A bowl of soup may not be a staple on every Thanksgiving table, but as Americans plan for holiday gatherings that are smaller than usual, or even virtual, serving a rich, comforting soup as a first course is an easy way to make sure the meal still feels special and celebratory.
In this recipe for creamy pumpkin soup, canned pumpkin purée is simmered with rosemary, caramelized onions, apple cider and a host of spices, then blended and finished with a bit of cream for a soup that’s brimming with fall flavors. It comes together in under an hour.
If pumpkin pie is on the menu, doubling down with a spiced pumpkin soup to start might seem like overkill, but it’s also an opportunity to showcase the versatility of winter squash. The key is to differentiate the two: The line that separates a savory pumpkin dish from one that tastes like the ubiquitous “pumpkin spice” can be a fine one. This soup uses nutmeg and cloves, along with mild curry powder, but steers clear of cinnamon and ginger in order to plant itself firmly on the savory side of that line.
Together with the aromatics and fresh rosemary, the spices transform canned pumpkin purée, which can be a bit watery and bland, into a sublimely silky and nuanced soup. (On that note, don’t skimp on the cooking time — every last minute works toward concentrating the flavor.) If you happen to stumble upon a pie pumpkin at your farmer’s market (look for varieties like sugar or Long Island cheese, and stay away from the jack-o’-lanterns), you could consider roasting your own squash. The flavor will be even deeper and more complex.
Unadorned, or with a grilled cheese sandwich on the side, this soup is a satisfying lunch, but for a holiday dinner, a garnish of fried sage leaves or a swirl of cream makes for a festive presentation. Bonus points if you have delicate demitasse cups for serving.
And just a note that this recipe may be made vegan: Substitute olive oil for the butter, full-fat coconut milk for the heavy cream, and vegetable broth for the chicken broth. The soup will have a slight coconut flavor that works beautifully.
Recipe: Creamy Pumpkin Soup