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 list of ingredients is rather simple, the end result offers an exceptionally rich flavor.
I wish I could take credit for this soup, but 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 of a warm hug. I certainly wasn’t the only one who fell in love with the soup. My husband (Tanner), who maintains 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 even let me come close to it.
There some dishes that just evoke coziness – mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and this creamy butternut squash soup. When I’m sick. When I’m feeling cold. When I’m lazy. When I feel like day-dreaming while cooking. When I don’t know what to eat for dinner. Those are just some of the times I make creamy, silky pureed butternut squash soup.
Tips for Making Butternut Squash Soup
If you asked my husband what butternut squash tastes like, he’d tell you it tastes a lot like sweet potatoes – and that description isn’t that far off. The sweetness isn’t overbearing though. It turns out to be delicate enough to mix rather well with all sorts of dishes and herbs. In my opinion, butternut squash is the best type of winter squash for making creamy soups because it doesn’t get stringy after cooking.
Another essential ingredient for this soup is vegetable broth. I would recommend that you make your own because it tastes so much better than the store-bought version. 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.
To make this soup creamy and dreamy, I use coconut milk. I fell in love with coconut milk in a Thai cooking class a few years ago. Coconut milk adds a wonderfully rich texture and flavor to everything from hearty soups to delicate cheesecakes. Seek out coconut milk from Thailand – it’s consistently the best.
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.
Since we’re not making baby food, I would recommend adding some textural contrast to the soup. I usually add some toasted seeds, roasted nuts, or croutons. Add the topping just before serving so it stays crunchy.
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.
Roasting 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. One of the most common issues with creamy soups comes from under-cooking the vegetables. The squash 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.
Like any great vegetable soup, the end result should be something that tastes like a liquefied, purified, intensified version of itself – this soup should taste more like butternut squash than actual butternut squash. The magic lies in the way that aromatic ingredients can intensify and bring out other flavors. The trick is to caramelize the onions, Caramelization (as opposed to just browning) 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.
Finally, 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.
Tools You’ll Need
1. Blender (Vitamix 5200) | 2. Cookware Set (Calphalon, Stainless Steel) | 3. Knife Set (6 Pieces, Utopia, Stainless Steel) |4. Cutting Board (24″x 18″, Michigan Maple Block, Maple) | 5. Baking Sheet (Pampered Chef, Stone) | 6. Can Opener (Zyliss, Stainless Steel) | 7. Measuring Cups (Set of 6, Bellemain, Stainless Steel) | 8. Measuring Spoons (Set of 6, 1Easylife, Stainless Steel)
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- 2 squashes (2 lb/1 kg each)
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup light coconut milk
- 1 Tbsp. fresh ginger
- 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp. lime juice
- 1/2 cup butternut squash seeds (from 2 squashes)
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (optional)
- 1/2 tsp. olive oil
- sea salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C) and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds (reserve the seeds for later). Place the squash on the pan and drizzle each half with just enough olive oil to lightly coat the squash on the inside (about 1 tsp./5 ml each). Rub the oil over the inside of the squash and sprinkle it with salt. Turn the squash face down and roast until it is tender and completely cooked through, about 45-50 minutes. Set the squash aside until it’s cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Then use a large spoon to scoop the butternut squash flesh into a bowl and discard the tough skin.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat up the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, lower heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until soft and lightly golden, about 10 minutes; lower heat as necessary to prevent burning.
Add pepper flakes and stir for another minute or so. Then add coconut milk and scrape up any browned bits of onions.
Add all the ingredients (squash, onions with coconut milk, broth, ginger, maple syrup, lime juice) into a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Season with salt. Return soup to the pot and thin, if necessary, with additional stock until desired consistency is reached. If you're working with an immersion blender, add all the ingredients to the pot, bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes so the flavors have a chance to meld. Carefully use your immersion blender to blend the soup completely.
Serve warm with a drizzle of coconut milk and toasted butternut squash seeds.
Store leftover soup well covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
For longer term storage, freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. The easiest way to reheat frozen soup is to remove it from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator 24 hours before reheating to thaw slightly. Reheat on a stovetop, adding extra 1/4 cup (60 ml) water/broth at a time if too thick.
Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
Pinch away all the large chunks of squash flesh and strings and put the seeds into a colander. Place the strainer under cool running water and remove any additional squash flesh.
Dump the seeds onto a clean towel (or a paper towel) and pat them dry. Make sure the seeds are completely dry so they don't steam in the oven.
Put the seeds on a baking tray and drizzle with a small amount of oil, and sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt. Toss the seeds until they are evenly coated with oil and salt. Spread them out into a single layer,
Toast until the seeds are just starting to brown, about 20-25 minutes. Remove the seeds from the oven and let them cool on the tray.