‘Oops Caramelized’ Tomato Bisque

Author: Erin Clark

It’s definitely soup season, and I think we can all agree an all-time favorite is Tomato Bisque. Rich, creamy, perfect pairing with grilled cheese, that fresh bite of basil – it’s the best comfort food. While I won’t knock Campbell’s in a can (a staple growing up), there is something special about a vat of onions, garlic, and tomatoes that has been simmering for an hour.

Last week I was craving a homemade tomato soup and decided I was up for the challenge. I typically use the Tomato Bisque recipe from The Food Network. I was sauteeing the onions, carrots, and celery, but took a phone call from my sister in the middle of cooking. I don’t know about you, but I like to walk around when I talk on the phone, so I walked away from the food and continued gabbing away. By the time the conversation was over, the onions had slightly burnt. Great job, Erin! But I wasn’t about to give up or let this go to waste, I wanted to tomato soup darnit! I decided to lean into the burnt onions and embrace my ‘oops’. I caramelized the onions before dumping in the tomatoes to simmer,  unsure of how this would turn out. 

Half an hour of simmering and a few batches through the blender later – voila! Caramelized Onion Tomato Bisque! And it was DELICIOUS. It added a whole new level of flavor to the soup and I was so happy I got distracted in the middle of cooking. 

We served this up two different ways – the first being just the soup with some fresh basil and a little swirl of cream (makes it look super fancy, presentation is everything). The second way was served with crostinis, gruyere cheese, broiled in the oven for about 5 minutes (until cheese is melted). We wanted to play up the caramelized onions and thought to serve this almost like a French Onion Tomato Soup. The results were amazing and a huge hit.

So it might be a little bit of a project for a weeknight, but if you’re having a lazy Sunday and have about 1.5 hours to spare, take a stab at this recipe and let us know what you think!

‘Oops Caramelized’ Tomato Bisque


  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 Spanish onion, chopped (if you’re caramelizing, you could do another onion)
  • 1 Carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes with liquid, chopped

3 parsley springs

  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper


**Note — We suggest caramelizing your onions first, removing from the pot, then sauteing the celery, garlic, and carrots separately. Add the onions back in when you’re ready to add in the tomatoes.

  1. Heat butter in a large soup pot. If you’re caramelizing your onions, do this step first, sauteeing for about 30-45 minutes until onions are soft and jammy. Remove from pot and follow the next step. 

For the standard bisque route, dump chopped carrots, onions, celery, and garlic into pot and saute until soft, about 8 minutes.

  1. Stir in flour and cook for 3 minutes, stirring continuously to avoid burning. Pour in the broth and tomatoes, bring to a boil while whisking constantly. Tie the thyme, parsley, & bay leaves together with a piece of kitchen twine and add to the pot. Lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes (stir occasionally to avoid burning). Allow to cool.
  2. When the soup is cool, remove and discard the herb bundle. In batches, transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to the pot and reheat.
  3. Whisk in the heavy cream, and salt. Garnish with fresh basil & pepper, serve, and enjoy!
  4. To add the crostinis, preheat broiler in the oven, lay slices on top of soup, sprinkle shredded gruyere cheese on top. Broil until cheese is melted. Top with fresh basil & pepper.