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Spicy Tomato Soup

March 27, 2014

Spicy Tomato SoupPin it!

Paula loves Campbell’s tomato soup, but to me it tastes metallic and sweet. Far too sweet—like it’s been loaded up with sugar. (It’s mystifying to me that Paula can’t taste the sugar in it at all!)

I’ve put up with my share of canned-soup buying and even cringed through eating it, since my reward was grilled cheese sandwiches on Paula’s homemade bread. But every time, I’ve told her that I wanted to try making her a from-scratch tomato soup that she’d like even better than Campbell’s.

This was not supposed to be that soup. This was just a recipe I came up with in honor of my new immersion blender. (My last one broke after only three uses… six years ago.)

Spicy Tomato Soup with Red Lentils and Aleppo PepperPin it!

It’s just about as different as you can get from Campbell’s—that was the last thing on my mind when I was creating it—so I had no idea that this soup, warmed up with aleppo pepper and thickened with creamy red lentils, would be the one.

Spicy Tomato Soup with Red Lentils and Aleppo PepperPin it.

I know it’s still snowing (and soup weather) in many places, so before I dive into spring recipes around here, I wanted to squeeze in one last hearty, wintery dish.

Making Spicy Tomato Soup

I’m calling this “wintery” because it doesn’t mess around with out-of-season sub-sub-par fresh tomatoes; it goes straight for the canned ones. And really when are canned tomatoes more justified than when you need to brighten up a gloomy winter that’s overstayed its welcome?

Ingredients for Spicy Tomato Soup

Although I used canned tomatoes, I was not thinking of canned tomato soup. I wasn’t aiming for a sweet, thin tomato broth, but for a rich, creamy soup with lots of heat from chili flakes and cayenne, balanced by the fruity, bright flavors of aleppo pepper.

Aleppo Pepper for Spicy Tomato Soup

I was thinking Middle Eastern flavors—I almost added tahini to make it more creamy (would that have been weird?). Instead I simmered tiny, fast-cooking red lentils into it until they were tender and soft, then pureed it all smooth.

Adding Red Lentils to Spicy Tomato Soup

If you use the amounts of chili peppers I’ve suggested, you’ll end up with a soup just verging on spicy, but not too hot. Sprinkle in extra cayenne and aleppo at the end to amp up the flavors just to your liking.

Spicy Tomato Soup with Red Lentils and Aleppo PepperPin it!

I made the soup extra creamy by adding Greek yogurt, tempering it (warming it up) first so it would blend smoothly into the soup, without curdling. With this method, the yogurt becomes so stable that you can even freeze leftover soup to be re-heated on the stovetop, and it will taste just as good.

To make a vegan version, you can simply substitute coconut milk for yogurt. (I haven’t actually tried tempering coconut milk before adding it to hot soup—you can just add it and stir really well, especially if your coconut milk is already at room temperature rather than chilled—but maybe I’ll try that sometime out of curiosity and get back to you!)

Swirling tempered Greek yogurt into Spicy Tomato SoupPin it!

For someone who loves tomatoes as much as I do, I guess it’s strange that I’ve never had a strong attachment to tomato soup. (With the exception of gazpacho.)

But if it’s an excuse to have grilled cheese for dinner then I’ll take it. (Tomato soup pairs well with this kale salad, too.) So I was very pleasantly surprised when Paula took a single bite of this soup, a few weeks ago—the first time I made it, and announced that she liked it better than Campbell’s.

Spicy Tomato Soup with Red Lentils and Aleppo PepperPin it!

I’m just glad we’re finished having grilled cheese sandwich dinners with a side of watery, sweetened “soup.” Now we can have spicy tomato soup dinners with a side of grilled cheese.

Spicy Tomato Soup with Grilled CheesePin it.

Print this recipe. (PDF)


Spicy Tomato Soup

(Serves 4-5)

Active time: 30 minutes; Total time: 45 minutes.

~ 2 Tbsp. olive oil (or 1 Tbsp. butter, 1 Tbsp. olive oil); more if needed
~ ½ medium onion, roughly diced
~ ½ tsp. aleppo chili pepper flakes; plus more to garnish
~ ½ tsp. crushed chili pepper flakes
~ dash of ground turmeric
~ 3 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 28 oz. can of crushed or petite diced tomatoes
~ 1 14.5 oz. can of crushed, diced, or petite diced tomatoes
~ 3 cups vegetable broth
~ salt and pepper, to taste
~ ½ cup red lentils (or ¾ cup for a thicker soup)
~ dash of cayenne pepper, to taste
~ ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt (full fat), at room temperature
~ ¼ tsp. corn starch (or flour)
~ OR: instead of yogurt + corn starch, use ¼ cup coconut milk, at room temperature

How to make it:

0. If using Greek yogurt or coconut milk, measure it and leave it out of the fridge in advance, to warm it up to room temperature (since you don’t want it to curdle when you add it to the soup).

1. In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium-low, add diced onion and stir frequently as you cook the onion for 10 minutes or until very soft and translucent.

Spices for Spicy Tomato SoupMaking Spicy Tomato Soup

2. Add the chili flakes and turmeric, stir, and fry with the onions for 30 seconds. Then add the minced garlic, stir, and fry for another 30 seconds. Then add the canned tomatoes and the broth. (I like to add the tomatoes first, then pour some broth into the nearly empty tomato cans, then pour it into the stockpot, so the broth helps me get every last bit of tomato out of the cans.) Cover and bring to a simmer.

3. Once the soup is simmering, uncover, season with salt and pepper, then add the lentils. Keep at a simmer, uncovered, for 15-18 minutes while the lentils cook, stirring occasionally so that the lentils don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

4. Taste test the lentils for done-ness, then remove from the heat, and use an immersion blender to puree the soup smooth (or use a regular blender, but be careful when blending hot liquids; make sure to allow steam to escape). Taste the soup and season with cayenne pepper, and additional salt, black pepper, and aleppo, if desired.

Making Spicy Tomato SoupSpicy Tomato Soup with Red Lentils and Aleppo Pepper

5. Temper the yogurt before adding it to the soup: in a heatproof bowl, whisk the corn starch into the yogurt. Then, whisking continuously, add 1 Tbsp. of soup at a time to the yogurt. Continue adding 10-15 tablespoons of soup to the yogurt, whisking after each one. By now the yogurt should be warm enough to add to the soup without curdling. Gently stir the yogurt/soup mixture into the larger soup pot, optionally reserving some to swirl over the top of each soup bowl as a garnish. (Or use room temperature coconut milk instead.)

6. Ladle soup into individual serving bowls, garnish with remaining tempered yogurt and/or an extra sprinkle of aleppo pepper. Serve warm.

Print this recipe! (PDF)

Spicy Tomato Soup with Red Lentils and Aleppo PepperPin it!

Spicy Tomato Soup with Grilled CheesePin it!


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81 Comments leave one →
  1. March 27, 2014 9:05 am

    I can’t eat canned soup, though my husband would . Your soup would lift the senses at any time, love the chilli variety used x

  2. March 27, 2014 9:08 am

    I don’t love tomato soup, but I have found that I like jazzed up versions. I had a tomato-basil one a few years ago that made me want to lick the bowl clean! I have been loving spicy things lately – so this soup sounds like heaven to me!!

    • March 27, 2014 9:29 am

      Thanks, Liz! I agree—it has to be a jazzed up version for me to actually get excited about tomato soup. Spicy is always a nice direction to jazz things up… into. :) But a basil-y tomato soup sounds delicious, too!

  3. March 27, 2014 9:09 am

    This is perfect! I love everything about it, and seriously–I want to eat literally everything you post. Aleppo pepper is one of my favorite things, and adding tempered yogurt is a stroke of genius… Also, I don’t think tahini would’ve been too weird–it’s almost like African peanut soup or something. Just lovely! And good for Paula for finally seeing the light. ;)

    • March 27, 2014 9:32 am

      Whoa, thank you! That feels like high praise coming from you, since I love your blog & recipe choices so much!

      Aleppo pepper is one of my NEW favorite things (which I bought slightly in bulk, so now I’m really into finding ways to use it!). I did some research on tempering the yogurt, since the very first time I made this, I just took it off the burner for about 10 minutes, stirred in some yogurt, and it curdled (but still tasted delicious); needless to say, no photos were taken that day. I’ll report back if I’m ever feeling in the mood to actually add in tahini! :)

  4. March 27, 2014 9:28 am

    Looks absolutely fantastic. I love the use of Greek yoghurt. I’ll go with your suggestion and try it with coconut milk.

    • March 27, 2014 9:35 am

      Yay, thanks, Aruna! I’ve definitely added coconut milk to many soups (and lentil-y things) (and tomato-y things); just not to this particular recipe… yet. So I’ve never tried tempering it (but I think coconut milk is less likely to curdle than Greek yogurt anyway). Let me know how it turns out!

  5. March 27, 2014 9:43 am

    I entirely agree with you about the metallic, too-sweet taste of canned tomato soups. I do find it odd, though, that even though I don’t like canned soup, I actually prefer using canned tomatoes to make the soup!
    Love what you did with the lentils here. Now I feel like I simply must have tomato soup and sandwiches this weekend.

    • March 27, 2014 10:50 am

      Thanks for commenting, Stephanie! I’m the same way; I prefer using canned tomatoes to make (non-canned-soup-tasting) tomato soups, especially when tomatoes aren’t in season. Even when they’re in season, using canned tomatoes will give the soup a more consistent, full flavor, unless you’re using amazing quality organic fresh (heirloom) tomatoes at the peak of their season… but then, I’d rather eat those fresh than turn them into soup anyway! (I even usually make gazpacho with canned tomato juice—it’s that or roasting fresh tomatoes to deepen their flavor first.)

      Anyway, I was quite happy with the red lentils addition here, too. They definitely made the soup thicker and creamier, even before adding any yogurt. I hope you enjoy your tomato soup + sandwiches this weekend! :)

  6. March 27, 2014 10:02 am

    My husband loves the canned tomato soup, too. I don’t get it! Your homemade version looks excellent!

  7. Debbie Spivey permalink
    March 27, 2014 10:07 am

    Interesting use of yogurt instead of heavy cream!

    • March 27, 2014 11:02 am

      Yep, I almost never buy heavy cream (except for recipes that call for the whole container… so I’d never have just 1/4 cup to spare), but I almost ALWAYS have plain Greek yogurt in the house—I use it in/on top of a lot of savory dishes.

      (Although to be honest, the lentils did a great job of making this soup thick and creamy—adding the yogurt is just a bonus!) :)

  8. luckystaranise permalink
    March 27, 2014 10:12 am

    Looks delicious. Great idea to use lentils!

    • March 27, 2014 11:04 am

      Thanks! I am always looking for new ways to use lentils—they are so cheap, healthy, filling, and quick & easy to cook. (I was tempted to use even more of them, but then this would have been less of a soup and more of a… porridge? or curry?) Anyway, just a 1/2 cup really added a lot to this soup. :)

      • luckystaranise permalink
        March 27, 2014 1:03 pm

        Yes, probably they could be added to all kinds of soups to get more substance, especially if they’re pureed like yours. I made white asparagus soup today which turned out way too thin, should have added some lentils!

  9. March 27, 2014 10:26 am

    YUMMMMM, there’s nothing that a bit of tomato soup can’t fix :) Thanks for sharing!!! I’m drooling right now just looking at the pics :)

  10. March 27, 2014 11:11 am

    Oh wow, this looks and sounds amazing!!! I love tomato soup and LOVE lentils, so I’m stoked to see them together in one recipe :) And yes, I could definitely still use a hearty winter dish…it was supposed to rain here today, but then it snowed instead (sigh).

    • March 27, 2014 11:45 am

      Thanks! I’ve loved almost every tomato + lentil combination I’ve ever met. :) I’m sorry to hear it’s still snowing there! Spring can’t be *too* far off, though… it’s almost April!

  11. March 27, 2014 12:25 pm

    Yum!! This looks amazing. I will definitely have to try with the coconut milk. I love tomato soup too – and it just is not warming up here in NYC, so this will be on my list sooner rather than later! Gorgeous post, as always!

  12. March 27, 2014 12:28 pm

    The perfect lunch (in my book!). And such tasty photos too :)

  13. March 27, 2014 1:09 pm

    Tomato soup was one of the first things I learned to make when I was a kid — it’s so easy, why would anyone put up with the canned stuff? I never thought of adding red lentils — wow! I always use heavy cream, but now I’ll have to try it with Greek yogurt, and I MUST find some Aleppo pepper. Thanks for being so inspiring!

    • April 3, 2014 10:09 am

      Thanks for your comment! Agh, I know, it drives me crazy that Paula likes the canned stuff (partially for taste, but also partially for convenience), even though I am *willing* to be the one to make us soup from scratch! Anyway, those days are over luckily. :)

      I know soups with heavy cream taste good, but I almost never buy heavy cream, unless I’m going to use the entire container for making ice cream or something; otherwise it’s just not something I’d ever have on hand in my fridge, so I nearly always substitute something else for it, whether it’s milk, yogurt, coconut milk, or something random like pureed red lentils, depending on the recipe.

  14. March 27, 2014 1:32 pm

    We only eat homemade soup and this looks wonderful

  15. March 27, 2014 1:39 pm


  16. March 27, 2014 1:59 pm

    You have converted me to loving tomato soup! I am a sucker for lentils (and anything paired with a perfectly-grilled cheese sandwich!)

    • April 3, 2014 10:11 am

      Wow, I converted you?! I guess I converted myself with this soup too, actually, since I could never really get *that* excited about tomato soup before I decided to make it spicy! (And lentil-y!)

  17. March 27, 2014 2:17 pm

    It looks beautiful and thick. I love all the spices you’ve added and I actually think a bit of tahini would be nice in it. It’s lovely in carrot soup anyway.

    • April 3, 2014 10:12 am

      Thanks! Oh and that is good to know about tahini being nice in carrot soup! Thanks for the tip; I will definitely need to try that sometime now. :)

  18. March 27, 2014 5:31 pm

    I think the addition of the lentils is brilliant! Can’t wait to try this one.

    • April 3, 2014 10:13 am

      Thanks! Yep, the lentils made it sooo much better and heartier. (We *almost* didn’t even need the grilled cheese sandwiches on the side…) :)

  19. March 27, 2014 8:25 pm

    It looks so yummy! Tomato soup (not the campbell version) and grilled cheese is one of my favs!

  20. March 27, 2014 8:43 pm

    Oh wow this looks so rich & delicious…!

  21. March 28, 2014 5:37 pm

    I think I know what I’m making for dinner tonight…..Thanks for this awesome recipe. x

  22. March 29, 2014 3:49 am

    That looks amazing! I loved tomato soup as a kid but have never had a great one as an adult, my wife hates it. So I wonder if this recipe would be ‘the one’ for us?! I don’t think you can get Aleppo pepper here in NZ, but I read on a culinary site that 3 parts sweet paprika to 1 part cayenne works as a substitute. Would sweet smoked paprika work do you think?

    • April 3, 2014 10:27 am

      Thanks! That’d be awesome if you and your wife both ended up enjoying this soup, even though she hates tomato soup (but is that, perhaps, just the canned kind?)…

      I doubt it’s 100% impossible to get aleppo pepper in NZ, especially if you have any small Middle Eastern or Eastern European markets or specialty spice shops around? But yes, instead of going out of your way to search for it, I think you could also try the substitution you suggested of 2-3 parts paprika to 1 part cayenne. You wouldn’t get the same rough, flaky texture of aleppo (the way its usually crushed/ground), but you’d get some of the same fruity flavor from the paprika with the heat of cayenne. (In fact, paprika would be a nice addition to this soup, even if you also have aleppo!)

      Another possible substitute with a similar texture to aleppo is Korean kochukaru (ground chili powder), although that’s definitely spicier than aleppo pepper.

  23. March 29, 2014 6:37 am

    Wow! This sounds perfect! I want to make it right now. Great idea to use lentils!

  24. March 29, 2014 1:59 pm

    A spontaneous tomato soup. I love it. Great spices and I’m glad you used yogurt instead of cream. I can’t tolerate cream. I’m not sure I’ve used aleppo chili pepper before. I’ll have to try it. Yum! Love the toast. Great photos as usual.

    • April 3, 2014 10:31 am

      Amanda, yes! I totally should have called this “spontaneous tomato soup”… except actually it wasn’t that spontaneous, since this was the 3rd or 4th time I made it, while taking notes… But the lentils got spontaneously added in round number 2, and that was a good decision!

      I almost never have cream in the house (unless I’m about to make ice cream), so I would never put it into a soup, whereas I always ALWAYS have plain Greek yogurt—it’s such a cooking staple now, for yogurt sauces to top savory dishes, baking recipes, etc.

  25. March 29, 2014 2:02 pm

    I simply love the beautiful colour of this soup, and can almost smell it!
    Delicious idea :D

    Choc Chip Uru

    • April 3, 2014 10:39 am

      Thanks, Uru! I love the color, too. And it was a spur of the moment decision to save a little of the tempered yogurt to use as a colorful garnish/swirl on top.

  26. March 30, 2014 8:49 am

    I know exactly what you mean about the overly sweet canned soup. I feel exactly the same, though I loved it as a child! The homemade tomato soup versions are divine though… particularly with additional herbs and chilli. Yours sounds delicious! I would totally devour this with a grilled cheese sandwich! x

    • April 3, 2014 10:45 am

      Thanks, Laura! Yes, homemade tomato soup beats the canned stuff any day. What herbs do you like adding to yours? Just like basil and/or thyme? Or others, too? I could definitely see keeping the creamy red lentils strategy, but swapping out the spice for fresh herbs.

      • April 3, 2014 8:39 pm

        I love basil and thyme but fresh parsley also adds a gorgeous complexity… I am a bit of a nut for continental parsley. Strange but true :) The lentils are a great addition!

      • April 10, 2014 10:50 am

        Wow, interesting, I’ll have to give that a try if I ever have parsley in the house… (though I must confess I rarely do, since it’s probably one of my least favorite herbs… but the next time I eat it, I’ll try to see what you love about it!)

  27. March 30, 2014 3:12 pm

    I love your soup. I can almost taste it and the colour is so beautiful, looks delicious. This is perfect comfort food Xx

  28. MyKabulKitchen permalink
    March 30, 2014 9:06 pm

    I feel like I have made every type of lentil soup this winter, because soup is all I want to eat in the cold weather and lentils are perfect as it means I don’t have to go the grocery store on cold days for meat…so despite feeling like I am “over” lentil soup your interesting ingredient list and pictures just have me itching to try this recipe which is perfect for the rainy week we have ahead. Thanks for sharing :-)

    • April 3, 2014 11:13 am

      Wow, I am honored that this soup has piqued your interest despite your being “over” lentil soup for the season! Maybe because it’s not really a lentil soup… just a tomato soup that happens to also have lentils?! :)

  29. March 31, 2014 9:29 am

    This looks and sounds divine! I love spicy tomato soup- perfectly warming!

  30. afracooking permalink
    April 1, 2014 2:02 pm

    This soup looks so wonderfully silky! And the lentils really are a fabulous addition!

    • April 3, 2014 11:19 am

      Thanks! Yes, silky is a great word to describe it. (Although really I wish my immersion blender could have pureed it even smoother… but it was still pretty smooth & creamy, while also being thick & hearty, if that makes any sense.)

  31. April 2, 2014 7:38 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more, the canned stuff tastes so sweet and just awful. Your recipe looks and sounds amazing!

  32. April 2, 2014 8:55 pm

    Looks amazing! I will certainly be trying this soup soon! 1 question tho — do you have to use full fat greek yogurt to get the desired results or will 0% work as well?

    • April 3, 2014 11:24 am

      Thanks, Kristen! You could certainly try low fat or non-fat yogurt if you want, but there would definitely be even more of a chance that it would curdle when added to the hot soup, even if you do all the other things I’ve suggested (i.e., bring it to room temperature, whisk in corn starch, and temper it) first. The full fat helps keep the yogurt proteins stable, as it gets distributed into the hot soup. (Plus, it tastes better and is still healthier than using heavy cream!) Luckily, even if you use non-fat yogurt and it ends up curdling, it’ll still be fine to eat; it just won’t look that appealing.

  33. April 10, 2014 4:28 am

    Yummy :D Take a look at my tomato soup xx

  34. Victoria permalink
    April 11, 2014 8:36 am

    How cool is this recipe! I grew up on Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches! :D

    • April 12, 2014 5:31 pm

      Thanks! I did not grow up on either tomato soup or grilled cheese sandwiches, but now I love them both! (Well, especially grilled cheese… and usually I like my grilled cheese sandwiches with a thin slice of tomato in between two slices of cheese—the only time I don’t miss that tomato slice is when I’m having grilled cheese with tomato soup.)

      • Victoria permalink
        April 12, 2014 5:33 pm

        Well dang, now I’m going to have to add a slice or two of tomato in the grilled cheese sandwich. Sounds delicious!

      • April 12, 2014 5:38 pm

        Yep, it is! :) I’m very picky about my grilled cheese sandwiches—they need to have DOUBLE cheese so that the tomato doesn’t come into contact with either slice of bread to get it soggy, and the cheese needs to be melted around the tomato so that it all still sticks together… So it’s a bit tricky to make it that way, but totally worth it! (Also I always try to order it like that if I’m getting grilled cheese at a restaurant/diner, and even if the tomato option is not on the menu, they’re usually happy to make it that way!)

  35. April 20, 2014 2:20 pm

    wow, I have been cooking tomato soup for ages, but never came up with the idea to add lentils :)

    • April 24, 2014 11:36 am

      Yeah, it’s kind of unusual I guess! I never would have thought to add lentils until I recently got my immersion blender (even though of course you could puree the lentils smoothly in a regular blender, too). I love that they add protein to the soup, and I also like their flavor and texture, of course. :)

  36. May 1, 2014 10:32 am

    I made this the other night and it was AWESOME. I didn’t use the yogurt and I added a bay leaf, but everything else was the same. YUM, and thank you!

  37. amabelle permalink
    May 21, 2014 8:20 pm

    i’m going to try this for the fam, but since little m will partake, how do you think it’ll turn out without the spicy?

    • May 22, 2014 9:30 am

      I think it’ll turn out just fine without the spicy! It’s not actually *that* spicy the way I’ve written it, unless you add a lot more aleppo & especially cayenne “to taste” — it can go either way.

      I would still use some garlic for flavor, though, if you think m won’t object too much… but just leave out all of the chili powders. (You can always add them to your own bowl!)


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