Keep It Simple, Stupid: Spicy Kabocha Pumpkin Soup

I have a habit of overcomplicating things sometimes.  Not to Nathan Myhrvold levels, mind you. My burger recipe will never involve a combination of an immersion circulator, liquid nitrogen and a deep fryer. (Seriously, even the best burger on earth can’t possibly be worth that much hassle… especially not when perfectly delicious burgers can also be achieved using a cheap hibachi and a pile of white-hot charcoal.)

Spicy Kabocha Squash Soup

No, I’m talking about the fact that I take something that’s perfectly good just as it is, like my mother’s four-ingredient pot roast, and throw all sorts of extra things into the pot because I’m somehow convinced that it’ll come out better.  In case you’re curious, it doesn’t.  The only thing I manage to do is add more time and trouble, with no discernible improvement.

I’m getting better, though. I now know I really only need four ingredients when I make my mother’s pot roast, and successfully fight off the urge to increase it to five (or six… or seven…).  And I make dishes like this soup, which is simultaneously one of the most flavourful and delicious dairy-free soups in my arsenal, despite being the very essence of simplicity – roasted kabocha squash, golden sauteed onions, coconut milk and broth, plus just a dab or two of red curry and lemongrass paste.  And yet, it’s so much more than that.

Spicy Kabocha Squash Soup

Kabocha squash is a recent discovery for me, despite the fact that I’ve always been a massive fan of winter squash. I’d unconsciously been avoiding it in favour of the more familiar butternut and acorn squashes, but I’ve grown to love their drier, starchier Asian cousin in recent years. It’s quite good when roasted, albeit a little dry, but in soup it’s a revelation – velvety soft and unctuously thick in texture, sweet and subtly nutty in flavour, and with a cheerfully intense yellow-orange hue that is totally unlike its unassumingly nubbly forest-green exterior.  (Pinky swear, all I’ve done to these photos is minor exposure and sharpness adjustments – that colour is REAL, my friends.)

Spicy Kabocha Squash Soup

The combination of kabocha with coconut milk and red curry is actually rather common in southeast Asian cuisines,   particular soup has all those characteristics, plus that complex sweet-spicy-salty-sour balance of flavours that makes Thai food so irresistible, and a hint of heat that lingers on the tongue and in your belly, warming you right down to the tips of your toes.

Hard to believe a bumpy dark green exterior can conceal so much deliciousness, no? Consider this proof positive that appearances can sometimes be misleading, and that sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone.

Kabocha Squash

Not that I plan on sticking to pure simplicity all the time, mind you. After all, sometimes gussying up an old favourite can have really spectacular results too.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to add some saffron and vanilla bean to a perfectly good snickerdoodle recipe.  Because I can (and probably should).


5.0 from 2 reviews
Spicy Kabocha Pumpkin Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
It's hard to believe this thick, creamy, velvety soup is dairy-free and vegan-friendly... but it is! This recipe works best with kabocha squash, but if you can't find any, try it with acorn squash or small pie pumpkins instead.
Recipe type: Soup
Serves: 8
  • 2 medium-sized kabocha squash
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup finely diced onion
  • 2 tsp red Thai curry paste
  • 1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
  • 4 to 6 cups water or chicken broth
  • 2 tsp lemongrass paste
  • Chopped cilantro (for garnish)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Carefully cut each kabocha in half. Rub the cut surfaces with 1 tbsp oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Place on a baking sheet, skin sides down, and roast in preheated oven for 45-60 minutes or until the squash is very tender. Set aside to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute for 8-10 minutes, or until soft and golden. Add red curry paste and cook for 1 minute longer, or until fragrant.
  4. Using a spoon, scoop the flesh from the cooled squash into the pot. Stir in coconut milk and 4 cups water (or broth) and lemongrass paste, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes to let the flavours blend. Remove from heat.
  5. Using an immersion blender or food processor, process the soup until you have a thick, smooth puree (if it looks too thick for your tastes, stir in more water/broth, a half a cup at a time, until you reach your preferred consistency). Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, then serve just as it is or with a sprinkling of chopped cilantro for garnish.


  1. Julie M, says

    LOVE this recipe. The only change I made was to double the curry paste just to match our taste. Thanks so much for sharing :) Oops, II also garnished with a drizzle of cilantro olive oil and sprinkled toasted pumpkin seeds for crunch. Awesome soup kid!

  2. Kim says

    I used my dad farm raised kabocha.i had to use a little more curry paste and omitted the lemon grass, & garnished with a dollop of Greek yogurt.Going to a fall themed party tomorrow and can’t wait to bring it!

  3. Samantha O. says

    This soup is so delicious, I especially love the coconut milk in the soup. I decided to keep some of the skin in the soup because of all the vitamins in the skin. This made the soup a bit greenish, but I top the soup with sour cream. The children ask to have this soup every week.

    Thank you.

  4. Dan B. says

    I’m having trouble finding lemongrass paste. Any ideas? Should I replace it with something else or would it ruin the balance if I omitted the ingredient?

    • Isabelle says

      I’d suggest replacing the lemongrass with the zest and juice of half a lime – the flavour will be slightly different, but it’ll provide the same citrusy/sour element that the lemongrass provides. You can leave it out if you don’t have any limes kicking around either, but I find a little acidity brightens up all the other flavours and balances the sweetness of the squash.

  5. Cheryl and Adam @ says

    This looks delicious! We love the simplicity of it and the flavors of coconut milk with the squash are delightful together, not to mention the lemon grass and red curry. Look forward to making this one!

  6. Mary says

    This looks wonderful and has color that will brighten even the darkest winter day. I’m new to your blog, so I took some time to browse through your earlier posts. I’m so glad I did that. I really like the food and recipes you share with your readers and I’ll definitely be back. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  7. Priscilla-She's Cookin' says

    After having a Queen’s Day soup in Amsterdam, I made my own version with kabocha and coconut milk, but I think curry sounds like a great addition! And, speaking of saffron – that would be, too. Keep on tinkering :)

  8. Heather says

    I just wanted to say hello from another Canadian. Your blog is so wonderfully delicious. Your pictures are so stunning. Total awesomesauce.

  9. MikeVFMK says

    As you might, I love me some soup. And this one included. Really good stuff, Izz! And happy early holidays to you!

  10. Rochelle (@AcquiredLife) says

    I totally know the feeling about making something simple complex when it doesn’t really need anything at all to be better! One of the first things I heard about my cooking when I got to Portugal was that my cooking was very “complex”. When there is a grilled fish that only has salt added to it and it’s the best I’ve ever had, this lets you know that simple can be better like this gorgeous soup.

    I wonder if I can find a squash similar to this here. I doubt it, but I’m so going to try.

    • Isabelle says

      I know what you mean about Portuguese cooking being so much simpler – oftentimes, there’s nothing added besides salt, olive oil and garlic, but when the main ingredient is as fantastic as a fresh-caught fish, why bother with anything more?
      BTW, if you can’t find kabocha, you can substitute with a small pumpkin. I’m pretty sure those should be easier to find in Portugal, yes? I seem to remember my grandmother loving jam made with abobras.

      • Rochelle (@AcquiredLife) says

        Yup, we can get abobras (sometime we even get them for free from family :D). I’ll give this soup a try next time I get my hands on some.

  11. Ana Helena Campbell says

    I really like the combination of coconut milk and curry. This soup looks perfect for this season. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Kiri W. says

    I adore kabocha squash, and this soup looks amazing – I love curry and pumpkin. How very creamy, and what a great color!


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