Make Ahead

Thomas Keller's Butternut Soup with Brown Butter, Sage, and Nutmeg Crème Fraîche

November 25, 2014
13 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 2 hours
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

This is a perfect recipe to make for incoming holiday guests, by yourself in the quiet days leading up to their arrival. Its flavors sweeten and develop with a day or two in the fridge, and will go over very well in mixed company: You'll take care of the omnivores, the vegetarians, the gluten-averse, and the elderly relatives on soft food diets, all with one pot. Recipe adapted slightly from Bouchon (Artisan, 2004). —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
  • 1 3 to 3 1/2-pound butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 pinch Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 sprigs sage
  • 1 cup thinly sliced (1/8-inch thick) leeks, white and light green parts only
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced (1/8-inch thick) carrots
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced (1/8-inch thick) shallots
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced (1/8-inch thick) onions
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 6 cups vegetable stock, plus extra if necessary
  • 8 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs Italian parsley, 2 bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, all wrapped in a bouquet garni packet made of 2 green leek leaves
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 1 pinch Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Canola oil (if using sage leaves)
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives or 12 sage leaves
  • 1 pinch Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 splash Extra virgin olive oil, to garnish
  1. For the soup: Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment.
  2. Cut the neck off the squash and set it aside. Cut the bulb in half and scoop out and discard the seeds. Brush each half inside and out with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the canola oil. Sprinkle the cavities with salt and pepper and tuck a sprig of sage into each. Place cut side down on the baking sheet and roast for about 1 hour, or until completely tender.
  3. Remove the squash from the oven and let cool, then scoop out and reserve the flesh (discard sage).
  4. Meanwhile, using a paring knife or a peeler, carefully peel away the skin from the neck of the squash until you reach the bright orange flesh. Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch pieces (you should have about 4 cups).
  5. Put the remaining canola oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat, add the leeks, carrots, shallots, and onions and cook, stirring often, for about 6 minutes. Add the diced squash, garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook gently for 3 minutes, reducing the heat as necessary to keep the garlic and squash from coloring. Stir in the honey and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock and bouquet garni, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the squash is tender.
  6. Add the roasted squash and simmer gently for about 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Remove from the heat and discard the bouquet garni. Transfer the soup to a blender, in batches, and puree. Strain the soup through a fine sieve into a bowl. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning. Let the soup cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve.
  7. To complete: Place the crème fraîche in a chilled small metal bowl and stir in nutmeg to taste. Whisk with a small whisk until the crème fraîche holds a shape. Cover and refrigerate.
  8. Reheat the soup. If it is too thick, add a little more vegetable stock. Heat a medium skillet over high heat. When it is very hot, add the butter and rotate the skillet over the heat as necessary to brown the butter evenly, scraping up any bits that settle in the bottom. As soon as the foaming has subsided and the butter is a hazelnut brown, pour it into the pot of soup. Be careful not to leave the butter over the heat too long, as it can change from rich brown to black in seconds.
  9. Meanwhile, if using sage leaves, heat 1/8 inch of canola oil in a small skillet. When the oil is very hot, add the sage and cook for 30 to 45 seconds, turning the leaves to crisp them on both sides. When the bubbling stops, the moisture in the leaves will have evaporated and the leaves will be crisp. Drain the sage on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.
  10. Ladle the soup into six serving bowls. Top each with a dollop of crème fraîche. Grind some black pepper over the top and garnish each with 2 sage leaves or some minced chives. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • charles
  • Brianna Hammerly
    Brianna Hammerly
  • Nick
  • Danee Kaplan
    Danee Kaplan
  • LaDonna Marrero
    LaDonna Marrero
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

33 Reviews

Rich.resnick December 13, 2022
Not a review but more of a question... How do you double or triple this recipe?
charles July 18, 2020
We liked it. It's so uniquely flavored as you make it. Before we added the brown butter, the pepper was forward, once the butter is added it is heavily peppery and buttery, but then you add the creme fraiche and everything starts harmonizing with each other. The thyme is always there, at least it was for us, but never the first flavor you think of.

The recipe states that you can use sage or chives for garnish, we used chives, and I don't think that melds as much as the sage would. Next time, and there will be a next time, I'm definitely going with fried sage leaves for the garnish.

I would also note, that I feel this dish can be adjusted to taste rather well, or used as a building block to a completely different soup. The soups base is the butternut squash and the other veggies. If people wanted to swap thyme, sage, and Italian parsley for curry spices I think it could make an amazing butternut squash curry soup.
Dana January 17, 2019
Any favorite food pairing suggestions??
Danee K. January 17, 2019
I made made this for Thanksgiving dinner as soup course and with roasted chicken for a regular meal. It is so delicious it would go without about anything. A roasted pork would be delicious.
charles July 18, 2020
We just made it and made it with filet mignon, but that was us wanting steak more than it pairing perfectly. I used some of the extra thyme sprigs I had to season the filets, and help match the dishes. Honestly this is a really nice soup that I can see pairing with a lot of dishes.

Thanksgiving dining makes so much sense with it. I can also see pork loins, scallops, poultry, and white fish dishes working well with it.
Nohra October 12, 2018
Discarding the seeds is absurd! It's the best part of the squash. You put them in a strainer, rinse them, pat them dry, toss them with olive oil and salt, and roast them in a skillet. There is no better treat!
Brianna H. October 1, 2018
Great soup, but I actually think I'd prefer the flavor if all of the squash was roasted, and perhaps the carrot and garlic with it. I had a huge leek, so I ended up frizzling some and using that as a garnish with the fried sage leaves, creme fraiche, and brown butter.
Nohra October 12, 2018
I agree, roasted or grilled (even while cooking something else) gives the best flavor!
Katie September 27, 2018
Question: can the browned butter not just be added before the blending? It seems like a strange extra step to blend, then cool, then heat back up and add the butter - unless I am missing something obvious.
Danee K. September 28, 2018
I never cooled it in the fridge. We just eat it right away like you said.. It is SOOOOOOOO delicious. You will love it. The complex flavor is so perfect. I chuckled when I got the question in my inbox because I was planning on making it this weekend-
Suzy Q. December 12, 2017
Can this be made in advance at all? If so, how much in advance? I imagine the creme fraiche would go in after...

Thank you!
Suzy Q. December 8, 2017
This sounds sumptuous and the slide/photos below the save recipe option offer great visual assistance for many home cooks. I finish my 7 day water fast Sunday night and Monday morning I'll be in the kitchen creating some well deserved delights. Thank you! Ps. Will leave feedback soon.
Nick December 7, 2017
Great soup. We strained a little to assess the flavor, which was amazing, but we decided to keep it thick and not strain it. Used a mesh-ball tea strainer for the boquet garni instead.
Rachel November 29, 2017
Really great soup. Been craving a butternut soup I once enjoyed at a fancy restaurant when an expense account was part of my life. I figured this was a good opportunity to cash in on my Vitamix investment. I loved the attention to detail in the two different approaches to cooking the squash. Next time I will stuff the squash with more sage and perhaps some garlic. I don’t like leeks so omitted those and added a bit more of everything else. I’ve always wanted to assemble some Bouquet Garni so was excited to check that step off the list! (Make sure you have kitchen string..) If you’re going to make your own stock and then cook squash two ways I figure you better not wimp out on you garnish game. FRY THE SAGE (it’s wort it, you can tell because I used all caps.) Go ahead make your own darn Creme fraiche too — it only takes a night and you should try and do this soup all in a day ;). So change step one to mix fresh cream and cultured buttermilk and let sit overnight. #noregrets
Danee K. November 22, 2017
Stunningly good.
Stephen Y. November 4, 2017
This is a soup where the synergy justifies the complexity. Probably the most sophisticated and best tasting soup I have ever made. As a bonus, I fried cilantro leaves alongside the sage.
monica January 9, 2017
i refer to T.K. recipes as, "and then," because when you think you must be finished you realize there is another step- "and then..."
yes, this soup is worth every step. yes, you do need another butternut squash soup recipe. YUM.
BTW- i made his vege stock for this and it was absolutely divine.
monica December 10, 2016
Excellent recipe. Typical Keller in that there are many steps, and well worth the effort. This soup has depth. Flavors are clean and well balanced. I used his recipe for the veggie stock as well. Love it. Definitely a keeper
susan C. November 13, 2016
Can this be frozen before the creme fraiche step? Would love to make it ahead for Thanksgiving!
fiona H. October 22, 2016
The recipe in the list of ingredients calls for one butternut squash, but the method refers to two squashes. one pre-roasted, the other simmered in stock. Please would you clarify?
Mrs B. October 23, 2016
When I read this recipe the first time, I was also confused. Then I went back and read it a second time and noticed that they refer to the "bulb" of the squash, as opposed to the "neck" of the squash. The straight cylindrical part is the neck, and the portion that flares out is the bulb. So you cut the squash crosswise where it starts to flare out, then cut that bulb lengthwise and roast it. You then take the neck -- the long cylinder -- and peel and cut that for cooking on top of the stove.
I hope this helps.
fiona H. October 24, 2016
Thank you Beryl! I did eventually realize I'd missed that. Thanks for your kind response.
Mrs B. October 24, 2016
I'm happy to have been of assistance, fiona. I'm actually making this recipe for the first time in a few days . . . test driving it for the holidays, and rather looking forward to it.
NOYB October 21, 2016
Gluten-adverse?! BTW, some of us can't have gluten. It's called celiac disease. Look it up!
LaDonna M. October 7, 2016
This was absolutely amazing. I was worried that my 2lb butternut squash wouldn't be enough so I doubled the carrots and it was still really, really good. Don't skip the sage for the roasted squash or the fried sage at the end!
bittersweet January 20, 2016
This is one of my favorite recipes. What makes it genius is the use of both roasted and simmered squash. The roasted squash adds real depth of flavor that is balanced by the fresher taste of the simmered. Combining both methods makes for a wonderful soup. I have often used home made chicken broth instead of vegetable since that is what I had available. I only use one tablespoon of honey. This one's a keeper.
Heather P. December 16, 2015
whack good