Although I like raw bell peppers on their own or as crudités, I think they can be a bit of a flavor bully in this soup. For that reason, find the sweetest red or yellow bell pepper you can. By no means should you use a green bell pepper for this.–Barton Seaver


We wondered the same thing. Here’s what Chef Barton Seaver himself has to say about it, “I’m conflicted on chilling this soup, as I think it can numb the flavors, but it does offer a welcome refreshing quality. So go with what you prefer, room temperature or chilled.” It’s up to you, then. Gazpacho is traditionally served cold but Seaver does make a good point about optimum flavor. Go with your gut on this one or, even better, try it both ways.

A white bowl filled with smoky gazpacho drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, and a spoon resting inside the bowl.

Smoky Gazpacho

5 / 2 votes
Few soups are simpler than this summer classic, but here I make it slightly more complicated by giving the vegetables a quick turn over a smoky fire to lightly flavor them, not cook them.
David Leite
Servings6 to 8 servings
Calories76 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time20 minutes


  • Strong-flavored wood chips, such as hickory or maple


  • 1 pound ripe heirloom tomatoes, (look for sweet, juicy varieties like Brandywine or Cherokee Purple), cored and quartered
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and quartered
  • 1 onion, cut into 1-inch (25-mm) pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt


  • Place the tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, and garlic on a small baking sheet and set it on the grill adjacent to the coals of a small fire. Add some strong-flavored wood chips, such as hickory or maple, and cover the grill. Smoke the vegetables for 3 to 5 minutes, just long enough to barely flavor the ingredients.
  • Place the tomato wedges in a blender and use a spoon to lightly crush them to release some of their juices. (This will provide the necessary liquid to purée the other ingredients.) Add the other vegetables, along with the oil and vinegar, and season generously with salt. Purée until all the vegetables have broken down and the soup has a smooth consistency. You should have about 2 quarts. You may need to add a little water, depending on the moisture content of the vegetables. If so, do this just a few spoonfuls at a time. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  • Divvy the soup among bowls and, if desired, drizzle with more oil.
Where There’s Smoke

Adapted From

Where There’s Smoke

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 76 kcalCarbohydrates: 7 gProtein: 1 gFat: 5 gSaturated Fat: 1 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 3 gSodium: 7 mgPotassium: 315 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 4 gVitamin A: 1285 IUVitamin C: 39 mgCalcium: 21 mgIron: 1 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2013 Barton Seaver. Photo © 2013 Katie Stoops. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

If the coals are still hot after grilling dinner, by all means throw on a disposable foil tray of vegetables for gazpacho. (Trust me, scrubbing the smoky residue off a quarter sheet pan is not fun.) I let the vegetables come back to room temperature before blending them. Speaking of blending, whiz a couple tomato wedges first just to get the whole thing going, especially if you’re not working with a high-powered blender.

After liquefying the tomatoes, I blended in each vegetable, 1 at a time, finishing with the oil, vinegar, and salt. I added 2 fat pinches of salt right away, and then added another fat pinch just before serving. I have to say, the room-temperature gazpacho is quite flavorful, but if it’s super hot out, there’s nothing better than a well-chilled bowlful. I was rather thankful to only get a quart of soup since most recipes make an obscene amount. I think my yield was less since I used an English cucumber, a medium red bell pepper, and a medium onion.

The flavors of this gazpacho really come together and are very well-balanced. We liked the subtle, smoky flavor that came from the short time that the vegetables spend on the grill. The yield was about 5 cups, which would serve 4. I suggest peeling the pepper to avoid having particles of skin remaining in the soup, as I pureed the soup until it was almost smooth and there were still pieces of pepper skin floating in it.

The soup was a little warmer than room temperature when I finished making it because the vegetables still had warmth from the grill. This gave a more pronounced flavor to the vegetables, and I believe the smokiness came through more than it would have if the soup were served chilled.

If you love a smoky, full-of-depth flavor in your food, this soup will quench your craving. I smoked the vegetables over oak wood for about 5 minutes, which provided just the right amount of smokiness. I recommend using oak chips because they provide a cleaner, lighter-tasting smoke than hickory or mesquite. Fruit woods add too much sweetness for me.

After smoking the vegetables, it’s a whiz to mix them up in the blender. The soup tastes much better chilled than at room temperature. I also found the gazpacho tasted better the day it was made. The flavors went a little flat the next day. Your guests will love this smoky twist on gazpacho. One important point, wait until your organic, heirloom tomatoes are totally ripe and rich with flavor. They’ll take your soup to an ethereal level.

If you don’t have a grill, no problem, just use a stovetop smoker. If you don’t have a stovetop smoker, again, no problem. Just use a roasting pan. (Sprinkle 1 tablespoon smoking chips on the bottom of the roaster, add a rack, and cover with foil. Place the veggies on top of the foil and cover the roaster tightly with foil. Put it over medium heat on the stove and wait about 6 minutes. Voila, you have smoked vegetables.)

Apartment dwellers, I suffer with you. I have a wee outdoor space, 6 floors above the boulevard, with a semi-legal Weber on which I can create contraband grilled staples, although I cannot be so brazen as to produce excessive smoke. This is the unofficial rule to staying in your neighbors’ good graces, lest they call the FDNY. Instead I found a way to give you this yummy soup from the kitchen alone.

I started by heating my oven to 500° F (260° C). I soaked small, thin wood chips for half an hour, then I drained them and wrapped them in a double layer of foil and punched holes all around. Once the oven was hot, I threw the flat package of chips on the bottom of the oven where the sun don’t shine. I let them roast until a faint hint of hickory poked at me in the living room, about 20 minutes later. I put my sheet pan of veggies in the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes, then I took them out and scooped them all into a heatproof bowl. I snatched the wood chip sachet from the oven, threw it in the bowl, and covered it to rest for 3 minutes with the veggies.

Ahh. A perfect, delicate smoke flavor, just as the author ordered. The recipe yields 6 servings, though not in meal proportions. Plan to serve 4 if you want to fill a soup bowl. And you’ll want to.

I’ve always been uncertain about gazpacho but I was drawn to this recipe, so I felt it was time to try it out. This recipe is simple and straightforward. I found that the number of servings would run from 6 to 8, depending on the size of the serving, as I got almost a full 2 quarts soup.

It was well worth seeking out fresh heirloom tomatoes for this recipe. I used a Vidalia onion; since it was going to be used raw, I felt a sweeter one was necessary. The smoky flavor is a wonderful counterpoint to the tangy sweetness of the vegetables, and chilling it didn’t seem to mute the flavors at all.

Summer veggies from the garden or farmers market means soup from the grill. This is a quick and easy recipe to make at a moment’s notice. After just a few chops of the knife, you can throw the vegetables on the grill and remove them 3 minutes later. I used red, heirloom tomatoes. I used a large yellow bell pepper and the rest of the ingredients on the list. The Big Green Egg was my grill of choice instead of adding wood chips to the Weber gas grill. The BGE worked great.

I cooked the veggies for about 3 minutes, and that was all they needed. I don’t think it was necessary to lightly crush the tomatoes with a spoon in the Vitamix. Why “lightly crush” when you’re going to blend until smooth anyway? I understand releasing the juices part, but if you really want to go through that step, just give it 2 to 3 pulses. I added the other veggies, the oil, vinegar, and a teaspoon salt to the tomatoes and whirled it around until smooth and a beautiful golden yellow. The soup could’ve passed for a butternut or acorn squash soup.

The smooth texture, smoky flavor, and easy preparation made this summer favorite a winner. Next time I would make a couple of changes. I appreciated the smooth texture, but I prefer a chunkier type soup. I’d give it a couple of pulses and be done with it. If that didn’t produce enough liquid, I could remove some of the veggies and blend the rest until smooth, then mix the two together. I would also add a little kick to it whether it be a jalapeño or other hot pepper—also grilled—or some cayenne pepper.

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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