Kabocha Squash Soup (かぼちゃスープ)
Kabocha Soup, which is also known as Kabocha Potage (かぼちゃポタージュ) in Japan, is a thick creamy soup that’s made from Kabocha squash (a.k.a. Japanese pumpkins), aromatics, and stock. It’s such a popular soup in Japan, instant varieties are available all year round, and in fall, there are pumpkin soup flavored snack foods like potato chips and instant noodles.
Although it’s pretty similar to a Western winter squash soup, the main difference is that Kabocha Squash Soup is often eaten for breakfast. Traditionally, Japanese breakfasts involved a bowl of rice, miso soup, and protein like grilled fish.
These days, many younger people prefer a more Western-style breakfast, including fried eggs, bacon, and toast. Old habits die hard, though, and the meal is often served with a bowl of vegetable soup like this.
Table of contents
Why This Recipe Works?
- Browning the aromatics and kabocha in butter before adding any liquid creates a flavorful base for the soup that imparts a ton of umami.
- Adding carrots adds extra depth to the soup’s flavor. It also gives the soup a more vibrant orange color.
- Adding a bit of cream at the end gives this pumpkin soup a silky mouthfeel and rounds out the green flavors from the kabocha.
Ingredients for Kabocha Squash Soup
- Kabocha Squash – You can read more about Kabocha in the FAQ below, but this is a Japanese winter squash with sweet, starchy orange flesh. If you can’t find it, Butternut or Acorn squash will work as well.
- Butter – In addition to boosting the soup’s richness, butter also contains milk solids, which boosts the umami of the soup. If you want to get the maximum amount of flavor from the soup, I recommend using cultured butter.
- Onion – Although Kabocha is very sweet, it doesn’t have a ton going on in the flavor department, so I like adding a bunch of onions and sauteeing them until they’re nice and browned to add some character to the soup. Leeks are also a tasty alternative to onions if you have some on hand.
- Carrot – The carrot adds a nice vegetal flavor to the soup, but its main role is to enhance the soup’s color. Kabocha is more of a yellowish-orange color, which can make the soup look a bit anemic. Adding some carrots shifts the color closer to red, which gives the soup a vibrant orange hue.
- Stock – Although any stock will work for this, I like using vegetable stock because it brings a lot of complementary flavors to the Japanese pumpkin without distracting from the main ingredient in the way chicken stock would.
- Cream – While the cream isn’t necessary, it makes a pretty big difference in the finished soup’s texture and flavor. If you make it without the cream, the soup ends up being much lighter and one-dimensional in taste. Alternatively, you could make this soup vegan-friendly by substituting coconut cream instead.
- Garnish – I like to garnish my Kabocha soup with some minced parsley for a splash of green, but it’s also great with almost any herb you may have on hand, like tarragon, basil, or rosemary. It’s also great topped with some toasted pumpkin seeds or croutons for a bit of crunch!
How to Make Kabocha Squash Soup
The first thing you’re going to want to do is to saute the onions and carrots in the butter until they’re tender and fragrant. You want to take your time here, as the Maillard browning that occurs is going to give your soup a ton of umami.
After the aromatics start to brown, you want to add the kabocha in and continue to saute this for a bit. This is akin to roasting the pumpkin first and deepens its flavor.
Next, you’re going to add in the vegetable stock and cook the kabocha until it’s tender. Depending on how thickly you sliced your Japanese pumpkin, this should take anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes.
Now all you have to do is puree the soup in a blender. I recommend letting it cool down first as a sudden release of steam can cause the lid to blow off, painting your ceiling a vibrant shade of orange. The soup will have the best texture when blended in a high-speed blender, but a regular blender or hand-blender will work in a pinch.
Once the soup is nice and smooth, you just need to heat it up in a clean pot, season it with salt to taste and add the cream.
Other Japanese Pumpkin Recipes
Kabocha (かぼちゃ or 南瓜) is a variety of winter squash that has dark green skin and vibrant orange flesh that’s sweet and starchy. The word kabocha literally means “pumpkin” in Japanese, so it’s often called Japanese Pumpkin or Kabocha Squash in other countries.
The texture and sweetness are almost like a sweet potato, making it a versatile vegetable that’s used in everything from soups to stews to stir-fries to desserts. As you may have guessed from the orange color, kabocha is loaded with beta-carotene, but it’s also a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C.
Ka-bo-cha has three syllables, and each one is pronounced as follows:
ka like copy
bo like boat
cha like charge
I’ve used dairy in this recipe, so it is vegetarian but not vegan. If you’d like to make this vegan, you can use olive oil to saute the vegetables and add a bit of nutritional yeast to give it some buttery umami. Then you can use coconut cream to finish the soup. It will make it taste like coconut, but it will give it a similar richness as the cream.
If you can’t find Kabocha squash where you live, you can substitute any sweet, starchy squash like Butternut or Acorn.
Yes, this soup freezes very well, so you can make a big batch and freeze portions. One trick I like to do is to freeze individual portions in small plastic containers. Once they’re frozen, you can unmold them and then store the soup blocks in a freezer bag to save space. Then all you have to do is defrost and reheat the soup in the microwave.
onion 1 small onion, finely diced
carrots 1 carrot, finely diced
Kabocha 1/4 large pumpkin, peeled and sliced
Salt to taste
heavy cream plus more for garnish
Parsley minced for garnish
Melt the butter in a large pot and saute the onions and carrots until they’re tender and just starting to brown (about 5 minutes).
Add the Kabocha and continue sauteing for another two minutes.
Add the vegetable stock and cover the pot with a lid. Lower the heat and simmer the pumpkin soup until the Kabocha is tender (about 10-15 minutes).
Let the Kabocha Squash soup cool down, and then add it to a blender to puree.
Return the soup to a clean pot and reheat. Season it with salt to taste, and add the cream.
Garnish the Japanese Pumpkin soup with a drizzle of extra cream and some minced parsley.