Recipe Review

I Tried 4 of the Best Tomato Soup Recipes and Found My Family’s Forever Favorite

published Jan 20, 2023
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Four different tomato soup recipes lined up in bowls on a surface
Credit: Photo: Linda Xiao; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

There are few dishes you can make that elicit such a strong feeling of nostalgia as tomato soup. It always makes me think of Girl Scout winter camp in the late ’90s — coming into the warm lodge after a snowball fight for a hot bowl of reconstituted condensed soup. Even at 8 years old, I knew that particular version of tomato soup was not good, but I can never not think of happy times like campfire songs and lanyards when I ladle up a bowl of tomato soup.

I set out to test four tomato soup recipes to find a homemade version that I actually loved to eat as much as reveling in the cozy memories of it all. I chopped, roasted, and blended to find my way to tomato soup bliss.

Credit: Photo: Linda Xiao; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

Meet Our 4 Tomato Soup Contenders

For this showdown I focused on tomato soup made with canned tomatoes. I wanted to be able to reach for pantry staples to make this on a busy weeknight or if emotions called for a quick balm. 

Serious Eats’ 15-Minute Creamy Tomato Soup looked like a perfect recipe to lean on when time is tight. Here, blending bread and olive oil together lends creaminess without the need for dairy.

Bon Appetit’s Carla’s Tomato Soup comes from chef and cookbook author Carla Lalli Music. It includes fennel — both fresh and the seeds — and is blended with butter and served with olive oil fried toast.

Pinch of Yum’s Simple Homemade Tomato Soup features the classic flavors of onion, carrot, and thyme. A good bit of bacon is blended into the soup, as well, to make it heartier.

Smitten Kitchen’s Cream of Tomato Soup calls for roasting the canned tomatoes in the oven before blending them into soup. A small amount of heavy cream is added at the very end, as well as a splash of optional brandy.

How I Tested the Tomato Soup Recipes

Two of the four recipes specifically called for canned whole San Marzano tomatoes. The other two just called for canned whole tomatoes. I opted to use Cento Whole Peeled San Marzano tomatoes for all four recipes, our top pick when it comes to canned tomatoes, to keep things consistent. I prepared the recipes exactly as instructed and included any ingredients marked “optional.” 

All four soups were made at the same time and taste tested immediately after being made. They were eaten on their own and also with grilled cheese. Soups were tasted again on their own the next day after being refrigerated overnight. 

Credit: Photo: Linda Xiao; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

1. Delicious, but Too Different: Carla’s Tomato Soup from Bon Appetit

This soup was very good, but too different from the others. This rating is based on it being a straightforward tomato soup. If it was titled Tomato-Fennel Soup, it would have gotten higher marks for setting the correct expectations. I would make this again, but change up the aromatics as noted in the headnotes if I was looking for a more classic tomato soup flavor.

Credit: Photo: Linda Xiao; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

2. For the Bacon-Lovers: Simple Homemade Tomato Soup from Pinch of Yum

There is a lot of emphasis on the inclusion of bacon in the headnotes for this recipe, and they’re absolutely correct. It overwhelms the tomato flavor. Otherwise, this soup was really nice and tasted more like tomato soup than pasta sauce, which was an issue with some of the other soups I tested. If you’re among those who think everything is better with bacon, this may be the one for you. Otherwise, reduce or omit the bacon for a perfectly lovely soup.

Credit: Photo: Linda Xiao; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

3. Small Effort, Big Reward: 15-Minute Creamy Tomato Soup from Serious Eats

This soup packs a lot of flavor into a quarter of an hour. Onions, garlic, oregano, and red pepper are sautéed and then simmered with tomatoes, torn bread, and some water. It’s blended up with olive oil for a lovely texture. My criticism with this soup was the fair amount of garlic, oregano, and red peppers made it taste too much like spaghetti sauce. 

Credit: Photo: Linda Xiao; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

4. The Clear Winner: Cream of Tomato Soup from Smitten Kitchen

Oven-roasting the tomatoes provided absolutely delicious flavor in this otherwise pretty simple soup. After roasting, they’re blended together with butter, sautéed shallots, tomato paste, and some stock. Despite the name, this soup doesn’t lean too heavily on the cream — just a quarter cup make things lush without overwhelming. A little extra drizzle of cream over the top finishes things off. There’s no doubt that this soup is loud with tomato flavor. It’s also why it didn’t get a perfect score, because I missed some of the additional flavors that ingredients like carrot or herbs bring to the party in other variations. It’s a small quibble, though, as this soup is absolutely delicious.