Dinner With My Family #10: Curry Pumpkin Soup and Sandwiches

Vegan Curry Pumpkin Soup

I’ll be the first to admit that when I heard of the idea of curry pumpkin soup, I thought it sounded dreadful. Pumpkin soup? Are you kidding?

My wife really wanted to try a curry pumpkin soup recipe she found in our copy of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, though, and we often eat each other’s culinary experiments.

I was shocked when I found out the soup was good. I was doubly shocked when my wife modified it a bit and the second version was bordering on great.

The soup is the main attraction here. We just accompany it with a simple sandwich or two to dunk into the delicious soup (in this case, pumpernickel sandwiches with cheese and some leftover salad spread on them).

What You Need

Most of this stuff is easily acquirable at any local grocery store.

2 cans pumpkin (canned pumpkin is just that – 100% pumpkin – but if you’d like, you can bake a cooking pumpkin here)
1 can coconut milk (again, you can extract the coconut milk yourself, but few people will realistically do that)
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cups vegetable stock or vegetable broth
1 tbsp. minced garlic (or garlic powder)
1 tbsp. ginger (preferably minced fresh ginger)
1 1/2 tbsp. curry powder
cayenne pepper to taste
salt & pepper to taste

This was about $7 worth of ingredients for us and it made enough soup for eight adult meals.

The Night Before (or Early That Day)

The best thing to do in advance is to chop the onion, then store it in a sealed container in the refrigerator for use in the recipe.

There’s really nothing else to do the night before unless you’re preparing fresh pumpkin, fresh coconut milk, fresh ginger or fresh garlic for use, in which case it can be quite helpful to prepare those elements as well. I highly recommend doing the fresh ginger and fresh garlic, though, as they don’t take long and really add to the meal.

Preparing the Meal

Simply saute the onions over medium heat in a large saucepot (capable of holding at least three quarts) with the vegetable oil until they begin to be translucent. At that point, toss in the garlic, ginger, and curry and keep sauteing for another two minutes (or until your kitchen begins to smell wonderfully).

Add the pumpkin, coconut milk, and stock directly to the pot and stir continually until the liquid is bubbling. At that point, add the cayenne, salt, and pepper and stir, then allow it to simmer for five minutes (or a bit longer if you need to for other meal preparations).

Pumpkin soup and sandwiches

This is a fairly hearty soup, so sandwiches are a great side to serve with it.

Optional Ingredients

The biggest variation you can make with the soup itself is to add 1/2 cup chopped cilantro to the soup. This adds an unusual flavor to the soup that some will really like.

However, most of your options with this meal come from the sandwiches. Mix it up a little with a variety of breads (rye, pumpernickel, potato, etc.) and toppings of all kinds (different meats, cheeses, condiments, and so on). Sandwiches can provide limitless flavors, so experiment here.

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  1. wrkrB says:

    My uncle used to make a pretty good ham and pumpkin soup. I’m thinking some ham chunks might be a good addition for those of use who aren’t vegetarian. I’m actually gluten-free, so the sandwich is a bit more of a challenge for me and I automatically start to think of ways to “fatten” up the soup. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  2. Johanna says:

    Pumpkin and coconut milk both come in cans of different sizes. What size are the cans that you used?

    So the soup is smooth except for the onion pieces? I think I’d either run the soup through the blender to make it entirely smooth, or else add some other things to give it some more texture (I sometimes make pumpkin soup with corn, potatoes, and pinto beans).

    Would be interesting to see the differences between versions 1.0 and 2.0. But this one does sound really good.

  3. Lori O. says:

    Hi Trent. I have seen pumpkin come in two sizes of cans; 14 oz and 28 oz. What size were the cans you used?

    I am guessing that the coconut milk was a 14 oz can, since I have never seen it in any other size.

    And as for the texture of the soup, did you use a stick blender to whizz up the soup, or is it slightly chunky? I didn’t see any flecks of chopped cilantro in your picture, that is why I ask.

  4. Johanna says:

    There’s an echo in here…

  5. Jane says:

    I’m not surprised this would be delicious. I’ve made a similar curried butternut squash soup. But isn’t coconut milk ridiculously high in calories? I’m curious what the total calorie count is.

  6. Sheila says:

    What was the change from the first soup to the second? I’m sure I just overlooked it.

  7. Adam P says:

    @Jane you can buy light coconut milk which cuts the calories and saturated fat (but I read somewhere that saturated fat from cocoa and coconuts isn’t bad for you somehow…).

    Why would you assume pumpkin soup would be awful, Trent? Is this a regional thing? I am baffled…pumpkin is a squash. Butternut squash soup is common enough, even for someone who lives in the midwest, surely? I just don’t understand why you would be surprised that it’s good or assume pumpkin soup would be awful before you tasted it. Weird.

    But then, I “actually” decide not to hate things before I try them.

  8. Tracy says:

    Coconut milk is really healthy, and the ‘fat’ in it is ‘good’ fat. And considering that each serving of the soup is only 1/8 of a can, I don’t think the calorie count is high.

    This soup sounds delicious and also really nutritious. I would eat in a heartbeat.

  9. Tootie says:

    I have a couple cans of pumpkin on hand – looks like they would be put to good use in this recipe!

  10. valleycat1 says:

    As best I can tell the addition is the cayenne & some additional curry powder – which would give it a little added kick. You can find the original recipe on google books – page 134 of the cookbook at that site.

  11. Kevin Wilson says:

    We make pumpkin soup and squash soup if we have pumpkins or squashes which need to get used up, including a curried one similar to this (maybe it was out of the same book, I dunno… my partner made it). Can’t imagine making it out of canned pumpkin though, when fresh is so cheap and so good.

    Curried carrot soup is good too, and a good way of turning a load of carrots – especially the not-so-good-looking ones that we always get a bunch of when we grow them – into something that will keep a bit better.

  12. Cheryl says:

    The original recipe says to cook a 3 lb. pumpkin. According to my internet sources, that would be 3 cups of cooked pureed pumpkin. The original recipe also calls for 1 cup of cream which you would be substituting coconut milk, so, 8 oz. or 1 cup.

    This looks to be about 8 cups of soup, or 1 cup per adult serving according to Trent’s calculation.

  13. Courtney20 says:

    Ugh, another recipe fail. 1 Tbsp minced garlic is NOT the equivalent of 1 Tbsp of garlic powder!! Dried anything is always more potent than fresh. According to The Cook’s Thesaurus, a Tbsp of minced fresh garlic is roughly equivalent to six cloves. The equivalent amount of garlic powder would be 3/4 TEASPOON. Likewise, a Tbsp of fresh ginger is equal to 1/4 TEASPOON of dried powered ginger.

    I’m pretty sure this soup would border on inedible with quadruple-strength garlic and the equivalent of 3/4c of ginger in it.

  14. Interested Reader says:

    Trent I’m so glad you are branching out and trying some new culinary things.

    I’m not sure why you were surprised by the idea of pumpkin soup, unless you’ve only thought of pumpkin as a dessert (which happens, that’s mostly what it’s used for in the States) but it’s a winter squash and so great in savory items.

    Courtney’s right, you can’t directly substitute dry for fresh and I would think that would be covered somewhere in Mark Bittman’s book ( I believe it is in How to Cook Everything).

    Take more chances like this Trent. Obviously we don’t know everything that you eat but it seems that you have been in a kind of culinary rut. Since you liked this you should definitely try some more Indian foods.

    With your homemade yogurt you could probably make a really good homemade raita.

  15. Amanda says:

    I would love to try this soup, but clarifying the can sizes is very important! It would be nice if you could add an update to the post. It does sound tasty!

  16. marta says:

    I don’t get either why the idea of pumpkin soup was so shocking or dreadful. You had tried pumpkin curry before, so it’s not as if ypou only had it in pie or whatever.

    Some gourmet!

    Definitely try eating more South Indian food, there are many excellent vegetarian and vegan recipes.

  17. Mel says:

    I grew up having pumpkin soup almost weekly during winter, so I used to be surprised that people found the idea strange. Now I’ve come across that reaction so many times I don’t notice it. Pumpkin pie on the other hand… I had my first piece in 2009, and I’m still not 100% sure about it. Different strokes, I guess.

    Just thought I’d share my ultra-ultra simple recipe for a very basic but delicious pumpkin or other squash soup:
    Chop and saute a medium-sized onion in almost-too-much oil. When it’s done to your taste (I prefer ‘clear’, my boyfriend prefers ‘almost burnt’), add about 1l water. When the water’s boiling, add a peeled and chopped smallish-to-medium potato and peeled and chopped (but not baked or otherwise cooked) pumpkin/squash. Cover and cook till soft, season salt and pepper and then puree (I use a stick blender, but whatever works for you – potato masher works well). Garnish with some combination of parsley or cilantro, cheese and nutmeg. Serve with bread. Proportions are very flexible, I always just use what I have and haven’t gone wrong yet.

    This has turned my pumpkin-hating boyfriend and his pumpkin-wary parents into pumpkin freaks! Only problem is it’s hard to do anything else with pumpkin on the rare occasions we have any.

  18. kjc says:

    Mark Bittman’s original recipe calls for “3 pounds of sugar pumpkin or any winter squash (one medium squash) like acorn, butternut, calabaza, Hubbard, etc., peeled and cut into 1- to 2- inch cubes.”

    He suggests that you use an immersion blender to puree the soup while it’s in the pan.

    The variation here uses canned pumpkin (Bittman never mentions it) and a half tablespoon more curry powder than his recipe calls for. In addition, he recommends 5 cups vegetable stock, not 4.

  19. ehunt says:

    I will try this recipe — substituting coconut with skim milk and also using veggie broth instead of the oil to saute the onion. thanks for posting!

  20. luxcat says:

    we make pumpkin (and in general all sorts of vegetable puree type) soup all the time. The stick blender is invaluable. Ours is metal so you can stick it in hot soup (carefully of course) without hurting the blender.

  21. Julie says:

    Adam,

    Your comment seemed a little insulting/condescending considering you don’t necessarily have all the facts. I will try anything, and I love most types of food. But I don’t like pumpkin pie, and I don’t like butternut squash soup. I guess you could say I am just not too fond of squash. Thus I too would be suprised if I liked pumpkin soup. That doesn’t mean I make up my mind in advance that I am not going to like something.

  22. Bren says:

    Julie,

    I have to say i agree with Adam. It was all in the way Trent told us about his dislike for pumpkin soup. “Are you kidding?” — that’s pure prejudice.

  23. Kathleen says:

    @ Julie (#16) – Thank you!!! Adam’s post was the kind of pointless criticism that distracts from valid critiques.

    @ Courtney (#11) – I bet the extra garlic would be delicious. Far too many recipies call for paltry amounts of garlic. I usually quadruple (at least!) what a recipe calls for.

  24. Bill says:

    I guess my only time eating pumpkin is pumpkin pie and I don’t like that, so I’m very skeptical, but I could see a acorn or butter nut squash.

  25. Courtney20 says:

    @ Kathleen – varying a recipe to suit personal tastes is one thing, telling people that two things are equivalent in a recipe is another. I too am a fan of garlic. But that much garlic AND that much ginger (which is what I said in my comment) would likely be a disaster.

  26. David says:

    The best thing to do in advance is explicitly *not* to chop the onion and leave it somewhere to lose its flavor, like chewing gum on the bedpost overnight.

    Onions (and leeks, and garlic, and other members of the genus Allium) should be thrown into whatever they are cooking with as soon as they have been peeled and chopped. You can peel and chop pumpkin, then leave it for several months (even years) before it will cease to taste like pumpkin; indeed, the longer you leave it, the more it will taste like pumpkin.

    But you can’t do that with onions. A chopped onion left in the fridge for 24 hours will taste like polystyrene (and look like it too, so you might as well just use polystyrene, which is cheaper per kilo than onions).

    Apart from that – good recipe.

  27. Luci says:

    This recipe looks simple yet fabulous! Now I know what to do with my extra cans of pumpkin and coconut milk :)

    BTW, I follow your website almost daily, and have implemented many of the money-saving tips here in my own life. Thank you for being such a huge inspiration to me!

  28. deRuiter says:

    Prechopping the onions is pointless, results in an inferior product, agreeing with David #21. Freshness of ingredients is what contributes to good food. Prechopping exposes much more surface area to potential contamination by germs.

  29. Keir says:

    Unfortunately, here in the UK pumpkin isn’t really seen as an edible food, so it’s only available in the week before hallowe’en. Next year I’ll have to stock up.

  30. Tally says:

    Out of curiosity, was that vegan cheese on your sandwich?

  31. Vivianne says:

    Have made variants of this with pumpkin, squash, carrot, and sweet potato, yum! Generally use fresh veg, peel, cut into chunks, and simmer in the broth for 20-30 minutes. I use an immersion blender, and I add the coconut milk after blending; light coconut milk works fine for me. Other add-ins are minced jalapeno or scotch bonnet peppers with the spices; or cooked lentils, after blending, for a protein and texture boost; peanuts and a swirl of peanut butter; or a few small chunks of trader joe’s candied noncrystallized ginger for a sweet surprise at the bottom of the bowl. Serve with naan or chapatis.

  32. Kate says:

    My husband grew up in a white bread kind of family and, after many years of marriage, has tried new foods so I can definitely understand Trent’s skepticism.
    I would like to say that the snarky comments on this blog are worse than any perceived downturn in quality of the posts lately. It seems that Johanna and Adam P. and deReuter will always jump right in with some kind of criticism. It happens so frequently that it makes me wonder why they spend time at a blog that is, in their eyes, so mediocre. The words trolls and bullies come to mind…or very unhappy people.

  33. kjc says:

    @Courtney20

    Bittman’s original recipe calls for 1 Tbs. minced garlic and 1 Tbs. minced ginger, and of course makes no reference to garlic powder or dried ginger.

    Good ol’ Trent apparently doesn’t understand how much more potent dried herbs are than fresh.

    The cayenne is a mod to the original recipe. Bittman recommends garnishing with chopped cilantro and scallions.

  34. Kathy M says:

    @Kate
    Whole-heartily agree with comments about snarky commenters.

  35. bookwoman says:

    You can change up the flavor and reduce the calories by using one cup of apple juice instead of the coconut milk.

  36. vera-h says:

    First time commenting on a blog–ever!–to say, yes, I agree with comments about the snarky responses. I love this blog and never miss a day. Not everything Trent does works for me (as a singleton with furkids, not realkids). I even disagree with Trent sometimes–as in the case of the infamous swimsuits-for-women debate. But that’s the beauty of blogs and blogging. I take what’s good–and there’s so much good here!–and move on.

  37. Joan says:

    #25 Well said about snarky commenters. They add nothing to the discussions. Personally, I look at the content of the blog and enjoy what is written. Jealousy and/or to much time on their hands comes to mind each time I read one of those posts. Usually, I don’t even bother anymore to read what they write since it is seldom worth the time and trouble.

  38. Mary W. says:

    At my house, we often cook pumpkin ahead of time (usually in the oven), scrape it out of its shell and then freeze it in ziplock bags. We do the same thing with chopped onion when we have lots of it (ie we’ve chopped more than we need.) Very likely the flavour isn’t as good as it is with a fresh-chopped onion or freshly-roasted squash but the difference is too subtle for me to get.

    I also often use Patel’s curry paste rather than curry powder. It comes in a wide range of types of curry — the mild is really nice. I think it has more cumin in it than most curry powders do, so it has that really warm flavour that goes well with squash.

  39. Inq says:

    Interesting. You can mix some curry powder as Mary said to give it an Indian spice. Some pepper might prove handy as well.
    Garlic and ginger make give a spicy look as well.

  40. graytham says:

    #17 Bren- the way Trent expressed that he expected to dislike the soup was “pure prejudice”?

    Good grief.

    I agree with those who think the snarky comments are getting more and more ridiculous- and that one takes the cake. Get a life, people.

  41. jennifer says:

    This recipe sounds yummy, and so easy! I think I have all that at home, I may try it tonight. I make a sweet potato soup with coconut milk, curry, and cayenne, broth, garlic, onion, but also add the juice and grated peel of a lime at the end. KILLER!! everyone loves it!

  42. jennifer says:

    OOPS! forgot to say I also add fresh ginger to that sweet potato soup! Vital ingredient!

  43. Bren says:

    Graytham, how would you feel if you invited Trent over for dinner, you announced that you were making pumpkin soup and for a reply you’d get “Pumpkin soup? Are you kidding?”. Wouldn’t you think that incredibly rude, and probably think (albeit not necessarily say out loud) something along the lines of “well excuse me; you’ve never even tried my pumpkin soup; you have no idea what goes in it; how can you possibly have an opinion before even giving it a try?”.

    Everybody is entitled to different preferences but being rude and ignorant is a completely different matter.

  44. Kate says:

    #34 Bren
    I’m thinking that Trent probably would not voice his opinion out loud, just as he may have “thought” how dreadful to himself. Last I heard, thinking something rude and not giving voice to it isn’t rude. That he acknowledged he was wrong is called honesty?

  45. Kate says:

    #30 Mary W.
    I often chop up any leftover onion and freeze it for times that I am in a hurry or when I am making soup. I do the same with celery. I am sure that purists would frown but it definitely saves time and prevents waste.

  46. Vickie says:

    Thanks for another nice meal idea. ☺

  47. Elizabeth says:

    Add in some glugs of fish sauce and this recipe is fantastic

  48. Julie says:

    #34 Bren…

    That post takes the cake. I am stunned. Do you really think Trent doesn’t know the difference between writing his honest thoughts in a blog and expressing a rude comment to a hostess? Maybe you should go find a blog written by a perfect person….

  49. Bren says:

    I see. It appears there is a bit of a cultural issue going on here. See, in my family (I’m Italian) and indeed my wider social circle it would be unthinkable for anyone to dismiss outright any basic food item. Everyone loves food. It’s an experience to be cherished and shared with others, be it classic dishes that everybody knows or things that you might not have liked or even tried before. I can’t imagine anyone even thinking something as absurd as “are you kidding?”.

    This whole discussion brings up memories of a documentary I watched once on an American family. The couple’s children would only eat french fries and chicken nuggets and go “ewww at everything that even had the possibility of being a vegetable. Can you believe it?? My children snack on olives and sun-dried tomatoes and I thought -that’s- probably not too healthy, but the American children in the documentary left my absolutely stunned.

    But you can has cheezburgers. I rest my case.

  50. Kate says:

    HA! You do realize, Bren, that you painted the eating habits of American families with the same prejudicial brush? Not all American children eat that way, just as I am sure that not all Italian children snack on olives and sun-dried tomatoes (you are right about the olives…terribly high in sodium in large amounts). Not all American families eat a steady diet of cheeseburgers just as I’m sure that not all Italian children snack on olives and sun-dried tomatoes. Prejudice can go both ways…you seem to have a healthy dose of your own, so perhaps that is why you reacted so strongly to Trent’s “thought”?

  51. Kandace@pantrydiva says:

    A kitchen can’t beging to smell “wonderfully.” It has no nose.

    A kitchen can smell wonderful to a person when garlic, ginger, and onions are cooking.

  52. Joyce says:

    I can’t believe how critical you food snob commenters are! For shame & how rude! Many of us average people have to overcome our notion of “normal food” when we try something that uses an ingredient (or combination of ingredients) in a way that we don’t expect. Average people view pumpkin as a pie ingredient, and pumpkin bars as novel. We “white bread” people (living far from big cities) have to take baby steps to expand our culinary experiences. For example, I like to eat a particular friend’s house, who serves us food I would never imagine cooking.

  53. Adam P says:

    I don’t think my post was snarky at all, but whatever it’s the internet. You’re all gonna have different opinions. Trent neither reads nor responds to the comments here, so don’t worry about his hurt feelings. As I posted previously, there is a subset of visitors that only comes here for the snarky comments lately (the quality of posting has gone down in my opinion but the quality of snarky comments is inversely related to the quality of posts). Trent gets traffic from constructive criticism comments and that makes him happy.

    And yes, it is a bit weird for a vegan self proclaimed foodie to think pumpkin soup would be “awful” before ever tasting it, to me. That’s why I commented. Why you think this makes me snarky or condescending is beyond me. But whatever, everyone’s got an opinion. Please keep the banter going.

  54. Julie says:

    Adam P.

    It was the last sentence of your comment that appeared to be very condescending.

    And as far as documentaries…most are made with an agenda and look for extreme cases to prove their point.

  55. Kat says:

    I made this soup today and it was delicious and easy. I also added a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas to boost the protein content. (I used the larger 28oz can of pumpkin and a 14oz can of coconut milk.)Thanks Trent!

  56. Nina says:

    When it comes to onion, garlic or ginger, I would recommend everybody to try how much of it is their individual taste. Use half of it, try it, add more, if needed.
    I consider a recipe a recommendation not something edged in stone for centuries -> so I can tweak it to my liking.
    I like the first two ingredients, but refuse raw ginger, I just take a tiny amount of it as powder. When reading “1 1/2 tbsp. curry powder and
    cayenne pepper to taste”, I would take a liberal amount more than that. (I have three different types of Cayenne/Chili powder in my kitchen cupboard…)
    I’ve been to India and LOVED the food and spice level :-)

  57. Amanda says:

    This is the same Amanda as in #15. Just wanted to say I made the soup last night (with a BIG 28-oz can of pumpkin and a 14-oz can of coconut milk) and liked it. My husband also gave it a thumbs up.
    For next time, I think I would use light coconut milk (the full-fat version is, well, incredibly fatty) and 1/2 to 3/4 tsp ground ginger instead of fresh. I used 1 tbsp fresh and the flavor didn’t come through, so I added about 1/4 tsp ground to boost it. In addition to everything listed in the recipe, I added a tiny whiff of nutmeg and about two pinches of sugar to balance out the “hot” flavors.
    Thank you for the recipe!

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