Creamy (vegan) Winter Squash Soup

CreamyVeganWinterSquashSoup

We’re in the depths of northern California winter, and with Super El Niño that means rain and perfect soup weather. Plus, it’s January and, let’s be honest, we all could probably focus more on healthier food choices for a while. We’re firm believers that comfort food can still be healthy and leave you feeling good in your body and virtuous in your soul. The following recipe can be almost impossibly simple and delicious, or you can fancy it up in numerous ways. We’ve given you some ideas below for different variations. The base recipe is vegan and gluten-free, and dead simple. Paired with bread from your favorite local baker, it makes a quick, satisfying, and warming meal. You can use pretty much any winter squash you want, even canned pumpkin (purée, not pie filling!).

Basic Recipe
2 cups cubed winter squash (about 1 1/2 pounds for a raw squash or 1 12-oz can of pumpkin purée)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup water or vegetable stock
1 14-oz can coconut milk (you can use light, the soup will just be a bit thinner)

Sautée the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until the onion turns translucent. Don’t worry if it browns a bit. Add the squash and water or stock (if the squash is not covered by the liquid, add just enough to cover). Simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender. Using an immersion blender (or transfer to a stand blender), blend the soup until smooth. Add the coconut milk and salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Thai Curried Version
2 t ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2-4 T good-quality Thai curry paste (green or red)
Cilantro
Lime Slices

Add ginger with the onions and garlic. Proceed as written above, then add the curry paste a tablespoon at a time and taste. Note that some pastes can be quite spicy, so you need to add and taste as you go to get the level of spiciness that you’d like. Garnish with roughly chopped cilantro leaves and a squeeze of lime.

Sage and Brown Butter Version (not vegan)
8-10 sage leaves, or about 2T chopped, plus 2 whole sage leaves per person
2 T brown butter, plus more for garnish (see our recipe here)

Replace the olive oil with brown butter, sautéing the onion, garlic, and sage in about 2 T brown butter. Proceed with recipe as above. Keeping finished soup warm, heat a few tablespoons of brown butter in a sauté pan and cook the whole sage leaves over medium-high heat until crisp (they’ll turn a bit brown). Garnish finished soup with whole crisp sage leaves and a drizzle of brown butter.

Indian-Style Curried Version 
2 t ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2-3 T yellow curry powder
2 t ground coriander
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Coconut oil or ghee

Replace the olive oil with coconut oil or ghee. Add the ginger and spices to the onions and garlic and proceed with the original base recipe as above.

Other ideas and garnishes:

  • Roast some small cubes of your winter squash in a 450 degree oven until soft and turning nicely brown. Garnish soup with a small mound of roasted squash.
  • Garnish any of the above versions with seared scallops.
  • Garnish the Thai version with sautéed prawns.
  • Fry some cubed tofu until brown and slightly crispy and use it as a vegan garnish and protein source.
  • Sauté ribbons of kale or spinach and place a mound in the center of each bowl and ladle soup over top.

Tabitha Steager

Tabitha Steager Communications, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia v8k2p7