Saturday, January 27, 2018

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

A creamy tomato basil soup that's cozy, healthy, and quick to prep. If you love Panera Bread's tomato soup, you've got to try my easy homemade version. This uses simple ingredients from your fridge & pantry, so you can make it all year long when you're craving comfort food. It's also freezer-friendly so you can fix a batch now and enjoy it later.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

One of my favorite meals to eat all year long is soup. Even in 100-degree Texas weather. Yes, I'm that person sweating it out with a hot bowl of brothy goodness in a tank top. Don't judge.

Creamy chicken noodle soup, hamburger vegetable soup, smoked sausage & vegetable soup, French onion soup, cabbage roll soup, white chicken chili, Zuppa Toscana soup, Vietnamese Beef Phở, fresh Japanese ramen (my absolute favorite)...the list goes on.

If made with a bit of love & attention, homemade soups are packed with so much flavor and super nourishing.

Today I'm excited to share my take on classic creamy tomato soup. I've been tweaking and experimenting with this recipe for the past two years and I finally have a version nailed down that I love.

I'm proud to say it tastes super close to Panera's tomato soup recipe, which I adore.

I actually grew up eating condensed tomato soup out of a can with plenty of milk or cheese to make it creamy, so when I had tomato soup from scratch for the first time at a restaurant several years back I was blown away at the difference in taste.

But replicating it at home wasn't so simple.

I ran into two problems the first time I attempted homemade tomato soup:
  1. the texture was grainy and
  2. it tasted like marinara sauce.

That's a big nope. After some tweaking, I figured out what I did wrong & how to fix it.

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Creamy Tomato Basil Soup Ingredients

Two Things You Need For The Best Tomato Soup

There are two essential things you need for a smooth, well-balanced bowl of tomato soup. Unless, of course, you enjoy a grainy soup that tastes more like pasta sauce. Not me!

1) Peeled & De-Seeded Tomatoes (this is why canned is perfect)

If you want a smooth, creamy texture it's essential that you peel and de-seed the tomatoes before blending them. When I used fresh roasted tomatoes the first time, I ended up with a grainy texture because I just cut, roasted, and blended them. It was still edible, but not what you typically want in a pureed soup.

However, instead of diving into extra prep work (not what you want on a busy weeknight), I came up with a much easier solution that works equally well (in my opinion): using canned tomatoes. They're already cooked, peeled, de-seeded, and canned at peak ripeness so all you have to do is dump 'em in the soup.

So stinkin' convenient. And they taste just as good in a pureed soup - I promise! I love fresh, in-season tomatoes as much as the next person & eat tons of heirloom cherry tomatoes in the summertime, but canned tomatoes are the secret to a good bowl of homemade tomato soup all year long.

If you grow your own tomatoes, have a bumper crop, and don't mind the extra prep, by all means, make it from scratch, but for the rest of us...canned tomatoes are a lifesaver.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup (Healthy & Easy Dinner Recipe)

2) Sweetener and/or Sweet Vegetables

This is the secret to a good tomato soup. In fact, I think it's absolutely essential, although I'm sure there are folks who will disagree with me.

A sweetener like honey, maple syrup, or cane sugar helps to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes. It's what transforms your pureed tomatoes from a savory pasta sauce into a tomato soup. The difference is like night & day.

If you're not excited about adding a sweetener to your soup, another good way to balance out that acidity is by adding a sweet vegetable like a carrot or even parsnip (that'd be a bit spicier). Now that I think about it, an apple or red bell pepper might even do the trick, but I haven't tried that (let me know if you do).

I prefer to use both carrot & honey to balance out my tomato soup and love the resulting taste.

Other Ingredients That Improve Tomato Soup

Beyond those two things I listed above, I always include:
  • aromatics (onion & garlic - I always use sweet or yellow onions in this)
  • herbs (fresh basil or jarred basil pesto)
  • broth (chicken or vegetable) instead of water
  • creamy toppings added when serving (see below for suggestions)

Creamy Toppings (Add To Each Bowl)

Many tomato soup recipes call for pouring heavy cream or milk into the whole batch of soup to finish it. I prefer to add the creamy ingredient into each bowl of soup.

Why? It makes it easy to freeze any leftover soup and reheat it for quick meals later on (some creamy ingredients don't freeze well).

This also gives you the freedom to experiment with different toppings or add-ins without affecting the whole pot. I like variety (especially if I'm eating the same meal multiple days in a row) and will switch things up based on what's on hand.

Some of my favorite creamy toppings are:
  • sour cream
  • crème fraîche (a French-style cultured cream similar to sour cream)
  • heavy cream or whole milk
  • plain yogurt
  • canned full-fat coconut milk
  • mozzarella cheese OR parmesan cheese (although I'll usually put both of these on cheesy toast to dunk into the soup so don't add any extra onto the soup itself)

Like your tomato soup a bit thicker? Try the sour cream or crème fraîche option. They both add a silky smooth texture without watering down the soup with more liquid, as heavy cream or coconut milk would.

I also love to finish my soup with a drizzle or two of good-quality extra virgin olive oil because tomatoes pair so well with it. And, of course, some crusty cheesy toast or caramelized onion puff pastry pinwheel for dunking. Pure comfort food!

How to Make Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Watch The Recipe Video

If you're a visual learner, make sure to watch my short recipe video by clicking below. It shows the easy steps for making this soup on the stovetop!

creamy, basil, homemade, healthy, easy, Panera Bread, vegetarian
Yield: 6 servings

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

prep time: 10 Mcook time: 30 Mtotal time: 40 M
A creamy tomato basil soup that's cozy, healthy, and quick to prep. If you love Panera Bread's tomato soup, you've got to try my easy homemade version! This uses simple ingredients from your pantry & fridge, so you can make it all year long when you're craving comfort food. {gluten-free & grain-free with dairy-free options}


For The Soup:
  • 4 tablespoons of butter (or your favorite cooking fat)
  • 1 large yellow onion (about 2 1/2 cups chopped)
  • 6 carrots (about 2 cups chopped)
  • 8 cloves of garlic (about 4 tablespoons minced)
  • 2 (28 oz) cans of fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained (diced OR whole & peeled)
  • 2 teaspoons of sea salt + more (to taste) at the end
  • 2 teaspoons of cracked black pepper + more (to taste) at the end
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 4 cups of broth (vegetable or chicken broth)
  • 2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves OR 2 tablespoons jarred basil pesto
  • 2 tablespoons of honey (or your favorite sweetener)
Garnishes (Optional - Added to Each Bowl):
  • 1 tablespoon of sour cream, crème fraîche, heavy cream, whole milk, OR canned full-fat coconut milk
  • A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • Finely chopped fresh basil OR a teaspoon of jarred basil pesto
For Serving:


How to cook Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

  1. Place a large stock-pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the butter and when melted & slightly bubbly, add the onions and carrots. Cook the veggies, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. (This helps them release moisture & soften a bit.)
  2. Stir in the garlic, sea salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, keeping an eye on the garlic so it doesn't burn. Pour in the canned tomatoes (liquid included) and broth.
  3. Bring the mixture to a simmer, cover with a lid, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for another 15-20 minutes, or until the carrot & onion are soft. Turn off the heat, let the soup cool for about 3-5 minutes, then stir in the fresh basil leaves or jarred basil pesto.
  4. Use an immersion stick blender or upright electric blender to puree the soup until there are no big chunks left - it doesn't have to be perfectly smooth. For an upright blender, make sure to process the soup in small batches (only fill the blender 1/2 way) and place your hand securely on the lid or keep it slightly cracked so steam can escape. 
  5. Place the blended soup back over low heat until warmed through (about 3-5 minutes). Stir in the honey or your favorite sweetener (this is important for balancing out the acidity of the tomatoes), then taste for seasoning. Add more salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, or honey, if needed.
  6. Ladle into bowls while hot, top with garnishes, and serve with crusty cheese toast or grilled cheese on the side for dunking.
  7. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days OR freeze (with no creamy ingredients added) for up to 3 months. 


FREEZER MEAL OPTION: Follow steps 1-5 then let the tomato soup cool completely. Portion into large zipper-top freezer bags and spread the soup out so it lays flat in the bags, pressing out any excess air (this help it thaw faster & take up less space in the freezer). To reheat, take out the desired number of bags from the freezer, cut open with scissors, and place the frozen soup in a stockpot or Dutch oven. Cover with a lid, place on medium heat and reheat, stirring occasionally and breaking up any large chunks, until the soup is hot & bubbly again. Ladle into bowls, top with creamy garnishes, and serve immediately.

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Created using The Recipes Generator
Adapted from Chowhound's Classic Tomato Soup

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A creamy tomato basil soup that's cozy, healthy, and quick to prep. If you love Panera Bread's tomato soup, you've got to try my easy homemade version. This uses simple ingredients from your fridge & pantry, so you can make it all year long when you're craving comfort food. It's also freezer-friendly so you can fix a batch now & enjoy later. (gluten-free & grain-free with dairy-free option)

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