The calendar unleashes butternut squash cravings in me every October 1, and this year was no exception. But I was in Italy the first two weeks of the month, and searched in vain for my familiar friend on menus. It turns out, butternut squash is much more common in North and South America, as all squash originated there with Native American Indians. In Italy, winter squash isn’t widely harvested, except for small family farms with a local reach. I had to wait.
So, the first thing I made when I padded back into my kitchen was this butternut squash soup. A version is also in my cookbook, Simply Vegetarian, as it’s super-easy and full of flavor. And then I began to experiment to get even bigger flavor. This is, after all, a soup I play with every autumn.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
First, I decided to roast cubes of butternut squash to bring up its natural sugars, and deepen the flavor. Roasting butternut couldn’t be easier. Either 1) purchase squash already cut up into 1 – 2″ cubes from your market – or peel and chop your own; or 2) chop off the stem and bottom, slice the squash lengthwise through the middle with a chef’s knife, and use a spoon to scrape out the pulp and seeds, or 3) place the squash whole, on a baking sheet. Before roasting, either toss the cubed squash in a little olive oil, or rub the cut surface of the halved squash with olive oil, and lightly salt and pepper.
This was a great way to enhance the butternut flavor in the soup, and you can do this with any butternut soup you’re making. But I wanted to go Asian with the soup, and went further with my changes.
Thai Coconut Curried Butternut Squash Soup
I sautéed yellow onion and garlic together until softened, and stirred in a lovely concoction of curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, and cayenne that swept me back to the food bazaars in Thailand I visited a few years ago. Warm exotic aromas filled the kitchen as I nudged the spices around the pot, completely coating the onion and garlic. Now I just needed to add the roasted butternut, some vegetable broth, and puree.
Feel free to stop there, if you wish.
But for another layer of flavor I added two more things: apple sauce and coconut milk. And depending on the sweetness of your squash, you may choose to add up to 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. You won’t be sorry if you go to these few extra steps. Seriously, this is my new favorite butternut soup – and it just might become yours too.
Cook Like a Chef – Peeling Butternut Squash
Breaking down a butternut squash can intimidate with it’s thick, tough skin, and odd shape. I’ll be posting a step-by-step tutorial with photos, and a video on breaking down this squash this weekend, but my top tips are:
- Use a sharp chef’s knife to chop off the top stem and bottom, and slice in half across its width, where the thinner top begins to broaden into the bulbous bottom.
- Either stand the top half up on its flat edge and slice off the the tough skin with a sharp knife or vegetable peeler, OR slice the top half in half again, lengthwise. Lay each half with its flat surface resting on a cutting board, and peel with a vegetable peeler or sharp knife. The type peel I use is a Y-shaped peeler, and my choice of knives is either a small carving knife or Bird’s beak knife. The Bird’s beak knife is great for peeling any round fruit or vegetable.
- Slice the bulbous end of the squash in half, and scrape out the pulp and seeds with a spoon. A grapefruit spoon works great for this! Lay each half with its flat surfaces resting on a cutting board, and peel with a Y-shaped peeler or bird’s beak sharp knife.
- Use a chef’s knife to slice into cubes.
- If the skin is extremely tough, which can occur with larger squash, prick with a fork a few times, and microwave whole for 2 – 3 minutes or warm in a 350˚F oven for 15 minutes. The skin will soften enough to be easily peeled.
Coconut Curried Butternut Squash Soup
- 2 pounds cubed butternut squash (about 2 lbs 3 oz if starting with a whole squash)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or 1 tablespoon garlic paste
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 4 cups vegetable broth or water
- 1/2 cup applesauce
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar (optional)
- Roasted chickpeas
- Chopped Cilantro
- Roasted pumpkin seeds
- Dried red pepper flakes
Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Toss the squash cubes in 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and black pepper, and spread on a baking sheet. Roast for 25 minutes, or until tender and slightly caramelized on the edges.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot, suitable for cooking the soup. Add the onions and sauté for a few minutes, or until slightly softened. Add the garlic, and cook another few minutes. Add the spices and remaining salt, and sauté for 2 minutes, or until very aromatic.
Add the roasted squash, vegetable broth, and apple sauce, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 3 - 4 minutes, and puree in a blender or food processor. I use a powerful blender, and can do it all in one go. Return the pureed soup to the pot, and stir in the coconut milk, and brown sugar if needed.
Add any preferred toppings just before serving.
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If you’re interested in doing more with butternut squash, check out my Pinterest Board for Butternut Squash!!