This nourishing and warming butternut squash soup recipe is perfect for the cold weather. It is gluten and dairy free and can easily be made vegan. Packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, it may become one of your favorite comfort foods!
Butternut Squash: Butternut squash is native to Central and South America. Although technically a fruit, butternut squash is a sweet, nutty winter squash served as a vegetable. Its yellow peel and orange pulp contain carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene [i]. Lutein and zeaxanthin are associated with preventing or improving age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss in older adults [ii]. Beta-carotene is an important dietary source for the production of Vitamin A, a vitamin essential for tissue growth, immunity response, and visual health [iii]. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of carotenoids may counter the effects of certain chronic diseases, improve iron absorption, the immune system, cardiovascular health, and insulin resistance, and reduce the risk of certain cancers [i, iv]. When buying butternut squash, consider that the darker the orange, the higher the carotenoid content [iii]. Butternut squash is also a good source of Vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and fiber.
Carrots: Carrots are a root vegetable, the most common of which is orange-colored. As with butternut squash, carrots are rich in carotenoids and phenols, thereby providing protection against inflammation and certain cancers. They also supply health-promoting nutrients such as minerals (calcium and iron), carbohydrates, vitamins K and C, potassium, magnesium, folate, and fiber [v, vi]. There is no need to peel the carrots – just brush and wash. Peeling a carrot may reduce its levels of carotenoids and phenols as higher concentrations have been found in the peel than the flesh [v].
Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes are starchy, sweet tasting tuberous root vegetables most often found with a copper-colored skin and bright orange flesh. They are high in potassium and vitamin B6. Potassium is important for blood pressure and muscle contraction. Vitamin B6 helps with the normal function of the nervous and immune systems. They also contain other health-promoting nutrients such as iron, calcium, vitamin C, carbohydrates, and fiber [vii]. The flesh of an orange sweet potato contains the antioxidant properties of the carotenoid beta-carotene, while the flesh of a purple sweet potato contains the antioxidant properties of the phytochemical anthocyanins [vii, viii].
Cranberries: Cranberries are a fruit with a sharp and sour taste. They provide carbohydrates and fiber and have a high water content. They contain vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, manganese, and copper, a mineral potentially low in a Western diet of processed foods [ix, x]. Importantly, they contain several phytochemicals (anthocyanins, procyanidins, and flavonols) associated with protecting against certain cancers and vascular disease. They have been linked with reducing cholesterol and improving cardiovascular, digestive (potentially inhibiting the growth of H. pylori in the stomach), and urinary tract health [xi].
Butternut Squash Soup with Cranberry Puree
For the Soup
- 2 oz of butter or ghee or 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced small
- 2 orange carrots, diced small
- 1/8 teaspoon mace (or nutmeg or allspice)
- ¼ teaspoon ginger (or one Tablespoon freshly grated ginger)
- 1 bay leaf
- White pepper, for taste as needed (optional)
- Salt, for taste or as needed
- 1 ½ pounds (or 5 cups) butternut squash, peeled, chopped into approximately 1-inch cubes
- ½ pound orange sweet potatoes (or half of a large sweet potato), peeled, chopped into approximately 1-inch cubes
- 3 pints low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- Using a heavy pot, melt the butter. Add in the onions and carrots and sprinkle with a pinch of salt to bring out their flavors.
- Cook the vegetables on low heat until soft to touch, approximately 8 minutes. Be sure not to brown or caramelize the vegetables.
- Add the mace, ginger, bay leaf, white pepper, and salt, and cook for approximately 3 minutes.
- Add the squash, sweet potatoes, and broth to the pot. Simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
- Remove the pot from the heat and allow its contents to cool a bit before blending. Using a blender, immersion blender, or food processor, blend the vegetables and broth. Keep warm until ready to serve and adjust seasonings as needed. Cool any leftovers and store in the refrigerator.
For the Cranberry Puree
- ½ package of fresh or frozen cranberries
- 2 teaspoons of water or port wine
- Pinch of cinnamon
- In a sauce pan, combine the cranberries and water or port wine, and simmer over medium to low heat for approximately 10 minutes until the cranberries burst and thickening of the sauce begins.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow its contents to cool a bit before pureeing. Puree in a blender or food processor. Strain the sauce and add a pinch of cinnamon after all liquid has been discarded.
- Use a ladle to pour soup into each bowl. Using a spoon, drizzle one or two tablespoons of cranberry puree on top of each bowl of soup. Enjoy!
- To save time, buy pre-cut cubed fresh or frozen butternut squash.
- To help absorb the fat soluble carotenoids and slow down any glycemic effects, top with toasted pumpkin seeds or consume with other healthy fats and/or lean protein.
- Have fun and change the color of your carrots and sweet potatoes!
- Add pumpkin spice for more flavoring.
- Be sure not to scrape your carrots for extra antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Save the skin of the potatoes and use in another dish (eg. a broth or stew, or bake and eat as chips).
[i] Zaccari F, Galietta G. α-Carotene and β-Carotene Content in Raw and Cooked Pulp of Three Mature Stage Winter Squash “Type Butternut”. Foods. 2015 Sep 18;4(3):477-486. doi: 10.3390/foods4030477. PMID: 28231218; PMCID: PMC5224544.
[ii] Eisenhauer B, Natoli S, Liew G, Flood VM. Lutein and Zeaxanthin-Food Sources, Bioavailability and Dietary Variety in Age-Related Macular Degeneration Protection. Nutrients. 2017 Feb 9;9(2):120. doi: 10.3390/nu9020120. PMID: 28208784; PMCID: PMC5331551.
[iii] Zhang MK, Zhang MP, Mazourek M, Tadmor Y, Li L. Regulatory control of carotenoid accumulation in winter squash during storage. Planta. 2014;240(5):1063-1074. doi:10.1007/s00425-014-2147-6
[iv] Buscemi S, Corleo D, Di Pace F, Petroni ML, Satriano A, Marchesini G. The Effect of Lutein on Eye and Extra-Eye Health. Nutrients. 2018 Sep 18;10(9):1321. doi: 10.3390/nu10091321. PMID: 30231532; PMCID: PMC6164534.
[v] Conversa G, Bonasia A, Natrella G, Lazzizera C, Elia A. Peeling Affects the Nutritional Properties of Carrot Genotypes. Foods. 2021 Dec 24;11(1):45. doi: 10.3390/foods11010045. PMID: 35010169; PMCID: PMC8750513.
[vi] Verywellfit, Carrot Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. https://www.verywellfit.com/calories-in-carrots-3495643 Accessed September 7, 2022.
[vii] Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Sweat Potatoes. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/sweet-potatoes/ Accessed September 7, 2022.
[viii] Oloniyo, RO, Omoba, OS, Awolu, OO, et al. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes composite bread: A good carrier of beta-carotene and antioxidant properties. J Food Biochem. 2020; 45(3):e13423. doi: 10.1111/jfbc.13423
[ix] Verywellfit, Cranberry Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. https://www.verywellfit.com/carb-counts-for-cranberries-2241782 Accessed September 7, 2022.
[x] Klevay LM. Cardiovascular disease from copper deficiency – a history. J. Nutr. 2000;130(2S Suppl):489S-492S. doi: 10.1093/jn/130.2.489S
[xi] Zhao S, Liu H, Gu L. American cranberries and health benefits – an evolving story of 25 years. J Science Food and Agric, 2020;100(14):5111-5116. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.8882