Watercress Soup

One of my earliest memories as a kid was my father taking the family out on excursions to Antelope Valley, about an hour and a half outside of Los Angeles where we lived. We used to go out there to pick pears, look at the jack rabbits, and just wander around the rugged terrain. There was a creek that ran along where we would hike, and in this creek grew watercress. It was rather miraculous to my six year old brain that we could find what we often ate for salad, growing over boulders, in and around tumbling and churning creek water. “Well that’s why they call it ‘water’ cress,” explained my dad.

We loved it then, and still do now, though it seems to be more difficult to find in the market these days. Have you ever had watercress? The real kind with thick stems and a spicy bite? They sell some aquaculture baby watercress at Whole Foods, but I refuse to buy it because to me it’s not the real stuff. Watercress shouldn’t be delicate, it should pack a punch. It’s great in a salad with a hot bacon dressing. It also makes a terrific soup. This watercress soup has a potato base and is topped with just a little sour cream.

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Watercress Soup Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6-8.

Watercress can often be found, when in season, in the herb section of the grocery store. The bunches should be thick-stemmed, and the leaves should have a strong, peppery bite to them. The delicate, thin-stemmed baby watercress that some markets carry is not appropriate for this soup.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cups white or yellow onion, chopped
  • Salt
  • 1 cup white wine, chicken stock, or vegetable stock (wine or veg stock for vegetarian version)
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 6 cups water
  • 6 cups fresh watercress, about 1/2 pound, chopped, stems included
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • About 6 Tbsp sour cream, stirred in, or for garnish

Method

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1 In a large pot, heat the butter until frothy, then cook the onions over medium heat until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Salt the onions as they cook. Add the wine or stock, potatoes and water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover the pot and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes.

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2 Add the watercress to the pot. Stir well and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and purée the soup with an immersion blender. If you don't have an immersion blender, pour the soup in batches into a blender and transfer the blended soup to a clean pot. Be careful when blending hot liquids to only fill the bowl a third of the way, and to hold down the blender's lid while you purée the soup.

3 Add salt to taste, then add the black pepper. You can either stir the sour cream into the whole batch of soup, or serve a tablespoon in the center of each person's bowl.

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Links:

Watercress Soup with Chicken and Ginseng - from Noob Cook
Creamy Watercress Soup with Sage - from Sippity Sup
Cantonese Watercress Soup - from Soy and Pepper

29 Comments

  1. Kathy

    Love it! Just made this myself, today. Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day, and a nice, light springtime soup. Unfortunately, I guess, my watercress came from WF, so…I guess I’m missing something. Most of the greens grown in south Louisiana are the heat-tolerant ones: mustard, collard, and turnip!

  2. Beth

    Can you post a picture of what the watercress should look like? It will be hard for me to know if the stems are thick or thin, if I don’t know what qualifies as “thick”.

    Or if you don’t have a pic, can you compare them to some other green? Should the stems be like kale, or is anything thicker than a dandelion good enough?

    Look at the watercress photo in this recipe. This is what watercress should look like. It should not look like it just sprouted. The aquaculture grown variety is very delicate and tender. Fine for a garnish. But not fine if what you want is that strong watercress bite. ~Elise

  3. Betty

    I wonder if upland cress would work in this- it definitely has the spicy bite! Strangely enough, I just found bunches of it growing wild on our playground at school. (I could go to the greens patch and pick it, but it’s more fun to forage!)Your soup looks wonderful- cress is one of my favorite greens. :)

  4. Rikki

    I love watercress! This looks so delicious, I will definitely have to try it [:

  5. Judith

    The watercress at Chinese markets is much more flavorful than that at WF. It’s also a lot cheaper. I use it in many soups to add flavor, crunchiness and character. It’s great with tofu, napa cabbage and shiitake mushrooms in a nice stock for a tasty low-cal lunch.

  6. justme

    Nice post! You should come back down for the poppies ;)

    http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=627

    Oh my gosh, I remember the poppies! When in bloom they line the hillsides as far as the eye can see. So pretty. ~Elise

  7. Catherine Van Orman

    Radish top soup! I make your watercress soup with radish greens. The fuzzy, prickly nature of the tops disappears in the cooking. Generally, the more bite to the radish itself, the more bite to the greens.
    Great hot or cold, with heavy cream instead of sour.
    I also cook the greens in a little water or broth, loosely puree and freeze in bags for a jolt of spicy green in winter soups.
    And if I ask nicely, both buyers and sellers at farmers’ markets will hand them to me gratis rather than waste them.
    I learned about the tops in a recipe from ‘The Victory Garden Cookbook’ by Marian Morash (Knopf, NY, 1982).

    Great idea, and I love that cookbook! ~Elise

  8. TeoBucatar

    I love this soup and i’ll try the recipe. Thanks for share.

  9. Regina

    Water cress soup reminds me of my childhood. My mother used to make that for us kids once in a while,and I just love it to this day.Thanks for bringin it back!

  10. K Johns

    When I was a kid, we picked in my Aunt Edna’s backyard along the stream behind her house in Stony Brook, Long Island. It’s an idyllic memory. Now that I live out in the west, we see it growing often along the streams and rivers of New Mexico. BUT I’ve been told you can’t eat it now because of the giardia in the streams which then gets in the watercress. Too bad. I’ll try some from our asian market and see if it’s more flavorful than Whole Foods. Thanks for the memory jog!

  11. sippitysup

    I have similar memories of watercress! GREG

  12. KimH

    Yum… watercress grows all over my moms land where there are natural springs.. Its seriously abundant as is wild peppermint in the same area.

  13. Becki Robins

    That sounds amazing! I only recently discovered watercress but beyond salads was pretty clueless about how to use it. Can’t wait to try this.

  14. Tonya

    This brings back childhood memories. My mom and I would trek through CA rattlesnake country to pick wild watercress when I was young. Azoreans use the green in a detox soup to cure bad illnesses. Watercress soup was the “miracle” that cured me of a 3-week flu bug as a child and therefore became a cold/flu season staple in our household. My mother’s version is similar to yours, except that she doesn’t puree it.
    As an adult, I puree it and like the English, also use it to eliminate water retention. Random fact: Liz Hurley has said in numerous interviews that she drinks six cups of it a day for three days before red-carpet appearances.

  15. Cheryl Ross

    Hi from the Antelope Valley! Unfortunately, it is now housing tracts & Wal-Marts.
    Very hard to find watercress and a lot of other ingredients here (mostly processed food).
    That is why I have turned my small backyard into a farm here, growing it all myself. Think I will see about growing some watercress in our hydroponics just so I can try this.

  16. Mixtapes&Mash

    I was talking to my friend just the other day about Watercress soup, she was telling me not only of how amazing it tasted but also how healthy and nutritious it it. I’ve been keeping my eye out for a recipe and needless to say this looks delicious! Thanks I’ll be trying this soon. A great springtime soup as well.

  17. Julia Rynsard

    It’s nice to keep some leaves back and puree them with the cooked soup. Julia

  18. Martijn

    For watercress soup with a sunny twist, add the juice of a blood orange.

  19. Cindy

    I used to pick, or more accurately, gather watercress from streams in Idaho where I grew up. I, also, prefer the wild form the best; same for asparagus. Funny thing is, I have lived in the Antelope Valley for twenty years, know the creek you remember fondly yet it never occurred to me to look there for watercress. I will certainly do that now!! Thanks for the recipe. My favorite watercress soup recipe had a broth base with soy sauce but this recipe looks very delicious, as well.

  20. Deborah

    I have never seen “the real thing” anywhere here in Denmark (Europe). We only get little delicate bunches with the earth still with it here.

    I love watercress soup, but since I haven’t tried “the real deal” I might not know what I’m on about? The version I make is with only one potatoe, so much thinner I’d think. Have a nice weekend.

  21. Liz

    My favorite recipe for watercress soup is from the Silver Palate cookbook. It also has zucchini in it – so good. I will definitely try this recipe!

  22. Lauren

    Ooh, I’ve never cooked with watercress but I might have to give this a try, it looks delicious!

  23. subha

    This is a very very delicious soup!! totally loved it

  24. Dara

    There’s something about childhood memories that make certain foods taste that much better. I love the peppery bite of watercress and can imagine this soup is a nice change from the standard recipes.

  25. Elena Patton

    Hola ! i’m Elena , And the recita for water crest has been a favorte of mine since childhood . As a child we would go to the open ranges of the Arizona desert country side and as soon as we get to our selected campground we would go for a walk in the beautiful wild life of the AZ. trails . Their we woud reach a fresh water creek running through full of water crest and my uncle would gather the freshes water crest and we would gather mesquito wood for the barbacoa we would use the crest as a garnish for our meal that he would preper and most of the time it would be barbacoa w/fresh flour thin tortillas made by the ladies of the family in a home made comal/ grill fresh made salsa and a bowl of pinto bean soup garnished with water crest how wonderful a memory can that be and stay in my teste buds all these wonderful sixty nine yrs. later . I’m looking forward to prepering this wonderful recipe of fresh water crest soup soon . Thank You for the Great memories . Sincerely , Elena Maria Guzman

  26. Radhika @ Just Home Made

    I have seen watercress a few times in kroger and like you mentioned, in whole foods. The aquaculture variety creeped me bit at first, but I bought it anyway once thinking it is good for health.. Either ways, watercress that I’ve had has always been delicate, quite grassy with a peppery spicy bite (like you wrote)

    I’ve really not been able to bring myself to buy it again.. though I’d like to incorporate it more into my diet.

    Your kind of soup would be good to give it another chance perhaps..

  27. sava

    Hi, please let me know what is latin name for watercress. Superb recipe.

    Here you go: Nasturtium official. You can find more information about watercress at the Wikipedia. ~Elise

  28. kayshin

    just fyi, you can frequently find watercress in asian markets. it’s usually about a dollar per bunch (in the philadelphia area). you have to wash it very carefully though- you can find a lot of small insects and/or small snails when you give it a good soak. although a little extra protein probably doesn’t hurt :)

    i’ve never tried watercress in a soup, so i’m intrigued. i usually saute watercress with some garlic and call it a day!

  29. Mary-Angela

    I love watercress too and I agree that the best is the stuff you forage. But please note that in some parts of the world it can carry parasites that are quite dangerous. I think the East Coast in US is ok whereas the West Coast and Europe have more cases, but I am not an expert, so you should google “watercress liver fluke” to find some info. Apparently it is quite safe to eat it cooked, even if it has parasites (the snails you often find are part of a complicated life cycle that involves also a mammal host). I know this much because I found all this amazing watercress last weekend, growing just outside Philadelphia. We picked and ate bundles of it before bothering to check… It seems you had lots of it growing up with no ill effects, but still, I am interested in this delicious sounding recipe for soup, which I will probably cook for our dinner tonight. Thanks!

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