Jamaican Kabocha Squash Soup

published Feb 10, 2022
Jamaican Kabocha Squash Soup Recipe

This shortcut version of Saturday soup is the perfect cold-weather meal.

Serves6 to 8

Makesabout 4 quarts

Prep25 minutes to 30 minutes

Cook1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes

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Jamaican Kabocha Squash Soup in a bowl
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

The temperature in Jamaica is 90 degrees in the shade year-round. But despite the heat, we have soup at least once a week.

Saturday is the designated soup day. It’s also the market day, the cleaning day, and generally the reset day. At the markets, housewives request “soup bones” from the butchers, or bones from the lower cuts of beef called cross-cut shanks that are from the lower legs of the cow. To make traditional Jamaican “pumpkin” or Saturday soup, these bones are often cooked with chicken and offals like chicken feet and cow’s skin, as well as fresh vegetables like kabocha squash, carrots, and chayote.

This soup take a long time to prep and hours to cook, so it is sometimes the only meal eaten on Saturday. To make it more filling, yams, cassava, potatoes, and Caribbean dumplings are also added. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

How to Make a Speedier Saturday Soup

The recipe I’m sharing here is a super-simplified version of Saturday soup. None of the flavor is compromised, but the cook time is cut in half. I’ve left out the main starches like yams, yucca, and malanga and opted for quick-cooking chicken breasts rather than beef or chicken feet. The dumplings are also optional, and can be replaced with crusty bread for serving. But keeping the seasonings, such as onions, scallions, and allspice, help give the soup the traditional taste I know and love. It’s the perfect cold-weather meal.

Jamaican Kabocha Squash Soup Recipe

This shortcut version of Saturday soup is the perfect cold-weather meal.

Prep time 25 minutes to 30 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes

Makes about 4 quarts

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the soup:

  • 1 pound

    kabocha squash (1/2 medium)

  • 2

    large carrots (about 4 ounces total)

  • 1

    small chayote (4 to 5 ounces)

  • 1

    small yellow onion

  • 2

    large stalks celery (about 4 ounces total)

  • 3 cloves

    garlic

  • 2

    bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts halves (about 3 pounds total)

  • 3 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 3 quarts

    (12 cups) water

  • 2

    shucked ears corn on the cob (fresh or thawed frozen)

  • 8 ounces

    russet potatoes (1 small)

  • 3

    medium scallions, plus more for garnish if desired

  • 10 sprigs

    fresh thyme

  • 1

    habanero pepper

  • 10

    allspice berries

  • 1 (2.12-ounce) packet

    Grace Chicken Flavored Soup Mix

For the dumplings: (optional)

  • 1 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 cup

    cold water

Instructions

  1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same medium bowl as you complete it: Peel and scoop out the seeds from 1 pound kabocha squash, then cut into 1-inch pieces. Peel and cut 2 large carrots crosswise into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Peel, halve, and pit 1 small chayote, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces.

  2. Prepare the following, adding each to the same small bowl as you complete it: Dice 1 small yellow onion. Very thinly slice 2 large celery stalks crosswise. Add 3 peeled garlic cloves to the bowl.

  3. Pat 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves dry with paper towels. Season all over with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper.

  4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chicken skin-side down in the hot pot and sear until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and sear until the second side is browned, 3 to 4 minutes more.

  5. Push the chicken to one side of the pan. Add the onion mixture to the other side and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add 3 quarts water and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cover, increase the temperature to high, and bring to a boil.

  6. Add the kabocha mixture and stir to combine. Cover and boil until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cut 2 ears shucked corn crosswise into 3 to 4 pieces each. Peel 8 ounces russet potato and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Trim the roots from 3 medium scallions. Make the dumplings if desired.

Make the dumplings:

  1. Place 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup cold water in a small bowl and mix together with a spoon or your fingers until a dough forms, adding more water as needed. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Divide the mixture into 6 portions and roll each portion between the palms of your hands into cylinders or small round balls. Place on a plate in a single layer and cover with a damp paper towel.

  2. Turn the heat off. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin and bones. Cut each chicken breast into 4 to 5 pieces. Return the chicken to the soup.

  3. Add the corn, potatoes, dumplings, scallions, 10 fresh thyme sprigs, 1 habanero pepper, 10 allspice berries, diced potatoes, 1 (2.12-ounce) packet soup base mix, the remaining 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cover and boil on high heat until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

  4. Remove and discard the habanero (for a little bit of heat, use a spoon to press into the habanero pepper before removing if desired). Remove and discard the scallions, thyme stems, and allspice berries. Serve topped with more thinly sliced scallions if desired.

Recipe Notes

Substitutions

  • You can substitute a bay leaf for the thyme.
  • Substitute 1 tablespoon Better than Bouillon roasted chicken base for the packet of soup mix.
  • The dumplings can be substituted with 1 cup dried kluski or wide egg noodles.

Make ahead: The kabocha, carrots, and chayote can be peeled and chopped up to 1 day ahead. Refrigerate in an airtight container.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.