- Prep time 25 minutes
- Cook time 2 hours
- Serves 4
Few things signal the start of soup season better than a bowl of silky butternut squash soup. This recipe has a few tricks up its sleeve that help to set it apart from the usual suspects. The first is Chinese five spice powder. The warming spices give the soup an extra autumnal flair, while the spice mix’s Schezuan peppercorns add some subtle spiciness.
Here, you will find half of the shallots sautéed and blended into the soup, and the other half quickly shallow fried for garnish. You can do the same with a few of the soup’s other flavor components if desired—extra garlic cloves can be sliced, or more ginger can be julienned and fried until crisp. If you like a little extra spice, finish the soup with a drizzle of chili crisp—it pairs well with all of the other flavors.
In addition to being one less thing to peel and chop, baking the squash halves in a hot oven helps maintain the squash’s silky smooth flesh. In addition, a turn during roasting aids in the caramelization process, which brings out all of its natural sweetness. Other seasonal squash varieties can be substituted for the butternut squash. While milder in flavor, acorn squash resembles butternut squash very closely in texture. Honeynut squash, is more regional than other substitutes, but looks almost exactly like a miniature version of a butternut squash; plus, honeynuts have a sweet, concentrated honey-like flavor (hence the name!) and roast beautifully. It is safe to say that these bake quite a bit faster than their larger counterparts—start checking for doneness at about 45 minutes. The same goes for sweet potatoes. Slice about two pounds worth of sweet potatoes (look for large heavy spuds) in half lengthwise before roasting. Depending on the variety you find at the farmers’ market or grocery store, your soup may be slightly less creamy than if you were to use butternut squash, but sweet potatoes will definitely impart plenty of sweet yet earthy flavor. Lastly, sugar pumpkins are a great substitute for butternut squash. They go toe-to-toe in terms of sweetness and creamy texture. These pumpkins have a short season toward the beginning of fall, but if stored correctly, they can last for a few months.
In-season squash, when cooked thoroughly, turns smooth and creamy when blended, so creating a vegan-friendly version of this soup is super simple. The only thing you really have to do is swap the usual chicken broth for vegetable stock or water. Kettle & Fire makes a delicious store-bought option, but making your own at home is as simple as can be. Save your vegetable scraps throughout the week (think onion and garlic skins, carrot peels, mushroom stalks, leek greens, and parsley stems) and throw them in a pot with water and a handful of peppercorns. Bring the stock to a simmer and cook for about one hour before straining—it should smell very fresh and fragrant. The stock will keep in the freezer for three months.
If you usually opt for some cream stirred into your soup before serving, go with a drizzle of full-fat coconut milk. A spoonful of plant-based sour cream can also be stirred into the soup just before serving.
Test Kitchen Notes
This is delicious—brighter, more vegetarian, and with more dimension than your typical squash soup! The flavor of the squash is really highlighted by the addition of carrots and the five-spice; it rings out clearly. And the five-spice, even at just 1/2 teaspoon, brings so much flavor: subtle, warm, fragrant, double-take-making. And the toppings bring it all together. We can’t wait to make this again (and to make the slow-roasted squash on its own. Yum.) —Food52
2-pound butternut squash, halved and seeded
extra-virgin olive oil
grated fresh peeled ginger (from about 1-inch piece of ginger)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
large carrot, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch dice
shallots, chopped into 1/8-inch slices and divided
large garlic clove, minced
vegetable broth or water
Vegetable oil, for frying
Roasted white sesame seeds and fresh cilantro leaves, for serving
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Drizzle cut sides of squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, then rub with ginger and five spice powder; season with salt. Place cut-sides down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with foil and bake until squash is very tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
- Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium. Add carrot, half the shallots, and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Scoop flesh of squash into pot and break down into smaller pieces with a spoon; discard skins. Stir in broth or water and season with more salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover pot, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow flavors to meld. Let cool 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat 1/4-inch of vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium until oil shimmers. Add remaining shallots and fry, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden, about 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels and season lightly with salt.
- Transfer squash mixture to a blender and purée until smooth, adding water as needed to reach your preferred consistency (alternately, purée with an immersion blender). Season to taste. Serve soup with crispy shallots, sesame seeds, cilantro, and a drizzle of olive oil.