Effortless Vegan Butternut Squash Apple Soup

The main reason I don't make butternut squash soup more often is the prep work. I hate hacking it open, and peeling the stubborn skin around all the curves. And just when you think you're done, you have to peel apples too. Pre-cut squash is much more expensive, but saves a lot of time and frustration. And you know what else? The apples are basically turning into applesauce anyways, once boiled and puréed, so you might as well just cut to the chase and use pre-made applesauce too.

There are several ways to make butternut squash soup. You could do a sweeter soup with pumpkin-pie type spices. You could use garlic, ginger or curry spices for a more savory soup. But my favorite is just in between - a little bit savory and a litte tart-sweet from apples. It highlights the flavor of good squash better. Adding a bit of cream is also an option, but not necessary. I compromised this week by using up some vegan cashew-cream I had frozen long ago. It adds a nice creaminess, and protein, without the dairy fat.

Effortless Vegan Butternut Squash Apple Soup
*allow about 1 hour**approx. 6 servings*

5 Cups cut Butternut Squash (2 - 20oz packages)
Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper
*optional for non-vegan: 2T margarine (omit for vegan)
2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
4-6 Cups Vegetable Stock (Organic, comes in a box)
1 Cup plain Applesauce (2 "snack pack" containers)
3/4 Cup Cashew Cream (or 1/2 C heavy cream or whole milk)

If using cashew cream:
Add about 2 Cups of raw cashews to a container, and add cool water to just cover them. Soak several hours, preferably overnight, in the refrigerator. Puree in a blender until smooth and creamy like milk. Any extra can be reserved and used a few days later, or frozen for about a month or so.

1. Heat oven to 400F. 

2. Arrange squash chunks on a large baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Toss with your hands to coat. Season with salt & pepper and bake about 30 minutes until softened and starting to brown. Set aside when done.

3. In a large stockpot, heat 1T of olive oil (more if vegan) and 2T margarine. Sauté onions until translucent.
*The idea is that a little bit of fat enhances soup's flavor - so it is preferable to use margarine. I wouldn't use Earth Balance, it has a strange flavor that I'd hate to see overtake this soup.

4. Add squash and enough vegetable stock to cover it. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes, and remove from heat.

5. Using an immersion hand blender or regular blender, puree the soup until smooth. Stir in the applesauce and season with salt & pepper as needed. 

6. Return to low heat and add cashew cream. Cover to avoid getting splattered with eruptions - it happens fast! Serve when heated through.

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