Cooking with Tea: Smoky Tomato Soup

Smoky Tomato Soup with lentilsRecipe Highlights:

  1. Use tea to make a flavor packed, zero calorie, alternative to store bought broth.
  2. An easy soup with simple ingredients you can keep on hand for a quick meal.
  3. Recipe is vegetarian and gluten free, It is a good source of fiber and protein.  4 Weight Watchers Points Plus per serving.

Settling down with a fragrant cup of hot tea is among my top daily pleasures. Brewing a cup of tea is a ritual that feels relaxed and familiar. You can’t hurry the process, each step takes the time it takes. Recently a new book coaxed me to explore tea not as a beverage but, as an everyday recipe ingredient. At first the concept of recipes with tea seemed strange, but the nuance of each variety has so much flavor to offer, it now seems like the sky is the limit for ways to cook with tea.

Steeping Lapsang Souchong Tea

Last year I learned a friend of mine, Annelies Zijderveld, was finishing up a cookbook of recipes all featuring tea. I was so excited to read her ideas to take my favorite flavors from cup to plate. I also knew I would be ordering a copy for my mom, a lifelong tea drinker. Annelies’s book, Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea, came out last month and it is a joy to thumb through. Written with the home cook in mind, they are easy to follow and made with mostly familiar ingredients. She has included, savory and sweet, vegetarian recipes for every meal of the day.

Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea

After ordering copies of the book, for myself and to share, I learned Annelies was bringing the Steeped book tour to Seattle and leading a cooking class at The Pantry in Ballard. I was lucky to snag the final two spots in the class (Pantry classes are small and fill extremely fast.) and was able to treat Mom a new cookbook and a night out.

We had a great time previewing a few of Steeped’s recipes. In the class, we were able to try both cooking and baking with tea. Our tea-infused menu included samples of Sweet Tea Jelly (made with English Breakfast), and hands-on experience making:

  • Chamomile Buttermilk Pudding (Buh-bye boxes! Who knew homemade pudding was so simple?)
  • Spinach Salad with Masala Chai Maple Pecans (those chai pecans will have people doubling up on their greens)
  • Green Tea Sesame Shortbread Cookies (Bright green and perfect to pair with, yep, a cup of tea!).

I enjoyed everything we tried but, the recipe that blew my mind wide open to the possibilities of cooking with tea every day was a simple tomato soup.

Smoky Tomato Soup is made with a broth of lapsang souchong tea. This variety was new to me. I stuck my nose over the leaves and breathed in a scent unlike any tea I have encountered before. The leaves are smoked over fir tree roots giving them a shockingly distinct campfire aroma. Honestly, I am not sure I would want to drink it, though many do, but cook with it? Oh, heck yes!

cooking with tea: Smoky Tomato Soup

Imagine keeping a small pouch of lose leaves in your cupboard so any time a recipe calls for broth (chicken, beef, or vegetable) you simply scoop a few out and brew them up. In little more than the time it takes to boil water you would have an intensely flavorful broth with no calories, no salt, no fat, and none of the additives found in packaged broth. Not to mention, cup for cup, tea is pennies to the dollar compared to buying broth! Are you picking up what I am putting down?!?

Tomato and Lentils

I have already repeated the Smoky Tomato Soup for my family. To increase the heartiness, and make the soup an entree rather than a light course, I added ½ cup of dried French lentils and simmered the soup for 10 extra minutes then served each bowl with scoop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of feta cheese. My adaptation is below.

The new, but oddly familiar, flavors were a huge hit. Mike was shocked at the amount of depth the tea gave to the soup. My toddler ate three helpings and even our, increasingly fussy, 5 year old admitted it was, “pretty good.”

I can see so many possibilities for using tea broth in cooking. It could easily become the next greatest asset to the flavor driven home cook.

Smoky Tomato Soup with tea

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Smoky Tomato Soup with French Lentils
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Lightly Adapted from Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea by Annelies Zijderveld, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC 2015
Serves: 4 servings
  • 1 tablespoon safflower, grapeseed, or other neutral oil
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, peeled, roasted, and finely chopped (1 cup)*
  • 3 cups lapsang souchong tea, brewed (2 bags or 1 tablespoon loose)**
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup French lentils***
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes (I use San Marzano), with the liquid
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt****
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  1. Place an 8-quart stockpot over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Swirl in the oil to coat. Sauté the onion, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the tea, water, lentils, and the liquid from the tomatoes.
  2. With your hands, break up the tomatoes over the pot and drop them in. Stir in the salt, red pepper flakes, and thyme. Turn the heat up to medium and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes, then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Purée or blend until almost smooth with some chunks. Serve with Parmesan Thyme Crisps (below).
*You may substitute jarred bell peppers, look for water packed roasted red peppers, they are often near pasta or vinegar in the super market.
**lapsang souchong tea can be found on-line if you can not find it in your supermarket. I purchased a small bag or loose tea from Stash tea company via Amazon.
***French lentils are wonderful in this soup. Unlike brown lentils that can get a bit muddy, these hold their shape and stay tender when cooked. Similar in size to brown and red lentils, you will recognize French lentils by their almost reptilian green and blue speckled coloring.
****If sodium is a concern, omit the salt from the cooking steps and slash the sodium in this recipe by nearly half. You can also look for no salt added canned tomatoes. If the flavor needs a little perking up, sprinkle a few grains of salt to each bowl prior to serving.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1¾ cup Calories: 191 Fat: 4 g Carbohydrates: 26 g Sugar: 5 g Sodium: 1110mg Fiber: 11 g Protein: 8.6 g Weight Watchers Points Plus: 4

 In case you are wondering, I was not compensated for any of the things mentioned in this piece. I just really liked them and think you will too. 🙂


  1. Since the class I have made the chai pecans again and they were such a hit we ate them just for a snack as well as garnishing the salad. And I have green tea vinegar steeping to use in a few recipes. Thanks so much for the class Rose and Anneliesz I am inspired. Mom

  2. This looks awesome! Your photography is beautiful. I plan on sharing your blog to my health group more often. Thanks!

  3. Rose- I love how you made the soup your own. I can taste the lentils and Greek yogurt with feta. What a wonderful filling meal. I’m thrilled to see you getting steeped. 🙂

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