The Dairy-Free Way To Thicken Up Tomato Soup

Tomatoes are a transformative ingredient that have shaped the cuisines of the Western world, becoming pasta and pizza sauce in Italy, salsa roja in Mexico, and the base to countless stews and chilis around Europe and the Americas. Tomato soup is one of the simplest, most comforting recipes to celebrate tomatoes in their purest form. The tried-and-true original recipe from Campbell's consists of tomato puree with water, flour, seasonings, and garlic.

Modern improvements include swapping water for chicken stock, adding butter for richness, and using cream or a smooth roux to give tomato soup a thicker, creamier consistency. However, if you want to keep your tomato soup dairy free, coconut milk is the thickening agent you need. Canned coconut milk is as pure and filling as dairy cream, with the same high-fat content and velvety thickness. Furthermore, coconut milk has a distinct nuttiness and a subtle sweetness that tempers tomato soup's acidity while complementing its rich umami taste.

Full-fat coconut milk is a common substitute for heavy cream with an easy one-to-one substitution ratio. You'd add it to your tomato soup recipe the same way you'd add heavy cream, stirring full-fat coconut milk into a bubbling pot of aromatics, canned crushed tomatoes, and stock before blending it in a blender or hand emulsifier. For the ultimate thickness, you can use coconut milk instead of stock or water, with a two-to-one ratio of canned tomatoes to coconut milk.

Tips to play up (or down) coconut milk's flavor in tomato soup

While coconut milk is a wonderful substitute for dairy cream, its flavor is noticeably different. You can use coconut milk's unique nuttiness to your advantage or employ other ingredients to mask its flavor in tomato soup. If you'd rather play down coconut milk's presence, a squeeze of lemon juice should do the trick. If you're worried about lemon juice adding too much acidity to the already acidic tomatoes, you can try adding a very small amount of baking soda to your soup.

Coconut milk's flavor is distinct, but it's also delicious, complements tomatoes, and provides exciting new opportunities for tomato soup seasonings. You can draw inspiration from Indian curries by frying ginger with garlic and onions for tomato soup and seasoning the soup with garam masala, cumin, coriander, and cardamom. Coconut milk and tomatoes would also work well with spicy seasonings like paprika, cayenne, and chili powder.

You could swap a regular can of tomatoes with fire-roasted tomatoes for a smoky, umami complement to nutty, sweet coconut milk. For a stunning presentation, you can reserve some canned coconut milk for drizzling over a bowl of creamy tomato soup with a garnish of fresh herbs. If you'd rather not use coconut milk, you can thicken your tomato soup with flour, egg yolks, or a cornstarch flurry.