As soon as October hits, a bowl of warm butternut squash soup becomes a staple on practically every restaurant menu. Well, in our house, butternut squash soup is a staple all year round. This Butternut Squash Soup is everything you expect from a traditional butternut squash soup. It’s sweet, silky, and slightly spicy. Although the ingredients list is rather simple, the end result offers exceptionally rich flavor.
Most of the soup’s flavor comes from the cooking method, which starts with roasting the butternut squash and caramelizing the onions, bringing out the squash’s sweetness and intensify its flavor. Although I wish I could take credit for this soup, the recipe actually comes from my friend Audrey. Audrey made this comforting soup for me after I gave birth to my daughter Katie and it was the culinary equivalent for a warm hug. I certainly wasn’t the only one who fell in love with the soup. My husband, who claims that all puréed soups taste like baby food, couldn’t get enough of it. After a few bites, he claimed the soup his and didn’t let me come close to it. Yes, it’s that good.
If you’ve ever attempted a creamy soup that didn’t fulfill your expectations, you might have made a few common mistakes. So how do you make perfect creamy vegetable soup every single time? Though there are many variations and exceptions to the following procedure, below are the general steps for making puréed soup from scratch.
Tips for Making Perfect Butternut Squash Soup
Before You Blend
Roast the squash – sure, you can boil the squash too, but roasting rids the squash of excess moisture and concentrates its flavor. This is a great technique especially for sweet vegetables – like sweet potatoes and squashes, or brassicas – like broccoli and cauliflower. The reason roasting works so well is that it breaks down large sugars into smaller, sweeter ones, intensifying the vegetables’ natural sweetness.
The more deeply you brown the squash in the oven, the more intense and caramelized its flavor will be. And since you’ll be puréing the soup anyway, there’s no real risk of overcooking the squash aside from flat-out burning it.
Don’t under-cook the squash – one of the most common issues with creamy soups comes from under-cooking the vegetables. All vegetables should be uniformly soft, with little to no resistance when you test them with a fork. If the squash is under-cooked, it won’t stand up to the blender, resulting in a soup that’s watery in portions and lumpy in others.
Caramelize the onions – I’m not talking about browning the onions. I’m talking about caramelizing them. Yes, there’s a difference and it’s pretty significant. While you can have browned onions in a few minutes, caramelization takes time, sometimes longer than 30 minutes. Caramelized onions have a deep sweetness and a gorgeous amber color. Generally, the deeper the color, the sweeter the flavor. Is it worth the wait? I certainly think so.
Enhance the soup’s vegetable flavor – vegetable broth is a backbone of every vegan soup. Sure, you can use store-bought broth, but homemade broth is so much better and is pretty simple to make. A very basic vegetable broth can be made with some onions, garlic, carrots, celery, fresh herbs (my favorites are parsley and chives), and spices (I usually use just black pepper, and bay leaves). You can also add some dried mushrooms for a deeper color and more complex flavor. Cover all the ingredients with water by 1 inch and bring to a boil. Reduce to a barre simmer and cook until all the vegetables are tender, for about 30 minutes. Strain and voila – you have a homemade broth in no time.
If you’re in a pinch, you can use water and add some herbs or a herbal blend, such as Herbamare.
When You Blend
Don’t add too much liquid – when you add broth to your soup, pour in just enough so the blender can do its job. If, after you blend it, your purée is too thick, add more broth in small increments. You can always add more broth, but you can’t remove it. Good butternut squash soup should be thick and hearty, not watery and bland.
After You Blend
Add a little bit of acidic element – lemon, lime, apple cider vinegar . . . a little squeeze of fresh lime juice into a pot of cooling soup is all it takes to brighten all the flavors and make the whole butternut squash soup shine. It’s amazing how a dull soup can come to life with a bit of acidic element. Just don’t add it while the soup still cooks because it can cause discoloration and a bitter flavor. In my opinion, lemon and lime pair really well with vegetable-based soups while vinegar is most suitable for hearty bean soups.
Don’t skip the toppings – you’re not making baby food so add some textural contrast to the creamy soup. I usually add some toasted seeds, roasted nuts, or croutons. Add the topping just before serving the soup so they stay crunchy.
There are many reasons I love puréed soups, like their ease, their diversity, and their appealing comfort value, especially when it’s cold and rainy outside. Aside from this Creamy Butternut Squash Soup, I also love this cauliflower-based Cream of Mushroom Soup.
Soups are also a great way to eat more vegetables, something that many of us are in dire need of. You can serve them as a main course (with some hearty bread alongside it) or just as an appetizer. You can make them with the season’s best produce, or with anything you find in your fridge. See how versatile these puréed soups are?
Don’t forget to leave a comment if you try this recipe. I read every single one of them.