instead of heavy cream. Yes, I know, it won’t be quite as rich, but I was looking for something a little lighter. And it’s so thick with just the veggies (the blended mix is cooling now) that I don’t think the lesser amount of fat will be an issue. This is a keeper, as usual from this site. Thanks Elise!

  18. Iris Devadason

    I have lost my copy of Adele Davis, but happily, I saw it on Amazon the other day.Plan to buy a copy when I visit the US next time.But I have never forgotten her recipes and her Introductions to recipes , like calling bread pudding Duty pudding as she and her sisters had to make it, when the bread got stale, every week etc etc. What fun!
    …and yes, many are scared to skin the feet but they do come off easily, like socks! and of course, my dogs were waiting to be given their share too. Happiness all around, thanks to soup-making !
    Iris

  19. Aardvark

    Twenty or so years ago at the swanky Fontainebleu Hotel in Miami Beach, a United States Senator, two Congressmen, an ambassador, and a couple of other high ego types were at our luncheon table for eight when my prankster pal complained loudly, “My potato soup is cold.” The fellow next to him harrumphed and hissed, “It’s supposed to be.” Laughing and choking, I asked to be excused from the table. The dish has forever since been called, “Tom’s Soup” in our household. Thanks for the recipe. I’ll try it this weekend.

  20. Wendy

    Thank you for this recipe! I made it on Saturday and have been enjoying it since. I was with a friend and we made 3 of your recipes- Vichyssoise, Gazpacho and Zucchini Cake! All three recipes were incredible (as I knew they would be).

    I’m so glad you liked the recipes! ~Elise

  21. Erin

    I am generally not a soup person, but I’ve been bookmarking possibilities that might convert me. I think this definitely makes the list!

  22. Leslie

    I really love vichyssoise and it’s something you cannot find — you have to make it yourself. This recipe is fantastic. I have made it multiple times and it has turned out great every time. It keeps for days, and is still flavorful on the third day as the first. One of the things I really love is how simple it is to remember the ingredients. I’ll be in the supermarket and see fresh leeks, which reminds me of this soup, and I remember the rest of the ingredients easily — golden potatoes, chicken broth, sour cream and heavy cream. Simple! Yes, I forget the onion, but who doesn’t have a bag of onions around?! Using golden potatoes does make a difference. I’ve tried this recipe with other types, and it’s just not the same. Try this recipe. You’ll like it!

I apologize for the inconvenience, but comments are closed. You can share your thoughts on our Facebook page ~ Elise.