Have you ever tried Panera’s seasonal butternut squash soup? If not, I implore you to give it a chance! Besides sweater weather and Thanksgiving, it’s one of the things I most look forward to in the fall. And it’s the inspiration for this gorgeous, creamy vegan pumpkin lentil soup!
Lentils and pumpkin…huh??? Are you scratching your head and making a weird face right now? Well, stop that, because this combination works beautifully! Like my pumpkin pound cake, this dish is full of so much flavor, it’s almost unreal. You’ve got the natural sweetness of pumpkin and squash, the tartness of apple cider, the savory taste of the spices and seasonings, and the added richness of coconut cream. Oh, and did I mention that it’s VEGAN? No butter, no eggs, no heavy cream, and still out-of-this-world!
I owe a lot of credit to this recipe to Rachel over at the Rachel Cooks blog. When I realized I was obssessed with Panera’s squash soup, I searched for a copycat recipe and stumbled upon hers. I’ve made it a million times and can testify that it’s amazing. This vegan pumpkin lentil soup is adapted from Rachel’s. Super giant kudos to her!
How to make vegan pumpkin lentil soup
Once all ingredients have been prepared and prepped, this soup only takes about half an hour to make:
- Set a large, heavy bottomed pot to medium heat on the stove. Saute garlic until fragrant, then add chopped carrots and cook for another 5 minutes more.
- Add salt, black pepper, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, onion powder, and cayenne pepper (optional) to the pot. Stir them with the garlic and carrots, and let toast for about a minute.
- Now, add squash puree, pumpkin puree, apple cider (NOT apple cider vinegar), coconut cream, vegetable broth, green lentils, and sugar. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, for about 25-30 minutes, or until slightly thickened and the carrots and lentils are soft. As you go, taste and adjust the flavor to your liking with salt, spices, or sugar.
- Spoon the soup into a blender or food processor. If you have a smaller blender, you will need to do this step in batches. Blend until thick, smooth, and creamy. If it’s too thick, feel free to add a tiny amount of apple cider and blend again until the consistency is to your satisfaction.
- Soup’s done now. Voila!
How to make butternut squash puree at home
Most soup recipes with squash as an ingredient will direct you to cube the squash and cook it that way. But if you’ve ever tried to peel and cube a whole butternut squash, you know it’s a major (and low-key dangerous?) pain in the ass. It’s much easier to just roast the squash to soften it, then blend or mash the softened squash into a puree:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Thoroughly wash and dry the squash. We’ll be cutting it into quarters. On a stable cutting board, lay the squash down and use a sharp knife to carefully slice across the width of the squash (basically, slice horizontally through the middle. See pictures below to see what I mean). Then, take those slices, and cut them length wise. Scoop out the seeds and stringy parts (an ice cream scoop is a great tool for this!)
- Place the cut sides of the quarters down on the baking sheet (the skin of the squash will be facing up) and roast uncovered in the oven for about 50-60 minutes, or until soft.
- Remove from the oven, and let rest until cool enough to handle. Spoon the flesh of the squash into a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. You can also use a potato masher or pastry cutter to mash the squash into a puree.
To yield the 1 and 1/2 cups of puree needed for this soup, use two medium butternut squashes, or one very large squash.
Health benefits of this hearty soup
You already know that soup is great to eat when you’re sick, but this one is extra nutritious because it’s packed with hearty vegetables. Even though it’s free of dairy and meat, it’s still so filling!
Lentils are tiny little legumes that hold so much nutritional power. Not only are they a fantastic substitute for meat in many recipes, they’re full of essential minerals like magnesium and zinc. Pumpkin and squash are also packed with vitamins and minerals, and are an excellent source of dietary fiber.
Coconut cream serves as a healthy, vegan substitute for heavy cream. And it doesn’t overpower the soup at all!
I like to enjoy this meal with a few warm loaves of Ciabatta bread. They make a heavenly pair.
This recipe yields enough soup to serve 3-4 people, but you can definitely double it if you need to feed a larger crowd. Simply store leftovers in the refrigerator for 3-4 days; it reheats wonderfully in the microwave. You can also store leftovers in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Vegan Pumpkin Lentil Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 carrot diced
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 and 1/2 cups butternut squash puree see above instructions on how to make
- 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 and 1/2 cups apple cider
- 1/3 cup coconut cream (do NOT use cream of coconut)
- 2 and 1/4 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup green lentils sorted and rinsed
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)
- Set a large, heavy-bottomed pot to medium heat on the stovetop. Once the pot is slightly warmed, pour in olive oil and allow it to get warm as well. Add chopped garlic and saute until fragrant, about two minutes. Then add diced carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Toss in the salt, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, onion powder, cayenne pepper (if using), stir, and toast for about a minute.
- Add squash puree, pumpkin puree, apple cider, coconut cream, vegetable broth, green lentils, and sugar. Stir together and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to low. Simmer the soup, uncovered, for about 25-30 minutes, or until the carrots and lentils are soft and the liquid has slightly thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings/spices to your liking. If you'd like a sweeter soup, add more sugar.
- Transfer soup to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. The soup shouldn't be too runny, but If it's too thick after blending, add a bit more apple cider and blend again until it is your preferred consistency. Ladle into bowls and serve warm.
- Adapted from Rachel Cook’s Copycat Panera Squash Soup recipe.
- If you don’t have apple cider, you may use natural, 100% juice apple juice. Do NOT use apple cider vinegar.
- This recipe calls for coconut cream, which is similar to coconut milk but richer. Do NOT use cream of coconut, it is completely different and will not yield the desired result.
- Leftover soup can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat in the microwave.
- Nutrition facts are an estimate.