I’d easily put this Tomato Bisque into my top 3 favorite soup recipes ever! It has an incredibly creamy, silky smooth texture, and rich tomato flavor. It’s fantastic on its own, or paired with Grilled Cheese or Brioche, and it only takes 40 minutes to make, including all prep and simmering time.
There are a million different kinds of delicious soups that I love, like a classic French Onion Soup, Quick Chicken Noodle Soup, and Lasagna Soup, but some of them are quite a process to make, or require a long list of ingredients.
But not this one! This creamy tomato bisque checks off multiple boxes, being relatively quick, totally delicious, and make-ahead friendly.
Just a few days ago when my husband’s family was visiting, I made a big batch of this soup in advance and simply reheated it for dinner, and made a big tray of gruyere grilled cheese sandwiches to go with it.
It’s always a huge hit, and a great recipe to rely on. It’s definitely a family favorite, and the perfect comfort food with rich flavor.
What’s Great About This Recipe
You can use canned tomatoes – I certainly believe in the greatness of fresh food, but fresh tomatoes are not necessary here for amazing flavor. You’d be surprised how good the end result is, simply by using convenient canned tomatoes.
Relatively quick – The soup can be made start to finish in 40 minutes, which is on the quicker side for soup, which is usually enhanced with a longer simmer time. But this bisque doesn’t need long to develop good flavor.
Incredible flavor – This soup is all about the tomato, but we’ll add a few ingredients that really enhance the flavor, like bacon, and a base of onion and celery.
Make-ahead friendly – This keeps beautifully in the fridge, and can be prepared in advance. Simply reheat on the stove or in the microwave before you want to serve it.
In true bisque style, this is a pureed cream-based soup.
Sometimes creamy soups can be too heavy for me, but this one strikes the right balance of mellowing the acidity of the tomatoes, but still undoubtedly tasting like a tomato soup.
Tips for Best Results
Don’t skip the bacon – We’ll start this soup by rendering bacon, which makes for an incredible flavor base. This gives the soup a depth of flavor while still making tomato the star.
Use good canned tomatoes – Spend an extra couple of dollars to get good quality canned tomatoes. My favorite canned tomato brands are Bianco DiNapoli, SMT or any true Italian San Marzano tomatoes, and Pomi. You may also use fire-roasted tomatoes if you wish.
Don’t overheat the cream at the end – At the very end of cooking is when you’ll add the heavy whipping cream. Make sure you turn the heat off. You should be done cooking at this point.
Step by Step Overview:
To start the flavor base, crisp up a few slices of chopped bacon in a large soup pot or dutch oven:
The bacon here is important both because the bacon fat gives a nice flavor to the soup, and also because the crispy bacon makes for a great topper when we serve.
My favorite brands of bacon are Niman Ranch, Neuske’s, and Applegate, but feel free to use your favorite. It’s fine to use thick or thin cut here, and don’t be afraid of the fattier pieces.
Remove the bacon bits from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the bacon fat behind. If there doesn’t appear to be a couple tablespoons of bacon fat in the pot, add a couple extra tablespoons of butter or olive oil.
Celery and onion form the flavor base
Add chopped celery, chopped onion, butter, and a pinch of salt to the pot:
Saute the vegetables for about 5 minutes, until softened.
Add flour to thicken
Next, add all-purpose flour:
Stir it in with the vegetables for about a minute, until smooth, to make a roux. This will thicken our soup later on.
Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, and seasoning
Next add canned diced tomatoes, chicken stock (or chicken broth), a bay leaf, and some freshly cracked black pepper to the pot:
Chicken stock and broth are slightly different in that the stock is made more with the bones, and broth more with the meat, so they have a subtle difference in mouthfeel. But the difference will not be noticeable here between the two. You may also use a vegetable stock or vegetable broth.
Simmer the soup for about 15 minutes, covered. This helps bloom the flavor in the pepper and bay leaf.
Add the richness
Finally, add heavy cream, which will enhance the flavor of the soup and give it a velvety texture:
Adding cream is really what makes this a true tomato bisque and not just a tomato soup. Stir the cream in, then taste for seasoning. Usually I add a little more sea salt at this point.
Let the soup cool slightly, then blend in batches, until creamy and smooth:
Though immersion blenders are a little bit easier to use, I find that an immersion blender cannot blend quite as well as a regular blender. I own a Blendtec (affiliate) and love it, but any traditional blender will do.
If you don’t have a blender or an immersion blender, you may use a food processor as a backup.
How to Serve
While it is plenty delicious as is, I like to pair this easy Tomato Bisque with a Grilled Cheese Sandwich, or with crumbled Bacon, Homemade Croutons, and creme fraiche, to give it lots of extra flavors and textures. It’s truly incredible and restaurant-caliber deliciousness.
A touch of chopped fresh basil is also great as a pairing for any creamy tomato soup.
FAQ and Expert Tips:
Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, though I recommend trying to finish within 3 days for optimal flavor.
I find that soups with milk or cream don’t freeze well, because they get grainy. I don’t recommend it.
I prefer to reheat in a saucepan on the stove over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until hot. You may also use the microwave.
Technically a true bisque is made with a crustacean stock base (most people are familiar with lobster bisque), but the term bisque can more loosely refers to pureed soups that incorporate an ample amount of heavy cream.
For the tomato bisque:
- 5 strips bacon chopped
- 2 tbsp butter (salted or unsalted)
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 28 oz can diced tomatoes (try to use a good quality organic brand)
- 1.5 cups high-quality chicken stock or broth (Imagine organic is my favorite)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- salt to taste
- Heat a large soup pot over medium high heat and add the bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the bacon bits with a slotted spoon to a paper towel, leaving the bacon fat in the pan.
- Add the butter, onion, and celery, and season with a pinch of salt. Cook for 5 minutes, until softened.
- Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
- Add the diced tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaf, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer over low heat, and cook (covered) for 20 minutes, giving the bottom of the pan a good scrape every 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat.
- Add the heavy cream, remove the bay leaf, then season the soup to taste with salt. Because chicken stocks can vary in salt content, it’s important to adjust it to your liking (I usually add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp more salt).
- Let the soup cool slightly, then blend the soup in batches, until silky smooth. Serve with the crumbled bacon on top, and any other desired toppings, like croutons, or a side of grilled cheese. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated in October 2020. Originally published July 2012.