Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

5 from 29 votes
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This spicy butternut squash soup is a ritual meal in our home, mostly as a byproduct of growing the Three Sisters: Corn, beans, and squash. Hell, I even have a “three sisters” stew I make with whatever leftover meat I happen to have handy.

I know, there are many, many versions of squash soup on the internet, but my rendition of spicy butternut squash soup has one thing few others do: Cayenne, of course, but also bacon. Yep, bacon. In the soup itself.

A bowl of spicy butternut squash soup, garnished with squash seeds.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Lots of recipes add crumbled bacon as a garnish, and I always support that — especially if you make your own bacon. (I have lots of homemade bacon recipes here.) But I took a tip from a minestrone soup I read about in Saveur magazine about 15 years ago to puree the bacon in the soup itself.

Yeah, I hear ya: pureed meat? Ew! Except it’s not “ew,” because you only notice the flavor when you are eating this soup. It’s still predominantly a butternut squash soup, but you get extra body, richness and smokiness from the bacon. Trust me on this one.

And yes, you can skip the bacon to make this vegetarian. But I wouldn’t.

I grow butternut squashes, typically old Native American varieties that are drought tolerant, big and which will keep for many, many months. I like them because of the characteristics I just mentioned, but also because they are bright in color and are reasonably dry; I find most pumpkins watery.

That said, this squash soup can easily become a pumpkin soup if that’s what you have. The color may be slightly different, and pumpkins are more watery, but it’ll work. Kabocha or Hubbard squashes would be my next best alternatives, though.

The bay leaves matter here, and if you can use more than two, do it. I actually add like six, but I have lots and lots of bay leaves handy. They add a beautiful floral aroma to the soup that works well with the bacon and squash.

Finally, your garnishes should add something to the party, too. Squash or pumpkin seeds are a must. A variety of seeds, like both of those plus sunflower kernels, would be cool, too. Black pepper is nice, as is any paprika, but especially Spanish smoked paprika. Fresh chopped herbs like chives are a nice touch, and of course, so is chopped crispy bacon.

Once made, your spicy butternut squash soup will keep a week or so in the fridge. It doesn’t freeze that well, though.

And if you like this recipe, you will love my butternut squash curry, which is a bit different from most versions of that dish.

Bacon butternut squash in a bowl
5 from 29 votes

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup with Bacon

I recommend butternut squash for this recipe, but other winter squashes and pumpkins work, too - except spaghetti squash, which you can't use. Many other squashes are more watery than butternut squash, so factor that in. Obviously if you want to make this vegetarian, skip the bacon and use vegetable stock.
Course: Appetizer, Soup
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 to 1/2 pound bacon or salt pork, diced (use less if it's really smoky)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or more to taste)
  • 1 quart turkey, chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
  • Salt
  • 2 heaping tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream (optional)
  • Smoked paprika (optional)

Instructions 

  • In a large pot, heat the butter over medium-high heat and add the onions and bacon. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent. You don't want them browning. Pour in the stock, add the cayenne, squash, bay leaves and a healthy pinch of salt. You might need a little water to completely submerge the squash. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low, cover and simmer gently for an hour. Stir it once or twice in that time.
  • Uncover the pot, remove the bay leaves and puree the soup, either with an immersion blender, by moving the soup to a blender or a food processor, or by pushing it through a food mill. An immersion blender will give you a slightly chunky soup, a blender the smoothest. Return the soup to the pot, put the bay leaves back in and simmer gently, uncovered, for another 15 minutes. Stir frequently to keep it from sticking on the bottom.
  • Add salt to taste. Right before you serve, whisk in the sour cream or creme fraiche. Adjust the thickness of the soup - you want it to look like melted ice cream. Serve garnished with pumpkin or squash seeds and smoked paprika.

Nutrition

Calories: 160kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 16mg | Sodium: 273mg | Potassium: 632mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 13404IU | Vitamin C: 28mg | Calcium: 69mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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35 Comments

  1. Update to my previous comment on November 24, 2023 – I had a butternut squash that weighed in at 2-1/2 pounds, was about 8-1/2 inches tall and 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 inches in diameter. After peeling, seeding, and dicing into cubes of an inch or less, I ended up with about 7 cups of squash. This turned out to be a near-perfect amount as one quart of chicken stock pretty much covered everything. Also, the medium-large yellow onion yielded about one cup of chopped onion. I paid attention to the advice on the bacon, using 1/4 pound of Nueske’s Applewood smoked bacon, chopped into a 1/4 inch dice. The soup was wonderful, and like the picture, makes for a nice presentation with the sprinkle of the toasted pepitas and a shake or two of smoked Spanish paprika. Thanks so much for the recipe. Steve

  2. I’m ready to try this recipe. However, what constitutes a “large” butternut squash? I have seen (and weighed) some that were 4 pounds, but many I’ve used lately are coming in around 2-3/4 to 3 pounds. Could you perhaps suggest a different unit of measure – like how many cups of the squash chunks? (Maybe also for the onion?) Anyway, I can always get a really large or a couple smaller squash, and use whatever I have left over for a roasted squash that uses maple syrup and olive oil during roasting. Thanks in advance, and for all your good advice and recipes.
    Steve

      1. I preroasted the squash. Cut the simmer to 45 minutes (30 would likely have worked?). Added the creme fraiche as it was served so I could freeze about half.
        Delicious. Will definitely do this again@

  3. holy smokes another great recipe from Mr Shaw. thank you.

    question about squash. how come you peel it and add it? would there be any downside to roasting and then adding?

  4. I made this using butternut squash from my garden. So delicious! The bacon is such a great flavor addition. I will definately make again.

  5. Made this using a sugar pie pumpkin the Wife grew this summer and the last pack of bacon from a pig a good friend raised. Raising pigs is like having a compost pile you can add meat and diary to that magically turns into bacon! If you have the space, raise pigs.

    Back to the soup, which is delicious and simple recipe that I will make again. The hardest part was waiting an hour for the squash to simmer. This soup utilizes the basic ingredients of many Lithuanian dishes such as Kugelis and bacon buns: bacon, onions, butter and sour cream. The cayenne pepper gives it a nice hidden hotness at the end of a slurp. Thanks for another great recipe Shank Shaw/Mr. Tibs!

  6. Great soup! Dare I say hank should come out with a NorCal gardening/vegetable cook book (not vegetarian)?

  7. Have made this more times than I can count for people I love. The flavors work so well together. I’m a soup girl and this has been my number #1 second to none. Thanks Hank!

  8. This soup is absolutely delicious. It was so easy to make, it’s now a household favourite!