Panera Creamy Tomato Soup

A healthy take on the Panera creamy tomato soup with roasted tomatoes and garlic.

My senior year of college we got a Panera in the Walmart shopping plaza in my college town of Carlisle, PA. I remember the first time someone in my sorority suggested going there and I had no idea what the heck it was. I quickly found out and it quickly became an obsession for the rest of the year. When I first started working at my job straight out of college in 2004, Panera seemed to be exploding all over the Northeast. At the time, I worked in our Northeast region. For a company headquartered in Connecticut and working within higher education, that meant a ton of day trips to the Boston area. Day trips where the sole highlight of the long day and boring drive on I-84 was lunch at Panera and a “You Pick Two” option of a turkey artichoke panini and creamy tomato soup, my go to order 98% of the time.

Tomato soup is one of those things where it’s either disgusting (Campbells) or, delicious (Panera). Usually the latter has cream involved. Lots. of. cream.

Panera Creamy Tomato Soup

2004 was prior to the whole lovely “posting of the calories” thing that has swept the fast food world so I happily enjoyed my half order of creamy tomato soup in calorie oblivion. Now, however, unless you’re blind, the fact that this soup is more than double the calories of most of the soup options they offer is staring you in the face. Your brain is saying, “get the black bean, it’s not that bad and it’s only 170 calories!” But your stomach is saying, “don’t even think about it woman, tomato soup is where it’s at!” Gotta oblige the stomach.

So while I honestly don’t care that much about the calorie content (I don’t go to Panera enough to make this an issue,) I thought it would be a fun challenge to take on making a “healthier,” “real food” version of my beloved soup.

Since cups upon cups of cream weren’t going to be an option, flavor needed to play a big role.

roasted garlic

Enter the amazing phenomenon of roasted garlic.

Food blogger confession: (this is about to get embarrassing) Up until this recipe, I had never roasted a head of garlic. Go ahead, gasp in horror. I know. I KNOW.

If for no other reason than licking my fingers after squeezing the roasted cloves out, I will be roasting garlic every chance I get for the rest of my life.

And, it didn’t stop with the garlic.

roasted tomatoes

I single handedly credit the roasted garlic and tomatoes (ok, and maybe the fresh parsley & parmesan cheese too) with the flavor of this soup. It’s creamy and rich like Panera’s but with a depth of flavor that you just don’t get from their 300 calorie, 10 ounce “You Pick Two” version.  I didn’t do the nutrition analysis on this recipe, but I bet it beats that.

Panera Tomato Soup

With half a cup of parsley in the soup itself, it’s also tastes incredibly fresh. Which you should of course counteract with a nice salty parmesan crisp.

Creamy Tomato Soup that tastes just like Panera's

While I didn’t have any on hand, a “whole grain baguette” wouldn’t be a bad side option with this. That part’s definitely something they got right.

4.8 from 12 reviews
Creamy Tomato Soup, Panera Style
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A healthy take on the Panera creamy tomato soup with roasted tomatoes and garlic.
Author:
Serves: 5-6
Ingredients
  • 8 large tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or less if you don't want a bit of a kick to it)
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 piece of whole wheat bread, toasted & cubed
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (or milk)
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  3. Combine tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons of oil and salt & pepper in a large bowl and toss together.
  4. Spread tomato mixture onto baking sheet.
  5. Cut off the top of the head of garlic, drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil on top and wrap tightly in tin foil. Place garlic on the baking sheet with the tomatoes.
  6. Roast for about 45 minutes.
  7. While tomatoes and garlic are roasting, heat butter and remaining tablespoon of oil in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.
  8. Add onions and garlic and saute until softened, about 5-7 minutes.
  9. Once tomatoes & garlic are done roasting, add them to the pot and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
  10. Add parsley, broth, tomato paste, brown sugar and cubed bread and simmer for 20-25 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally.
  11. Add heavy cream and parmesan cheese and stir until combined.
  12. Remove soup from heat and puree with an immersion blender or in batches with a regular blender until creamy.
  13. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

 

What’s your favorite soup at Panera?

Comments

  1. 2

    says

    gina, can you send me a pot of this?! this looks so good and i LOVE tomato soup. creamy tomato soup is the best, ever!! i must must make this sometime. i have to invest in an immersion blender though. it’s one of my top wishlist items!! great job with this! love it :)

  2. 3

    says

    This looks amazing! An don’t be embarrassed I’ve never roasted a head of garlic either! Now I will because I must make this soup. Amy’s makes a healthy version o tomato soup if you need a quick fix!

  3. 5

    says

    I have a deep rooted obsession with panera too. On my skating trips with my team we would seek out like the only panera in the state where we were going and alwaysss get lunch there. I used to love the french onion soup but can’t have it anymore, these days I usually opt for one of there salads which are so filling and delicious.

  4. 6

    says

    While I’ve never been a tomato soup fan…I have to admit this looks INCREDIBLE! I might have to give this a try nexyt week! Thanks for the yummy recipe! ps. I love panera

  5. 7

    says

    This looks INCREDIBLE – all veggies are better roasted. I plan to roast my first garlic head tonight to make fancy mashed potatoes for my husband’s birthday dinner.

    I agree with Matt – I really like their black bean soup! :)

  6. 9

    says

    I will definitely be making this soup it looks and sound incredible. Love that roasted garlic. Saved the recipe, thanks for sharing.

  7. 11

    says

    I love tomato soup..and I also love panera! I have never tried there tomato soup..not going to lie because of its caloric content..but I love their black bean and chicken noodle soup! This soup looks amazing! I am definitely a sucker for a good tomato soup!

  8. 13

    Shannon says

    Thank you thank you for this recipe!! I always have the same brain/stomach conflict over Panera’s tomato soup, so this is the perfect solution. I can’t WAIT to make this one.

  9. 16

    says

    I’ve actually never been to Panera! I’ve heard so many good things. I don’t know if they’re just not in Canada or just not in my little corner :) Either way, this looks awesome. And I’m a bit creeped out, because I was just thinking yesterday how I should make some kind of creamy tomatoey soup. You beat me to it and it looks delicious :D

    • 17

      Fai says

      believe me I feel your pain. I spend most of my year travelling and enjoy Panera Bread. Good news they just opened a new one up on Younge street, Right near the Eton Centre. Also I think there is one in Square One Mall.

      ENJOY !

  10. 20

    says

    I love tomato soup and this is random but if you live near a Nordstrom with a Nordstrom Cafe in it and they serve tomato soup, their tomato soup is some of the best….ever. Period. I would have never believed til I lived on for half my pregnancy when that was one of the only things I liked and could keep down. Great soup!

  11. 22

    says

    The posted calorie counts drives me nuts. I know its bad, but I like the option of knowing or not knowing. I went to lunch on the pier the other day and I knew it was going to be a burger and fries calorie fest but I didn’t need to know it was 1200 calories for just the burger. The walk on the beach after did nothing to help.

  12. 24

    says

    I can’t remember the last time I had tomato soup! Calories aside I actually love the Panera black bean soup. And I have never roasted garlic either… although I have eaten it on pita at parties and absolutely loved it!.

  13. 25

    says

    Since I’m vegan, I’ve never been able to try Panera’s Tomato Soup. But, when my mom orders it, it always looks so delicious. I always get their black-bean, which I love!
    I’m definitely going to try this recipe with almond milk and Earth Balance- hopefully it turns out good! There’s nothing like hot tomato soup during the winter.

  14. 26

    says

    I love, love, love tomato soup. My husband can’t stand it and the thought of it makes him want to throw up in his mouth, so I usually just bring it to work.

    I did the stats on fatsecret.com – for six servings:

    246 calories, 17 fat, 17 carbs, 3.4 fiber and 6.4 protein, or 7 WW points. :D

    Thanks for the recipe!

  15. 29

    says

    I love how deceptive soups can be in terms of nutrition, but so worth it sometimes. Love the pictures especially the one with the roasted garlic.

  16. 31

    says

    I’m am giving 5 stars! This recipe looks fantastic! You know what I only roasted garlic once in my life. I don’t understand why I haven’t done more often. Today is going to be roasting garlic day!!! The soup looks out of this world and I plan on making your version!! Tomato soup is a family favorite, we pair it up with grilled cheese sandwiches!

  17. 32

    says

    I work at Panera…don’t ever ask to see their full binder of nutritional information, just trust me! And I am forever bringing the tomato soup home because The Husband loves it with grilled cheese – I’m going to give this recipe a shot and see what he thinks!

    • 33

      Running to the Kitchen says

      I haven’t seen the binder but I have gone online to see the ingredients. I’d like to forget what I saw! haha. Hope the hubby likes it if you end up making it :)

  18. 34

    Kathy says

    Best tomato soup! The roasted fresh tomatoes and the roasted garlic give this soup a robust flavor that will make you go back for seconds. I made a smaller batch with minor alterations: didn’t add any vegetable stock as I liked the creamy consistency, added a dash of oregano in addition to the basil, and used tobasco sauce instead of red peppers. Simply marvelous. Top with your favorite croutons.

  19. 36

    Bree says

    I made this for dinner tonight and it is divine!!! I think it’s almost better than Panera’s! Thanks for sharing and I look forward to trying more of your recipes!!!

  20. 38

    JL says

    DELICIOUS!! It is tangy and has that spicy “kick” just like panera. The heavy cream adds smoothness but it is thick and tasty even before it is added. Loved it, thanks!!

  21. 39

    eva @VegucatingMyKids says

    i just made this today!…can i say that i’ve been looking for an alternate tomato soup to the one that i have been cooking for years…we just have grown bored of it–even though it’s really good…and guess which soup is pushing out the old recipe?–this one of course!…wow, i would have never guessed adding bread could add such texture to soup….i did make the soup more vegetarian–using almond milk and earth balance, but i still used chicken stock since i make my own from scratch…
    again, lovely and thanks for the inspiration

    • 40

      Running to the Kitchen says

      So glad you all liked it! Good for you on making the chicken stock, I wish I had the patience… ;)

      • 41

        eva @VegucatingMyKids says

        chicken stock is really easy to make….throw a rotisserie chicken in a pot of water with 4 carrots, 4 stalks of celery, and whole onion cut in half, and parsley if you have it….boil then simmer 3 hours….cool, the remove all the stuff inside the pot….then refrigerate overnight…next morning pour through fine sieve and all fat comes off with all the other little bits and pieces you missed during the first ‘removal of stuff’…then freeze in small portions…yes, lots of steps, but nothing you have to do in one sitting….just a process : )

  22. 43

    Susan says

    Lovee!!! This soup. So yummy. I took the time to find the calories. So if anyone is curious the soup with the heavy whipping cream comes out to be 1300 for the whole pot of soup. With Skim milk it comes out to be about 1125. The main source of calories is the olive oil– so I was thinking I might try to cut the amount of oil when roasting the tomatoes/garlic.

  23. 44

    Mary says

    I found your recipe last week after I noticed that I’d had Panera soup for lunch 6 out of the previous 7 days (alternating between tomato and corn chowder), and realizing that my habit was getting out of control I decided I better learn to make my own. I made it yesterday and absolutely love it! it tastes great, is way healthier than restaurant soup, and is simple enough for even me (not a great cook, to say the least). Thank you for this recipe, it is one I will make again and again!

  24. 45

    cheryl sloan cornwell says

    Ok…….so I’ve quadrupled this recipe (because I picked so many tomatoes yesterday that split open on the vine and needed to be used PRONTO!) and my tomatoes and garlic are roasting right now. Do you think this soup will freeze well? I’m going to have a boatload of it when I’m finished, I’m afraid. Seems like I always make soup that grows out of the pot : ) , and I have to give it away! Let me know about the freezing. Should would prefer freezing to sterilizing canning jars on this wickedly hot Georgia afternoon! Oh, and I did run over to Panera just now to get a loaf of Asiago Cheese bread, for my croutons, of course. Yummy!

    • 46

      Running to the Kitchen says

      I see no reason it wouldn’t freeze well, but I’ve never tried it myself. I’d probably go that route too rather than canning/sterilizing and take the chance ;) Now you have me craving those asiago bagels from Panera!! Enjoy!

  25. 47

    Annie says

    Thank you for sharing this recipe – it’s AWESOME! I *love* Panera’s tomato soup, but as you pointed out it’s not exactly “healthy”. Nor is it in my budget to be able to eat there everyday, lol. I just picked the last (or next to last) of my garden tomatoes this week & wanted to try soup. This one did not disappoint! Only change I made was to use half & half at the end instead of heavy cream. Still silky & creamy & mmmmm, GOOD! :-)

  26. 48

    says

    As a vegetarian….I have to rave about just how great this soup tasted when I made it on Sunday!
    It’s truly better than Panera.

    This is my new favorite!

  27. 50

    Kim C says

    Third recipe I have tried for Panera tomato soup and this is the best by far.”
    Roasting the tomatoes makes a huge difference!!

  28. 52

    says

    I stumbled upon your recipe and i had to try making this wonder. It turned out to be amazing. I skipped the vinegar but even so, it came out so rich and just perfect.

  29. 54

    robbiec311 says

    Hi. I just made this (followed directions but very loosely) and it was good. But I wondered why it didn’t taste like Panera’s. Then I remembered the brown sugar. Oh holy crap. That is the key. It is absolutely the best tomato soup in the world now. Thank you so much for this recipe.

  30. 55

    Nikki says

    Hello Gina,
    Thanks so much for such an amazing soup recipe. My husband loves tomato soup at Panera and you know he said this is better than that one ;). I never wrote a review before but i just finished a bowl of soup and the next thing is i am writing this review. I also rosted some red pepper along with tomatoes. Amazing!!!!
    Thanks keep up the good work.

  31. 57

    Ash says

    Wow this soup is absolutely amazing! A perfect dupe to the panera version.
    My whole family loved it. My husband had 3 servings & said it was better than the panera tomato soup!
    Thank you so much! The only substitutions I made were rice vinegar instead of balsamic, and creme cheese instead of parmesan!

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