Whether or not tomatoes are in season, this timeless Spanish dish can be equally good with any produce you have on hand.

Raw food diets may be all the rage today, but the Spanish have been making gazpacho, the quintessential uncooked vegetable soup, for centuries. The dish hails from the southern Andalusian region, and early versions blended stale bread into the base.

Today, most people associate gazpacho's fresh flavor with tomatoes, but you can find chilled soups of that name made with all manner of fruits and vegetables. And that's good, because one thing experts agree on is that gazpacho is useless without really good, fresh tomatoes.

How to Make Gazpacho Step-by-Step

Chef John's Gazpacho
Credit: Jennifer Baker

Step 1. Choose Your Base

"You want to use tomatoes that have been picked at the end of the summer," says chef Frank Proto, director of operations for the Institute of Culinary Education. "That's when they'll be most ripe and at peak flavor." (If not, you can ripen them by placing the fruit inside a paper bag on your counter.) Tomato variety matters, too — Proto likes beefsteak, which he says are juicier than plum tomatoes.

While traditional recipes call for tomato, cucumber, raw red pepper, garlic, and onion (Proto prefers red onion), that's no reason not to enjoy gazpacho any time of year. Just swap out tomatoes for another kind of produce — melon, cucumber, and grape are all good options — and adjust your other flavors to taste. Gazpacho traditionally contains Spanish pimenton (smoked paprika), which gives it a smoky essence, along with extra virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar.

Step 2. Combine Ingredients and Chill

Toss your ingredients in a blender and pulse to your desired consistency (gazpacho can be as smooth or as chunky as you like it). Then, says Proto, let the ingredients rest covered on the counter for several hours so the flavors can mellow and marry.

This step is key to making a soup with depth and complexity. The only other hard and fast rule of gazpacho, he says, is to maintain the right temperature. "People tend to serve it too cold, which dulls the flavors," he says. He prefers it with just a slight chill.

Step 3. Perfect the Texture

If you want a smooth gazpacho, you can strain it after blending. For something a little heartier, add stale bread to the blender just like the ancient Andalusians. (In modern day Andalusia, salmorejo, a bread, oil, garlic and tomato puree is still popular.) Don't forget to season with salt and pepper and the most fun part: the garnish.

Step 4. Make It Pretty

A little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and diced cucumber is pretty standard, but Proto says it's open to interpretation, and he's seen people use chilled crab meat as topper. In gazpacho's birthplace, Spain, hardboiled eggs and some jamon serrano or iberica (two types of ham) are preferred. A fine dice of whatever you're using as the base can be nice. Whatever combination you use, the end result is bound to be equally refreshing.

How to Store Gazpacho

Green Gazpacho
Credit: MrsFisher0729

Like all leftovers, gazpacho will keep in the fridge for up to four days. To lengthen its shelf life, you can always freeze it. But if you can, leave out any bread thickening or dairy until after thawing, as bread and dairy can change in texture after freezing.

Related: Browse our entire collection of Gazpacho Recipes.