butternut squash and cider soup

butternut squash and cider soup

We got back from London, and I promptly came down with one of those post-long-plane rides colds. At first, it was kind of fun to have a sexy rock-star voice, but when it quickly deteriorated into lower octaves, I started to sound like I’ve been drinking for thirty years. The sexy was long gone, and I just wanted my regular high-pitched, I-still-sound-like-I’m-thirteen voice back. That, and the ability to finish a sentence before erupting in a coughing fit.

I don’t know about you, but when I get sick, unless I’m running a serious fever, I don’t sit still. I don’t wrap myself in blankets, make residence on the couch and watch countless Dr. Who re-runs unless I am nearly dead to the world and have resigned to Gatorade and saltines. (By the way, the new Dr. Who is just not doing it for me. Just wanted to share that.) Something about being sick coupled with a desire to be constantly moving about sets me in motion. And makes me want to make soup. And to be precise – pureed soup that tells me that autumn is here, and it’s high time for squash.

butternut squash and cider soup

This soup comes from a highly-anticipated book – The Essential New York Times Cook Book written diligently and thoughtfully over the last six years by Amanda Hesser. The Amanda Hesser of the Cooking for Mr. Latte and The Cook and the Gardener fame, among others. Years ago, when I was reading chapters of “Cooking for Mr. Latte” in the Sunday Magazine, I would imagine myself falling in love and winning over my future husband with one meal at a time. I imagined myself jettisoning my job, packing a suitcase and moving to France to attend La Varenne. The stories always sounded so lovely, and I liked to imagine myself in them. It was the ultimate romance: love through food and stories around it. So many of our memories are shaped by what we eat and who we eat with, even if a meal is just with yourself.

butternut squash and cider soup

I am so very grateful to the that same thoughtful soul (you know who you are!) who sent me the fantastic Melissa Clark and Bill Yosses book for sending me a review copy of this expansive tome. It was on my list of books to own and it is an absolute treasure. Painstakingly curated and lovingly put together, this book is encyclopedic in its scope with recipes dating back to 1880’s, comprehensive, and thorough. But beyond its offerings, it’s like a treasure trove of history – stories told through recipes of how this country has evolved in what we eat, and consequently what we might be concerned with: sustainability, health, frugality, or excess. There are dozens of recipes I’ve noted and set aside. I will be cooking from it for decades.

butternut squash and cider soup

I tweaked this soup quite a bit because I like to play with some spices in my squash, so I added some cumin, cinnamon, and cayenne. And I wanted to make the squash taste more um, should I say “squashy”, so I added a tiny bit of lemon juice just to brighten the flavor just a bit. I took out the apple garnish, adding instead some cumin-spiced sour cream, which can be swapped for crème fraîche or yogurt, if you like, and sprinkled a few cilantro leaves on top. But, darlings, the cider! The cider was bold, pronounced, and unexpected. On the one hand, there was an unmistakable taste of apples and fall, but on the other hand, the apples gave way to more savory flavors of the squash playing a supporting, rather than a leading role. It’s soup that is at once inspiring and comforting, bold and subdued, celebratory and casual. And it’s perfect for those evenings when you’ve all but lost your voice. For if you cannot exclaim out loud the admiration for the soup, your empty bowl will be declaration enough.

Butternut Squash and Cider Soup
Adapted liberally from “The Essential New York Times Cook Book” by Amanda Hesser

1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup vegetable broth
3 cups peeled, seeded, and cubed butternut squash
3/4 cup apple cider
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt, or more to taste
cumin sour cream (1/4 cup sour cream with 1/4 tsp cumin)
2 tsp chopped cilantro
cracked black pepper

1. In a medium saucepan over low heat, add shallot, garlic and 1/4 cup vegetable broth. Cook until the shallot and garlic are softened, being careful not to burn them, 3-5 minutes. Add the squash and the remaining vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add cinnamon, cumin, and cayenne. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the squash is soft, about 20 minutes.

2. With a potato masher, press the squash down until semi-pureed, then add the cider and with an immersion blender puree the soup until smooth. Add the sour cream and the salt, and continue to puree. If soup looks too thick, you can think it down with more broth, if you have any on hand, or with more cider. Continue to taste. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and stir – this should make your butternut squash more squash-y tasting, if you can believe it.

3. Ladle the soup into 4 bowls. Garnish with cumin and lime sour cream, chopped cilantro, and cracked black pepper.

Serves 4.


  • Maddie

    This post is so fortuitous—my mom just ordered me copies of Cooking for Mr. Latte and The Cook and the Gardener, which both arrived today. I haven’t read Amanda Hesser’s work before, but it sounds like I’m in for a treat!

    Feel better, Olga. :)

  • Renee (Kudos Kitchen)

    You hooked me with butternut squash. LOVE everything about it. This recipe looks delish. I’m also a huge fan of apple cider so I’m all over this. I think this would make a great first course at Thanksgiving dinner.

  • Amy Rose

    I hate to ask, but does anyone have an idea of how to make this without an immersion blender? This soup just looks so gosh darn wonderful.

  • Ilke

    Now, feels like officially fall! :)
    Looks tasty…anything cumin gets into is tasty in my book.

    Hope you feel better soon!

  • Radish

    Katie – do feel better!

    Amy – do you have a plain blender? Or a food processor? Those will do. Otherwise, try a food mill?

  • Janae

    Squash soups have never really sounded good to me, I don’t know why. But this one actually sounds like something I might try. The cider gives it an interesting twist, and I love the spice combination.

    And, I’m the same way when sick! I just got over a pretty bad cold, and I never let it interrupt my daily activities. Too much to do, no time for that!

    Feel better :)

  • Val

    I couldn’t think of a better way to soothe a sore throat than with a nice thick, hearty soup. It also has that perfect balance of allowing you to do something, instead of sit on the sofa, while not exhausting you of all your energy.

    I’ve heard of adding apples to soups but I’m very intrigued to try out cider. I’m sure it gives an excellent boost. I will definitely try it out. Thanks.

  • molly

    Butternuts galore: check. Apple cider: check. Cold: no check, but that’s okay, hope it stays away from us all! This sounds so lovely.

  • Courtney

    I made this recipe this weekend and we absolutely loved it. I already have plans to make it again though will dial back the cayenne pepper to 1/4 teaspoon as the 1/2 teaspoon suggested above was too much for me and seemed to drown out the other lovely flavors of the soup.

  • Kristine

    I love following your site, and being originally form same side of the world- Latvia- I find lots of comfort foods with a twist in your wonderful blog, so, its always a lovely surprise to read it.
    As for the recipe, I was wondering about the cider. I currently live in Ireland, and I was wondering if the cider that we get here- an alcoholic drink with a bit of fizz, is the same than the one in US. As far as I remember, the one in US was more like an apple juice with spices. Should I then rather use a good apple juice for this recipe? I’d really appreciate an advice, as I want to make this soup as soon as possible, but dont want to mess it up. Thank you!

  • Molly B

    just got back from a long flight from italy – wit a cold. bought these ingredients on my way home, minus the cider, and made this delicious soup. Thanks (again) for the inspiration!

  • Radish

    Kristine – lucky you living in Ireland! No, the fizzy alcoholic cider you guys have is different than what I am referring to. I think you would look for pressed, unfiltered apple juice (I saw a bunch in London while we were there). Let me know if this helps.

  • Kristine

    So, yesterday was the day I tried your soup. Went out and found an unfiltered apple juice, had some home- made veg broth and used it for simmering the pumpkin, and the results were really lovely! I loved it. And to think that all that goodness is created san full cream or anything- its delicious AND good for you! :) Perfect combination. Thank you fro this recipe, and we will be making it soon again!