This is a hearty vegan soup, loosely inspired by flavors of Indian dal and curry. My sister’s mother-in-law brought Dave and I dal after Phillie was born. I loved how flavorful it was, especially from the cardamom pods. Later that fall I began experimenting with this soup recipe. It is very flavorful from spices like tumeric and cardamom. It gets more flavor and richness from coconut milk. Phillie used to gobble it up at 6 months, but she has since grown skeptical.
If you’re looking for authentic Indian recipes, I recommend checking out recipes by Nik Sharma of A Brown Table. In addition to his blog, he has two cookbooks, A Brown Table and Flavor Equation, and also develops recipes for The New York Times. The Jam Lab by Amisha Gurbani is another beautiful blog, and she has an incredible Instagram account too. Feel free to share your favorite Indian food writers below!
My understanding is that authentic dals usually involve blooming whole spices. This soup is also a thinner consistency than the dals I have personally seen, but dals can also be soupy. Cayenne is also not an authentic ingredient, but I use it when I make this soup because it’s something I always have. Here is a traditional dal recipe by Manali on her blog, Cook With Manali.
I roast the butternut squash before putting it into the soup. I wish I could say it’s for flavor, but honestly it’s because peeling and chopping raw butternut squash is one of those culinary tasks I avoid at all cost. It does help here a bit too because lentils don’t take as long to cook as the squash.
I make this mild now and omit the cayenne for Phillie. She handled the spice better as a baby. Cayenne adds quite the kick, so you can add more or less to your palate (or your kids’ palates). She does okay with a bit of chili flake. Now I just add crunchy garlic chili oil to my own bowl to give it the heat I want.
The fried shallots are worth the effort. If you want to save time, this soup is also really good simply garnished with cilantro and green onions. This soup is great on its own, but sometimes we eat it with rice.
Curried Lentil and Butternut Squash Soup serves 6-8
- 1 Butternut squash 1.5-2lbs
- 1 T olive oil
- 2 T coconut oil or olive oil
- 1 large or 2 small yellow onions, small diced
- 3 carrots, small diced
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 T ground tumeric
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp chili flake
- 1/4 tsp- 1tsp cayenne, optional and to taste
- 1lb dried green lentils
- 1 can full fat coconut milk (I accidentally bought low-fat once, and it was still delicious!)
- 2.5 quarts water
- 1/4-1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves and stems, finely chopped
- 2 limes
- 2 shallots, optional for fried shallot topping
- 1.5 cups vegetable oil, optional for fried shallot topping
- Preheat oven to 425F. Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds. Place on sheet pan cut side up and drizzle 1 T of olive oil on the squash. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 45 minutes, until tender enough to easily slice.
- While the squash is roasting begin the soup. Preheat soup pot over medium heat. Add coconut oil and melt. Sweat onion, garlic, and carrots. Add the spices, stir, and cook for an additional minute or so.
- When squash is tender enough to cut, carefully cut it into large bite sized pieces. I cut it while it’s in the skin and then scoop out the pieces. Add the squash to the pot.
- Add the lentils, coconut milk, and water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour until the kitten lentils are done.
- To make fried shallots: Peel and slice shallots into approximately 1/8 in rings. Separate the rings. You can leave some of the center pieces intact. Heat vegetable oil in sauce pan to 350F. Fry the shallots in two batches. Fry them for about five minutes, or until golden brown. This may take longer if your oil temperature drops too much. Remove the shallots carefully and drain excess oil. Season lightly with salt.
- When the lentils are finished cooking, add finely chopped cilantro and lime juice to the soup. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.