J. Kenji López-Alt's 15-Minute Creamy (Vegan) Tomato Soup

January 1, 2019

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: Of all the clever things J. Kenji López-Alt has done in his career—the Food Lab cookbook and column at Serious Eats, the years clocked at America’s Test Kitchen and on restaurant lines—this 15-minute soup is one of his favorites, and one he makes most often.
Adapted very slightly from Serious Eats.
Genius Recipes

Serves: 4 to 6
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 10 min

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane grater
  • 1 small onion, finely sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into rough 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes packed in juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Minced chives, basil, or parsley as garnish
  • Bread or grilled cheese for serving
In This Recipe

Directions

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the garlic, onions, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring frequently until onions are softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add the bread and tomatoes. Roughly mash the tomatoes with a potato masher or whisk (alternatively, you can break up the tomatoes with your hands before adding to the pot). Add 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Transfer half of soup to the jar of a blender. Blend soup, starting at low speed and gradually increasing to high (be careful starting up, it can shoot out the top of the blender—open the vent and hold a kitchen towel over the lid to prevent blowout). With blender running on high, gradually trickle in half of remaining olive oil. (Alternatively, you can do all of this in the pot with an immersion blender, though the soup might not be quite as smooth.) Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with remaining half of soup and olive oil. Ladle into individual serving bowls, top with minced herbs, drizzle with more olive oil, and serve with bread or grilled cheese.

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Reviews (24) Questions (3)

24 Reviews

Lulu January 16, 2019
After immersion blending with California Olive Ranch oil, I discovered an unopened bottle of rosemary infused olive oil. Just one Tbsp added delicious flavor. I also added about a Tbsp of Espresso vinegar, thick and a little sweet. I feel it added a depth of flavor that was missing. I'm serving with grilled cheese and bacon tonight. When this is refrigerated, does the oil rise and solidify? If so, how to reblend?<br />
 
Sarah R. January 14, 2019
what a beautiful soup! I used low sodium chicken broth instead of water but next time I think I will use veggie broth to keep it vegan. I also used homemade white sandwich bread. The texture of this soup is velvety and luxurious - you wouldn't know there isn't a drop of cream in it. I plan on freezing half of the batch.
 
susan C. January 6, 2019
Just made as described except substituted multi grain grain bread (no white bread at home) and it was delicious. Will make again but play with adding new flavor dimensions using stock instead of water or adding anchovies/fish sauce. Also recipe seems like an open book for introducing any herbs and spices like cumin, zatar, cardamom, allspice etc. Does this freeze well?
 
Kristen M. January 9, 2019
I'm sorry to say I haven't tried, but I'm curious, too! I imagine the flavor would be fine, and might just need a quick re-blend if it separates after thawing.
 
Helen R. January 5, 2019
It looks interesting, and I am going to try this as soon as I can. ... I do want to point out that leaving the center portion of the blender cap off to allow steam escaping is fine, as is placing a towel over the top as well - however putting one's had on top increases the risk -maybe- of receiving a steam burn. Just laying the towel over the top should suffice.<br />
 
[email protected] January 5, 2019
Instead of water, would low sodium chicken broth enhance the flavor even more?
 
Kristen M. January 5, 2019
Sure, great idea!
 
Anne January 5, 2019
I made this soup last night. It was delicious! I made a few changes- I used 2 cans crushed tomatoes instead of whole, I used minced garlic and crushed it with the back of a spoon since I didn't have any whole garlic cloves, and I used some random rolls I found deep in my freezer instead of white bread. I also used my trusty immersion blender. I can't wait to have another bowl today!
 
Jessica36 January 4, 2019
I made this soup tonight and it was fantastically creamy and flavorful. I used San Marzano tomatoes and added a shallot, but otherwise stuck to the recipe. Thank you for a wonderful recipe!
 
Jennifer K. January 3, 2019
Perhaps we needed better tomatoes, but I found this recipe to have a very tinny, bitter taste. Good in a pinch but I probably wouldn't make it on a regular basis or would have to tweak it.
 
SaraQ January 3, 2019
High quality canned tomatoes are critical.
 
Jennifer K. January 3, 2019
I think the recipe should specify or note that! It just says "2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes packed in juice". I still ate it but I was hoping I'd like it more.
 
MtAdventurer January 4, 2019
I haven't tried the recipe but make something sort of similar except white beans instead of bread for "thickening" and I always add some syrupy red balsamic vinegar, i.e. an acid to amp the flavor. The balsamic I use is an aged, thick-ish version that has a bit of sweet. I think if I used regular balsamic or red wine vinegar, I might add just a bit of sugar or cinnamon. Additionally, I do like jarred (glass jar) tomatoes better than canned versions
 
Kristen M. January 4, 2019
Hi Jennifer, sorry to hear it—another place that an unpleasant flavor could come through is in the olive oil, if yours has a strong bitter flavor, since there is a good amount of it. California Olive Ranch is my favorite inexpensive, everyday olive oil that never tastes bitter like some other brands at the supermarket can.
 
Jennifer K. January 4, 2019
Thanks guys! It is such an easy and straightforward recipe that I do want to try again with better ingredients, if they aren't too costly.
 
Katie M. January 3, 2019
Just made this for my mom and sister as a last-minute lunch and it was delicious! Perfect for cold, rainy winter days :)
 
Dana A. January 3, 2019
This was so good. I made it with gluten free white bread (from Canyon Bakehouse) and it came out great.
 
Carol F. January 2, 2019
I am a big fan of emuslifying tomatoes with olive oil in the blender since I used that method to make gazpacho this summer and loved the creamy smooth texture. I have some rosemary rolls left over from the holidays and think that any fairly soft bread would work well in this recipe.
 
MJ January 2, 2019
I can’t eat onion or garlic. Any ideas for substitutions?
 
Kristen M. January 4, 2019
Hi MJ, does that mean that all alliums are off the table (including leeks, scallions etc)? If not, those would be a natural substitute. Otherwise you're just looking to add a savory depth of flavor, which you could get from all kinds of places—anchovies, bacon fat, fish sauce, or mushrooms (fresh, or dried & reconstituted) would add umami. Or you could take it in a fun new direction by adding more fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage, or fresh grated ginger (though you might want to leave the dried oregano out for that one). So many possibilities! If you're looking for more advice from home cooks, check out the Food52 Hotline (linked in the navigation bar at the top of every Food52 page).
 
Debbi S. January 2, 2019
Where is the 2 cups of water the video talks about?
 
Marsha S. January 2, 2019
The 2 cups of water the recipe calls for is not listed in the ingredients , instead it's in the directions for pulling this soup together!!!!!!! You're welcome!!!!!!!!! LOL!<br />
 
Debbi S. January 2, 2019
Thank you!
 
SaraQ January 2, 2019
What a wonderful, creamy, flavorful soup!