An Award-Winning Chef Shares The Absolute Best Side Dishes To Eat With Tomato Soup

Tomato soup with dishes
Tomato soup with dishes - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty

There are some quintessential pairings in the food world that can't be broken up. Peanut butter and jelly, french fries and ketchup, and tomato soup and ... you guessed it. Crab cakes.

All jokes aside, there's so much more to a bowl of tomato soup than just the grilled cheese sandwich that often goes along with it. Rather, there are a whole world of sides that help bring out the flavor of the soup, add complementary flavor notes, or just bring it into the realm of a whole meal -- rather than just a starter. To help offer some words of advice in pairing tomato soup with other side dishes, we sought the expertise of award-winning chef and restauranteur Laurent Tourondel, who is no stranger to tomato soup and all of its possible delicious pairings. Not only will these offerings, both classic and novel, excite your tastebuds, but they may even allow you to think about the endless potential of this humble soup.

Read more: 20 Popular Canned Soups, Ranked Worst To Best

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Grilled cheese sandwich, tomato soup
Grilled cheese sandwich, tomato soup - Radoxist studio/Shutterstock

We can't write a list of the best things to pair with tomato soup without listing the most obvious: grilled cheese. The history behind this iconic pairing dates back nearly a century, when America was obsessed with newfangled food products like sliced bread and processed cheese. After World War II, the two had officially hit the ground running and have been a staple menu pairing ever since.

Although grilled cheese is merely bread, cheese, and a spread to ensure the entire thing cooks correctly, there are ample ways to spruce up your grilled cheese and make it a tastier pairing for your soup. Swapping out your standard sliced cheese with a medley of other options, including gouda or gruyere, is an easy way to make this sandwich more sophisticated. Chef Laurent Tourondel recommends making the sandwich "extra special" with thinly sliced tomatoes, Vermont cheddar cheese, and a slice of bacon.

Basic Green Salad

Green salad with pepper
Green salad with pepper - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

The word "salad" is quite expansive. Sure, you have your salads adorned with unique dressings, grilled veggies, and hard-to-pronounce cheeses. But then you also have your simple, run-of-the-mill green salad, which only requires a base of greens and a dressing of your choice. That's not to say that this salad is, in any way, limiting; you can elevate even the most basic of green salads with merely sliced tomato, cucumber, and onions.

The main advantage to pairing your tomato soup with a green salad is that it offers a sort of reprieve from the dense, flavorful, and comforting broth. You can highlight complementary flavors by using similar ingredients for your soup that are in your salad dressing, or try for additions that bring out the smokiness and warmth of the soup, like chopped nuts, hemp seeds, or even capers.

Crab Cakes

Crab cakes with lemon
Crab cakes with lemon - Cavan-Images/Shutterstock

When you think of crab cakes, tomato soup isn't likely a pairing at the top of your list. Tartar sauce, maybe; but tomato soup, which offers more of an umami and less piquant profile, is far from obvious. However, the subtle brininess of the cakes brings out the sweetness of a solid tomato soup -- which makes the two a pair to be reckoned with. The other benefit of crab cakes is that they're crunchy, which will contrast the creaminess of the soup.

You can start with a basic Maryland crab cake recipe. It's brimming with flavorful additions like Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, and lump crabmeat. Or, if you're ballin' on a budget, try making some tuna patties instead. This fishy variation uses canned tuna instead of crab meat, which is much easier on your pocket and can be made with ingredients you may already have on hand — including mayo, Dijon mustard, breadcrumbs, and yogurt.

Macaroni And Cheese

Macaroni and cheese in bowls
Macaroni and cheese in bowls - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Macaroni and cheese and tomato soup are both wholesome options, but who would have ever thought to enjoy them together? If you love the ooey, gooey filling inside of a grilled cheese sandwich dipped into tomato soup, you're bound to love what happens when you combine a whimsical pasta shape, cheese, and breadcrumbs and serve it alongside a steaming bowl of tomato soup.

While boxed macaroni and cheese is a plausible option for this pairing, we recommend making your own batch so that you can customize the cheeses and add a crunchy topping to tie it all together. Cheddar cheese is always a standard option that pairs well with tomato soup, but you can also customize your mac and cheese recipe with something a bit more exciting, like fontina or gouda.

Crusty Bread

Tomato soup with bread pieces
Tomato soup with bread pieces - Kirin_photo/Getty Images

If you don't have a grilled cheese sandwich at the ready, crusty bread makes an excellent alternative pairing for your soup. There's just something so satisfying about twisting and ripping off a massive hunk, Panera Bread-style, and dipping it in steaming bowl of warm tomato soup. You can soak up the soup with your bread, or opt to alternate between bites -- which is perfect if you're not fond of soggy bread.

French baguette is a great option for twisting and ripping because it's easy to hold and has a satisfying texture. The other, more flavorful option is a sourdough round or baguette; the slight tangy flavor of this bread is the perfect pairing for the subtle sweet and umami notes of the soup.

Homemade Potato Chips

Potato chips on wood board
Potato chips on wood board - Jiri Hera/Shutterstock

You might not instinctively turn to your bag of potato chips and immediately think about tomato soup, but chef Tourondel recommends trying the pairing together. "The crunch alongside a soup is so satisfying," he explains. But that's not to say that you should just stick with the plain Lays chips. Rather, making your own batch will allow you to customize and play with different flavors and reach the quintessential chip consistency; it may just require some experimentation and confidence in the kitchen.

Before you make your homemade potato chips, you should consider the type of flavoring you plan on imparting on them and how that will reflect in the soup. "My favorite seasonings for homemade chips to go along with the tomato are oregano and garlic," Tourondel says. He also notes that you can impart a novel flavor on your chips with Old Bay seasoning, which contains celery salt, paprika, and red and black pepper.

BLT

Big BLT on board
Big BLT on board - Chas53/Getty Images

While a BLT has nowhere near the same novelty as a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup pairing, it's still a valid option to serve as a side to your soup. An integral part of the BLT is indeed the fresh tomato slices. But it also has the bacon, which can impart a smoky flavor on your tastebuds, as well as lettuce, which can add a fresh reprieve from the heaviness of the soup.

The key to making a good BLT, especially one that's going to be paired with punchy tomato soup, is to be sure you're heavy-handed with adding flavors. Using an applewood-smoked or peppercorn-crusted bacon, for example, will bring unique flavors to the forefront that can play off the seasonings in your soup. You can also use roasted tomatoes for both your soup and the sandwich; they have a less juicy, more mature flavor and are a great segue into the dishes for people who aren't big fans of raw tomato.

Mozzarella Sticks

Mozzarella sticks with dipping sauce
Mozzarella sticks with dipping sauce - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Take a grilled cheese sandwich and make it portable, and you're left over with mozzarella sticks. Since marinara sauce is already a common dipping companion to this kid-friendly appetizer, it's easy to see how substituting in tomato soup could make for a delicious pairing.

The easiest option, which is perfect for folks who want to focus on their soup rather than what they're serving it with, is to just grab a bag of frozen sticks from the grocery store, pop them onto a lined sheet pan, and bake them until they're perfectly golden brown. But if you want to go the extra mile and customize your seasonings, try making a homemade batch of gooey, stringy mozzarella sticks. Load up your breading with garlic powder, oregano, and paprika to get the perfect flavor on each one. Dunk them into the soup directly, or reserve them for eating as a snack afterward.

Pesto Panini

Chicken panini with pesto
Chicken panini with pesto - RoJo Images/Shutterstock

Pesto is the unequivocal condiment of the summer. After all, how often do you get fresh, pungent basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and a tasty olive oil in one package? It's a particularly good spread to add to the inside of a panini because it adds mild, herbal notes that complement even the blandest of fillings. A simple chicken breast and a couple slices of tomato can become a wholesome sandwich with a touch of this herby condiment. Likewise, a simple swirl of pesto can enhance canned tomato soup by offering those herbaceous, savory notes that the soup craves.

Besides getting a double dose of pesto flavors from the sandwich and the soup, you'll also get the pleasure of dunking your crispy bread into a soup. Other compatible fillings, outside of the pesto, for this sandwich include mozzarella cheese, which will give you an ooey, gooey cheese pull; a swipe of balsamic, which will accentuate the sweetness of the tomatoes; and spinach, which will up the ante on those vegetal notes.

Panzanella Salad

Panzanella salad with veggies
Panzanella salad with veggies - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Panzanella might be the least salad-like salad out there, but we love it all the same. The tomatoes are a great crossover between the two dishes, and you'll get the hefty dose of carbs from the bread to enhance your soup-eating experience. Overall, it's a seemingly lighter alternative to just eating bread and soup. The trick to making an excellent panzanella salad, which combines chunks of toasted bread with fresh tomatoes, herbs, and a dressing, is to use the brightest, most flavorful tomatoes possible. Otherwise, you'll risk a bland batch that won't do your tomato soup any favors. Our recipe for heirloom tomato panzanella salad uses colorful tomatoes that not only switch up the color palate of the traditionally red-leaning salad, but also imbue it with a ton of extra flavor.

It is important to note here that although tomato soup may taste great on day two, panzanella does not. To avoid your bread getting unpleasantly soggy, prep your salad right before you plan to eat it.

Garlic Knots

Garlic knots with dipping sauce
Garlic knots with dipping sauce - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Garlic knots are garlic bread's fun cousin. Unlike classic garlic bread, which comes out of the oven crunchy and occasionally devoid of moisture, garlic knots are plush, soft, and perfectly dippable. Chef Tourondel serves his tomato soup with these knots instead of grilled cheese, and shares that the swap "could easily be replicated at home."

"All you need is store-bought pizza dough, garlic, butter, cheese, and herbs. We lather ours with garlic butter and top them with Pecorino and Parmesan," Tourondel explains. These cheeses are really key to getting a great crossover flavor between the soup and the side. Both Pecorino and Parmesan are quite dry and umami-forward cheeses, which will help bring out the savoriness of the tomatoes. This would be one instance where making a roasted tomato soup would be warranted; the slightly smoky notes, complemented by a dash of cream, would make for a wholesome pairing perfect for a cold winter's day.

French Fries

Golden matchstick french fries
Golden matchstick french fries - Max Zafiro/Shutterstock

It's hard to go wrong with french fries -- which is why they're a side for nearly everything, from hot dogs and burgers to casual lunchtime sandwiches at your favorite local pub. But what happens when you unite the perfect, crispy fry with a bowl of tomato soup is something truly magical.

It shouldn't seem too weird to eat a bowl of tomato soup alongside these fried spuds. After all, ketchup is a must-have for eating fries anyway. Your soup will have those similar tomato flavors, along with some extra ones to boot. The fruity and soft notes of the soup are practically begging for something salty and crunchy to go alongside them. If you don't want your experience to be squandered by a limp fry, avoid dipping the fries into the soup itself and instead alternate bites between them. Besides seasoning your fries with plain salt, you can also add on some garlic powder, or go a step further and lather on Parmesan and garlic.

Caesar Salad

Caesar salad with croutons
Caesar salad with croutons - Nightanddayimages/Getty Images

The lettuce is undoubtedly the least exciting thing about Caesar salad. You'll get the exciting umami notes from the shredded Parmesan and the anchovy-enhanced dressing, as well as the crunchy bite from the bread cubes. It has the qualities that tomato soup is looking for in a partner, especially when it's topped with chicken to enhance its fillingness.

One of the reasons that we love eating Caesar salad and tomato soup together is because the greens don't really distract from the bite of the two together. Plus, the garlic flavors in both the dressing and the soup are compatible, as is the boost of umami flavor. It's an especially delicious combination if you're looking for salty notes to balance out the sweetness of a soup.

Roasted Veggies

Carrots, Brussels sprouts on pan
Carrots, Brussels sprouts on pan - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Roasted veggies are a simple addition to any meal. Not only are they a great way to help you get your micronutrients in, but you can also tweak the seasonings to reflect whatever else you're serving them with. The versatility of this side dish, as well as how easy it is to slice up your veggies of choice and toss them in the oven, is ideal for pairing it with something like tomato soup.

You'll want to pair the soup with a vegetable that retains some of its crunch and has a deeply vegetal profile. Roasted broccoli and cauliflower are great filling options for pairing with tomato soup. Plus, the char on the top and edges of the florets will add extra depth to the pairing. You could also go with some carrots or roasted butternut squash if your soup is craving something sweet and inviting. Plus, you can use your oven to roast the tomatoes for the soup and roast your veggie side at the same time.

Garlic Bread

Garlic bread with butter
Garlic bread with butter - Habibi Alisyahbana/Getty Images

Garlic bread is essentially any type of bread that has been schmeared in garlic, though you'll often get buttery and herby notes present as well. But if you really want to drive home this allium flavor in your bread, which will inevitably carry over to the soup you dip it into, you'll want to double up on the flavor by using both minced garlic and garlic powder before you pop the bread in the oven to toast. This will ensure the garlic flavor is highlighted in both your tomato soup and the side. You should also make sure that there is some crossover garlic flavor between the soup and the bread. While the soup alone has the umami flavor to complement the allium, adding in an extra clove of garlic or two will ensure that you not only keep vampires away, but have a flavorful soup to enjoy.

Chef Tourondel further recommends also adding cheese to the bread. He suggests making a compound butter with garlic and basil before stuffing it with mozzarella. "Saute it on a pan for three minutes or until golden brown, melted, and crispy," Tourondel directs.

Quiche

Spinach quiche with crust
Spinach quiche with crust - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Quiche is often thought of as a morning dish, but the truth is that you can enjoy this eggy pie at almost any time of day. So long as you have a buttery crust, set filling, and flavorful add-ins, you'll be well on your way to an extra dose of protein for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or something in between.

Despite being versatile, quiche on its own is not filling. It needs a sidekick to make it a whole meal. That's why we recommend pairing it with tomato soup, which offers some of the sweet notes that quiche rarely takes on. A basic tomato soup would be a great pairing for a spinach and feta quiche, since the vegetal notes of the egg dish would help highlight the sweetness of the soup. This is also a great pairing to make for a crowd; just make your tomato soup in a crock pot and adapt your quiche recipe to fit in a sheet pan.

Roasted Potatoes

Roasted potatoes in bowl
Roasted potatoes in bowl - Linh Moran Photography/Getty Images

Eating roasted potatoes straight out of the oven is one of our guilty pleasures. And after you've had a good roasted potato, with a plush, pillowy inside and slightly crispy crust, you may find yourself scavenging off a hot sheet pan, too.

There are some benefits to pairing roasted potatoes with tomato soup rather than opting for their crispier cousin, the french fry. Besides having a less greasy and overwhelming flavor, roasted potatoes tend to have a softer interior, which is great for pairing with a thick tomato broth that can soak into those spuds. Moreover, the fact that you're roasting your potatoes gives you extra opportunity to toast those spices and herbs on the outside of the potato. Imagine how heavenly it would be to enjoy a bowl of roasted potatoes brimming with freshly cracked pepper, rosemary, and thyme and finding those same flavors in your soup.

Caprese Salad

Caprese salad with fork
Caprese salad with fork - Mariia Vasileva/Getty Images

Caprese salads are the fresh addition that your dinner table needs. You'll get the most unadulterated flavor of fatty mozzarella, fresh basil, and sliced tomatoes, all complemented by a simple balsamic and olive oil drizzle. The biggest benefit that caprese provides to a tomato soup is a reprieve from all things heavy. You'll get herbaceous, yet simple mouthfuls of salad, combined with the more complex, savory notes of the soup. It's kind of like the yin and yang you didn't know you needed.

You can either stick to the traditional plating presentation or opt for a chopped caprese salad as a quicker, yet just as flavorful, alternative. Moreover, caprese is just as delicious on day two, so be sure to let those juices meld for maximum flavor. It's a great summer pairing or way to use up leftover salad (or its raw components) before they go bad.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.