butternut squash and pear soup with garam masala

butternut squash and pear soup with garam masala

You might have heard we had a snowstorm here in the Northeast. Actually that storm came to us from the west where it fell upon Denver, among other places. It’s not so unusual for Denver to get snow this time of year. But it is highly unusual for New York City to have pre-Halloween snow. Snow that sticks and accumulates. We’re not used to it here in the Northeast.

Andrew and I braved the weather and went out in the morning for brunch. After nine days of being apart, we wanted to spend some time together so we braved the weather – the storm wasn’t due for hours. We walked over to the Clover Club, our favorite neighborhood spot for brunch, weaving and bobbing between the streets, and ordered our food: both of us were craving lamb burgers. I so rarely order meat these days, I get so excited when I’m craving it. And believe me, that lamb burger was the best thing I ate that day. It hit the spot, that’s for sure.

this pear is about to get nekkid

Anyway, while we were waiting for our lamb burgers to arrive, the snow started to fall. Slowly at first, and then faster and faster, in large, heavy, wet clumps. For a few minutes it almost looked like a blizzard was coming. It came fast and furious, landing on awnings, parked cars, passers-by. A few people darted by with umbrellas, but it was clear that the umbrellas did nothing for them. Andrew, for once, was unprepared for the weather, and on our walk home his hands were stuck in his jacket pockets, and his neck – hiding in the collar.

Much as I wanted to make soup that very night, I just wasn’t up for it. There are days that I want to part ways with my kitchen (is that even okay to admit to here?), and Saturday was one such day. After a grueling week, I was utterly exhausted. All I wanted to do, which is pretty much what we wound up doing, is sit on our couch, watch The Daily Show and Parks and Rec episodes, drink black tea with milk, and read. Forrest, true to his form, must have broken a napping record – he was, for all intents and purposes, asleep all day, his bowls of food and water virtually untouched.

But the soup idea lodged itself firmly in my head. When it’s snowy or rainy out, the winds are howling, and it’s a perfectly good excuse to stay in – make soup. Soup is a forgiving thing; it takes whatever you have on hand, and with time, reduces it to a thing of beauty that nourishes from within. And this time of year, our house is full of squash. Butternut, acorn, kabocha, cheese pumpkin, sugar pumpkin – you name it – it’s probably hanging out somewhere on the counter. I’m sure they’re making friends even as I write.

butternut squash and pear soup with garam masala

Two days later, while puttering around in my kitchen, thoughts of soup came up again. I took one look at our squash overabundance and pointed to a butternut squash all happy and upright and terracotta-colored. “You,” I said, “will make excellent soup.” Nothing from the squash – I assumed it felt fine about its fate. A few Bosc pears were lying around on the counter as well. Butternut squash and pears sounded just perfect, especially, with some garam masala, and soft, warming heat of the smoky paprika. From start to finish, the soup was done in forty minutes. Everything fell apart, grew soft, and slumped as if giving up on forms and shapes. Pureeing everything smooth in our new superstar of a blender (a generous engagement gift from some lovely folks) along with some coconut milk yielded a silky smooth soup, luxurious, lush on the tongue. The texture reminded me of a lobster bisque I once had the famed Lutèce before it shuttered its doors. That was a time! I was twenty-two and snuck out of the office, during Restaurant Week, to sample the old-school French cuisine. To my boss –I was at the dentists; and in my defense, it was in the direction of the dentist. I could’ve accidentally taken a detour, distracted by fine French dining. I’d never before been to such an old-school place, where everything felt like a bygone era. And the memory is faint in my mind. I remember sitting upright, I remember my wine glass being refilled a few times (some dentist!), and I remember the texture of this soup. And years later, with a blender in my arsenal of tools – this silky soup’s texture is within my reach.

Which kind of makes me wish for – dare I say it – more snow in the near future.

Butternut Squash and Pear Soup with Garam Masala

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 medium onion, diced
2 fat garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon hot paprika or Aleppo pepper
1 medium butternut squash (1 1/4 pound), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 pears (I used Bosc), peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes
1 quart vegetable stock, or water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1 sprig thyme
1 cup coconut milk
Freshly ground pepper

1. In a 5-quart heavy bottomed pot, over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add and sweat the onions, 5 to 7 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the garlic and let infuse for 1 minute. Add the garam masala and the paprika and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the squash and the pears, cook for 2 minutes. Add in the stock, the salt, and thyme. Bring everything to a simmer, and cook until squash is fork-tender about 20 minutes. Discard the thyme.
2. Puree, in batches if necessary, in a blender until silky-smooth. Return to the pot and stir in coconut milk. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve with a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of your best olive oil.

Serves 6


  • Renee

    This soup looks and sounds lovely! And (the real reason I’m commenting) YES, engagement/wedding gifts are so fun. Hope you get lots of new toys for your kitchen. :)

  • Winnie

    I love the sound of this soup Olga! I have a growing squash/pumpkin collection on my counter too…need to make use of it all very soon ;)

  • Flora.

    I really like the idea of a soup with fruit in it, but have never tried.
    Since pears are usually mild in taste, they seem perfect for a first attempt.
    I’ll save your recipe for when they come to season again in here.

  • Megan Gordon

    Well, gosh. I’ve done butternut squash and apple but haven’t tried pear yet and I’m not quite sure why. I can imagine that it’s a really nice, smooth, balanced flavor. Can’t wait to try. As always, thank you for the inspiration!

  • Radish

    EB – doesn’t everyone? ;-)

    Winnie – great minds think alike, clearly!

    Megan – talk about inspiration! every time i head over to your site, I am moved to go and bake in my kitchen!

  • Molly

    Two words: Pressure cooker. This soup would take you roughly seven minutes using one. I had been on the fence about registering for one, but then I went to a Macy’s wedding event and ended up winning one as a door prize. (You should go to these sort of free wedding events if you have the time: Someone else won an entire block of Wustoff knives at the same thing!) I haven’t used mine in months because the summer produce needs so little patchke-ing, but now that it is fall, I know I’ll be whipping it out at least three times a week. I’ll admit it, there is something nice about the scents of slow-cooked soup wafting through the house, but if you’re really pressed for time and just want to eat something, the pressure cooker is magic. And don’t even blink at the idea of some crazy explosion happening. The new models are totally safe. Also, get one for the stove top, as opposed to a counter one, so you can saute onions and things right in it, shut the lid and stand back. Fagor makes a great one, and should be less than $100.

    Sorry for the rambling notes on pressure cookers. From your posts it sounds like you’re so pressed for time with all the cookbook writing and kitchen assisting, that I couldn’t help but offer up my favorite bit of kitchen tool advice. (Even more than my awesome food mill :-)

  • Radish

    Molly – we registered for it! I have been dying to have one and my grandmother and mom used one in Russia so i am a huge fan. Also – a slow-cooker too. Thank you for rambling – it’s very welcome!!

  • heather @ chiknpastry

    “There are days that I want to part ways with my kitchen (is that even okay to admit to here?)”

    YES! I totally feel the same way at least 1 or 2 times every week ;).

    And this soup? It’s really making me miss my immersion blender right about now. thanks ;).

  • Donna Turner

    What a lovely description of the birth of a new recipe! I love pumpkin soup, and butternut squash soup. We just moved to San Diego from the mountains where we had actual seasons. So I don’t have the usual cues that it’s time for soup. But today we got some rain, so I’m getting there. I am definitely going to try this one. Thank you.

  • Sarah

    Wow. This is so perfect as I have a butternut squash and a four bosc pears sitting on my counter. The pears were destined for challah bread pudding about a week ago, but then the power went out while I was in the middle of making dinner. *sigh* So there they sit. My immersion blender is also super-ancient (think early 1990s) and not so good, but I might have to try this! I will probably roast the squash to death first.

    Hmm, I also have some sweet potatoes sitting around… they could be a nice substitute if I want…

  • Kristi Rimkus

    I recently posted a butternut squash and apple soup. We loved it, so I can’t wait to try your version with pear and garam masala. The spice has to be fantastic!

  • Jon @ vodkitchen

    I have a butternut squash sitting on my counter and now I know what to do with it. I bet the masala spices go perfectly with the squash flavor and velvety texture of the soup.

  • Kathryn O

    I love reading about the creation of new recipes, and this soup is exactly what I’m craving right now – something warm, comforting and with a little spice. I can see how this would be perfect on a cold day spent indoors!

    p.s. perfectly fine to have days you want out of the kitchen! I think it’s safe to say that happens to us all :)

  • Molly

    So funny that you mentioned your mom and grandmother using theirs in Russia. When I won my pressure cooker I sent out an email to a bunch of friends for advice. Two people wrote back. One was my best friend growing up who was originally from Latvia. She basically wrote that her mom uses hers all the time to make strange smelling stews she didn’t want to go near. The other who wrote back said that her hippie artist mother used it to cut down on time for cooking brown rice. I use mine all the time, but have made stew just twice, and use my handy rice cooker for brown rice, just going 3:1 on the water.

    Re. the slow cooker. When I registered for a fancy $100+ slow cooker, my older sister asked me “why do you need that? That’s a silly amount of money. You don’t really need it.” I insisted I needed one, and she talked me out of it. That was four years ago. Not once have I said, gosh, I really could have used that expensive slow cooker. When I needed one for a chili play-off situation, I borrowed one from a friend. However, about three weeks ago, I was really in the mood for some cholent, talked about it at a Friday night dinner, and wished out loud I had a crockpot. Next day, walked by a tag sale, boom, crock pot: $15. That Monday, my sister, out of the blue, asked if I was going to post any good crockpot recipes. It’s funny the way life works sometimes. My point is, a good crock pot should cost no more than $40. Don’t get talked into getting a $100 one. I can send my sister your way if need be. :-)

  • Mumtu

    I was desperate for a good recipe for a Thanksgiving potluck, and decided to try yours. Onions, garlic, garam masala and pears seemed like an odd combination… but its fantastic!!!!!! Thank you!!! Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!

  • Holly

    Just made this for my husband and I – we both loved it. Thanks for the recipe, this is going in our ‘go to dinner night’ recipe book!

  • Mamta

    I bookmarked this page three years ago, and found it again as I look for something to take to a Thanksgiving potluck.
    This soup is wonderful!!! I substituted fresh grated ginger for thyme, and it came out beautifully! Thank you :)
    P.S – I love pressure cookers – every kitchen in India has at least one. I have several – different shapes and sizes :) It works great for meat dishes and various lentil dishes.
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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