Copycat Panera Tomato Soup Recipe

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
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This Copycat Panera Tomato Soup Recipe is a family favorite – especially when served with a big, buttery, grilled cheese sandwich! An easy homemade soup made with San Marzano tomatoes, ready in 30 minutes.

(For another take on classic tomato soup, try this quick and easy Instant Pot Tomato Soup!)

Creamy, Homemade Tomato Soup You’ll Crave!

This tomato soup is my go-to soup recipe for fall, winter, or any time of year honestly. It’s easy to make, with simple ingredients, and comes together in only 30 minutes. It has a prefect rich and creamy tomato flavor thanks to a winning combination of canned San Marzano tomatoes and a good hearty pour of heavy cream.

I developed this recipe years ago, as a copycat of Panera’s creamy tomato soup. Since then, Panera changed their soup recipe somewhat, but this version is still our favorite! It’s rich, flavorful, and makes the perfect meal or a cold, brisk day. Don’t forget the grilled cheese for the perfect meal!

Ingredients for a copycat panera tomato soup recipe, measured and arranged on a work surface.

What Is Panera Tomato Soup Made Of?

This Panera tomato soup recipe was a long time in the making, but real talk – is this the exact same soup recipe used by Panera? No, probably not exactly. However, it is very, very close, and you only need a few ingredients:

  • Olive Oil: Or another oil, like avocado oil.
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic cloves, minced.
  • Onion: Slice up a large yellow onion, or a white onion if you prefer.
  • Canned Tomatoes: Look for the San Marzano peeled tomatoes – they are perfect for making tomato soup.
  • Chicken Stock: Or vegetable stock.
  • Sugar: A small amount of sugar balances the acidity in the tomatoes. 
  • Heavy Cream: Also known as whipping cream – you could also use half and half.
  • Basil: Large fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped. Dried would work, too, but fresh is even better.
  • Oregano: I use dried for the oregano, but fresh would be amazing too, if you have it.
  • Red Pepper Flakes: For a little heat. Omit these if you don’t care for that little spicy kick.
  • Salt and Pepper: To taste.
  • Parmesan: Optional, but so yummy!
  • Croutons: If you want it to be just like Panera, make sure to grab some croutons or make your own homemade croutons!
A red Dutch oven with tomato soup and a ladle.

What Is So Special About San Marzano Tomatoes?

San Marzano tomatoes come from San Marzano, Italy, where they grow in volcanic soil and enjoy a special microclimate that brings out the best: sweetness, firmness, and not too many seeds! These tomatoes are considered some of the best in the world for making sauces and soups. If the tomato is the star of your dish, it’s great to get these ultra-tasty tomatoes. 

Not all San Marzano tomatoes on the grocery store shelf actually come from San Marzano, Italy, though. Some are U.S. versions of the same tomato plant, and those have a dedicated following, too. My personal favorite brand is Cento, which is widely available. 

Of course, you could also just use regular old canned tomatoes! The soup will still be great even without San Marzano, so feel free to use what you have.

Bowls of creamy tomato bisque with sandwiches.

How to Make This Panera Tomato Soup Recipe

Making homemade tomato soup is as easy as pie. Actually, it’s a lot easier than pie, because you don’t have to make a crust or a filling or… okay, you get it. It’s easy! Here’s how to do it, step by step.

  • Saute the Garlic and Onion. In a heavy bottomed soup pot or a Dutch oven, heat up your olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic to the hot oil, and saute it for about 30 seconds to release the fragrance. Don’t let it scorch, or you will need to start over – scorched garlic is pretty much unusable in tomato soup. Next, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent – about 8 minutes.
  • Add Tomatoes, Stock, and Sugar. Next, add the canned tomatoes (juice and all) plus the chicken stock and sugar. Bring the soup to a low simmer, and let it cook uncovered until it thickens a bit.This should take about 12 minutes.
  • Add the Remaining Ingredients (Except Parmesan). Next, add the heavy cream, fresh basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Blend Until Creamy. To get that perfect creamy texture, use an immersion blender to puree the soup. You can also  transfer the soup to a blender (careful, it’s hot!) and puree it that way. 
  • Enjoy! Stir in the parmesan, if using, and serve the soup hot.
Overhead shot of tomato soup in a Dutch oven.

Cook’s Notes

Since I spent so much time working on this recipe, you can bet I learned a few things along the way. These are my main takeaways from developing my copycat Panera tomato soup recipe:

  • Fresh Tomatoes: You would think that using fresh, ripe tomatoes would make the best soup, but that’s not necessarily the case! I tried using fresh tomatoes, but it was double the time and effort, and the flavor was actually less complex and tasty as the soup I made with canned tomatoes.
  • About the Cream: Creamy” is in the name, but the soup at Panera is really not all that creamy, when you come down to it. So I learned to use only a little cream, and that helped a lot!
  • Add Sugar: This is an old trick for balancing dishes that may have too much bitterness or acidity. You can add a pinch or two of sugar to your greens, rutabagas, cabbage, etc. I added a spoonful to the soup to balance the natural tangy flavor of the tomatoes.
  • Basil: As with the cream, you can have too much of a good thing. So be careful with the basil and don’t overdo it. 
  • Parmesan: Adding a bit of parmesan cheese was the perfect finishing touch for my family– but it’s totally optional, so do what works for you.
Creamy tomato soup topped wit herbs.

What to Serve with This Copycat Panera Tomato Soup Recipe

Want to know the truth? To make your meal perfect, just throw together a grilled cheese with fresh, thick, crusty sourdough bread, havarti cheese, and a ton of real butter. That is my perfect grilled cheese. Looking for something besides grilled cheese? I’ve got you covered. Try one of these easy side dishes, instead:

  • Cucumber Sandwiches: Cool, creamy Cucumber Sandwiches are just lovely with creamy tomato soup, and this family recipe is extra-special. They’re made with ranch seasoning, cream cheese, grated fresh cucumbers, and pumpernickel swirl. Yum.
  • Macaroni and Cheese: Another spin on tomato soup with something cheesy is to pair the soup with Homemade Mac and Cheese. Kids especially will love this meal!
  • Croutons: Buttery, crunchy Garlic and Herb Homemade Croutons are perfect for topping a bowl of this copycat Panera tomato soup recipe. 
Three bowls of tomato soup on a table with grilled cheese sandwiches, grated parmesan, soup spoons, salt, and pepper.

How to Store, Freeze, and Reheat

My easy Panera tomato soup recipe is quick enough to make on the fly, but it also freezes really well. I plan to make a triple batch next time, actually, so I can freeze some and just pull a bag out of the freezer whenever the mood strikes. To store and freeze, follow these easy instructions.

  • Refrigerating: Cover the soup tightly or store it in an airtight container, and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • Freezing: Cool the soup down, and pack it into freezer bags or containers, leaving a small amount of space for the soup to expand as it freezes. Freeze for up to 3 months, and thaw in the fridge before you reheat it.
  • Reheating: To reheat, place the desired amount in a saucepan over medium heat, and let the soup heat until piping hot.
A bowl of Copycat Panera Tomato Soup with a grilled cheese on the side.
4.5 from 718 votes
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Yield: 4 Servings

Copycat Panera Tomato Soup Recipe

This Copycat Panera Tomato Soup Recipe is a family favorite – especially when served with a big, buttery, grilled cheese sandwich! An easy homemade soup made with San Marzano tomatoes, ready in 30 minutes.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 28 oz cans San Marzano peeled tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock, or vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 8 large fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • cup shredded parmesan cheese, optional

Instructions 

  • In a heavy bottomed pot (or Dutch oven), heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds – until fragrant. Add onion and cook, stirring as needed, until translucent – about 8 minutes.
  • Add San Marzano peeled tomatoes (juice and all), chicken stock, and sugar. Bring to a low simmer. Cook uncovered, for 12 minutes or until it has thickened.
  • Add the heavy cream, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Using an immersion blender (or carefully transfer soup to a blender), puree soup until there are no large chunks left.
  • OPTIONAL: stir in parmesan cheese and serve topped with buttery croutons.

Video

Notes

  • Fresh Tomatoes: You would think that using fresh, ripe tomatoes would make the best soup, but that’s not necessarily the case! I tried using fresh tomatoes, but it was double the time and effort, and the flavor was actually less complex and tasty as the soup I made with canned tomatoes.
  • About the Cream: "Creamy” is in the name, but the soup at Panera is really not all that creamy, when you come down to it. So I learned to use only a little cream, and that helped a lot!
  • Add Sugar: This is an old trick for balancing dishes that may have too much bitterness or acidity. You can add a pinch or two of sugar to your greens, rutabagas, cabbage, etc. I added a spoonful to the soup to balance the natural tangy flavor of the tomatoes.
  • Basil: As with the cream, you can have too much of a good thing. So be careful with the basil and don’t overdo it. 
  • Parmesan: Adding a bit of parmesan cheese was the perfect finishing touch for my family– but it’s totally optional, so do what works for you.
  • Refrigerating: Cover the soup tightly or store it in an airtight container, and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • Freezing: Cool the soup down, and pack it into freezer bags or containers, leaving a small amount of space for the soup to expand as it freezes. Freeze for up to 3 months, and thaw in the fridge before you reheat it.
  • Reheating: To reheat, place the desired amount in a saucepan over medium heat, and let the soup heat until piping hot.

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 197kcal, Carbohydrates: 12g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g, Cholesterol: 23mg, Sodium: 279mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 7g

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Jessica
For the past 15 years, Jorge & Jessica have loved getting to share their families' favorite recipes with all of you. They live in Florida with their 3 kids.