When a craving hits a craving hits and tomato soup with a classic grilled cheese has been on my mind. Not sure I’ve had this combo since going plant-based. The grilled cheese part would be easy – bread, olive oil, chao vegan cheese and some everything-but-bagel spice – cooked low-ish and slow-ish. And I actually make a classic (vegetarian) cream of tomato soup for a client all the time, so the frame work was there for a homemade vegan version.
Really, the only thing to decide was what to use to make the soup rich and creamy, without cream that is. I stood in front of my pantry thinking this through for a good long while. Cashews is an obvious choice but I feel like I use them a lot and I try to keep it more varied. Sunflower seeds don’t have the sweetness I need. making a vegan roux with dairy-free milk and olive oil instead of butter was another option I considered.
But in the end I finally landed on canned coconut milk, and I couldn’t be happier with that decision. It has the sweetness and the serious cream-factor this recipe calls for, the only hang up was that maybe the coconut flavor would be too strong. Spoiler alert – it’s not! The coconut flavor is very VERY hard to notice, it’s a backup background flavor if you know what I mean. I might even be imagining it. In any event, I’m obsessed with this soup. It’s as good as any tomato soup I’ve had (think Sarabeth’s or The Smith level of goodness, Smith-haters come at me). Adding it to the soup repertoire and checking that craving off this list.
Creamy Tomato Soup (vegan | plant-based)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 medium-large carrots, peeled and diced
sea salt, fine grain
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons all purpose flour (wheat)*
4 cups vegetable stock or broth, low or reduced sodium
1 28-oz can tomatoes*
1 14-oz can coconut milk, full fat
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 dry bay leaf
fresh basil, optional*
In a medium-large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and 1 teaspoon salt. Sweat veggies for 5 minutes before add garlic. Sauté for another 3 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium, sprinkle flour into veggies and stir to fully incorporate. Cook the flour for a few minutes. Stir frequently, scraping the bottom to prevent burning. If some sticks it will be picked up when liquid is added in the next step.
Add 1 cup of the veggie broth to the pan and stir vigorously with a whisk or cooking spoon until smooth. Gradually add remaining vegetable broth, stirring while pouring. Turn the heat to medium-high/high to bring liquid to a rolling simmer. As it heats up add remaining ingredients (except fresh basil) – tomatoes, coconut milk, thyme, bay leaf – and 1 teaspoons salt.
Bring the mixture to a rolling simmer before reducing to low heat, cover with lid. Simmer the soup for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally before re-covering.
After about 20 minutes, remove lid and allow to cool to warm. Using an immersion blender (or a stand blender in batches), blend the soup until smooth and creamy.
If using fresh basil, roughly chop the leaves and blend/pulse using the immersion blender until the basil leaves are just finely chopped up (WARNING if you go too far the color of the soup will turn brown instead of red with green flecks).
Canned Tomatoes are not all created equal, just use the best ones that fit into your schedule and budget. I made this batch with diced fire-roasted tomatoes, and it was delicious – definitely a good option. Better? Choose San Marzano canned tomatoes, crushed or diced variety. And the best option? A can of whole san marzano tomatoes.
Gluten-Free although I haven’t tried it myself, it’s my understanding that sweet rice flour is a 1:1 gf replacement for the wheat flour in this recipe.
If using a stand blender, blend the entire soup until smooth in batches. Once it’s all blended, keep a half-blender worth of soup in the blender and add all the chopped basil. Pulse until finely chopped and add back into the soup.