Kevin’s Caramelized Butternut Squash Soup

November 22, 2013

I LOVE THIS BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP. It’s a blissful brew of caramelized squash, smokey bacon, savory thyme, and smooth sherry, all blended to perfumed perfection.  It’s delicious for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. I often serve it as the first course for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Everybody loves it! Here’s the recipe:

Note: I originally wrote about this soup back in 2011. But because I’m taking pictures for my cookbook, I thought you wouldn’t mind a re-write.

First, grab a 4-lb butternut squash.

Would you believe I grew this handsome hunk of a squash myself? ‘Tis true.

I’m sure you are impressed, and think me a genius.

Cut off the stem end…

And also the knobby end, which contains the seeds. Then chop up the two ends, and toss them in the compost bin.

Stand the remaining, cylindrical section upright on your work surface, and, using a sharp knife, slice off the tough skin.

Then slice the cylinder in half, and cut each half in half, to form quarters.  If your quarters are more than one inch wide, you can cut them into eighths.

Hey! We’re doing fractions!

True Confession: As a young student, I sucked at fractions.  But just look at me now, halving…quartering…and “eigth-ing.” My fourth grade teacher, Miss Horswill (we didn’t use “Ms.” back then), would be shocked indeed.

Ugh. Miss Horswill. She was not the nurturing type. I suspect that Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess would refer to her this way:  “A nastier woman never drew breath.”

But back to our soup-making.

Cut the squash into one inch pieces…

And then put them on a baking sheet, and give them a glistening drizzle of olive oil.

Bake the squash for exactly 45 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, grab 8 slices of bacon…

And roughly chop them up.

Put the bacon pieces in a heavy, 6-quart pot, and let them cook slowly over a low flame until their fat is rendered — about 8 minutes. Keep an eye on them — they should barely color.

Now peel two large yellow or white onions…

And chop them up.

Add the onions to the bacon.

Stir in  some salt, some pepper, and a generous 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme leaves.

Then cover the pot, and let the onions sweat until they are perfectly tender but not colored — about 20 minutes.

Are you still with me? Good. I was afraid that memories of Miss Horswill might have scare you away. Scoop the bacon mixture into the work-bowl of a food processor…

Add one cup of salt-free chicken stock…

And process to a smooth puree.

No pictures for these next two steps: Quickly wash out and dry the big pot you’ve been using. Then return the pureed bacon and onions to the pot.

Tip the cooked squash and one cup of chicken stock into the bowl of the food processor (you needn’t clean it out first)…

And process until smooth.

Now scoop the squash into the pot…

Add 3 cups of chicken stock…

And enough medium-dry sherry to make you forget all about Miss Horswill.

Add some heavy cream, too.

Bring this beautiful brew to a boil, and then lower heat, and let it simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

If you are not going to serve the soup right away, let it cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate for up to 4 days. When you are ready to serve, just return the soup to a boil, and add a little more cream.

Would you like to taste the soup? I only ask, because I’ve set the table in the parlor. I’ve also lit a fire there.

Obviously, your comfort is very important to me.

I’ve garnished our servings with a tiny sprig of fresh thyme.

Sancerre — a  white wine from the Loire Valley — goes very well with Caramelized Butternut Squash Soup.  Cheers!

Folks, this soup is unbelievably fragrant and delicious. Promise me you’ll prepare it for yourself and your guests some day. It’s the perfect thing to tuck into on a cold autumn eve.

Need a printer-friendly copy-and-paste version of the above? Here goes:

Kevin’s Caramelized Butternut Squash Soup
Ingredients for about 3 quarts
One large (4-lb) butternut squash (or two smaller ones)
A drizzle of olive oil
8 slices bacon , cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large yellow or white onions, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and grinds of black pepper
A generous 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (triple the amount for fresh, chopped leaves)
5 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup medium-dry sherry
1/3 cup heavy cream
Optional: Sprigs of fresh thyme for garnish

Special Equipment: a heavy-bottomed 6-quart pot or Dutch oven; a food processor with metal blade attached

Preheat oven to 375°F, with oven rack at the lower-third position

Peel the squash, and then cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes. Put the cubes on a baking sheet, coat them with olive oil, and roast until tender and slightly colored — 40-45 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, put the chopped bacon in a heavy-based pot set over a low flame. Cook slowly until the fat is rendered — about 8 minutes. Do not drain off the fat.

Stir the onions into the bacon, and add the seasonings (salt, pepper and thyme). Cover the pot, and let cook gently over a low flame just until the onion is soft but not colored — about 20 minutes.

Put the bacon mixture and one cup of chicken stock in the food processor. Process until perfectly smooth — about 30 seconds.

Quickly wash out and dry the pot, and then return to it the (now-pureed) bacon mixture.

Tip the cooked squash and one cup of chicken stock into the food processor (you needn’t clean the work-bowl first), and process until smooth.

Pour the pureed squash into the pot, along with the remaining 3 cups of chicken stock. Then stir in the sherry and the cream. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat, and let the soup simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

Ahead of time note: If you are not going to serve the soup right away, let it cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate, covered, for up to 4 days. When you are ready to serve, bring the soup to a boil, and then stir in a little cream.

Ladle the soup into bowls, and garnish, if you wish, each serving with a sprig of fresh thyme.

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Related Posts:
Cranberry-Almond Tart
A Better Pumpkin Pie
Hominy au Gratin


  1. Marjean says:

    I had a bumper crop of butternut squash. Looks like a grand way to put them to good use!! I need to get some sherry though. Any recommendations?

  2. Tammy says:

    Kevin, this sounds fabulous! I had a banner year for butternut squash so this recipe is very welcome. We’re vegetarian and will substitute veggie bacon, of course. Thanks for the well-timed recipe! I always love reading your recipes because they’re an experience, you know…like we’re in the kitchen chatting and sipping and dicing with you and Lily.

  3. Amy says:

    I first had this soup some time ago, searched your site to find it again, and I’ve gone crazy making double recipes since squash came into season. It is my all time favorite breakfast on the go, but also great for entertaining. I may have developed an addiction… but still can’t thank you enough!

  4. Denise in NJ says:

    My family and I aren’t fond of the taste of sherry. Is there anything I could use as a substitute?

  5. anita says:

    Looking forward to your cookbook! Hope Miss Lily will be in it somewhere.
    This sounds like a great recipe. I’m not used to cooking with wine. Well, really I don’t know anything about it. Once you open the bottle of sherry or cooking wine, how long does it last? (And I don’t mean if you’re drinking it also!) Also, how should it be stored?

  6. Cary Bradley says:

    Simply sublime…

  7. Hi Marjean – For the sherry, I used Hartley & Gibson’s Amontillado.

    Hi Anita – Medium-dry sherry, such as Amontillado, will last for a couple of months after opening. No need to refrigerate, but do make sure the bottle is properly stoppered (corked).

    Hi Denise in NJ – Sherry is rather unique, so I can’t, off-hand, think of a good substitute. The soup won’t taste like sherry — it will simply have a subtle, sherry-essense!

  8. I just lost my mind with thoughts of eating a SOUP with all my favorite ingredients! You had me at Butternut Squash! I make “Butternut Squash Chocolate Pecan Pies”_(my creation) all the time….& have tried some soup recipes_ BUT, this one has BACON….OMG! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Anne says:

    i’ve had your soup and it is just fabulous. The addition of the bacon has just gripped me so I’m using my own squash and shall make this wonderful brew.

  10. Susan L. Espersen says:

    Oh Kevin! WE grew buckets of Butternut Squash (even in the clay) and planned just squash as a side dish for out Wedding Reception/Thanksgiving Dinner, but this looks WONDERFUL! But what can I use to serve 32 people that won’t look tacky. I don’t have enough soup bowls! :-/
    Susan :-)

  11. Marsha says:

    The recipe sounds very good. As I was copying the directions trying to make a mental note of what I need to make the dish, I believe your condensed version, should read:
    Stir in the “onions” and the seasonings (salt, pepper and thyme)………(in with the bacon??)

  12. Pat McGee says:

    Hi Kevin,

    I have one question. Do you pour off the grease after you render the bacon or does it become part of the soup? I love your website and am so happy that I came across it this year. I have sent the link to many of my friends who are now fans of you as well. Thanks for all the great recipes and gardening hints. I would love to visit your lovely home and gardens some day. Do you ever give tours to people?

  13. Marsha – Thanks for noticing. I’ve clarified the copy-and-paste version.

    Pat McGee – The bacon fat becomes a (delicious!) part of the soup. As for the tours — I have 2 garden tours here each summer, to benefit the Garden Conservancy. I’ll post the dates when I have them!

  14. Dori says:

    The quick easy way to evenly coat the veggies for carmelizing or roasting is to use a spray bottle or spray can of olive oil. But I can’t find a red polka-dotted spatula. Would a plain white one work?

    This soup can be made with pumpkin or any yellow winter squash. Yum!

  15. Pam says:

    YUM! I will try this recipe. My recipe is very similar but doesn’t include sherry or cream. That’ll make it richer…can’t wait to make it. Thanks Kevin.

  16. Beverly, zone 6, eastern PA says:

    Regarding fractions, those things we never believed we’d use at all after junior high school, Miss Horswill may come after you for the way you spelled “eighth-ing” !!

    But before she stands you in the corner, please tell us all where you got the red and white polka-dotted spatula!

  17. Sue says:

    I literally just pulled a tray of roasted butternut squash, ginger and shallots out of the oven for soup! Will try your version next time….never thought of bacon!

  18. Nancy Taro says:

    Can this be frozen. If so, how long?

  19. Migs Murray says:

    Hi Kevin,
    Is this soup suitable to freeze?

  20. Leslie says:

    Did you say cookbook?? Yippee!!

  21. Barb Muhlfelder says:

    Can’t wait to try the soup. Your blog always makes me smile. I still think of my visit in August at the open-garden day and your woodland garden. It was lovely and I hope you’ll be open again for another tour this coming summer.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  22. Gerry says:

    I’m going to make this soup eventually, but you’ve given me a great idea on how to prepare my home grown butternut squash as a side dish this Thanksgiving. Thanks!

  23. Lynne says:

    Being vegetarian, can I make the soup without the bacon? Will it still be OK or should I just look for a different recipe?,
    Thanks…love your web site

  24. Bridget says:

    yummy! thanks for sharing. I’m not much of a cook, i Much more enjoy eating others food, but i’m going to pass this on to my wonderful husband. Hint, hint! Also pretty sure I’ll have a crazy dream sometime this week about MissHorswill{what a banner name for 4th graders to mock}, or my very own nightmare 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Gramn. She used to throw erasers at me!! Yikes!! Happy Thanksgiving, Kevin. To you and all you Love

  25. cynthia shultz says:

    Hi Kevin,
    I love love love your posts. A definite highlight of my week. Even have my husband enjoying as well and helping my with the cut and paste. Will try this recipe. thanks, Cynthia

  26. alison says:

    Looks lovely! I’ll try it with a veggie bacon sometime. A great time saver would be a hand held blender- one of those one handed wands work great for all my soups.

  27. Suzanne says:

    Can I substitute sweet pie pumpkins? My one hill of pumpkins produced a bumper crop; the butternut squash only gave me a few. I would like to make pumpkin soup that I can slip by my significant other as “squash” soup–he claims he doesn’t like pumpkin.

  28. Kip Morrissette says:

    If ANYONE can explain how to peel that outside layer of an onion as easily as they make it look on all the cooking shows…YOU CAN. I have tried making one slit through the one layer and tried peeling it off and it never works. I get ‘chunks’ at a time. And it doesn’t matter what kind of onian, the outslde layer is a bugger to remove. The camera’s always move too fast to see how it’s done, so maybe others are not having that layer slide off easily either??? Thanks. I read your recipes and the comments like a novel. It is like a good book that grabs you immediatley. Happy Thanksgiving to you and ‘your fans’.

  29. Sharon says:

    Kevin, I made this soup this past Sunday and WOW! SO YUMMY! My hubby, who does NOT like butternut squash, had 2 large bowls!



  30. Hi Suzanne – I’ve tried this soup with pumpkin puree, and although it was edible, it was not wonderful. On the other hand, when made with butternut squash, the soup is about as delicious as delicious can be!

    Hi Kip – My onion method: Cut off the stem end. Then stand the bulb cut side down, and slice in half through the roots. Then peel each half. And by the way — I’ve always found that big white onions are infinitely easier to peel than yellow varieties.

    Hi Sharon – So glad you tried — and liked — the soup!

  31. Donna Besst says:

    Kevin: Just finished making the Butternut Squash Soup…it is devine! The brine is cooling and I’m ready to start the Cranberry Tart….Thank you for some new ideas. Happy Thanksgiving!

  32. Cathy says:

    Kevin, I just finished making this recipe, and I have never tasted a more delicious soup! I it is an absolute perfect blending of flavors. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I can’t wait to serve it to my family!

  33. Kate says:

    I’m going to try this vegetarian style – it looks so delicious! Thank you!

  34. Sheryl says:

    I think I am repeating a question that was asked earlier, but not answered: what happens if I make this without bacon (I LOVE bacon, but I am thinking of making it for a group that includes at least one vegetarian…and I don’t think it is ethical to try to sneak bacon by her, as tempting as it is)? Is there something else I can add for flavoring…or: what the HECK is veggie bacon? Does that have similar flavor without all the offending pork? Help me! The butternut squash are coming in fast and furious and beautiful!


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