Brown Butter Tomato Soup So Good I Could Cry

This Brown Butter Tomato Soup made me a bit weepy. The kind of weepy that makes you glad to be alive. The kind of weepy that makes you stop doing whatever it is you’re doing and take a bite out of life. Or in this case a slurp. In other words it’s damn good tomato soup. But is it the soup alone that’s so good? Or is it more complicated?

Take Thanksgiving. My Thanksgivings often flesh out the phrase “too many cooks spoil the broth”. I make lists. I make suggestions. I aim for elegant. But in the end I smile at my friends and settle for dried out turkey and potatoes so rich I wouldn’t touch them 364 days a year. Because as we cook together I realize that all cranberries sparkle– even those that come in a can. Green beans don’t have to be served tender-crisp. By the third helping, pumpkin pie no longer seems laughable to me. Yes, the kitchen is a mess. But what a beautiful mess, filled with beautiful people.

But this tomato soup is a different story. Its pleasures are more simple. More solitary. It’s an everyday kind of food. Prepared leisurely by a lone cook in a tidy kitchen and served at a table for two. I made this soup on the day after the day after Thanksgiving. Which I consider a very, very good day to make soup.

I make soup a lot. I consider it the simplest of things. This soup started with no expectations. Well, I shouldn’t say no expectations. I expected it to be good. I just didn’t quite know how I would get it there. Though I knew I would enjoy the process. I also knew I wanted to include a bit of celery seed, some marjoram and a touch or two of cream. I had just returned from Seattle where I sensed celery seed and marjoram in the soup we enjoyed from Tom Douglas and the Dahlia Lounge. Good intentions and good ingredients. That’s a road map in my mind. Fortunately I was able to track down a recipe on Epicurious and made only minor adjustments.

I also wanted to use good canned tomatoes. I’ve been meaning to get all preachy about the benefits of good canned tomatoes. This soup seemed like the right time to do just that. Because as any decent cook knows, a good canned tomato is worth a hundred off-season fresh versions. Tomato soup (at least the way I meant to go) is decidedly an off-season tomato recipe.

But as I was making the soup. All the canned quips I’d planned seemed to simmer away– lost in the broth. Even the small kitchen battles I’d waged just two days prior no longer seemed to matter. Because good soup (and good friends) can make me weepy.

I sure hope you had a good Thanksgiving. I did. GREG

Brown Butter Tomato Soup 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Source Slightly adapted from Tom Douglas, Dahlia LoungePublished


  • 4 tablespoon unsalted butter divided
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil divided
  • 1 medium onion peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 clove garlic peeled & lightly smashed
  • 2 (28 oz) cans san marzano tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup cream
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt plus more as needed
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 slice rustic bread rusts trimmed, cut into ½‑inch cubes


Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large Dutch oven set over medium heat; sauté the onion and garlic until translucent and just beginning to color, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes with the juice, water, cream, salt, pepper, red pepper, celery seeds, marjoram, and sugar. Raise the heat to medium high and bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to purée until completely smooth. Return the soup to low heat and simmer 20 more minutes.

Meanwhile, make the brown butter and croutons. Heat a large, heavy bottomed sauté pan over medium heat. Add the 3 tablespoons remaining  butter. As it begins to melt, start swirling the pan frequently and watching the butter carefully. You will notice the butter will get foamy, and then the milk solids will begin to brown. Once that starts, remove skillet from heat. Smell the butter; it should have a nutty aroma, and be caramel in color. Stir about 2/3 of the brown butter into the soup. Set the rest aside. Season the soup with more salt and pepper to taste

In a separate sauté pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat. Add the bread cubes and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and toss with remaining browned butter until absorbed.
Serve the soup garnished with the croutons.