Tomato bisque was one of the first things I ever learned to make in a restaurant. That may sound like a simple task, but it requires adding ingredients in a specific order to really build the most flavor. This tomato bacon bisque is no different! It has so many layers of flavor–smokey bacon, sweet onions, tangy fennel, spicy chilies, acidic tomatoes, fresh herbs. Honestly, this is probably one of the best soups I’ve ever made and it’s definitely inspired by my humble restaurant beginnings. Nothing is better than dipping a grilled cheese into this creamy bacon-y soup on a cold day. NOTHING! So get to the kitchen and make this glorious bisque ASAP!
What is a bisque?
Traditionally a bisque was a creamy soup of French origins made using shellfish or and broth from the shells of lobsters, langoustine, crab, shrimp, etc. Since its early origins, the definition has been expanded to refer to a class of pureed, thick soups made richer by using cream.
Do I have to use fennel in this recipe?
No! If fennel really isn’t your jam, you can omit it. However, I think it gives the soup glorious flavor and adds to its texture and richness.
Can tomato bacon bisque be made gluten-free?
Great news! The soup is already gluten-free, just omit the croutons or sub in your favorite gluten-free bread when making them.
Can I make it vegan?
I would say, yes. You can omit the bacon (or sub meatless bacon) and use olive oil in place of the fat to cook the onions and fennel in. Swap coconut milk or cream for the heavy cream and vegetable broth for the chicken. If you do make it vegan, I would love to hear how it turned out!
Can I freeze the extra tomato bacon bisque?
Absolutely! Just make sure the bisque is completely cooled to room temperature. I load up gallon ziplock bags with the cooled bisque and freeze them flat. It really helps save space in the freezer!
What are calabrian chilies? Can I sub in something else?
Calabrian chilies are chilies from the Calabria region of Italy and they are out of this world good! They are a bit spicy, but they also have a lovely fruitiness to them. I use them in pretty much any recipe that could use a boost of flavorful heat or anywhere that I would use crushed red pepper flakes. If you can’t find Calabrian chilies, you can substitute 1-2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes (depending on your heat tolerance and taste). If you shop at Trader Joe’s, the ” Italian bomba paste” is chopped Calabrian chile and I stock up on those little jars like crazy. You can also find some on Amazon here.
How do I render bacon?
Rendering bacon is to cook it very slowly over low heat so that the fat slowly melts from the meat and you’re left with crispy bacon pieces. As the fat melts from the meat, the bacon meat portion cooks in its own fat and ends up gloriously crispy AND you’re left with some liquid gold bacon fat. My mom used to save hers in a coffee cup, I opt for a small mason jar that I keep in the fridge and add to over time. Rendering starts by adding the bacon to a cold pan and then bringing it up over very low heat. As the bacon cooks, the fat will slowly melt and then the bacon will get crispy. This simply requires time and patience and an occasional stir!
Any other questions about making tomato bacon bisque? Just drop them in the comments below!
Other recipes like tomato bacon bisque:
6 strips of bacon, diced
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 fennel bulb, fronds/green stem removed and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1 tablespoon chopped Calabrian chilies
1/2 cup dry white wine
28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
4 cups homemade chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 small bunch fresh basil, leaves only, roughly chopped
kosher salt + pepper to taste
olive oil, for serving
parmesan cheese, for serving
4 cups cubed crusty sourdough or french bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Make the soup: In a large pot or dutch oven, add the chopped bacon to a cold pan. Turn the heat to low and slowly render the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crispy. This process takes time! Using a slotted spoon, transfer the crispy bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside. Reserve 1 tablespoon of bacon fat for the croutons and discard (or save) the excess, while leaving 2 tablespoons of fat in the pot.
- Add the thinly sliced onions and fennel to the pot and increase the heat to medium. Cook, stirring constantly until the onions and fennel are very soft and translucent. Add the minced garlic and sugar and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Increase the heat slightly and add the tomato paste, fennel seed, and Calabrian chilies, and cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine to the pot and stir to bring up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and broth and bring to a simmer for about 15 minutes, until slightly reduced. Turn off the heat and add the cream and basil leaves. Using an immersion blender or standard blender (you may have to do this in batches), blend the soup until smooth. Return to the pot and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with herby croutons (below), a drizzle of olive oil, parmesan cheese, and topped with the crispy bacon bits.
- Make the croutons: Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the cubed bread with the bacon fat, olive oil, basil, parmesan, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt. Spread out evenly on the baking sheet and bake for about 7-9 minutes, until slightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Top soup with croutons and enjoy!