13 Delicious Ways To Use Canned Tomato Soup In Cooking

Canned foods — despite allowing us affordability, providing convenience, and lasting a long time — suffer from an unfairly bad reputation. They are our go-to in times of distress because we know they'll be reliable and consistent, and won't immediately spoil the way fresh foods can. That's why they became so in demand during the pandemic and also the reason so many people on a budget turn to them to feed their families. And the benefits continue. Canned foods minimize preparation time so that there's more time for the other demands that life has. They also not only provide you with what's on the label but offer an opportunity to be used in a fresh way or in a new dish, which can both improve the canned item and the recipe you're trying to make.

Few canned food items are as versatile as canned tomato soup. Other than being a tasty and convenient soup, it can be so much more, particularly when used in the making of various meals. Canned tomato soup cuts cooking time drastically and adds new depths of flavor without the need for many other ingredients. So, if you've got a can of tomato soup sitting at the back of a kitchen cupboard, get ready to breathe new life into it. These are some of our favorite ways to utilize canned tomato soup in cooking.

Add richness to beef stew

Canned tomato soup works great in stews. With stews, you need to build flavor with various ingredients, and it usually requires you to make a sauce or flavorful broth for the meat or vegetables to braise in. Tomato soup lets you forego doing that, since the soup will act as the braising liquid. 

While you can include tomato soup for any stew, it's especially good in beef stews, because the tomato soup adds a little sweetness and acidity, which complement the meatiness. Beef stews often involve adding tomatoes and onions, but you can skip the preparation of washing and chopping those items since the soup already contains those flavors. Then you can focus on the other vegetables and seasonings you want to add, but if you want to keep it simple, all you need is beef cubes, potatoes, carrots, and a can of tomato soup.

Minestrone soup has never been easier

Minestrone is an Italian classic perfect for family meals or weeknight dinners. Usually, it requires quite a few ingredients but canned tomato soup is a great shortcut. While minestrone lovers might all rely on different recipes or add different variations of vegetables, one thing stays the same always: it's a tomato-based soup. This means that instead of starting from scratch to make a tomato soup base, which can take you some time, you can reduce your steps by starting with a can of tomato soup. Then, add all the chunky vegetables you prefer, some cannellini beans (or any type of white bean), and a smaller shaped pasta like ditalini, orzo, orecchiette, or even macaroni. The type of pasta depends on your tastes, or what type of pasta you have on hand.

Finally, garnish with grated parmesan, and you've got a delicious and quick minestrone. While the result remains a soup, it's a complete transformation from your humble can of tomato soup. Instead, you've made something more impressive and nutritious, which can feed many. Better yet, it freezes really well, so you can whip up a big batch and freeze some for an even quicker future meal.

A hack for great sloppy joes

A dish associated with American school cafeterias and childhood meals, sloppy joes can be a tasty weeknight treat to cook for your family or yourself when you need something warm, filling, and satisfying. While it's not difficult to make sloppy joes, it's tough to make really great sloppy joes. We think canned tomato soup is the comforting shortcut to great sloppy joes.

The long list of ingredients needed for the "sloppy" sauce in sloppy joes may surprise you. People usually drop in condiments like ketchup, tomato paste, Worcester sauce, mustard, and things like onion, bell peppers, sugar, and more. By using canned tomato soup, you can replace some (or even all) of these ingredients and achieve an even richer tomatoey taste. It's up to you how you choose to layer your flavors, and you can taste as you go along but since tomato soup has already been cooked with a combination of ingredients to create that deep tomato flavor, you'll be amazed at just how delicious your sloppy joes are by implementing this hack.

Save time with moussaka

If you enjoy making layered oven dishes like moussaka, then canned tomato soup can provide a headstart. This Mediterranean specialty is popular in Greek and Egyptian cuisines, among others, but usually requires an incredibly laborious process to prepare. You have to fry or grill eggplant slices, ready a tomato-based sauce (maybe using meat, depending on how you like it), and sometimes even have to add potato slices and a bechamel sauce.

You can take one easy way out by using canned tomato soup instead of making a tomato-based sauce, leaving you more time for the other steps. In the end, all you have to do is layer your eggplant with the tomato soup, add the additional layers of potato and bechamel if you're using them, and place it in the oven to cook for 40 minutes to an hour. You'll be thanking your lucky stars that there's a quicker solution to at least one of the components, while still achieving a tasty and complex baked moussaka.

Turn it into a pot of chili

Chili is a terrific weekday dish because it's relatively simple to throw together, tasty, filling, and nutritious. It also lets you polish off what you have in your fridge, like leftover carrots, corn, and more. It's also the perfect way to use a lonely can of tomato soup.

Transforming canned tomato soup into chili is easier than you think, and it adds flavor and richness to your chili without much effort. Start by sauteing your usual garlic and onions, chopped chile if using, whatever chopped veggies you like, and then instead of adding any stock or broth, tomato paste, or chopped tomatoes, pour in your can of tomato soup. Finally, add everything else you would usually include, like beans and seasonings; ground meat is optional. Let simmer for a while, to get all the flavors to mesh, and serve with cheddar cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, or any of the toppings you love.

A shortcut to lasagna

Another layered oven dish that requires a few components is lasagna. While the payoff may be worth the effort for the scrumptious, hot, and gooey pasta dish, we welcome any time-saving steps. This is where canned tomato soup comes in as the ideal substitute for a tomato sauce. Instead of spending time cooking the perfect tomato sauce for your lasagna, add it to your ground meat, or if you're making a vegetable lasagna, heat up a can of tomato soup and pour it over your pasta sheets, as you would usually do with your sauce.

The subsequent lengthy oven time lets the flavors blend. Also, turning to canned tomato soup for lasagna eliminates the need to pre-cook the pasta sheets. The extra water content in your tomato soup will be absorbed into the pasta and help cook the sheets while baking, and the absorption will enhance the thickening of the soup into a sauce. We call that a win-win.

Try this Bloody Mary marinade for steak

Lovers of the classic Bloody Mary know just how satisfying that sweet, spicy, and sour combination is. The pungent cocktail delights the tastebuds at any time of the day and delivers a much-needed kick in the morning (especially after drinks the night before). However, many don't realize how useful a Bloody Mary is in cooking. It boasts all the makings of a great marinade, the umami from Worcestershire sauce and tomatoes, the acidity of lemon juice, the spicy heat from Tabasco, and lastly, the salt and pepper for the final seasoning.

This tomato juice marinade is perfect for steak and represents another genius way to use tomato soup. Mix up a can of tomato soup with the seasonings, some lemon juice, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce, and leave your steak to marinate in it for a few hours. Of course, you can even include some vodka to transform it into a true Bloody Mary, with the alcohol servings as a tenderizing agent that helps soften your steak.

Butter chicken is a cinch

Everyone loves a creamy butter chicken on a cold winter evening. This North Indian classic, also known as murgh makhani, rates as one of the most popular items on the menu at many Indian restaurants. While it's always fun to order in, it's also such a reward when made at home. Not only can you customize the spices according to your preference, but you can add veggies to increase their nutritiousness, or even use different fillings instead of chicken, such as paneer, potato, and lentils, for a vegetarian dish. If you stick to an authentic recipe, you'll likely still save money, especially with how much take-out may cost.

To make it even easier to make butter chicken at home, you can use a can of tomato soup to start your sauce. The rich tomato taste in your butter chicken can be achieved by adding butter chicken spices to your pot of tomato soup and then introducing your fillings. Much debate ensues as to the best creamy addition to butter chicken: yogurt, coconut milk, milk, or heavy cream. We'll leave that up to you.

Get cozy with grilled cheese and tomato soup

When people lack the time or energy to cook, they often turn to grilled cheese as a simple, quick, and yummy sandwich — and understandably so. It can be on the table in a few minutes, and be as basic or elaborate as you'd like. Ultimately, almost nothing beats bread and cheese, warmed up into a gooey and crusty toast. But another combination rivals the grilled cheese, and that's tomato soup and grilled cheese.

Pairing your grilled cheese with a bowl of canned tomato soup turns what we often consider a snack into a proper meal — and an old-school cozy favorite. Hot soup is perfect for dunking. By using canned tomato soup, you can give the grilled cheese all of your attention. Try buttering both sides of the bread slices and adding extras like bacon or caramelized onion to jazz up your sandwich.

Surprise with canned tomato soup cake

While the words "canned tomato soup cake" might send your head into a tailspin, it's not some strange metaphor or a Halloween prank. Also, while this may sound like it, it's not a new trend. In truth, canned tomato soup in a cake is a retro classic you should try, and people have been making it since the 1920s. According to Gastro Obscura, it took off in the 40s as a result of the major food shortages caused by the Great Depression and World War II. This meant that cooks got creative, and adding a can of tomato soup to cake batter meant you could leave out milk, cream, oil, and butter. The pectin from the tomatoes and the gelatinized starch in the soup act as water retainers, resulting in a wonderfully moist sponge.

For all the skeptics out there, you need to try it to believe it. With the addition of warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice, the cake turns out to be something akin to carrot cake, without a distinguishable tomato flavor. Originally, this cake didn't have any frosting on it, but you can customize it and ice it as you desire, introducing nuts, dried fruits, or even chocolate chips. Additionally, because of its likeness to carrot cake, cream cheese frosting works well too.

Jazz up mac and cheese

The same logic that lets grilled cheese and tomato soup work so well can be applied to mac and cheese. Canned tomato soup takes basic mac and cheese to the next level. Think of that steaming pasta enrobed in creamy melted cheese; it's as comforting as it is rich, right? Sometimes, though, the richness can leave you wanting some relief, and that is where canned tomato soup can help. The tanginess of the soup cuts through the fatty cheese and creates a deeper flavor with more umami. The comforting mac and cheese becomes even more moreish than before, and this method might become your new norm.

To incorporate the soup into your cooking, we recommend adding it to your roux and mixing it in how you would milk. You can still add milk but watch that the sauce doesn't become too thin, since you still want a smooth mac and cheese.

Make a base for pappa al pomodoro

The origins of this bright Tuscan stew, pappa al pomodoro, are all about using simple kitchen ingredients to create a hearty, tasty meal. This one calls for stale bread, making it a brilliant way to avoid food waste and a means to eat something delicious but affordable. The bread acts as a thickener while also adding a rich flavor to this tomato-based soup.

To simplify this dish further, use canned tomato soup as your base. Not only will it save you a good deal of time but you will need only five ingredients: canned tomato soup, garlic, olive oil, bread, and some fresh basil to top it off. If you wish to add extra flourishes, try grated parmesan, or perhaps some chiles for a bit of a kick. A filling winter dinner recipe couldn't be any more straightforward.

Marinara sauce in no time

Many people would love to have more time, money, and energy to cook elaborate meals at home. Most of the time, we reach for whatever is cheap and convenient to fill us up. After all, we need to feed ourselves (and our dependents) three times a day, every day. It can feel like an endless loop of "What should we cook today?" Pasta is a dish a lot of us put on the roster since it doesn't take much time, and you can make whatever sauce you like with it. For many people, spaghetti with marinara sauce is a weekly staple. It's a reliable go-to, and there's a way to prepare it quickly. Especially, if your pantry items are running low, or you're short on groceries, using canned soup makes the perfect substitute for marinara sauce.

We all know that marinara sauce is more than just canned tomatoes. It takes time to build its flavor. Since canned tomato soup has already undergone this process, it can be a great way to make an instant marinara, with just a few tweaks. Start by sauteeing some garlic and onion before adding the soup. Then, once they've browned slightly, add the soup, and some extra seasonings. Dried herbs oregano and basil work well, as does a pinch of paprika. Even more, this makes a good pizza sauce too.