Recipe: Southwestern Butternut Squash Soup

Recipe: Southwestern Butternut Squash Soup

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Emma Christensen
Nov 18, 2014
(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Butternut squash soup is one of those meals that defines autumn for me. Pretty much as soon as the leaves begin showing hints of orange, I start scooping up these big-bottomed squashes at the market and putting this creamy soup on the regular meal rotation.

This fall, I thought I'd mix things up a bit and add a Southwestern spin to my usual butternut squash soup. Cumin and coriander add spicy warmth while a squeeze of orange and lime give it a hit of late-fall sunshine.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

As much as I love butternut squash soup, dealing with that big ol' winter squash can be a bit of a chore. There's really no way around the wrestling match, though lately I've been forgoing the vegetable peeler in favor of a chef's knife. I cut the squash in two pieces through the neck, set them cut-side-down on the cutting board, and use a chef's knife to trim off the skin. I find this much quicker and easier to manage.

→ How to peel a squash: How To Peel Squash: An Easier Way

Since prepping the squash is the most laborious part of this recipe, I also try to get it done a day or two ahead of time — preferably as soon as I walk in the door with the grocery bags, if I can manage it! It will keep in a container in the fridge for several days. With the squash already done, the soup itself comes together in about a half hour, making it easy to fit into a busy weeknight.

I like to serve this Southwestern version with plenty of toppings in little dishes on the table so that everyone can pick and choose what they like. Cilantro, green onions, toasted pumpkin seeds, and sour cream are my favorites! Some thick slices of bread on the side make it a complete meal.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Southwestern Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 4 to 6

1 large (3 pound) butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
2 jalapeño peppers, seeds discarded and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular paprika is also fine)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
Juice from 1 orange
Juice from 1 lime
Soup toppings: chopped cilantro, sour cream, diced green onions, toasted pumpkin seeds or pepitas, oven-roasted chickpeas

Trim the top and bottom off the butternut squash, then cut it in half where the neck starts to bulge. Peel both halves of the squash with a vegetable peeler, or by placing it cut-side down on the cutting board and trimming off the peel with a chef knife. Cut the halves in half, scoop out the seeds from the bottom half, and then slice into bite-sized pieces. This can be done several days ahead of cooking; store the squash in an airtight container in the fridge.

Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent and just starting to turn brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the bell peppers and jalapeños, and sauté until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic, spices, and salt, and cook until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds.

Add the cubed squash and the stock to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Partially cover the pot and simmer until the squash is soft when pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pot the heat.

Using a stick blender, puree the soup until creamy. Alternatively, let the soup cool slightly, then blend in a blender or food processor.

Return the pot to low heat and stir in the orange juice and lime juice. Taste and add more salt or other spices as desired. If you'd like a thinner soup, stir in up to a cup more broth.

Serve with toppings on the side, letting everyone choose their own. Leftovers will keep refrigerated for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.

Recipe Notes

  • If you have time, try roasting the butternut squash before adding it to the soup. Toss with a little olive oil, spread on a baking sheet, and roast at 400°F until the sides of the squash show color. This gives the soup an extra roasty flavor.
  • Vegan Version: For a vegan soup, make this with vegetable broth and nix the sour cream topping.
  • Meat-Eater Version: I also love this soup with cooked sausage or bacon stirred in after the soup is pureed.
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