Taste-Off: The best canned tomato soups — and the icky ones


Fast food gets a bad rap. Sure, most of it is very literally bad for you, but some fast foods deserve a pass. Take, for example, canned tomato soup.

Yes, it can be high in sodium, but tomato soup is also low calories and fat, packed with fiber and nutrients, plus it’s a cozy bowl of comfort on a cold day. Add a grilled cheese sandwich, and it’s a full meal.

Admittedly, turning tomatoes into a great-tasting soup requires more than a blender. The best tomato soups include herbs, salt, garlic, onion, sugar and more — all in perfect balance. Thankfully, store shelves are crowded with heat-and-serve options in boxes, bottles and cans. While canned tomato soup comes in a range of flavors and styles, for this taste-off, we stuck with the classic whenever possible.

Great tomato soup starts with ripe summer tomatoes that are naturally sweet and refreshing. The soup can be creamy or chunky, but either way, it’s bright, lively and so entirely delicious, that it’s hard to stop at a single bowl. Bad tomato soup is watery, bland or so out of balance, it tastes bitter.

Here’s the scoop on the tomato soups that deliver comfort, flavor and nutrients — and the ones to avoid. Nutrition details refer to one cup of soup.

Rao’s Slow Simmered Tomato Basil Soup

Those who like their soup chunky and herb-forward will love this Italian-style soup. It’s rich, flavorful and reminiscent of pizza sauce. 100 calories, 3 g fat, 670 mg sodium, 11 g sugar, 2 g protein. $3.99 on sale for 16 ounces at Raley’s. (4 stars)

Trader Joe’s Organic Creamy Tomato Soup

This velvety puree of sweet, ripe tomatoes sports a simple, classic flavor profile without any surprises. It’s fresh, creamy and comforting. 110 calories, 1.5 g fat, 740 mg sodium, 12 g sugar, 5 g protein. $3.49 for 32 ounces. (4 stars)

Imagine Organic Garden Tomato Creamy Soup

It looks unappetizing, but this dark red soup has layers of flavor thanks to an impressive array of vegetables. It’s a bit thin and in need of salt, but otherwise tasty. 80 calories, 1 g fat, 280 mg sodium, 10 g sugar, 2 g protein. $5.99 for 32 ounces at Safeway. (3 stars)

Progresso Spicy Tomato Soup

Fans of spice will love the kick in this fiery soup. The rustic texture and hit of Italian herbs make it taste like homemade. Note that the heat level in this is unlikely to please young eaters. 120 calories, 3.5 g fat, 740 mg sodium, 9 g sugar, 2 g protein. $3 for 18.5 ounces at Lucky. (3 stars)

Amy’s Organic Cream of Tomato Soup

An impressive punch of fresh tomato flavor in this thick puree is a plus, but it looks like ketchup, and it’s too sweet. 140 calories, 3 g fat, 390 mg sodium, 15 g sugar, 3 g protein. $3.66 for 14.5 ounces at Walmart. (2½ stars)

Pacific Foods Organic Creamy Tomato Soup

There are no major flaws in this simple soup, but it’s a bit bland and so thin, it would be better served in a cup rather than a bowl. 110 calories, 2 g fat, 690 mg sodium, 14 g sugar, 5 g protein. $3.99 for 32 ounces at Safeway. (2½ stars)

Campbell’s Tomato Soup

It’s hard to quibble with the comforting flavor of this smooth, unembellished tomato soup. It’s plain, simple and a sure kid-pleaser. 90 calories, no fat, 480 mg sodium, 12 g sugar, 2 g protein. $2.25 for 10.75 ounces of condensed soup at Raley’s. (2 stars)

Zoup Tomato Bisque

This extra-thick, creamy mix delivers generous chunks of vegetables, but it’s drowning in cream and lacks balance. Adding a big dash of salt and sugar is a huge improvement. 260 calories, 23 g fat, 260 mg sodium, 9 g sugar, 3 g protein. $7.99 for 16 ounces at Raley’s. (2 stars)

Sunny Select Tomato Soup

The flavor of this soup is similar to the ubiquitous Campbell’s, but the concentrate is less intense, making it taste watery. 90 calories, no fat, 480 mg sodium, 12 g sugar, 2 g protein. $1.99 for 10.75 ounces of condensed soup at Lucky. (1½ stars)

Raley’s Condensed Tomato Soup

This watery, tin-flavored soup is colorful, but it’s a flavor fail — it tastes more like water than tomatoes. 80 calories, no fat, 410 mg sodium, 11 g sugar, 2 g protein. $1.68 for 10.5 ounces of condensed soup. (½ a star)

Signature Select Tomato Soup

Avoid this tomato soup. It smells — and tastes — like over-processed baby food. 90 calories, 1.5 g fat, 410 mg sodium, 9 g sugar, 2 g protein. $1.99 for 10.75 ounces of condensed soup at Safeway. (½ a star)

Campbell’s Healthy Request Home Style Soup

A bitter hit of celery extract and too much basil make for a strange and unpleasant gulp with so little tomato flavor, you’ll be hard-pressed to find it. 110 calories, .5 g fat, 410 mg sodium, 12 g sugar, 3 g protein. $3.99 for 18.7 ounces at Safeway. (No stars)

Annie’s Organic Tomato Soup

Kids may be the primary market for this brand, but that’s no excuse for passing off this syrupy sweet liquid as soup. 100 calories, 1.5 g fat, 680 mg sodium, 13 g sugar, 2 g protein. $2.99 for 14.3 ounces at Raley’s. (No stars)

Reviews are based on product samples purchased by this newspaper or provided by manufacturers. Contact Jolene Thym at [email protected] Read more Taste-off columns at www.mercurynews.com/tag/taste-off.

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