Butternut squash soup kicked up with Thai curry flavor and served with sweet and spicy candied peanuts. Want a soup that’ll warm you up? This is it.
I was vegetarian for most of my twenties and though I eat (ethically-raised, organic) meat now, I wouldn’t have that much trouble giving it up. On the other hand, I was vegan for about 45 minutes and almost lost my mind craving cheese.
I admit that I’m slightly weird with dairy. The thought of drinking a glass of milk makes me shudder with horror, but cheesy pastas and creamy soups are my comfort foods of choice. It would take a lot for me to say goodbye to them forever.
This soup is absolutely comfort food in the best way but, surprise! It also happens to be vegan. Yes, vegan. The trick (if it could even be called that) is to combine silky puréed butternut squash with creamy, rich coconut milk. The texture becomes as smooth as bisque, without a drop of dairy.
The addition of sweet caramelized onions, bright ginger and fiery Thai red curry paste* gives it incredible flavor.
Note: Thai red curry paste can be found in many larger grocery stores as well as in Asian markets. Of course, there’s always the internet if you can’t find it locally. A small warning; it can vary quite a bit in heat level from brand to brand so you might want to start with one or two tablespoons and add more as desired. Full disclosure: I got cocky and added way, way too much initially and almost killed us both. I’m pretty sure Matt ran off to check that I hadn’t suddenly increased his life insurance policy.
Also, some brands of curry paste contain shrimp and or fish sauce so check the label if you’re vegan or are cooking for vegans. I know that Thai Kitchen brand is vegan and gluten free but I’m sure there are others.
The great thing about this kind of soup is that it’s very forgiving (unless you pour a metric ton of spicy curry paste in it) so it’s a great recipe for beginners. Cut everything roughly the same size (so it cooks evenly) and let it simmer slowly in the broth until the squash is very soft, then purée it until it’s smooth. Once that’s done, you can get it to taste exactly the way you like it. Taste it for seasoning and add more salt if it needs it. If it’s too thick, add a bit more stock or even water. Want it spicier? Add some more curry paste or a pinch of cayenne pepper. A squirt of lime is always a good idea to brighten the flavor of anything long-cooked. A sprinkle of mint, basil and cilantro on top also adds to the freshness.
We topped ours with a swirl of extra coconut milk, lots of fresh mint and cilantro and a squeeze of lime. I like a crunchy texture with soup so we sprinkled on some Sweet and Spicy Candied Peanuts as well. It’s a fantastic combination with the soup but the nuts are made with egg whites so are not vegan. Any toasted nuts or seeds would be great on top though.
This would be a fantastic start to a Thanksgiving dinner (whether your guests are vegan or not) because the bright spices work to complement the traditional flavors of the meal. Plus, it just looks so pretty.
- 2 tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil
- 2½ pounds (1kilo) butternut or kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
- 2 - 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (see note above about vegan brands of paste)
- ½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt, more to taste
- 1-2 tablespoons agave (or honey, not vegan)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 5 cups vegetable broth (or chicken - not vegan, obviously) (1liter)
- 1 cup coconut milk (save the rest of the can for drizzling) (250ml)
- Handful fresh mint or cilantro leaves, chopped
- Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add onions and cook until soft and translucent (about 5-7 minutes). Add squash, garlic, ginger, curry paste, and salt. Stir to combine and cook for 1 minute, until garlic is fragrant. Add broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until squash is completely soft, about 20-25 minutes.
- While soup is simmering, make Spiced Candied Peanuts (if using)
- Blend soup well using a stick blender or, working in batches, transfer soup to a blender (do not fill blender more than halfway with hot liquid and use a kitchen towel to protect your hand from any escaping steam). Purée soup and add back to the pot. Add coconut milk and re-heat the soup until just hot, then stir in the lime juice and honey, and adjust the seasoning with salt. Ladle soup into individual bowls. Use a spoon to drizzle a bit coconut milk over each bowl. Top with Spiced Peanuts and a sprinkle of cilantro or mint.