This nutrient dense soup is packed with umami and has a gorgeous color for a delicious, satisfying vegan meal. I could just as easily have called it a stew – it is that thick and hearty! While I might be a bit sad to see the days getting shorter, I always look forward to wearing my fall clothes and eating the wonderful variety of winter squashes and root vegetables. And unlike summer squashes, having winter squashes is like having money in the bank. Kept in a cool, dry place, they will last for weeks or even months. They really were a saving grace during the worst of the pandemic when we tried to only shop once every few weeks.
It’s true that it can often be dreary outside at this time of year, but our food can still be filled with color and flavor. This Winter Squash Lentil Soup has everything going for it in a one-pot meal. Add some bread and maybe a nice glass of wine or some herbal tea and happily call it dinner. Though I would never eschew a nice green salad, it isn’t actually necessary. The kale, chard or spinach that is added at the end will give you more than enough greens and is a beautiful contrast to the bright orange of the squash, carrots and turmeric.
I came across a recipe that looked appealing when I was surfing for ways to use up some lovely squashes I had picked up at the farmers’ market.
Nowadays, of course, many large supermarkets also have a good variety of winter squashes available. And I make a delicious curried butternut squash soup every Thanksgiving. But I had never thought about adding lentils before. As I have mentioned in several posts, my husband and I are eating a largely vegetarian diet these days, although we have no plans to give up meat altogether. It does mean, though, that I try to be very conscious of adding in plant protein whenever I can.
The original recipe looked good to me but I wanted to make some changes – as is my wont. So below is the recipe as I made it and it’s wonderful. However, while I used Red Kuri Squash, just about any other orange-fleshed squash would work here. Butternut, carnival or pumpkin squashes all would be delicious. I also chose to go with a chana dal or yellow split pea rather than the green or brown lentils called for in the original. Part of the reason was to maintain that gorgeous color, but I also love that the chana dal maintains its bite even with a long cooking. I always use it 50/50 in my green split pea soup for that reason. If you don’t have them, pretty much any lentil will do.
Not only can you control or adapt the soup to what you have on hand, but you can also decide if you are going for a mellow curried flavor or one that is more spicy. And if you don’t like peanut butter, you can substitute cashew butter or even almond butter. Fall and winter not only bring out the beautiful squashes but also the heartier greens. Dino or lacinato kale, Swiss chard in all of its varieties, collards, mustard or turnip greens. I happen to love beet greens, but it is difficult to come across really nice ones where I live and many grocery stores actually throw them out before they are ever seen by customers.
This hearty soup comes together pretty quickly, making it a nice anytime soup. And while it is rare for me to buy pre-chopped squash, if you are really in a pinch for time, many grocery stores do offer that option. Winter Squash and Lentil Soup can be made ahead and refrigerated. Just gently warm it and add the greens before serving, allowing them to just wilt.
This is a soup to enjoy throughout the fall and winter. It will banish the drears away.
Yield: About 6 servings
1 Tablespoon oil (Canola, coconut or EVOO)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 Tablespoon of freshly grated ginger
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped – about 2 cups
1 large carrot, thinly sliced or diced
1 winter squash, about 2 pounds, peeled and cubed (about 6 cups)
1 Tablespoon yellow curry powder (hot or not or a mix)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 15 ounce can of coconut milk – full fat, preferably
4 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup of chana dal or yellow split peas (green or brown lentils will work but the color won’t be as lovely), rinsed well and sorted. If your lentils are older, give them an overnight soak. Drain them before using.
3 Tablespoons natural peanut butter without any sugar – smooth or chunky
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
2 good handfuls of baby spinach or kale
Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
Chopped roasted peanuts or cashews
Sing Bhujia Masala Peanuts
Add the oil of choice to a largish pot or Dutch oven. Heat to medium high and add the chopped onions and salt. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add the turmeric powder and curry powder and stir through for 30 seconds to bloom the spices.
Now add the squash, carrot, lentils, garlic and ginger and stir everything well, coating all of the veg with the spices.
Stir in the coconut milk, peanut butter and vegetable broth. Mix well and add in the cracked black pepper.
Bring the soup to a boil, then partially cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.
If you are making this ahead, allow the soup to cool a bit. Using an immersion blender, partially blend the soup. You want to still see some of the chunks of squash. This can also be done in a standing blender. In that case, only blend about 3 cups. Be VERY careful if the soup is hot. Cover the top of the blender with a kitchen towel and do not overfill the blender. Start on a low speed to prevent the hot liquid exploding out the top.
Just before you are ready to serve, make sure that the soup is hot and add in your greens of choice. Depending on the kind of greens you are using, they may take as little as 3 minutes to wilt (spinach) to more like 20 minutes (collards). I used a Dino kale (lacinato kale) and gave it about 8 minutes. Garnish and enjoy! Leftovers can be refrigerated and will last about a week.