Roasted butternut squash soup
FoodA perfect soup for a chilly fall day

Roasted butternut squash soup

This recipe has lovely warming spices, potatoes and coconut milk to yield a creamy and flavorful soup.

Roasted butternut squash soup (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Roasted butternut squash soup (Photo by Jessica Grann)

This vegan roasted butternut squash soup hits the spot when the autumn days start turning colder.

Plain squash soup can be a bit thin, so my recipe has lovely warming spices, potatoes and coconut milk to yield a creamy and flavorful soup. If you have an aversion to cooking savory foods with coconut milk don’t worry — you will not taste any coconut flavor in the soup.

Roasting whole squash in the oven before preparing the soup is key. I know a lot of people who have had kitchen accidents trying to cut or peel raw squash. Roasting the whole squash is not only safer, but it’s easier and gives you a more complex flavor.

This recipe is for a large batch — it makes more than 4 quarts of soup and will serve 8-12 people. If you’re not serving a crowd, freeze half of this soup and have something wonderful to pull from the freezer to use at a later time.

3-4 large whole butternut squashes (6 cups cooked squash)
2 cups diced onions
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 liter of vegetable broth
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon ground ginger or 2-3 teaspoons of fresh ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper or 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1 15-ounce can of coconut milk
Pepitas for garnish

The squashes can be prepared a day ahead if you like. Wash them, then cut 3 or 4 small slashes a few inches deep on each squash with a sharp paring knife.

Roast the squashes in the oven on a baking tray for about 2 hours at 350 F. There is no need to peel or cut them before roasting. Roasting them whole, as opposed to roasting chunks of peeled raw squash, improves the texture of the soup and makes the flavor more complex. Some squash are larger than others, so cooking time may vary. When the squashes start to brown and a knife can be easily inserted into the thicker part near the top of the globe, remove them from the oven to cool. It can take up to 2 hours for them to be cool enough to handle easily. I often do this step in the morning, then finish the soup later in the day.

Roasted butternut squash (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Once the squashes are cool, cut them in half lengthwise with a knife and scoop out the seeds. You can discard the seeds and the stringy interior. The skin should peel off easily, but you can use a sharp spoon or paring knife to get every last bit of flesh away from the skin. Scoop every bit of squash out and set it aside. Make sure that all of the seeds are removed.

Reserve the juice that spills out on the baking sheet when the squash is cut.

Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large soup pot and heat it on medium-low.

Add the diced onions and sauté for 10-15 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and starting to brown. Peel and dice the potatoes while the onions are cooking, and set them aside.

Add the sliced garlic to the onions and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the ginger, cumin and cinnamon. Stir the spices into the oil and onions until the onions look well-coated, then add the potatoes, stirring those as well to get them covered in the onion and spice mixture.

You may have between 1-2 cups of reserved fluid from the roasted squash; pour that into the pot over the potatoes before adding 1 liter of vegetable broth.

Add salt and red pepper of your choice.

Cover the pot and turn the heat up to medium. Boil softly for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender. If you see that the soup is rapidly boiling, reduce the heat so that it’s at a gentle boil.

Remove the lid and add 6 cups of roasted squash with 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for another 25 minutes so that the flavors really sink in.

Remove the pot from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Once the consistency is smooth, check the soup for flavor and add more salt and pepper to taste. You can add another teaspoon of each of the other spices if you like, but be careful not to add too much. A key to good home cooking is getting the flavors to meld well so that the soup is wonderfully aromatic but you don’t taste one flavor strongly over another.

Vegetable broths have different levels of sodium, so this soup may need a bit more salt to bring out the taste. The pepper in this soup does not make it taste spicy. If you want more spice, feel free to add more pepper in half-teaspoon increments to taste.

When you’re happy with the flavor, add a can of coconut milk and blend the soup again using an immersion blender until the white from the coconut milk can no longer be seen.

Serve the soup immediately, or cool fully and store it in the refrigerator or freezer for later use. If you freeze the soup, allow it to thaw completely before warming it.

This looks especially pretty if garnished with roasted pepita seeds and a little red pepper for color.

Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

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