Smoky cheese and potato soup is an easy recipe that uses up leftover ham and is made on the stove top.  This creamy homemade soup is loaded with delicious real food ingredients.  It's best served warm with a thick slice of rye bread.

Prep Time: 1 hour
person holding a bowl of cheese and potato soup
Soups & Stews

Smoky Cheese and Potato Soup

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This recipe was originally published on March 1, 2018.

Want a soup to use up leftover ham from the holidays?  Try our smoky cheese and potato soup.  It’s creamy, thick, and full of smoky Gouda cheese and country smoked ham.

person holding a spoonful of cheese and potato soup

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What type of potato is best for mashed potatoes?

This soup uses mashed potatoes instead of diced, so you’ll want to use Russet or Yukon Gold, as they both have a high starch content.  Since the starch from the potatoes is the main thickening agent in this soup, you’ll want potatoes that are starchy.

Since most people don’t have leftover potatoes hanging out in their fridge, our recipe shows you how to make the mashed potatoes to use for this soup.

How to Cut Potatoes for Soup

  • Start by scrubbing and peeling the potatoes.
  • Cut each potato in half lengthwise.
  • Slice each half into 1/4-inch pieces.
  • Rotate the potato and slice in 1/4-inch pieces.
  • Divide the pile of sliced potatoes in half.
  • Put each pile in one layer on the cutting board.
  • Cut into cubes.
  • If not using right away, put in a bowl of cold water to prevent them from turning pink.

bowl of cheese and potato soup with a wooden spoon

What cheese is best for potato soup?

The best cheese for melting is one that is high in moisture and has a low melting point.  If you use Gouda, you’ll want it to be smoked for the best flavor.  The best cheese for this soup recipe is good quality smoked Gouda, because that flavor is key to this soup.

Other cheeses that are good for melting are Fontina, Gruyere, Swiss, and sharp cheddar.

How to Keep Cheese from Clumping in Soup

Have you ever wondered why sometimes your cheese clumps when it’s added to soup?  There is a scientific reason. If the temperature is above 150F, the heat will break down the protein bonds in the cheese and will allow too much moisture to escape.  

Cheese needs to be added to soup that is less than 150F.  To do this, it’s best to have your soup simmering at a medium low or low temperature on your stove top.  If you want to be extra cautious, you can use an instant read thermometer to check your soup’s temperature before adding the cheese.

a bowl of cheese and potato soup

Another reason why cheese clumps is the cheese used is the pre-grated kind from the grocery store.  Instead, use freshly grated cheese, as the pre-grated cheese is coated with cellulose (powdered wood pulp) that will prevent it from melting properly. 

The last reason why your cheese clumps in your soup is it was added all at once before stirring.  Instead add your grated cheese gradually and stir it in so your cheese melts properly and your soup is smooth.

What stops grated cheese from sticking together?

If you like the convenience of pre-grated cheese, but don’t like the food-grade cellulose that’s in there, make your own pre-grated cheese.  It’s super easy.

Grate the cheese and place it in a large bowl.  Sprinkle on flour or cornstarch and use, or store in a zip top freezer bag and store in the fridge or freezer.

How to Make Smoky Cheese and Potato Soup

Gather all the ingredients.  Grate the smoked Gouda and cube the leftover country smoked ham.

ingredients for cheese and potato soup

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Cut off the top of a head of garlic and remove the outer skins.  Place the garlic head cut size up and drizzle olive oil on top.

pouring olive oil on a head of garlic

Cover the oven proof ramekin with foil and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 40 minutes.

foil covered ramekin on a cookie sheet

Remove the foil.  If necessary, bake for another 5 minutes to get a nice golden brown color.  Cool before removing the garlic from the skin.

head of roasted garlic in a ramekin

Put the cubed Russet potatoes in a pot of cold water. 

person adding cubed potatoes to a pot of water

Over medium heat, bring to a boil, then add 1 teaspoon of salt.  Stir it in until the salt dissolves.

person adding salt to a pot of boiling water and potatoes

Lower the heat to medium low, place the lid on the Dutch oven askew, and cook for another 4 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.

testing a cube of potato for doneness with a fork

Drain the potatoes in a colander and rinse with cold water.

draining cooked potato cubes in a colander

Place the cooked potatoes back into the Dutch oven and mash with a potato masher until smooth.

Remove the potatoes from the pot and put in a bowl.  You’ll need 1 1/2 cups of packed mashed potatoes for the soup.  Wash and dry the pot.

mashing potatoes in a Dutch oven

Over medium heat, heat up one tablespoon of olive oil, then add the cubed ham and the white pepper and cayenne.  Cook the ham and spices for two minutes while stirring.

adding spices to sauteed ham in a pot

Pour in the whole milk and let it heat up for 5 minutes being careful not to let it boil.

pouring milk into a pot

While the milk is heating up, combine the flour or cornstarch with the grated smoked Gouda.  This helps the grated cheese from clumping.

sprinkling flour on grated Gouda cheese

Once the roasted garlic has cooled, use a small spoon to remove each clove from the skin.  Cut or mash up the roasted garlic on the cutting board.

scooping roasted garlic out of the skins

Add the roasted garlic to the mashed potatoes.  You should have 1 1/2 cups of packed mashed potatoes.

mixing mashed potatoes with roasted garlic

Add the mashed potatoes in a spoonful at a time.

adding mashed potatoes to a pot of soup

Over medium heat, whisk in the mashed potatoes, so the soup is smooth.  Cook the soup for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally.  The soup will thicken from the potato starch.

whisking a pot of soup

Lower the heat to medium low, and add the grated smoked Gouda a little at a time while stirring to ensure it doesn’t clump.  Cook for a few minutes on medium low heat to get rid of raw flour taste.

Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and serve with a thick slice of rye bread.

person holding a bowl of cheese and potato soup

Pro Tips

  • Want to use other fats?  Try butter or bacon fat.
  • Want to use a different cheese?  Try smoked cheddar.
  • Want to make it creamy?  Use cream cheese, sour cream, or heavy cream.
  • Want to use other spices?  Try turmeric, paprika, cayenne pepper, thyme, or Tabasco.
  • Want to use a different potato?  Try Yukon gold.
  • Want to add more veggies?  Try broccoli, kale, chard, or spinach.
  • Don’t have any leftover ham?  Use convenient cubed ham or ham steaks.
  • Want to use a different meat?  Try crumbled smoky bacon.
  • Don’t want to use flour?  Try using cornstarch, you’ll get the same results.
  • Want a different garnish?  Try crumbled bacon, grated cheese, scallions, chives, or float a toast shape on the soup.

Our Go-To Kitchen Tools

  • Emeril Lagasse Dutch Oven: this heavy-bottomed pot is our favorite for making soup.
  • Potato Masher: definitely an important tool for quickly making mashed potatoes.
  • Colander: this large stainless steel colander has a base so it sits in the sink.
  • Set of 3 Whisks: get a perfectly smooth soup with these great whisks.
  • Box Grater: we love this sturdy box grater for grating cheese and veggies.

Try these other leftover ham soup recipes for a bowl of deliciousness.

person dipping a piece of bread into a bowl of dill pickle soup ladle of ham and bean soup holding a spoonful of split pea soup

The pleasure of a 5 star review for this smoky cheese and potato soup would be greatly appreciated.

Print
person holding a bowl of cheese and potato soup

Smoky Cheese and Potato Soup


  • Author: Brooke
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: 5 cups 1x

Description

Smoky cheese and potato soup is an easy recipe that uses up leftover ham and is made on the stove top.  This creamy homemade soup is loaded with delicious real food ingredients.  It’s best served warm with a thick slice of rye bread.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 head of garlic, about 9 cloves (60g)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (30 ml)
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed (326g)
  • 3 cups smoked Gouda, grated (7 oz; 200g)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (14g)
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked ham, finely diced (195g)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 3 cups whole milk (710 ml)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Roast the garlic. Cut 1/4 inch off the top of the head of garlic and remove the outer skins, keeping the head intact.  Place cut side up in a small ovenproof bowl and drizzle the olive oil on top.  Cover the bowl with foil and place on a small cookie sheet to make it easier to remove from the oven.  Bake for 40 minutes.  Once cool, remove the cooked cloves and finely chop them.
  3. Mash the potatoes. Put the diced potatoes into a pot of cold water.  Bring to a boil, then add 1 teaspoon of salt and stir until the salt is dissolved.  Lower heat to a simmer, and cook until fork tender.  Drain and mash the potatoes, stir in the chopped roasted garlic, and set aside.  You’ll need 1 1/2 cups of packed mashed potatoes.  Wash and dry the pot.
  4. Coat the cheese. Toss the grated smoked Gouda with two tablespoons of flour.
  5. Saute. Heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat, then add the ham, cayenne pepper, and white pepper.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add liquid. Pour the milk into the pot and let it heat for about 5 minutes or until it is hot, being careful to not let it boil.  Gradually whisk in the garlic mashed potatoes.  Cook until the potatoes are heated through and the soup has thickened from the potato starch, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  7. Add cheese. Stir in the grated cheese and flour mixture.  Cook for a few minutes, so the cheese is melted and the flour is cooked a bit to get rid of the raw flour taste.
  8. Serve. Allow the soup to cool for 5 minutes to thicken before garnishing with fresh parsley.

Notes

  • Make this recipe perfectly the first time.  Check out the step-by-step photos and pro tips before the recipe card.
  • The pleasure of a 5-star review for this smoky cheese and potato recipe would be greatly appreciated.
  • 👩🏻‍🍳 Want to see our latest recipes?  Subscribe to our email newsletter to get our latest recipes, fun food facts, food puns, and behind the scenes news about our blog.
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: cheesy ham and potato soup, ham and potato soup recipe

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4 thoughts on “Smoky Cheese and Potato Soup

  1. This soup is garlicky, and the ham is soft and chewy. The cheese is smoky and so Gouda! 😊 The parsley adds some green and flavor. I like the thick, creamy texture of the soup. I love this soup!

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