Herb-Topped Chilled Red Bell Pepper Soup

Herb-Topped Chilled Red Bell Pepper Soup

It’s July and it’s hot where I live. Is it hot where you are too? Well, when it’s hot it’s time to consider a few changes to your culinary habits. So I have a simple summer Chilled Red Bell Pepper Soup. It’s a great starter for an al fresco evening or even a light meal all on its own. Summer soups have a whole psychology about them that must be considered when choosing how to prepare one. One of these considerations is the balance of flavor. Cold food needs to be amplified. I don’t know why, but salt and acid seem to especially recede once chilled. Also, when it’s hot outside a bit of spice on the tongue tricks the brain into thinking it’s cooler than it really is.

So when you make this Chilled Red Bell Pepper Soup be generous with the red pepper flakes and taste the soup for seasoning just before it’s served.

Red Bell Pepper Soup

Cool and spicy (and properly seasoned) is a great place to start. However, there is more to summer soup than merely chilling something flavorful. A summer soup needs some pizzazz. As delicious as this Red Bell Pepper Soup may be on its own, the real star of the bowl isn’t the red bell pepper. It’s the big pile of fresh herbs on top. In fact, this summer soup has so many herbs that calling them a garnish seems like an understatement. The herbs atop this soup are more like a salad.

So, just like a salad, make sure you have plenty of flavorful diversity. You’ll want to have at least three varieties of herbs to wake up your overheated summertime palate. Choose basil, dill, tarragon, or coriander. From savory flat-leaf parsley to the green tartness of the sorrel – any combination of your favorites soft-leafed herbs will work. 

It’s not as hard as you might think to keep a variety fresh herbs in constant supply. I clip or buy herbs once a week or so and keep them lined up on the top shelf of my fridge. I often stand them up in drinking glasses with a little water at the bottom – like cut flowers. Not only does this keep the herbs fresher longer but their grassy fragrance wafts through my kitchen every time I open the refrigerator. It’s a casual reminder to use a fistful of fresh herbs in whatever other unexpected ways I can. GREG

Herb-Topped Chilled Red Bell Pepper Soup

Chilled Red Bell Pepper and Tomato Soup with Fresh Herbs 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4–6Source Adapted from Yotam OttolenghiPublished
Herb-Topped Chilled Red Bell Pepper Soup


  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion (peeled and chopped)
  • 3 red bell peppers (ribs and seeds removed, then cut into ⅓‑inch dice))
  • 1 (15-oz) can chopped tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (plus more for seasoning)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cup vegetable stock (plus more if necessary)
  • ground white pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • 2 celery spears (cut into ⅓‑inch dice)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • ½ clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 cup assorted chopped, fresh herbs (such as basil, marjoram, parsley, and/or tarragon)
  • ½ cup sour cream


Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add two-thirds of the diced bell pepper, tomatoes with the juice, ½ teaspoon salt, bay leaves, ground cumin, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the red bell peppers have softened and the tomatoes have cooked down slightly about 10 minutes.

Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan, lower the heat and cook for 15 more minutes.

Once the red bell peppers are very soft, remove the pan from the heat and discard the bay leaves. Using a hand blender, purée the soup, or use a blender and purée in batches. Adjust consistency with more stock if needed. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and white pepper.

Allow the soup to cool about five minutes. While still slightly warm stir in the diced celery, remaining diced red pepper, lemon zest, and garlic. Set aside until it comes to room temperature and then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

When ready to serve remove the soup from the refrigerator. Stir well, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper. Divide the soup among serving bowls, sprinkle over a generous amount of chopped herbs. Garnish with a dollop sour cream. Serve immediately.