A creamy and savory soup with a hint of spice and sweetness, Peruvian Pumpkin Soup - Sopa de Calabaza makes a stunning first course (especially when served in a mini pumpkin bowl) or a comforting light supper on a chilly fall evening! Isn't it time to expand your use of pumpkins beyond jack o'lanterns and pies?
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks - Recipe Inspiration
If you have been following my blog for long, you are probably aware that I have spent extensive time in Peru with my husband who leads Studies Abroad trips to Peru. We enjoy a variety of warming soups while we're there - in restaurants and on our treks.
Each year, when we return home, I try to recreate one of the soups we enjoyed. In 2017, I was very pleased with the tomato bisque that was inspired by the soup served at the hostel in Mandor on the hike between Hidroelectrica and Aguas Caliente (Machu Picchu town). It was so memorable!
In 2018, my efforts turned to sopa criolla - a traditional, comfort food found all over Peru. I return to this menu item on every trip. The soup is a hearty beef noodle soup with a runny egg on top. I especially love it when I'm not feeling well...
2019 brought a 7 night trek from Capuliyoc to Choquequirao to Yanama, and a wonderful steaming hot bowl of a creamy squash soup. This Peruvian pumpkin soup recipe (sopa de calabaza).
Soups are a great place to start venturing outside your "comfort zone." They're pretty hard to mess up. Cooking times are forgiving, and in many cases, the soup can be made well in advance. You can even freeze this soup, thaw, and reheat the day "of." Save the garnishes until you serve it!
What makes this soup "Peruvian?" The most traditional recipes I could find are for cream of loche, and but Peruvians make it with many winter squashes. While the soup is very simple, the seasonings vary from one kitchen to the next.
I am always looking for ways to use pumpkin in savory preparations, so I titled this recipe "Peruvian Pumpkin Soup," but butternut squash is a great alternative. As I've said before, I AM NOT RE-CREATING AUTHENTIC PERUVIAN RECIPES. I've been chastised more than once for using non-traditional ingredients and/or cooking methods. I am honoring the spirit of Peruvian food in ways that are approachable to non-Peruvian cooks.
Please keep this in mind as you peruse the recipe! I do incorporate ají amarillo into this creamy pumpkin soup, but I have yet to see a recipe that uses it. My palate doesn't often let me down, and I feel confident this sunny yellow ají found its way into the soups I had in Peru's Sacred Valley and Cuzco.
🎃 Serving Soup in Pumpkin Bowls
Don't be scared away by the mini pumpkin soup bowls. They'll look stunning on your holiday table, but they are a little extra work! The next best thing? Serve this silky soup in soup bowls.
In an effort keep this recipe/post clutter-free 🙂 I'll send you over to Spruce Eats for instructions on How To Make Mini Pumpkin Soup Bowls if you are inclined to take the extra step...
📋 Ingredients You'll Need
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- a small pumpkin - I usually use a sugar pumpkin, but any small pumpkin or winter squash should work. NOTE: I used a ghost pumpkin recently, and I thought it was a little stringy.
- garlic - I like to use a fresh bulb and roast it with the vegetables.
- tomatoes - I use roma tomates as they're easy to prep for roasting.
- potato - yukon gold or red potato are perfect. You can also use dried potatoes that have been rehydrated.
- oil - coconut or olive oil
- onion - I use sweet or red because I always have them in my pantry.
- ground cumin
- ají amarillo paste - There really is no substitute. If you want a bit of heat, you can use your favorite hot sauce. You can omit it, and you'll still have a delicious soup!
- coconut milk creamer - If you're not concerned about dairy, you can use half n' half.
- garnishes - cilantro, scallions, lime wedges, cancha (Peruvian popped corn), toasted pepitas, crumbled cotija or queso fresco (not dairy free!)
- Roast the vegetables - Roast the pumpkin (or other squash) along with the tomatoes, potato (if using raw), and garlic. If making the pumpkin bowls you can do this at the same time.
- Prepare the pumpkin - Allow the squash to cool at least enough to handle. Using a sharp paring knife, remove the skin, and any remaining fibrous matter. Cut in chunks.
- Make the soup - To a Dutch oven, add the oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion and cumin for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Add the broth/stock, ají amarillo, salt and pepper. Add the roasted vegetables (squeeze the garlic from its skins first!) and soaked dried potato (if using). Simmer soup until flavors are combined, and everything is very tender - about 15-20 minutes.
- Finish the soup - Using an immersion blender, purée until very smooth. Whisk in the coconut milk creamer (not coconut milk!) or half n' half. Gently reheat. Taste for seasoning. Garnish as desired.
💭 Tips and FAQ
- This pumpkin soup freezes really well! I almost always freeze half of it for another use.
- Do I have to roast the vegetables? No. I love the additional layer of flavor that roasting brings, but you can just simmer until tender.
- What is "cancha?" Peru is home to MANY varieties of corn. Cancha is a snack corn that is popped in a little bit of oil. We love it as one of the garnishes. See Cancha: Andean Toasted Chulpe Corn for instructions on making it!
🌡️ Useful Stuff
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- 1 sugar pumpkin (or similar)
- 1 bulb garlic, top of bulbs exposed
- 4 roma tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
- 1 large yukon gold or red potato, sliced lengthwise (or ½ cup Peruvian dried potatoes pre-soaked)
- 2 tablespoon coconut or olive oil (divided use)
- 1 sweet onion, vertically sliced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 4 cups broth/stock
- 1-2 tablespoons ají amarillo paste (see notes)
- 1 teaspoon salt (to taste!)
- fresh ground pepper
- 2 cups coconut milk creamer (or half n' half if you prefer)
- cilantro (garnish)
- scallions (garnish)
- lime wedges (garnish)
- cancha - Peruvian popped corn (see notes)
- toasted pepitas
- crumbled cotija (not DF and optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Place squash/pumpkin wedges, tomato halves, garlic (with the tips exposed), and potato (if using) on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil.
- Roast until the squash is fork tender and beginning to brown. Allow to cool sufficiently to remove the skins from the wedges.
- To a Dutch oven, add the remaining oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion and cumin for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Add the broth/stock, ají amarillo, salt and pepper.
- Add the roasted vegetables (squeeze the garlic from its skins first!) and soaked dried potato (if using).
- Simmer soup until flavors are combined, and everything is very tender - about 15-20 minutes.
- Whisk in the coconut milk creamer (not coconut milk!) or half n' half. Gently reheat.
- Taste for seasoning.
- Ladle soup into bowls.
- Garnish with your choice of: Chopped cilantro, chopped scallions, canchita (see notes), lime wedges, toasted pepitas.
- Substitute your favorite winter squash - butternut, acorn, carnival, etc. I still recommend roasting first for best flavor
- To make this soup dairy free, use non-dairy creamer or milk (I like So Delicious Dairy Free Coconut Creamer as it adds more of the richness and thickness of half n half
- Obviously cotija is not dairy free, and it is optional. Substitute a dairy free cheese if you wish
- I do keep maiz chulpe in my pantry as I LOVE all things Peruvian. Many Latin markets now carry it. See this recipe for instructions on "popping" it. It doesn't pop like "regular" popcorn.
- If you're serving the soup in mini pumpkin bowls, don't forget to eat that yummy squash!
- Remember: You can make this soup in advance. It works really well to go through to the immersion blender step, and refrigerate or freeze. Add the creamer or half n' half as it is reheated prior to serving. You can also complete the recipe, saving the garnishes until service.
- Macronutrients (approximation only from MyFitnessPal.com) Macros do not include garnishes.
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Serving Size:¾ cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 140Total Fat: 5gCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 3g