Why It Works
- Roasting the squash first deepens its flavor and sweetness.
- Ancho chiles add a rich, earthy taste and mild heat to the soup.
Like TV procedural dramas, ice cream flavors, and Fab 5 Freddy's Change the Beat (the world's most sampled song), there's no such thing as too many versions of a good thing. So it is with butternut squash soup. Yes, it's practically de rigueur for recipe publications to unveil a few new ones each season, but that's just because it's so perfect.
Butternut squash has just enough personality to make it interesting in its own right, but is still enough of a blank slate to make it a good base for all sorts of flavor ideas. If butternut squash brought home an elementary school report card, the note from the teacher would say, Has a strong sense of self yet always cooperates well with others.
Which is all to say, here is one more butternut squash soup idea and, if I dare say so, it's pretty tasty. It's also unlike any I've made or eaten before, with a flavor that almost makes it taste like a mashup with chili. That's probably because it's made with quite a bit of chile—ancho chile, to be exact.
My first thought was to reach into the Mexican pantry for this soup, since squash is an indigenous food to the Americas anyway. I also wanted to keep it simple, because that's one of the appeals of a soup like this, at least to me.
To make it, I start out by tossing the diced squash with oil and roasting it in the oven. That may sound like an extra step that goes against the whole simple thing, but if you cook efficiently, it isn't: Just cut up the squash first and throw it in the oven, then prep all the other ingredients while it cooks. The benefit is that it gives you a chance to deepen the flavor and sweetness of the squash more than if you were to just simmer it.
Then I take those ancho chiles and toast them in a dry skillet until fragrant before tearing them up and sautéing them in a pot with onion, carrot, and garlic. I used two anchos in my version, and they add quite a bit of chile flavor and even some heat. If you're worried that the soup will be too hot, you can either remove their seeds, or cut it back to a single ancho chile.
Then I add chicken stock and simmer it all together until everything is tender. At about this point, the squash should be softened and browned, so I add that to the pot as well. If your baking sheet has caramelized bits of squash stuck to it, I recommend using a little water to scrape it off and then add that flavorful water to the pot as well (mine didn't, but it happens sometimes).
I then blend the soup to a smooth purée, which is very easy to do right in the pot if you have an immersion blender. The last step is to taste the soup and correct the flavor with a little sugar if it tastes unbalanced. This is going to depend a lot on the squash itself: Really ripe sweet ones may not need it, but the one I used for my batch just wasn't sweet enough and a spoonful of sugar was essential.
I garnish it with some Mexican crema, though you can also substitute a dollop of sour cream, some fresh cilantro, and a sprinkling of pepitas. A few lime wedges on the side for everyone to squeeze into the soup as they see fit, and it's a done deal.
Feel free to come up with your own variation on this—there's enough room in the world for all of them.
2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 ancho chiles, stemmed (see notes)
2 medium onions, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 medium cloves garlic, crushed
1 quart chicken stock or low-sodium broth (see notes)
1 cup water
Sugar, to taste
Mexican crema or sour cream, for garnish
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
Pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds), for garnish
Lime wedges, for serving
Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Toss squash with 2 tablespoons oil, season with salt, and spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast squash, stirring occasionally, until browned and tender, about 35 minutes.
In a dry skillet, toast ancho chiles over high heat, turning once, until fragrant. Let cool, then tear into pieces.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, carrot, and garlic, and cook until softened and just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add ancho chiles, chicken stock, and water and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain simmer. Stir in butternut squash.
Using a countertop blender or immersion blender, blend soup until completely smooth. Season with salt and add sugar 1 teaspoon at a time to balance the flavor, if needed.
Spoon soup into bowls and garnish with crema or sour cream, cilantro, and pepitas. Serve with lime wedges.
If you want a less spicy soup with a less intense chile flavor, feel free to discard the ancho chile seeds or scale down to one ancho chile pepper. Otherwise, go for the big flavor and spoon in plenty of crema or sour cream to tame the intensity. You can make this soup vegetarian by substituting with vegetable stock.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 12g||15%|
|Saturated Fat 2g||11%|
|Total Carbohydrate 31g||11%|
|Dietary Fiber 8g||29%|
|Total Sugars 8g|
|Vitamin C 35mg||176%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|