Spiced Yellow Squash Soup

I'm one of those cooks who rarely makes the same thing twice. There are a handful of things in my repertoire, but even with them I can't resist the temptation to experiment and improvise. I always want to try and taste and play around to see how far I can push it...how far I can reach.

This summer squash soup--or at least the bones of it--is one I make again and again, just a tiny bit differently each time. I've added other squashes like butternut or kuri. I've tossed in fruit like apples or peaches. I add chilies, spices, chunks of coconut, herbs, and even things like chickpeas or lentils for a bit more body.

It's one of my go-to dishes when I'm up in Vermont cooking for my retreaters. It's vegan, so it works for a variety of dietary restrictions, but is rich and deeply flavorful in a way that satisfies the meat eaters, too. It's also fantastically simple to prepare and can be multiplied easily; perfect for when I find myself with only a couple hours to prepare a meal for as many as 40 people at once.

Pureed soups are one of my favorite things to eat because I love the way it makes it possible to marry a billion different flavors in a single taste. The chilies, the squash, the onions and spices, a touch of maple, the creaminess from the coconut milk--all these things are whirled together to create a smooth spoonful of lush flavor.

The recipe is below, along with some notes about ways I change it. Like with all my recipes, I encourage you to make it your own. Mix and taste and swap and skip as desired. It's soup; the risk here is low.

Spiced Yellow Squash Soup
Serves 6 - 10 (freezes really well so make a big batch for easy future meals!)

Coconut oil or olive oil
3 large onions (any kind!), chopped
4 large carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 2” knob of fresh ginger, peeled
5 large garlic cloves, peeled
10 yellow squash, chopped into 2” chunks
1 chipotle in adobo sauce + 2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from the can)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon smoked spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (you can use chicken broth for a non-vegan version, too)
1 14oz can full-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup maple syrup

Place a large heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of oil, then add onion, carrots, celery, and ginger. Sautee about 5 minutes until onions are translucent. Add the garlic and sautée until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Add the squash, chipotle and adobo sauce, salt, paprika, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer uncovered 20 - 30 minutes or until squash is very tender.

Remove from heat and let cool about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to release the heat.

Working in batches, place a few cups of the soup in a large blender, cover, and puree on low until very smooth. (Do NOT fill the blender completely—hot soup will release steam and can make a blender lid pop. I also like to drape a dish towel over the lid for further protection.) Transfer pureed soup to a new large pot and repeat with rest of the batches.

Once all the soup is pureed, use a whisk to mix in the coconut milk, lime juice, and maple syrup until fully incorporated. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper or other spices, as desired.

Other Ideas:
  • Add peeled apples or pears in with your squash.
  • Add other types of squash or root vegetables (rutabaga, butternut, acorn, kuri, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yellow beets, etc.)
  • Add in herbs like cilantro, scallions, or basil (this will change the color, but add so much flavor!).
  • Make it spicier with additional chilies, or skip them altogether.
  • Swap in heavy cream or a stick of butter in place of the coconut milk.
  • Add curry powder or paste.
  • Add smoked ham hock or turkey wings to add smoky flavor.
  • Serve it will pulled smoked pork, rotisserie chicken, chickpeas or black beans stirred in.
  • Serve with yogurt, crumbled feta, or parmesan cheese on top.
  • Garnish with crunchy cheese crackers, croutons, or saltines.

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