This is a plant-based spin on the ultimate childhood comfort food: tomato soup & vegan grilled cheese! Both are easy to make with ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. The vegan grilled cheese has that perfect melt and stretch.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who remembers tomato soup and grilled cheese fondly from childhood.
In my home, the tomato soup was Campbell’s. But the grilled cheese was always my mom’s, and she nailed it. My mom’s grilled cheese sandwiches were her specialty. A few of my friends still reminisce about them.
My mom made a grown up grilled cheese: not only cheddar, but also tomato and a thin layer of Dijon mustard. I love that type of grilled cheese because it reminds me of my mom and of home. But I also love a classic, no frills version, and this vegan grilled cheese is just that.
The vegan grilled cheese wouldn’t be complete without a warm bowl of tomato soup. The soup I’m sharing today comes together in a heartbeat, and it’s so delicious.
The trick to making a vegan grilled cheese is, of course, using a vegan cheese.
You have the option of using store-bought vegan cheese in any grilled cheese sandwich. But I think it’s super rewarding to make a melty vegan cheese from scratch, using ingredients that you might already have at home in your pantry.
I love the cheese in this recipe for so many reasons. It’s authentically melty and stretchy, which isn’t always easy to achieve with homemade vegan cheese recipes.
There’s a melty vegan cashew mozzarella recipe that I like to use for pizza, pasta or for tempeh meatball subs. The cheese I use for my vegan grilled cheese is similar, but it’s more like an American cheese or a mild cheddar.
The cheese is adapted from the “Melty White Cheeze” in Jo Stepaniak’s awesome cookbook, The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. It was published in 2003, and I think I’ve had mine for ten years or so. It’s full of tasty homemade vegan cheeses and good comfort food recipes.
Once your cheese sauce is melty, you can prepare the vegan grilled cheese sandwiches. I like to do this exactly the way my mom did it, and it involves a fair amount of vegan butter!
Layer about 1/4 cup of the melty vegan cheese onto one of your bread slices. Top it with another slice. Then, spread a thin layer of vegan butter on the outside of each slice of bread.
Next, you’ll heat a frying pan over medium heat with additional vegan butter or some neutral cooking oil (I think butter is better here). Fry the sandwich for about 2 minutes on each side, or as long as you need to get a crispy, golden outer layer. After this, the sandwich is ready to be cut in half and enjoyed.
When it comes to a grilled cheese, again, I like to keep things old-fashioned. I tend to use white loaf bread for a grilled cheese.
Sometimes, this is bread that I pick up at a local store or buy at the supermarket. When I’m organized—that is, when I stay on top of my weekend meal prep—I make a loaf of my classic white sandwich bread. It is the perfect bread for grilled cheese.
If you prefer to use another type of bread, you can choose your favorite sandwich bread. I think that a softer bread works best here. Some of my favorite, homemade breads with whole grains include this maple oatmeal bread and this multigrain bread.
The next step in assembling a nostalgic, cozy, comforting lunch is to pair the vegan grilled cheese with a piping hot bowl or cup of tomato soup.
This is one of the simplest homemade soups I’ve made. I’m sure that there are ways to make a homemade vegan tomato soup with fresh, summer tomatoes, and I have no doubt that those versions taste incredible.
But whole, peeled tomatoes are one of the best, most hard-working ingredients in my pantry. At a moment’s notice, I can open up a can and make my beloved pasta alla vecchia bettola, Moroccan-inspired chickpea tomato stew, or lentil tomato pasta stew. Or I can just whip up a quick marinara sauce. If you have crushed or diced tomatoes rather than whole and peeled, those will also work.
I take inspiration from Marcella sauce and use vegan butter for the tomato soup. The only other ingredients are garlic, onion, and broth—really and truly! Be sure to adjust the soup seasoning carefully. How much salt it needs will depend greatly on how salty your broth and tomatoes are. The black pepper should be added to taste.
An immersion blender makes it easy to blend up the tomato soup while it’s still in its pot. This will save you having a dirty blender to clean. However, if you don’t have an immersion blender, it’s fine to transfer the soup to your standing blender and purée it to creamy perfection.
The tomato soup as a smooth texture and simplicity that I love, just as it is. But if you’d like more of a creamy texture, you can stir in a little of my all-purpose cashew cream.
Vegan grilled cheese itself isn’t a recipe that I usually meal prep. It’s something that I crave when I want familiarity and comfort, and I make it when the mood is right.
However, the tomato soup, which makes 4 cups, can easily be prepared in advance of eating. It will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to six days. It can also be frozen for up to six weeks.
The melty sauce for the vegan grilled cheese, meanwhile, will keep for up to five days in the fridge, and it, too, can be frozen. It will yield about one and a half cups.
The cheese sauce will solidify as it cools. This is normal! It’ll become creamy again as you reheat and stir it. To do this, heat the sauce in a saucepan over low heat, stirring in a splash of non-dairy milk as needed to loosen it up. Stir as you go, until the sauce is once again loose and melty. Alternatively, you can use a double boiler to heat it.
I first created and posted this recipe during the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a good time to make and share recipes that relied on ingredients that I, and many people, already had at home.
I remember texting my mom a picture of it soon after posting. She had made a grilled cheese for lunch that day, too, and we compared notes. In the midst of so much global turmoil, we both took comfort in the fact that things change, but some things stay the same.
Hope the vegan grilled cheese sandwiches and the soup will give you comfort when you need it, too.