Butternut Squash and Vanilla Soup Recipe

If it sort of seems from my recent postings that all I eat these days is soup, well, it’s not very far from the truth. But see, all those winter vegetables are really begging for it, and I don’t have the heart to turn them down. Besides, since I am now equipped with a cast-iron cocotte and an immersion blender, it’s only courteous of me to use them, right?

Today’s featured soup was made with a large chunk of butternut squash bought at the farmers’ market on Saturday morning. My favorite produce stall (when you come out of the Rome metro station and walk through the market, it is the penultimate stand on your right, with a pretty salesgirl and an older bearded man who gives clementines to children) had impressive specimens, chubby at the base with two-feet-long necks curled like a swan’s. I recoiled at first, never having bought such a huge vegetable before, but the salesgirl explained that they sold them in smaller sections if desired, which felt more manageable: I bought about a third of one, which still weighed in at two kilos.

Back home, I started cutting and peeling the squash, which is always a bit of a pain one has to admit, but not so bad if you’re listening to Jack Johnson on the stereo. I softened some onions, added in the squash, poured in water to cover (I seldom have stock on hand, sue me), and brought the soup to a simmer. I then surveyed my unabashedly disorganized spice rack — a simple ledge running the length of the counter — in search of something to spike up the soup. Cumin, pimentón, ginger maybe?

But no. All these possibilities were brushed aside when I spotted the smoked glass jar of vanilla paste (which my friend Alisa kindly brought back to me from Trader-Joe-land) and I decided to use that instead, to very pleasing results: vanilla complemented the sweetness of the squash beautifully, adding nuance and a supple kick to it. It would be a good idea to make the soup a day ahead (or make sure you have leftovers) because the vanilla aromas had blossomed more fully the next day.

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Butternut Squash and Vanilla Soup Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Serves 6.

Butternut Squash and Vanilla Soup Recipe


  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 small yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 kilos (4 pounds) butternut squash, peeled, seeds scooped out and cut in chunks
  • 1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon natural vanilla extract, or one pod dry vanilla, split open
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add in the onion and cook over medium-high heat for five minutes or until softened, stirring regularly.
  2. Add in the squash, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  3. Pour in hot water or stock to cover and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Add in the vanilla extract, or scrape in the seeds from the vanilla pod and add in the pod itself as well. Cook for 10 more minutes, or until the squash is tender.
  5. Fish out the vanilla pod if that's what you used, and purée the soup using a blender or immersion blender.
  6. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.
  • I love squash soup and your version with vanilla sounds heavenly! Thanks for all the inspiration Clotilde :) Happy holidays to you!

  • ann

    first time poster, long time reader.
    i used vanilla i brought back from mexico in a lamb stew recently
    it was DIVINE!

  • Clotilde, this sounds amazing. I’m in the process of trying to find a recipe for a soup I had the other day at Stonehedge Inn in Massachusetts – which was Maple Infused Cream of Pumpkin and Butternut Squash Soup. This sounds terrific too!! The only thing I dislike is dealing with butternut squash – it’s a real adventure to peel/cut it. Do you have a cool, easy way to deal with it?

  • If the peeling/cubing is way too tedious and risky, you can roast the squash beforehand, as I have here for this Squash & Pear Soup (http://kitchen-parade-veggieventure.blogspot.com/2005/10/day-180-squash-pear-soup.html ). I love the idea of the vanilla paste — stock up now, a Trader Joe’s employee told me the product’s being discontinued.

  • Butternut squash and vanilla? Wow. Maybe you can some brown butter to add a butterscotch note to it?

    Wild idea.

    Can you show us what vanilla paste looks like? I’ve seen vanilla bean and extract, but not paste.

  • i hate vanilla!!! however, crushed/shaved roasted hazelnuts or filberts would probably be a nice addition to that.

  • Clotilde,
    I love when innovation turns out tasty creations, I would’ve never thought to put vanilla into soup. Now I must pick up some paste at TJs before it’s discontinued!

    How else have you used this vanilla paste?

  • Clotilde, there must be something in the air! I too have recently discovered the happy soup pairing of butternut squash and vanilla, and I’m thrilled to see that I’m not alone. Great minds clearly think alike! It’s lovely stuff, isn’t it, and you’ve described it beautifully.

    P.S. My recipe is over at Seattlest, but you can get there from here: http://orangette.blogspot.com/2005/11/seattlest-gets-jealous-makes-soup.html

  • Kel

    bonjour clotilde, that soup looks yummy! I gotta get some vanilla and try this recipe. This is definitely soup season. My fav is a german pumpkin soup that my friend in switzerland taught me. Check it out on my blog. Btw, I’ll be in Paris for new year’s and would like to expose mon petit ami to some authentic chinese food. Do you have a fav? And do you know a good dimsum place by chance? kel

  • beth

    another long-time reader, first(ok, maybe second)-time poster.

    to radish, i have a recipe for a grilled butternut squash that calls to boil it for 10 min first. it loosens the skin considerably, much like putting tomatoes in boiling water to make them easier to peel. it would probably work to do that before any other cooking method (not just grilling), as long as the added moisture in the flesh won’t be a problem. in a soup, it would be fine.

    otherwise, i guess i’ve just gotten used to peeling the fresh squash, chopping in half, scooping seeds, then finally dicing. my butternut addiction is way to strong to begrudge their inconvenience. :)

    clotilde, were you perhaps inspired by heidi’s vanilla sweet potato puree? a variation thereof has become a staple in my kitchen. so simple and delicious. thank you as always for your words and inspiration! :)

  • Joan

    hope this reads as I hope it to read:-)

    Un autre exemple d’alchimie de Clotilde culinaire !

  • Cindy

    I have just discovered this lovely place last night! I spent hours catching up on lost time! I made it my home page! This morning the beautiful color of the butternut puree was just what I needed to see. I did make the soup. (Although, I love vanilla I did not add it since I am holding my last two plump vanilla beans that I purchased in Provence for warm petits pots de crème–) I also added freshly ground white pepper and used a rich organic chicken stock for the broth. After the blender (an immersion blender is on my list of things to buy) I ladled the pumpkin colored puree into my fire red bowls and topped it with fresh, jumbo lump crab meat and a sweet little row of fresh cream hearts! Thank you Clotilde for the inspiration!

  • clotilde! i feel that we must be kindred spirits of some sort. i made my first butternut squash soup last night (which took me much longer than the 30 minutes I anticipated =). i separated my soup into two halves, one of which i seasoned with cadamom, cinnamon, and a touch of nutmeg, along with a touch of red pepper (for that extra bit of spice). it came out quite well. but i reserved the other half for playing with other flavorings. thank you for this wonderful suggestion – i was very excited to try it tonight. it tasted very unique.

  • Ah the right cooking music is the best way to get one in the right mood to attach any kitchen challenge. =)

  • I love butternut squash soup, but I’ve never tried it with vanilla – a new adventure. I do like to roast the squash, though – it gives the soup a nice flavor.

  • Sounds wonderful! A good soup is always comforting to the soul.

  • jelinka

    Looks lovely. But I would not call this soup “Butternut vanilla” but rather “Butternut squash and vanilla soup”. Butternut as an adjective describes a particular flavour and/or variety of squash”.
    I believe vanilla paste from TJ is just vanilla seeds mashed with sugar. So one can make it at home but it is pricey.

  • Barrett – TJ’s vanilla paste looks like a very thick vanilla syrup with real dots of vanilla inside. I find it very potent and I’ve had excellent results baking with it!

    Gerald – I use the vanilla paste like I would vanilla extract, in cakes and cookies and such.

    Molly – Something in the air indeed! Yours looks lovely and I love the idea of using pears — very wintery!

    Beth – I haven’t seen Heidi’s soup recipe, but I will definitely look it up in her archives! And thank you for the butternut tips, too.

    Jelinka – Thanks for the correction! I’ve updated the translated title.

  • Clotilde, ton site ne cesse de m’impressionner et de me surprendre! J’essaie cette magnifique recette dès demain.

    Ce qui me fait penser que j’ai une recette de gâteau au chocolat et aux zucchini que je devrais partager avec toi. ;)

    Keep up the good work!

  • Finalement, j’ai mis ma recette de gâteau en ligne sur mon blogue…

    Si ça t’intéresse: http://www.juliedesjardins.com !

  • Shannon Lewis

    I made the soup and it was delicious. I used the liquid vanilla extract instead of the paste.

    It was velvety and had a slight hint of vanilla to the taste. It really enhanced the flavor of the butternut.

    This is my new favorite soup especially since it took minutes to make.

  • Susan

    A helpful comment when peeling/dealing with butternut and other tough-skinned winter squashes – similar to boiling it first, but a tad faster and therefore a wee bit simpler. Poke the squash in question a few times with a kife/fork then microwave for approximately 2-3 minutes – handle gingerly as it’s a bit hot at first, but it makes the peel come off MUCH faster and easier! …..the tip ’twas passed along to me by an organic farmer friend of mine who has been using it as a handy shortcut for years now…

  • Penny

    Hi Clothilde,

    What a nice idea to use vanilla – I’ve got quite a bunch of whole beans brought from Madagasgar, so I’ll give it a try diffusing the bean in the stock and perhaps scraping out and using the vanilla seeds as well.

    I just love butternut soup. We’ve always looked for butternuts with short broad necks in the belief that they are sweeter and have better textured flesh – and I stab mine a few times and pop it into the microwave for a few minutes before peeling – makes it much easier.

    I’ve made butternut soups for years – they grow by them selves on the compost heap in summer – I generally flavour with chilli, fresh ginger and freshly ground cumin as well as onion and garlic – chopped fresh sage leaves are a good addition as is crumbled feta cheese.

    It also makes a brilliant “quiche” usoing your short pastry base and the above ingrediants with the addition of eggs and cream. Very rich and different.

    I love your blog – thank you !

  • Annie

    First time poster, but a long time reader. Thank you for this soup! It was absolutely delicious straight out of the pot, but you’re right, it is better a few days later. =)

  • Carly

    Hi Clotilde, I made this for my friends at a dinner party and it was amazing! It was so subtle but delicious. I’ve been looking for a good butternut squash soup recipe for a long time… I love roasting the squash but sometimes that gets a little old. Thank you so much!

  • Tried this recipe this week…

    Intentionally dropped the vanilla in the soup… OOOPS!!! ;)


  • Kim W

    I’m a bit of a minimalist with butternut squash soup – I’ve found my preferred recipe involves nothing except for the squash, some garlic, and water. Maybe sage.

    • Yes! If your butternut is a good one, it can be plenty flavorful on its own.

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