Monday, November 21, 2011

Red Lentil and Acorn Squash Soup

Hearty Red Lentil and Acorn Squash Soup

The holidays wouldn't be complete without hot soup.  Of course, I love hot soup any time of year (even here in Texas), but when the weather starts to cool and the days start to shorten, there's something even more special about it.  The way it feel like it's "sticking to the bones," fortifying the body against weather and sickness, bringing warmth within.

Featuring carrots, winter squash, and red lentils, today's recipe takes full advantage of the fall season.  It's amazing how enriched and vital the body can feel when eating in accordance with nature and the different growing seasons.  Add that to the fact that this soup accommodates nearly all dietary constraints and is low in fat while high in flavor, and you have a beautiful, warming addition to any holiday spread that everyone can feel welcome to eat.

Hurtling towards Thanksgiving, when many of our best laid plans can quickly shift to emergencies and high drama, I offer a low fuss and simply delicious soup for Thanksgiving recipe #4.

Vegan Red Lentil and Acorn Squash Soup
(GF, DF, V, rSF, SF)

1 c red lentils
3-4 c cold, filtered water for soaking
2 c acorn squash, cubed
1 c yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 c carrot, sliced
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 teaspoon hot chile pepper, diced (optional)
1 tablespoon coconut oil, for saute
1 teaspoon paprika
4 c warm stock or water
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Rinse red lentils and then cover with cold, filtered water.  Allow them to soak for 1 hour.
2.  Cut acorn squash in half lengthwise.  Scoop out seeds from one half and place cut-side down on a plate and microwave for two minutes.  This will make it much easier and safer to remove the skin and cube.  Allow it to cool.
3.  Further cut half into eighths and slice away skin carefully.  Cut squash into roughly 3/4" cubes to make approximately two cups.
4.  Peel one large carrot and slice to make approximately 1/2 cup.  I like to slice on the bias, but that's just me. :)
5.  Slice one garlic clove.  And if you would like some added heat, dice just a touch of chile pepper.  I used a small poblano that had a similar spice to that of a jalapeno.  I removed the seeds and ribs and diced approximately one teaspoon's worth.
6.  Warm coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onion and saute until just translucent.
7.  Add sliced garlic and paprika and saute for one to two minutes until aromatic.
8.  Add carrot, squash, and chile pepper and saute to incorporate all ingredients.
9.  Add soaked lentils and warm stock or water to pot.
10.  Raise heat to just bring the mixture to a boil and then immediately reduce heat to a low simmer.  It is important avoid letting the soup boil as this will adversely affect the texture of the squash and lentils.  Skim any foam that has accumulated on the surface.
11.  Cover and allow to simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.
12.  After this time, the squash should be fork tender, the carrots should be softer, and the red lentils will have broken down.  To achieve a smoother texture and appearance, simply give the soup a few healthy stirs to break the lentils down further.  Add nutritional yeast and season with salt and pepper.
13.  Makes 4-6 servings.

Let's make soup!

Microwave first to make prep easier and safer

Nutritional yeast: one of my new favorite ingredients

Most red lentils soups I have had have been pureed, and that was honestly my intention when first making this soup.  But after tasting it and thoroughly enjoying the creaminess of the red lentils against the gently yielding vegetables, I found I actually preferred it more hearty and rustic.  Definitely one to stick to the bones.  But if a smooth soup is what you're craving, by all means, take an immersion blender to it or blend it in batches in a food processor or upright blender.  The soup will be fairly thick to begin with, so if going the smooth route, add more stock as needed and then season again if needed.  Serve it the day after making for best flavor.

Garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds and served with gluten free, vegan cornbread

May this soup prove not only warming, but comforting, to both you and your guests this holiday season.  And amidst the frenzy and stress that this week may bring, do your best to remember what you are thankful for and keep that at the forefront of your mind.  A well-planned party or perfectly executed food is wonderful, but at the end of the day, it is those blessings and those people that truly make Thanksgiving special.


  1. Sooooo funny, I was going to make this type of soup the other day =) I just roasted off 3 different types of squash and still have some in reserve. Lentil soup was always in the works, especially now that it's getting chilly. I like how you snuck in those Pepitas on top! Yummy!

  2. We already had our Thanksgiving in Canada, but I'd make this anyways. This soup looks delicious!

  3. I never knew that Thanksgiving was celebrated earlier in Canada. I guess we all learn something new every day, right? I agree about making this soup regardless of the holidays, Kyleen - good food is always in season. :)

  4. I had an acorn squash emergency today and your recipe came to the rescue. I had other plans for dinner but checked on the acorn squash making a mental note to use that next when I noticed BAD SPOTS FORMING! Scrapped original dinner plans, Googled frantically and found your recipe. Acorn squash saved in the nick of time and the soup tastes great. Thanks!


    1. I am so glad to hear that, Daniela! It's funny how our ingredients sometimes decide what we're eating as opposed to the other way around. Thank you for this wonderful comment. :)


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