I say creamed soup and you think: heavy cream.
In classic cooking, though, creaming is a technique for making soup, not an ingredient. Creaming is the technique of creating rich, smooth texture by emulsifying fat with flavor. The chef "creams" to intensify flavor, to add body and richness. Dairy cream actually dilutes flavor and waters down soup. And if it is heated to a boil, it will curdle into an unattractive mess. No one wants cottage cheese chunks in their soup.
The technique of creaming requires ingredients that add richness. For the decadent palate, this calls for a bit of fat. For a trimmer preference, any white starchy plants will do.
Travel across the globe for a wide range of creamed soups, and you'll find a variety of ingredients that add creamy texture while also reflecting their local accessibility. Cows don't do well in all parts of the world, but local plants fill the cream calling. Chinese and Asian soups will use starchy rice. New England chowders utilize starchy potatoes. Southwestern chile sneaks in corn meal. Italian soups add white beans, polenta, or leftover rice. Equatorial countries in Africa and South America utilize their local root vegetables: taro, cassava, and yams.
I'm a protein junkie so I usually sneak in white beans like baby limas, white navy beans, or cannelini.
For extra richness, I resort to nut and seeds like cashew butter, tahini, or even raw almonds, cooked in the soup and puree with everything else. Adding a can of beans gives me 20% of my daily protein for 170 calories of this Asparagus Tarragon Soup.
Experiment with your own creamy ingredients. Check out these creamy soups for ideas on how to get started.