I know, Tomato-Less Tomato Soup sounds like I’m one mirage short of a hallucination, but once I became fixated on this idea, I just couldn’t give it up.
While we’re buried in flu-and-eternal-winter-bugs season, the number one thing I really crave is tomato soup. I’m surely not alone in this, given how often I see people making, eating and posting tomato soup recipes this time of year. But if you can’t tolerate tomatoes, it seems pretty logical that you’re not gonna be able to enjoy a bowl of the good stuff again. But I’m telling you, this Tomato-Less Tomato Soup totally hits that rich-and-tangy-soup craving.
I’ve been playing around with tomato-less tomato soup recipes for a while now, but it took me a couple goes to figure out that the real thing that tricks your brain into thinking you’re slurping down on a tomato-filled soup isn’t in the Italian seasoning or basil. It’s actually adding and then balancing a couple of different acids.
Real tomato soup has the kind of acidic punch that you don’t think about when you can take it for granted, but you’ll miss in a lot of “no-mato” type recipes. I’ve also found that while it’s tempting to go crazy with the beets for color, once you’ve over done those bad boys, it’s game over. All you’ll taste is beets and you’ll never be able to un-beet your tastebuds!
Now, the beets are needed to boost the color of the tomato-less tomato soup. Without them, it doesn’t have quite the right color to mimic a true tomato soup. I don’t say this often, but I’ve found the best thing to do here is use canned beets. Somehow, they result in a much less earthy, beet-y flavor than using fresh beets. Look for a can of sliced beets in just water and salt. I like to reserve the brine and add a little extra towards the end of the cook time for extra color, but this will make for a slightly stronger beet flavor. Taste the soup without and decide for yourself if the color is that important!
So, you’re just gonna have to trust me when you see how much acid there is in this recipe. I know it looks a tad overdone written out, but once you taste the combination, it will begin to make sense. And, yes, you do need to use both the red wine vinegar and the lemon juice. If you pick just one, you won’t get the balance needed, especially if you sub one for the other as well. Straight lemon becomes too citrus heavy and the red wine vinegar has more of a savory note that isn’t quite strong enough of its own. (A side note: when it comes to recipes like this that need more than a splash of fresh lemon, I like to use this ready-juiced but no-baddies-added lemon juice. It’s inexpensive at Costco and lasts forever in the fridge.)
You’ll notice that I go heavy on the seasoning here, too, adding both an Italian seasoning blend and additional dried basil. The Italian seasoning gives a richer depth of flavor from the blend of herbs, but most are very oregano and / or marjoram heavy. So I like to add extra dried basil for that classic tomato-basil flavor pairing. The other advantage of adding dried basil is that it’s surprisingly peppery! That gives a lovely kick to the tomato-less tomato soup and it’s doubly nice if you’re on the AIP elimination phase and can’t have black pepper yet.
I used a butternut squash puree in my test batches because that’s what I had to hand in my pantry, but I suspect that you could substitute it with classic unsweetened pumpkin puree if that’s easiest for you to find.
If you want to really go with a classic soup garnish, I highly recommend making the crispy herbed croutons! They’re a nice little extra that put me right in my happy comfort food place. They’re really easy to make: just toss some broken up Yucan Crunch crackers with oil and seasonings, then pan-toast until lightly golden. Crispy-crunchy perfection!
One last thing: I used a cup of red wine in this recipe for both depth of flavor and color. The alcohol cooks off completely, so it’s a-ok if you’re AIP-ing. You can omit it if you like and simply add some extra broth. A splash or two of balsamic vinegar would be a nice addition if you’re skipping the red wine.
- 3 tbsp / 45 ml avocado oil or fat of choice
- 1 medium yellow onion, about 9 oz / 255 g or so
- 8 cloves of garlic
- 1 lb / 454 g carrots (orange for the best color)
- 1 cup / 240 ml red wine (I used an inexpensive Merlot) (see notes)
- 5 cups / 1.2 L chicken or vegetable broth, divided
- 1 cup / 240 g butternut squash puree (see notes)
- 6 oz / 170 g drained canned sliced beets
- ¼ cup / 60 ml lemon juice
- ¼ cup / 60 ml red wine vinegar (please read the notes!)
- 1 tbsp / 3 g Italian seasoning
- 1 tbsp / 3 g dried basil (see notes)
- 1 tsp / 5 g fine sea salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper (omit for AIP elimination phase)
- Optional, for additional color: ¼ cup / 60 ml reserved liquid from the canned beets OR 1 tbsp 15 ml beet juice (see notes)
- 2 bay leaves
- CARAMELIZE: Add the oil or fat of choice to a heavy bottomed dutch oven on the stovetop over low-medium heat. While the oil is heating up, peel and chop the onion finely. Smash the garlic cloves with the back of a heavy knife and discard the skin. Add the sliced onions and garlic cloves to the hot oil. Season with a little salt and cook, stirring often, until the onions begin to take on a golden color.
- SOFTEN: Peel and slice the carrots thinly. Add them to the pan, along with the red wine and 3 cups / 720 ml of the broth. Bring the wine and broth mixture to a simmer, then partly cover the pan with a lid, leaving space for steam to escape. Cook the carrots until they soften to fork tender and the liquid reduces, about 25 minutes.
- BLEND: Carefully transfer the cooked vegetables and remaining cooking liquid to a blender, along with the butternut squash puree, sliced beets, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, Italian seasoning, dried basil, salt and black pepper, if using. Blend - making sure to leave space for steam to escape the pitcher - until completely smooth.
- SIMMER: Return the blended soup to the dutch oven or pan you were using earlier, over low-medium heat. Add the remaining 2 cups / 480 ml of broth, the reserved beet liquid or beet juice (if using) and the bay leaves to the soup and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, stirring often to avoid splattering, and cook until heated through. Taste and add additional seasoning if you like. Remove and discard the bay leaves. If you like, you can thin with additional broth.
- CRISP: While the soup is simmering and warming through, make the croutons. Add the broken up Yucan Crunch, avocado oil and seasonings to a bowl. Use your hands to work all the ingredients together until the croutons are evenly coated in oil and seasonings. Heat a small skillet over low-medium heat - any hotter and the croutons will burn rather than toast. Add the coated crouton mixture to the hot skillet and toast for 2 - 3 minutes, until lightly golden. You'll want to take them out when they look a little underdone as they'll continue to cook and darken further as they cool.
- SERVE: Divide the soup between bowls and top each with some of the crispy croutons. If you like, an extra drizzle of olive oil to finish is lovely!
I tested this out with butternut puree as that's what I had in my pantry when I developed the recipe. I think you could probably sub the butternut with pumpkin puree instead if you like.
I used canned sliced beets packed in just water and salt. I find these have a milder taste than using fresh beets. Make sure to reserve some of the brine to add later on in the recipe for an extra pop of color if you like. If you're using pre-roasted beets, you could add a smaller amount of beet juice instead of the brine.
On the vinegar front - this recipe needs it if you want the tanginess of a "real" tomato soup. And I say that as someone who literally can't be in the room with an open bottle of vinegar because I can't abide the smell. That said, if you're unsure about the vinegar or worried about it being too strong, I recommend that you start with a smaller amount at first and add the vinegar a little at the time until the flavor is to your liking. As you reduce the vinegar, make sure to reduce the lemon juice equally, otherwise the lemon will become too strong a flavor.
My italian seasoning blend was very oregano / marjoram forward, so I added some extra dried basil. If you're on the elimination phase of the AIP and can't use black pepper, the dried basil also brings an extra peppery note of flavor that you would otherwise miss out on!
This recipe was included in the Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable.
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