Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Please Mister, Don’t You Touch Me Polish Tomato Soup

Eat it, instead! All you do is szlurp up, szlurp up. Well, you will be soon, anyhow. 

Polish soups, as my mom always says, are simple to make, you make the base stock and then just add whatever the main ingredient is to make the said soup.  For example, Mushroom Soup =  base + mushrooms, Pickle Soup = base + pickles, Barszcz (Borscht) = base + beets, and so on and so forth. Easy, right? OK, so, it is a little more involved than that, but you will see that Polish soups do follow a bit of a formula that is pretty easy to follow, especially when one is in dire need of a tasty bowl of comforting soup. 

"Zupy i dodatki do zup"
Courtesy of Kuchnia Polska p.289
Polish Tomato Soup started many a meal at our family dinner table, as I suspect it still does in many Polish households because it is a very common Polish soup.  It can be made quickly, and it is quite yummy (one of my favorites—my mouth is watering just thinking and blogging about it now).  There are several variations of the soup; Kuchnia Polska lists 3 recipes (#s 192, 241, and 242) for Zupa Pomidorowa.  I'll be making my plant-based version of this traditional soup based on all 3 recipes, plus my own recollection of the dish.  

I know what you are thinking. Zupa Pomidorowa? I thought this was Polish Tomato Soup and not Italian Tomato Soup! Good eye, my linguistically astute and curious friend, good eye!  Long story short, way way way back in the day, Poland and Italy not only shared trade routes, but also political leaders. As a result, this Italian - Polish connection ended up influencing Polish culture, language, and food to some degree (I wonder if there was a similar Polish influence on Italian culture?  Hmmm, that is definitely something to look into.)  Hence, the term, Zupa Pomidorowa and not tomatsoppa (Swedish), Tomatensuppe (German), or rajčinová polievka (Slovakian).

Zupa Pomidorowa
ala Kuchnia Polska photo #26
Anyway back to Zupa Pomidorowa; it can be made from fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes (either preserved at home or store bought), or even canned tomato paste; it can be made with a creamy base or without; and, it can be made with a variety of “dodatki” (additions), such as rice, noodles, croutons, sour cream*, naleśniki "noodles" (a recipe that I will be experimenting with in the future, to be sure).  At our house, we typically ate this soup with either rice or noodles, and my mom usually whipped it up using canned tomato products.  Although, these days my dad uses his own homemade canned tomatoes.  

My mouth is watering, shall we start touchin' them tomatoes, then?
Don't Touch Me 
Plant-Based Polish Tomato Soup ...
Eat it, instead!
(Makes a big ol' pot of soup. I'd say 4-6 servings, based on serving size and hunger level.)

  • 6-7 cups water
  • 3 small-medium carrots
  • 3 stalks/ribs of celery
  • 1 red onion (cut into 2 halves, dice 1 half, and leave the other half as is)
  • 1/2 bunch of parsley (Italian or curly, it does not matter, both taste the same… at least they do to me)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbsp (give or take) of liquid seasoning (make sure it is plant-based)**
  • 28 oz canned peeled crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 Tsp of non-dairy plant-based butter spread (can also use olive oil, or just omit altogether)
  • 4 Tbsp of brown rice (optional)
  • 2/3 cup of soy milk (another non-dairy milk can be used, or can omit altogether)
  • 2 Tbsp of tomato paste
  • 1-2 Tbsp of agave syrup, or other sweetener (optional)
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1-2 Tbsp fresh dill and/or parsley minced (optional, but highly recommended)


Combine water, carrots, celery, 1/2 whole red onion, parsley, garlic, bay leaf, and liquid seasoning in a soup pot. Bring to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer.  Cook until the veggies soften.

While the broth is simmering and the veggies are softening, saute the remaining 1/2 of the diced red onion with the non-dairy plant-based butter spread or with a touch of olive oil.  You do not need to use a lot of fat, just enough to give the onion color.  If you prefer not to use any spread or oil, you can opt to broth or water saute the onions instead. I find that onions taste much better if they are sauteed with just a bit of fat. So, I begin my saute with a hint of spread or oil and then add liquid to extend the saute.  It works very nicely for me, and really helps to cut down on the fat.

Once the onions begin to get some color, add about 1/3 of the crushed canned tomatoes, and saute for an additional 5 minutes, letting the flavors merge.  You can add some of the broth to the mix, if it gets too thick.

Strain the broth and remove the veggies from the pot. Do not throw away the softened onions, garlic, carrots, and celery. You can discard the parsley, though.  The softened veggies will be used to "nutrify" and thicken the soup. Also, hold on to that bay leaf.

Pour the strained broth back into the pot, and add the reserved bay leaf.

Puree the softened veggies and the tomato/onion saute mix in a blender, and pour the mixture into the soup pot to combine with the broth.  

Add the brown rice, if using. (When I was learning how to cook, to help me remember how much rice to add to the soup, my mom always said to add as many tablespoons of rice as there were people in our family--there were 4 of us. 4 Tbsp is enough, trust me! The stuff expands BIG time. If you add too much rice-- which I have done in the past-- you will get more of a tomato rice mush rather than a soup. Still edible, but just not the same thing.)

Bring the soup back to a boil, cover, and turn down to a simmer.

Combine the soy milk, tomato paste, agave syrup in a cup and temper with some of the hot soup. Add this mixture to the soup. Add pepper to taste.

Let the soup simmer until the rice kernels open up like little butterflies.  

Serve the soup with a healthy sprinkling of fresh dill and/or parsley.  (You can leave this out if you are one of those anti-green dill folks who are not into this -- you know who you are. But let me tell you, if you do leave this out, you will be missing out! Because there is nothing like the taste of these very healthful and flavor enhancing fresh herbs!)

Now, go szlurp up, szlurp up!


* I am currently experimenting with making a non-dairy plant-based sour cream that would be suitable for a soup garnish.  I'll get back to you once I have perfected my concoction. So, do stay tuned.

** If you don't have liquid seasoning on hand (something like Maggi or Bragg's Liquid Aminos), some veggie bouillon or a combination of vegetable seasoning and salt to taste would be suitable substitutes. I've never tried it, but soy sauce might work, as well. 



  1. YAY! I have a project for this weekend.

    1. Woohoo! Do let me know how your soup turns out.

      I love tomato soups, Polish or otherwise. American tomato soups really do taste different from the Polish Tomato Soup I grew up szlurping. I feel like with this recipe, I have FINALLY captured the taste I have been looking to recreate for years. It's a big plus, that I have been able to do this with a plant-based approach. M really liked this soup, as well. I know I have made a good dish when I get an uninstigated comment on it's yumminess. :)

      Will you be using your garden tomatoes?