homemade staple: tomato soup

One cold and rainy afternoon, Lucy and I were on the hunt for a hot lunch to warm us up. For our bellies, there is no lunch more comforting than the classic tomato soup. Cruising the grocery store aisles for fresh supplies, I was dismayed to find our favorite box variety no longer on sale. And at $5.00 per box (roughly $1 per serving), I pushed my cart away in a huff. Damn organic hippie food companies, charging an arm and a leg for soup, I mused. It’s soup! Peasant food! Who do they think they are?

Then, like a beacon at the end of the aisle, the shiny aluminum cans with red wrappers and pop-tops beckoned me. I’ll just buy a few cans until the good stuff goes back on sale, I thought. We’d go home, stir in a little milk, warm our tummies, and no one would ever know the difference between a $0.99 can and a $5.00 box. But upon perusing the ingredients list, I hesitated: high fructose corn syrup. I don’t even know quite what that is. But I know that it doesn’t belong in tomato soup. Nor does flour, oil, ascorbic acid (is Campbell’s trying to prevent scurvy in the youth of America?), and preservatives like citric acid.

Now if you’ve ever met me, or read this blog for even the shortest of moments, you know that I am not a health Nazi. I make things like buffalo chicken mac n cheese and New York cheesecake without the slightest hesitation. But the thing about those dishes is, I know and can pronounce everything that is in them. When you take a thing like tomato soup which should be fairly basic (tomatoes, water or milk, spices) and start lacing it with chemicals, that’s where I draw the line. That’s why I decided at that moment on aisle 7 that I would replicate the canned variety (which is, by the way, delicious, if chemical-laden), flavor for flavor, but without all the junk.

It took a few tries. A few marred batches. And a lot of taste tests. But when I was done I was left with a steaming pot of homemade tomato soup that tasted better than the original. Much, much better. And, might I add, better than the $5.00 box. You could actually taste the tomatoes, the creaminess of the milk, the hint of salt. When I tasted the two soups back to back I could hardly put my finger on any of the flavors in the canned variety—they all blended together in one sort of sweet, sort of salty, sort of bland taste.

Ironically my journey to this soup began on the canned aisle as well, as I used canned tomato paste and tomato sauce as my base. Fortunately, the ingredients in tomato paste are tomatoes and water, and tomato sauce is the same plus a few spices. A couple of varieties of tomato sauce surprised me with their ingredients as well, but the plain store brand was simply made and worked well in this recipe. You could use fresh tomatoes, but you won’t get quite the same flavor. We are replicating canned tomato soup, after all.

This was our lunch for three days following my final successful experiment. It kept well in the refrigerator, but when reheating I would use the stove and not the microwave because of the milk in the soup. Microwaves tend to overheat food quickly, and when dairy is involved no good can come of it.

I’m also going to pat myself on the back since my (quite delicious) soup worked out to cost roughly $0.63 per serving, while the Campbell’s rang it at about $0.78 per serving.

Does anyone else find it ironic that I took the time to make this soup from scratch with simple ingredients, and then dotted it with Goldfish crackers? I guess that’s just me. Heck, maybe next I’ll try to make Goldfish crackers without all the junk. But for now I have this soup. And my daughter and I will eat it on a rainy day in the kitchen, warm our tummies, and laugh at those crazy soup companies.


Homemade Creamy Tomato Soup

The type of milk you use will determine the creaminess of the soup (whole=very creamy, nonfat=not very creamy). When you’re shopping for the tomato sauce and paste, make sure you select varieties with the simplest ingredients possible. The soup will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator and freezes well. Yield: approximately 5 cups, or 4-5 one cup servings.

  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 2 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt plus more to taste

Stir together the first 6 ingredients in a pot over medium heat. Add the salt, taste, and adjust the salt and spices as needed. Bring just to a simmer (or just to your desired serving temperature) and remove from heat. Slurp and enjoy.


  1. When you say “tomato sauce”, do you mean a pasta-style sauce like passata, or do you mean ketchup? Coz I’m thinking ketchup but wanted to be sure. We LOVE canned tomato soup in my house too!!

  2. I can’t wait to try this. I’m a label reader and I try to avoid corn syrup at all costs.

  3. Finally! I’ve been looking for a healthier knock-off of canned tomato soup forever! Regular homemade tomato soup just isn’t the same as the canned variety. This was so perfect and so good! I didn’t even use tomato sauce. I just took a can of whole tomatoes and pureed them. Thanks so much! This is going in the recipe box!

    • I’m so glad you liked it! Lucy and I slurp it up by the gallon 🙂 Good to know that pureed whole tomatoes work well too. Thanks!

  4. I made this the other day – tasted great!! I used 1% milk, and although it was smooth at first, as it heated, it developed little white specks in the soup. The milk was fresh, so I don’t know what was up with that, but it still tasted good. In the end i probably added another 1/8-1/4 tsp of salt to get to my desired tasting. I found it a tad thick, so next time I may need to add more liquid.

    Great recipe though! Definitely one I will keep on hand!

    • If milk is cooked at a medium to high temperature, it will curdle which makes little white specks. To avoid that, heat until warm, not boiling. Or heat the soup, minus the milk, to boiling then add milk and remove from heat.

  5. Very good! I had trouble with white flecks from the milk as well (I used 2%), but it didn’t taste any different. I added organic parsley flakes, dried basil, one clove of fresh garlic (I used less garlic salt), Tony Chacherse’s original creole seasoning, and habanero vinegar I got from http://www.BlossomVinegars.com.

  6. Wow! I wish I had had this recipe about 20 years ago! Used all organic ingredients so it is super healthy and delicious!!! Thanks so much for sharing it.

  7. Just made a batch of this and it is GREAT!!! I had to alter it a bit as I didn’t have any tomato paste… I doubled it and ended up using 2 cans of organic tomato sauce, 2 1/2 cups of 1% milk, 1/2 cup water, 1 tsp garlic salt, 2 1/2 TBSP sugar and 1/4 salt. It came out delicious, and tastes as good if not better than the red and white cans! So glad to find another thing easy to make non-processed!!! Thanks for the great recipe!!! 😀

  8. Can you make this using all water and no milk? I use tomato soup in another recipe and I no longer like the red and white product because of the high fructose corn syrup. I am trying to find a good subsitute for the canned stuff. The other recipe tends to cook for a long time and heats up pretty hot. After reading the other comments about the white flecks, I’d rather not use milk. Thanks for your advice in advance. Looking forward to trying this recipe.

  9. Just made this and my 12 year old and his friend said it was amazing! I didn’t have tomato paste so I left it out and added a little less milk. I also added basil. Perfect with a grilled cheese sandwich.

  10. Thanks for this recipe. It’s a rainy day here and that had me thinking about a nice bowl of tomato soup all day at work. I got home only to find out that I was all out of Campbell’s. I decided to search the net for a recipe to satisfy my craving without going back out into the weather. Delicious! I will be saving this recipe.

  11. I followed the recipe exactly but it was too sweet. Any thoughts as to why? I did enjoy making this homemade. 🙂

    • I would just cut back on the sugar you put in. Everyone is more or less sensitive to ingredients. I’m trying this one today! Home with a cold and need a booster to the immune system!

  12. Stephanie says:

    Great basic recipe I talked it a little to my family’s taste; used 1 cup half and half instead of 2 cups milk, and I added about 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning and a 1/2tsp onion powder. Came out very creamy and filling!

  13. The white flecks are harmless! What’s happened is that the milk is curdling from the acidity of the tomatoes and too-high heat. If you have this problem, whisk the milk into the tomatoes very well before heating it up, and don’t let it boil…it should only get to about 170-180 degrees.

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  15. You are awesome and enjoy your blog. You have a great sense of humor and great taste in music. Love your pics and your recipes…

  16. Used coconut milk instead of regular milk. Came out with an interesting taste. I thought it was pretty good

  17. Judi Fotherby says:

    Okay, well blondie over here (me) wants to know if she can leave out the milk and add the rest of the ingredients in a recipe that requires condensed tomato soup?

  18. denise gunnels says:

    I’ve been making this for about teo years now. It’s the best.

  19. I actually make a version of this for making enchiladas (omit the milk and water) and what I make as a great flavor. Will def try for soup!!!

  20. I followed the recipe, but I didn’t have any tomato paste. So I used a dash of corn starch to thicken it up. Super flavorful, and super creamy (thanks whole milk!). Great way to use up those Costco-sized piles of Tomato Sauce.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rainy Day Gal , Rainy Day Gal . Rainy Day Gal said: {New Post} My tomato soup kicks Campbell's ass: http://rainydaygal.com/?p=5011 […]

  2. […] Adapted from a recipe by Rainy Day Gal […]

  3. […] Adapted from a recipe by Rainy Day Gal. […]

  4. […] Copycat Campbell’s Tomato Soup Finally!! I found a good homemade tomato soup recipe!! I tried several different tomato soups in our early days of marriage and none of them were keepers. My husband, a die-hard Campbell’s fan, was pleasantly surprised at this one and declared it a winner. I was so excited to find something that tasted so like the canned soup (for my hubby’s sake), but that had no unpronounceable ingredients or unhealthy additions. And it actually turned out to be cheaper than buying the canned soup! […]

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