Original 4B’s Homemade Tomato Soup

A day lily growing in my flower beds.
One of the Day Lilies Currently Blooming in the Garden


Yesterday, I spent time doing four of my favorite activities. I read, finishing a comic mystery titled The Trouble With San Francisco (link below). I took a few photographs, including the day lily at the top of this page and the photos of the food shown in this post. There was some time to nap outdoors in the porch swing, and I cooked. Specifically I cooked some original 4B’s homemade Tomato Soup, using a recipe I found in CopyKat.com. The recipe below comes directly from the website created by Stephanie Manley. If you like to cook, I recommend her site highly. Just looking at her home page I’m ready to get back in the kitchen and fix some more meal delights.

4B’s and their wonderful tomato soup

You could not grow up in Montana in the 1950s and not know 4B’s. Bill Hainline opened the first 4B’s in Missoula in the 1940s. The four Bs were Bill, Barbara (his wife), Bill Junior (son) and Barbara (daughter). Ever the entrepreneur, Hainline grew his restaurant into a chain that covered the state of Montana. The first restaurant I remember from my childhood was the 4B’s in Deer Lodge. I have eaten in 4B’s in Billings, Bozeman, Deer Lodge, Havre, Miles City, Missoula and Polson. In 2007, a Scottsdale, Arizona company bought the chain, and many of the restaurants closed. Today, the name remains with restaurants in a few locations around the state, but it’s not the same at all.

In the past, if you went to a 4B’s, you knew exactly what you would get. And one of the best items on the menu was their tomato soup. Momma made tomato soup on the rare occasion, but I’d bet that most Americans grew up with Campbell’s. Our pantries resembled an Andy Warhol pop art piece–all those red and white cans. 4B’s tomato soup was nothing like Campbell’s. And it’s so easy to make, why open a can when you can have scrumptious home made tomato soup with just a little more effort.

Tomatoes growing in my garden.  Perfect for making the original 4B's homemade tomato soup
Tomatoes on the vine in the garden

My version of the soup

Kevin suggested that since he had some left over chopped tomatoes, I should make our favorite Original 4B’s Homemade Tomato Soup. There really is nothing like it. And no, I did not use the lovely tomatoes growing in our garden. The owner of Southshore Nursery in Polson is retiring and had a going-out-of-business sale. We bought four tomato plants and brought them home. They did not like being transplanted, but are beginning to come out of their shock. They are blossoming and setting new fruit, so we should have a good harvest, but for now, I used store bought tomatoes. The soup will be better with home-grown produce, I know.

The stock pot full of my version of the original 4B's homemade tomato soup, before adding in the cream
Soup in stock pot before adding cream

Note that the recipe calls for canned diced tomatoes. I did not used canned tomatoes. We had plenty in the fridge, and that’s what I used. I believe that using fresh tomatoes had an impact on the color of the soup–it wasn’t as pink as soup made with canned tomatoes and their liquid, would have been. Also, Kevin cannot eat onion, so no chopped onion went into this batch. Instead I used onion powder which he can tolerate. The final change to the recipe below is that I don’t heat the cream separately. I’ve done that in the past and honestly, I can’t see any difference in color, taste or consistency. I let the soup simmer for 45 minutes, then add the cream for the last 15. But you may well want to try it both ways (heated/unheated cream) and see if you can tell any difference. So here’s the recipe:

Original 4B’s Homemade Tomato Soup

The Original 4B’s Homemade Tomato Soup is one of the best tomato soups out there, you can make this copycat recipe.  Course Soup Cuisine American Keyword Tomato Soup, Tomatoes Prep Time10 minutes Cook Time1 hour Total Time1 hour 10 minutes ServingsCalories 586kcal Author Stephanie Manley


  • 29 ounces diced tomatoes canned
  • 10.5 ounces chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups heavy cream


  • In a large stockpot mix tomatoes, chicken broth, margarine, onion, and baking soda. Simmer for 1 hour. In a separate pot, heat cream over low heat until hot, watching carefully so that the cream does not scorch. Once heated through add to tomato soup and serve.


Calories: 586kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 54g | Saturated Fat: 32g | Cholesterol: 184mg | Sodium: 706mg | Potassium: 512mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 2300IU | Vitamin C: 19.8mg | Calcium: 151mg | Iron: 2.8mg

Tried this recipe? Mention @CopyKatRecipes or tag #copykatrecipes!

My version of the Original 4B's homemade tomato soup, after adding the cream.
Soup in stockpot after adding the cream

What do you have with tomato soup?

Personally, I can’t eat tomato soup without a grilled cheese sandwich. That’s what you got at 4B’s. it’s how I grew up, and therefore it’s right! Regular readers will remember that a couple of days ago I baked a loaf of Craked Wheat White Bread adapting a recipe from the Sunset Bread Book (link below). I told Kevin that since I was making the soup he had requested, he could make me a grilled cheese sandwich using the cracked wheat bread. And he did! It was delicious.

A mug of Original 4B's homemade tomato soup served with a grilled cheese on homemade cracked wheat bread.
Mug of soup with grilled cheese sandwich

I did more cooking in the evening, making up a Spanish rice casserole for supper then adding some Mango Sour Cream Ice Cream for dessert. I made up the casserole recipe as I went along, using the left over Original 4B’s Homemade Tomato Soup with a cup of chicken stock to cook the rice in my rice cooker. The ice cream recipe comes from The Ice Cream Bible by Robert Rose (link below). The recipe as written calls for the fruit of one mango, or 1 1/2 cups of mango, but my mango wasn’t that large, so I added a nectarine to the mix, but kept everything else the same. I think this may be my new favorite home made ice cream flavor.

A dish of homemade Mango/Nectarine Sour Cream Ice Cream
Mango/Nectarine Sour Cream Ice Cream
And no, those aren’t flies. They’re bits of nectarine peel.

I’m baking new bread today, and who knows what else I’ll get up to, so stay tuned and check in tomorrow! And to read yesterday’s post, just click here.


(And by the way, should you choose to buy any books from the links below, I get a small portion of the sales price. Full disclosure, don’t ya know.)


6 Comments on “Original 4B’s Homemade Tomato Soup

  1. Hi, Bryan;
    The temperature in Seattle has dropped to a heavenly 37º, so I’m ushering in the Finally! Great Weather! season with your soup and a grilled cheese on sourdough (with grilled onions in there, somewhere, too).
    I hope you and Kevin and the Four Legged Furries are doing well.
    Sincerely, Respectfully, Love;

      • Hi Bryan, You mention sometime using fresh tomatoes in this recipe. Well I have a ton of harvested roma tomatoes. Using canned seems crazy just now! How would you use fresh in this recipe? Add more liquid? Remove skins? Your advice much appreciated. Thank you! Paula in Hamilton, Montana. LOVED 4Bs when it was here.

        • I try to get an equivalent amount. The recipe calls for 29 ounces of canned tomatoes, or roughly 2-15 oz cans. I would use two pounds of fresh tomatoes and maybe increase the liquid slightly. Try it with your romas and decide for yourself how it compares.