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How To Make A Tomato-Based Soup

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Soup is one of my favorite things to make. It’s warm, delicious, and full of flavor. Since I’ve been making soups for years – it’s pretty second nature for me. From Puerto Rican-style soups, to straight-up tomato soups with my favorite flavors, I love them all.

Personally, I prefer my soups to be tomato-based. I never use a store-bought soup stock as my base. I think it tastes weird. So, I just stick to natural flavors and a tomato base to bring all the flavors together.

Once you get the hang of a making a tomato-based soup, you’ll realize there is so much flexibility. Here’s some of my basics to making a tomato-based soup:

Start With The Aromatic Basics:

By basics, I mean the ingredients that’ll make your soup fragrant and tasty. This could be garlic, onions, bell peppers, ginger, sofrito, fennel, or chili.

Before adding any liquid in to your soup, you’ll want the base vegetables to brown and expose more of their flavor, which is also called the Maillard reaction. You can use oil to do this, which makes for a tastier option, but if you’re limiting your oil, you can also use a little bit of water.

Add Your Base:

After the basics have browned and soften, it’s time to add your base. In this case, it’ll either be tomato paste, tomato sauce, or crushed tomatoes.

Personally, I use tomato paste because it gives me more flexibility with how much liquid I would like to add to my soup. It also doesn’t have that tart taste that tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes might have. It’s also sweeter and adds an intense tomato flavor to my soups. A little goes a long way with tomato paste.

By the way, you can correct that tart flavoring in your tomato base by adding sugar to it. Not much, though. Depending on the size of your soup, you might only need about a tablespoon worth. But add it little by little and taste it to see if it’s good enough to create a balance in its acidity.

Flavor trick: to bring forward more flavor from your tomato paste, add it to the pot prior to adding any liquid. Let it cook and heat through – for about 2-5 minutes. Until it darkens. Again, it’s tastier with a fat, like oil. But you can just use a little bit of water.

After your basics and base has been cooked through, per the instructions above, you can start to add water and stir. How much water depends on how thick you want your soup to be. I usually add it little by little, adjusting and tasting along the way.

Choose Your Veggies:

Your basics will have some veggies, but you’ll want to add more. There aren’t a lot of rules for this, really. You can use just about whatever you have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Tomato-based soups is a way for my to quickly use any vegetables that are on the brink of going bad.

Just keep in mind the cook time for each vegetable. Frozen vegetables are often already cooked. So you can add them towards the end. Foods that take a little longer to cook through include raw potatoes, fresh carrots, uncooked lentils, and pastas.

It’s best to add the foods that cook the longest first, then add the fast-cooking ingredients towards the end, so they don’t become mushy.

My go-to vegetables for a tomato-base stew or soup include: potatoes, corn, carrots, beans, and a leafy green.

Spice It Up:

Sure, you can just use black pepper and salt – but you’ll probably be facing a really bland soup. Get out of your comfort zone and experiment with different spices and see what mixes well together.

For a tomato-base soup, my go-to spices include: a lot of garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, sazon, cayenne pepper, and some bay leaves.

Bring The Soup All Together:

  1. Bring some heat to your base aromatics. Use a splash or water or a tad bit of oil. Cook until soft.
  2. Add the tomato paste. Let it heat through for a couple of minutes to enhance it’s flavors.
  3. Add water, your main vegetables, and spices.
  4. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer.
  5. Cook until all of your vegetables are cooked though.

Taste as your soup cooks. It’s flexible. You can add more tomato paste, seasonings, or water if need be.

Those are the basic steps to making an easy tomato-based soup, using what you have at home. It doesn’t require any exotic ingredients or hard-to-find vegetables. Use what you have, grab some tomato paste, and flavor the heck out of that soup.

Want ideas for a tomato-based soup? Check these out:

Lentil “Meatball” Tomato Soup Recipe

Easy Puerto Rican Stew (Habichuelas Guisadas)

Easy Plant-Based Lentil Soup

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