Creamy Tomato Bisque with Brie Croutons

published Aug 8, 2021
Tomato Bisque

Tomato bisque is like the chic, fancy, grown-up version of good ol' tomato soup.

Serves4

Prep15 minutes

Cook25 minutes to 30 minutes

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Tomato Bisque in a bowl with two pieces of cheese toast on top.
Credit: Shilpa Uskokovic

Tomato bisque is like the chic, fancy, grown-up version of good ol’ tomato soup. A generous pour of heavy cream and a spin in the blender is all it takes to transform the comforting classic into a more luxurious, date-ready version of itself. 

In what seems to be a cruel twist of nature, it’s right when you crave a warm bowl of tomato soup the most that big, juicy, sun-warmed summer tomatoes disappear. Supermarket tomatoes are often a disappointing substitute, so canned tomatoes make the best alternative. This means the bisque can be made year-round! My favorite brand of canned tomatoes to use is Sclafani. The tomatoes always have the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity with none of the metallic aftertaste some other canned versions sometimes have. If you can’t find it, feel free to use your favorite brand and adjust the amount of sugar and salt until the finished bisque tastes vibrant and well-rounded.  

In this recipe all the ingredients, save for the heavy cream, are simply simmered together in a pot à la Marcella Hazan and her famous tomato sauce. A dash of fennel seeds and crushed red pepper enliven the soup, providing a strong backbone to the smooth richness.  

What Is the Difference Between Tomato Soup and Tomato Bisque?

While traditional bisques are typically made with shellfish, a tomato bisque is simply the fancy-sounding name for a creamy tomato soup. Tomato bisque contains dairy and is generally puréed (and sometimes strained) for the smoothest texture. 

What Do You Eat with Tomato Bisque?

The toasted Brie croutons are a perfectly elegant accompaniment, but some other options that complement tomato bisque are the following:

Credit: Shilpa Uskokovic

Can You Make Tomato Bisque Vegan?

To make the bisque vegan, use 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in place of the butter. Add 1/3 cup cashews (raw or roasted, preferably unsalted) to the tomatoes along with the rest of the ingredients. Cook and blend according to recipe, omitting the heavy cream and substitute a vegan cheese for the Brie on the croutons.

How Do You Thicken Tomato Bisque?

A lot of recipes call for flour or cornstarch as a thickener for tomato bisque. The former can leave a starchy taste if it’s not cooked thoroughly, and the latter has a tendency to make bisque gloopy. In this recipe, rice flour — an homage to the rice grains typically used in seafood bisques — is the winning choice. It gently thickens the bisque for a velvety, lush texture along with the added benefit of being gluten-free. If you can’t find rice flour, you can substitute 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour. (It’ll cook through as it simmers, so you won’t have to worry about an unpleasant aftertaste.)

Tomato Bisque

Tomato bisque is like the chic, fancy, grown-up version of good ol' tomato soup.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes to 30 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the bisque:

  • 1

    small yellow onion

  • 6 cloves

    garlic

  • 1 (28-ounce) can

    whole peeled tomatoes

  • 2 cups

    water

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 2 tablespoons

    rice flour (non-glutinous)

  • 2 tablespoons

    tomato paste

  • 1 tablespoon

    Italian seasoning

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 2 teaspoons

    granulated sugar, plus more as needed

  • 1 teaspoon

    fennel seeds

  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes (optional)

  • 1/2 cup

    heavy cream

For the toasted Brie croutons:

  • 1/2

    baguette (about 6 inches)

  • 4 ounces

    Brie cheese

  • Freshly ground black pepper, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Halve and thinly slice 1 small yellow onion. Crush 6 garlic cloves.

  2. Empty 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes and their juices into a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot with a lid. Add the onion, garlic, 2 cups water, 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons rice flour, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Stir to combine, then cover and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Simmer, stirring halfway through, until onions are soft and translucent and the liquid has thickened slightly, 15 to 18 minutes total.

  3. Remove pot from the heat and add 1/2 cup heavy cream. Working in batches if needed, transfer the soup to a blender and blend until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. (Alternatively, purée the smooth directly in the pot with an immersion blender.)

  4. Rinse out the Dutch oven and return the bisque to the pot. Taste and season wiith more kosher salt and/or granulated sugar as needed. Cover and keep warm over low heat while making the croutons.

  5. Arrange an oven rack 5 inches away from the broiler element; heat the broiler to LOW. Using a serrated knife, cut 1/2 medium baguette crosswise into 8 slices (about 3/4-inch thick). Place the baguette rounds on a rimmed baking sheet and broil until slightly dried out on top, 1 to 2 minutes.

  6. Remove from the oven. Slice 4 ounces Brie cheese into 8 wedges. Place a wedge of cheese on each baguette slice. Return to the oven and broil until cheese is slightly melted and blistered in spots, 2 to 3 minutes more.

  7. Ladle the bisque into 4 bowls. Top each bowl with 2 of the toasted Brie croutons and freshly ground black pepper if desired.

Recipe Notes

Ingredients: Double-check that the rice flour is not the sticky or glutinous kind. If you cannot find rice flour, substitute 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour.

Equipment: For the silkiest bisque, using a high-powered stand blender is essential. The spices will be fully puréed and the bisque perfectly emulsified. In a pinch, an immersion blender can be used (place blender directly in the pot so the blades are submerged and blend until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the pot as needed). Strain the bisque through a fine-mesh sieve for the best texture.

Vegan Substitutions: To make this vegan, use 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in place of the butter. Add 1/3 cup cashews (preferably unsalted and it doesn’t matter if it’s raw or roasted) to the tomatoes along with the rest of the ingredients. Cook and blend as per recipe directions above, omitting the heavy cream. Substitute a vegan cheese for the Brie on the croutons.

Storage: Keep bisque refrigerated (without the croutons) in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Re-warm over low heat on the stovetop, making sure it doesn’t come to a boil.