If I’m honest, I’ll admit that I’ve never really liked butternut squash soup.
Most of the versions I’ve tried have a consistency roughly akin to baby food (and taste like it, too!). And, in my experience, imparting flavor to the soup usually means adding tons of spices, which can enhance but more often masks the flavor of the squash.
My mother-in-law made a version of this soup back at Thanksgiving, and I was prepared to “ooh” and “ahh” over it no matter what it tasted like. But, no dissembling was required. It was so good I went back for seconds! As we traveled home after the holiday, I tried to analyze with Anthony what had been so different, so good about that soup and what could be done to make it even better.
We decided that it was the apple and carrot that really transformed it. The sweet-tartness of the fruit and the earthy sweetness of the root vegetables accentuated the squash flavor and gave the soup great balance. I find that a little sweetness also plays really well with curry powder, bringing out the best side of that spice. We liked that the soup called for vegetable stock, making it a great option for our vegetarian friends. We made our own stock from all the Thanksgiving veggie scraps, and we think the homemade stock really makes the dish–providing a kind of depth (and a lot less salt!) that you just can’t get from store-bought stuff. Finally, we liked the addition of some cream to mellow out the bright, tart side and give the soup some backbone. Pureed vegetable soups can be a bit thin and watery. For the record, we tried the soup with half-and-half and also with coconut milk (for the vegans in our midst) and both were winners!
To take the flavors a step further, we roasted the vegetables and fruit at high heat before adding them to the pot, which added a nice smokiness from the caramelized sugars. We also changed up the spice profile a bit and seasoned the dish three times: before the roasting the squash, when the vegetables go in the pot, and after pureeing the soup. This ensured that the soup was rich and well-spiced without overdoing it. Finally, we were worried that the fat in in the half-and-half was muting the squash flavor a bit, so we cut back on the cream (or coconut milk!) from the original recipe and added a splash of apple cider vinegar at the very end, which made the butternut and apple flavors pop.
We’ve made this many times since November–for crowds of 6, 25, and 150! It’s so easy to make, freezes beautifully, and is a crowd-pleaser every time. Feel free to play with the spices, to use chicken stock instead of veggie, or to add bacon (yay!) or anything else that tickles your fancy.
- 4 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons sweet curry powder
- 2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into large chunks
- 3 sweet-tart apples (Gala, Pink Lady, Granny Smith) peeled and cut into large chunks
- 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Salt and pepper
- 2 large onions, cut into medium dice
- 6 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
- 2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock
- ½ cup half-and-half or coconut milk
- 1 to 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (optional)
- Adjust racks to lowest and highest positions and heat oven to 450 degrees. Mix together the garam, coriander, and curry. Coat squash, apples, and carrots with 3 tablespoons olive oil and season lightly with salt, pepper, and half the spice mix; turn on 2 rimmed cookie sheets and roast vegetables until soft and starting to brown, stirring occasionally and switching pans about halfway through, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a large soup kettle or Dutch oven; add onions and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, the rest of the spice mix, red pepper flakes, and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper; sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Add roasted squash, apples, and carrots, and enough stock to cover. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low; continue to simmer until vegetables are very soft and falling apart, about 15 minutes longer.
- Using an immersion blender (or a food processor or blender, working in batches), puree the soup until smooth. Stir in half-and-half and additional stock or water, if necessary, to achieve desired texture. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and other spices; simmer to blend flavors, a few minutes longer. If soup needs acid, stir in a couple teaspoons of cider vinegar.