“Better-than-Campbell’s” Homemade Tomato Soup

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Let’s talk about tomato soup today. Good tomato soup. But first . . . a little tippy-toe down memory lane . . . let’s climb into our time machine, okay?

Ziiiip! We are in the small village of Nelson, Nebraska, a few (cough) decades ago. It’s a quiet town, with neat little houses, a garden in every backyard. It’s noon. The kids are all in school, eating their sack lunches. Except for one little girl, long blond hair pulled up into a messy ponytail, running home from school. She has a little more than a half an hour to run home, eat her lunch, and run back up the hill to the big limestone block building where she spends the rest of the day.

While most of her friends stay at school to eat lunch, cold lunches that they brought from home, this little girl prefers to go home. She lives just a few blocks away, after all, and a hot lunch is always preferable to a cold one, in her book. She is a girl with Preferences. 😉

Trip to Nelson, 2012 134

This is the house I grew up in.

The thing is, she doesn’t know what she’ll find when she gets home. Her mother is a wonderful cook, but she does have younger children to care for at home, and she has a number of creative projects going, too. She might be out in the garden with the younger sibs, or she might be engrossed in a sewing project. Or she might be hanging wallpaper in the dining room of the old house where they live, a monstrous old fixer-upper with plenty of rooms to work on. Or she might even be frying donuts for the drugstore that her husband owns. She could be doing nearly anything, which is partly why the little girl runs home every day. Just to see what Mom is up to.

There’s always plenty of food in this house: the little girl is old enough to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or to pull leftovers out of the ‘fridge for herself, but it makes her feel so loved to have her mother prepare her lunch for her. And her mom’s lunches are always better, of course. Just last week, in fact, she tore some ads out of a magazine, and presented them to her mother: ads showing what a proper lunch should look like: chicken pot pie with a serving of peas. A turkey sandwich with pickles and carrot sticks. Fish sticks served with tater tots! Or her favorite . . . a grilled cheese sandwich with a bowl of Campbell’s Tomato Soup. She hopes that her mother took the hint, and was even now preparing her one of those fabulous-looking lunches. And would every day, from now on.

Or at least on most days. Aren’t mothers set on earth, after all, to serve their children? 😉

The little girl races up the back steps, and flings open the door. What will she find today, she wonders . . . and . . . happy day! Her mom is in the kitchen today, standing over the stove, stirring soup. She turns and smiles at her. The little girl feels a rush of happiness. Her younger siblings are already at the table, eating their lunches. They have grilled cheese sandwiches with their soup, too! And carrot sticks, too! The little girl beams at her mother, and settles down for her lunch. Life is good.

Vintage ad used by permission by

Vintage ad used with permission by Jamie.

Yup. Life is good. From your time machine, you wish mightily that you could be in the same cozy little kitchen, eating a hot lunch that this mother made for you. You search the controls, but there are no buttons which will turn back the clock so you can be a 10 year old kid again.

Oh well.

The next best thing? Making your own homemade tomato soup that is even better than the canned stuff that we ate as kids. I don’t know what was in Campbell’s Tomato Soup when I was a kid, but I’m quite sure that it was better than the canned soup that is made today. Here are the ingredients of Campbell’s Tomato Soup:

Ingredients: Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Wheat Flour, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Flavoring, Citric Acid, Lower Sodium Natural Sea Salt, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Monopotassium Phosphate.

Just so you know. Hmm. Here are the top three ingredients of canned tomato soup: tomato puree, water, and sugar. And not just any sugar, but high fructose corn syrup. Why on earth would you put so much sugar in your soup? Care for some sugar soup, darling? I don’t know about you, but I go a long ways to avoid high fructose corn syrup. I read labels. I make my own stuff, which doesn’t include high fructose corn syrup. From an excellent blog post on high fructose corn syrup by Dr. Mark Hyman:

“The average American increased their consumption of HFCS (mostly from sugar sweetened drinks and processed food) from zero to over 60 pounds per person per year.

During that time period, obesity rates have more than tripled and diabetes incidence has increased more than seven fold. Not perhaps the only cause, but a fact that cannot be ignored.”

*gasp* Diabetes has increased during that time period more than seven fold?? Yikes! So what do you do? You and yours love that creamy tomato soup, and yet you realize that the canned option is no longer a good one. And, at $1.35 for a little can, it’s a little pricey for your tastes, anyway.

Well, well. I’m here to help. It’s tomato season here in the Midwest. Gardeners are wringing their hands about what to do with all the tomatoes in their lives. There they are, hanging in ripe clusters in all the gardens. The neighbors are showing up with bags of them. It has been an amazing tomato year. Also there are heaps of them at the farmer’s markets, and the prices have even gone down because there are just so many of them, and nobody wants them to go to waste.

Here’s what you do: you make your own, and can enough for the winter. This is my friend Jamie’s recipe that I’ve been making at summer’s end for years. By this time every summer, I’ve canned enough tomatoes for the winter, and I’m making salsa as fast as I can (the kids keep eating it up, or else I’d have enough by now!) and I’ve switched over to making tomato soup for the pantry. If you’re crazybusy (and we all are, at this time of year!) with other harvesting and preserving matters, this recipe is a Godsend. It is so quick and easy, and also tastes so gooood.

Yesterday morning, for example, the kids and I were doing school, and I sent them to do math lessons, while I hauled 20 pounds of tomatoes into the kitchen. It took me less than a half an hour to clean, core, chunk, and dump them all in my trusty stock pot. By the time the kids came back for me to check their math, the tomatoes were bubbling away happily on the stove, on their way to becoming awesomely-tasty soup, and I had 20 less pounds of tomatoes drawing fruit flies on the back porch. Oiy.

I’m going to do the same thing today, as soon as I get off the ‘pooter . . .

5 jars of soup = 5 easy-peasy meals!

5 jars of soup = 5 easy-peasy meals!

By the way. . . if you make this soup, or any other tomato-based products, you really need a heavy-bottomed stock pot like this one:

I hate to think of how many batches of soup and salsa that I scorched and ruined, before my thoughtful and generous dad came walking in the door with one of these stock pots for me. I use it every day, and I don’t think I’ve ever scorched anything in it. And I don’t have to stand over it and stir constantly, too. It’s a must-have for your kitchen! Or, here’s another must-have, as long as we’re talking about such things. You’ll need this immersible blender, too, if you want to make this soup. And you do, you know. Want to make this soup, that is. This blender is handy for lots of other things, too. It’s great to use for sauces and soups, although it always freaks me out a bit to plug it in and then stick it down into the vat of hot soup . . . but I’ve never gotten zapped, so I’ll just keep using it . . . 😉

But back to the soup . . . here’s how you make it:

  1. Clean, core and chunk up 20 pounds of ripe tomatoes, and put into your big stock pot. (No need to skin them!)*
  2. Add 4 cups of chopped onions and 6 teaspoons of salt to the tomatoes, and bring to a boil.
  3. Boil gently for 3 to 4 hours, covered, stirring occasionally.
  4. Using your handy-dandy immersible blender, blend until very smooth. This is the fun part. Wheeee!
  5. Put 1/2 tsp citric acid* into hot, sterilized quart jars, and add hot soup, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
  6. Process in boiling water bath for 25 minutes.
  7. Remove and let cool.
  8. Refrigerate and use within a couple days any jars that fail to seal.
  9. When serving, melt 2 Tbs of butter into each batch, and add a dash of cream, if you like. 🙂

*Note: if you or yours has issues with odd textures in food, or textures in general, you may want to scald and skin the tomatoes. I and mine don’t care a whit that there are tiny little bits of tomato skin in the soup, but there may be some that care. If you don’t skin them, this soup is very quick to make!


And so delicious! One more thing: if you want to dress this soup up a bit, add tortellini and just cook a little longer, until the pasta is done. This is the way Jamie’s family prefers it, and it’s the way we like it best, too. Although it’s also superb with just a splash of milk and a grind of pepper, and some crisp crackers.

Thanks for coming by today, Gentle Reader, and learning about my tomato soup recipe. If you enjoyed this post and think that maybe your friends would too, would you do me the favor of sharing it? There are buttons just below that you can use. You can tweet, or like, or share, or whatever you like to do, and I’ll love you forever.

And you’ll make me smile. 🙂 <—see?

*The citric acid is a recent recommendation to maintain acidity for safe canning. You can use 2 Tablespoons of prepared lemon juice (not fresh) per quart, instead, if you like.









36 thoughts on ““Better-than-Campbell’s” Homemade Tomato Soup

  1. Mary

    I love Tomato Soup! I too, always make it homemade. I don’t like all the “stuff” they put in it. I think I will be making tomato soup in the near future! Thanks for the idea.

  2. Jamie

    If you have a really good blender (not immersible) it will totally do away with those skins also. Takes a bit more effort but easier then skinning the tomatoes first and I always feel there have to be some great nutrients in those peels!

  3. Lisa Scott

    Oh you must have had such a happy childhood 🙂 how lucky you were, you made me smile recounting running home to see what your mum was up to!
    I totally agree with the high fructose corn syrup… yukk so bad for us!! Can I have a bowl of your yummy soup now please?

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      You’ve given me an idea, Sophie, that with my peppers in the garden, that I ought to make a recipe for roasted pepper and tomato soup—yum!!

  4. Judy - Pedagogical Artist

    I have to say that I am sooo enjoying the Miller family – does anyone else blog? Mom, Amaia, Bethany, Macky?
    Well, dear Amy, you sure brought back memories of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches – my favorite school meal – with the little bits of overcooked rice …
    Today I wouldn’t dream of serving canned or powdered soup – everything is made from scratch – even Scotch Broth which was my favorite as a child. Thank goodness it can’t be found on the shelves of the supermarket – I am sure it would totally destroy my childhood memory!
    Great post, Amy. HUGS <3

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      THanks Judy, and yes–Matthew, Andrew, and Timothy all write blogs, besides the girls and me. *hugs* back atcha! 🙂 Thank you for the kind words. So sweet of you.

  5. Chef William Chaney

    I have two different sizes immersible blenders and I use them a lot. They do make the process much faster with less dishes aka bowls to clean. The recipe you offer is nice and easy to make and this is my second favorite soup behind homemade chicken soup. But I believe tomato soup calls for grilled cheese sandwiches every time. I do add freshly ground black pepper to my tomato soup at serving time but thats about it. There is always to option to add a small piece of creamy butter to the hot soup for a little added flavor.

  6. Mari

    Once again you have given me the perfect recipe! I love any kind of tomato soup – even Campbell’s Tomato Soup. But – gasp – I cannot enjoy it anymore since you have called attention to the ingredients. HFCS is not my friend, Amy. All the stuff they add to food anymore is there to make it last forever, yet it can do so much bad to the body. That is exactly why I started growing my own veggies, and only non-GMO heirloom at that. It is no wonder we have health problems. Is there a correlation between the food the big growers grow and our present health problems and the need to pad the pockets of our doctors? Hmmm. I guess this isn’t the place to go into that, but I truly am sold on eating healthier than I can get from the supermarket! All your wonderful recipes make it possible to enjoy better taste and better nutrition. That’s a win, win in my book! Thanks, Amy! BTW, I remember the days of walking home for lunch, then trekking back for afternoon school. Yes, those were the days, my friend.

  7. Ruth

    Hi Amy,
    I have never left a comment before but wanted you to know how much I enjoy your Blog!! It’s my favorite! I so enjoy your sense of humor, your writing and your love for God. My husband of almost 40 years passed away in February. I have had a hard time but whenever I read your Blog I come away warm and fuzzy and more energized. Thank you so much! By the way, I will be making a batch or two of your tomato soup over the next few days! I also have an over abundance of tomatoes this year. Love your recipes!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thank you so much, Ruth! I so appreciate your kind words. You really can’t imagine. I’m so sorry to hear of your husband passing away, and I’m glad that my blog makes you smile. I’ll be praying for you, and I don’t just say that. I really will. And I hope the tomato soup comes out great for you. As long as my tomatoes keep producing, I’ll be sharing recipes, so stay tuned!

  8. Debra Degenhart

    Used to love Campbell’s soup growing up……then they added SUGAR albeit high fructose whatever……tried the soup out on family last nite (yes, got my stock pot out IMMEDIATELY) & it was a hit…..with a touch of cream, freshly ground black pepper and a dollop of fresh basil pesto!

  9. Debbie

    Looks good. I wish I had to make this before Sunday, but I don’t. My daughter is having surgery on Tuesday and I will be traveling to her on Sunday so can help with her little ones. It is getting cold here and I don’t think the tomatoes will be around when I get back in 2 weeks.. I made you salsa recipe last week. I cannot wait to try it. How long does it need to sit before we try it?

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      You can try the salsa any time, but it does get a little better as it sits for a month or two. Hotter! You know you could harvest all your tomatoes and just stick them in the freezer, if you have the space, and make the soup when you get home. I hope everything goes well for your daughter, and that you have a wonderful time with your grandchildren. 🙂

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Actually these days I leave the butter out of the canned version, and then when I heat it up, I add a couple Tablespoons of butter, and enough milk (or half and half) to make it a bit creamy. But all that is optional, of course! It’s very good just like it is.

  10. OrangeBlossom

    I’ve made two batches of soup so far. Delicious!!!! My kids tell me to never buy the canned soup ever again.

    Thank you for inspiring me to try gardening and all your posts on how to! This mama of seven has conquered much this year. Growing tomato plants from seed, layer chickens, broiler chickens, canning, and freezing.

    Thank you for your posts. I’m more of a stalker than a commenter since I have much on my plate during the season I’m in. I haven’t blogged in two years and I miss it. Thanks for posting … they brighten my day.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      It works just fine to cut it down proportionately and freeze it. Just add the butter and the dollop of milk (if desired) when you heat it.

  11. Thelma

    Shalom Amy, Thank you so much for the tomato soup recipe. My landlord’s wife passed away in April and I have been helping him clean the house and such. He is 87 and never really did any of the cooking all their 62 years of marriage. She was a fabulous gardener and canned and froze SOOOOO much food. She would provide lots for her church’s suppers and banquets. Now…he has about 50 quarts of canned tomatoes to figure out what to do with. I asked him if he liked tomato soup and he does. He said his mom used to make it with only two or three ingredients. After looking at several online I found yours. What a delightful writer you are and I enjoyed your memory lane walk. Thank you again for this very simple recipe. I’ll try it out and see if it brings back any memories for him. Shalom again…..and may the HOLY ONE of Israel find you desiring HIS blessing.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Shalom to you, Thelma, and God bless you for taking such sweet care of your landlord. I hope the soup turns out lovely, and of course canned tomatoes can be used in so many good foods, too: spaghetti sauce, chili, soups, etc. My folks even like to just heat up canned tomatoes, add salt and pepper, and serve them as a side dish! They shouldn’t go to waste!

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