A super easy weeknight soup, Thai Pumpkin Soup is full-flavored, yet ready in under a half hour. Easily control the spice level to suit your family’s preferences, and enjoy a taste of Thai cuisine. Naturally vegan and gluten-free.
This soup is a bit of a departure for me. As a food blogger and home cooking advocate — and particularly as a vegetable gardener — I feel some responsibility to present recipes that encourage fresh food prep and hands-on cooking, in a way that’s approachable and doesn’t inspire dread.
Not whole foods cooking, exactly, but a reasonable compromise between completely from scratch, and dumped from a can. My general approach to recipes includes an expectation that the cook is okay with chopping some vegetables and has a reasonably stocked pantry of seasonings, condiments, legumes, proteins, etc.
My recipes are usually under an hour (unless there’s hands-off simmering involved). I don’t use restaurant techniques — you won’t find diffusers or sous vide devices in my kitchen — but my recipes are fully seasoned, and do use steps that layer flavors in a way you simply can’t find in fast food or off-the-shelf grocery store products.
So I have, somewhat intentionally, completely skirted shortcut recipes. No matter how my day has gone, I’m simply not the kind of cook who dumps cream-of-something into the Instant Pot and calls it dinner.
But, that doesn’t mean that every single meal I prepare is a full-on cooking situation. I take short-cuts, too. Not cream-of-something shortcuts, but thoughtfully planned and researched alternatives that skimp on time, not flavor. It’s time that I share these recipes. Past time.
Normally, I might’ve created this recipe for the blog using roasted pumpkins and the full complement of Thai seasonings. Instead, I’m stepping out of my blogger’s comfort zone and sharing how I first made this recipe, for myself, for a quick dinner. Four easy steps (see photo above) and done.
Shortcuts for Making Thai Pumpkin Soup
- Onions – okay, there’s no shortcut here, lol. It’s one of my uncompromisable ingredients: chopped onions. I’ll admit that prepping onions is one of my cooking super powers: I can peel and dice an entire onion in under a minute. If you need some tips for honing your onion chopping skills, check out my onion slicing tutorial. This is the most hands-on part of the soup, so once you finishing chopping, things move fast.
- Garlic – if you hate handling fresh garlic, you’re not alone, so let me put that particular dread to rest: garlic powder is okay. Especially if it’s organic. Garlic powder (or the slightly coarser granulated garlic) is made by dehydrating fresh garlic cloves and grinding them to the proper consistency. I grow my own garlic, and make my own powder (yes, I’m one of those gardening nerds, lol). This recipe uses garlic powder, but feel free to substitute with two minced cloves of fresh garlic.
- Thai red curry paste – this is just good stuff, plain and simple. My local grocery store gives me the choice of exactly one brand, but there are several high-end brands that can be found in places like Whole Foods (or on Amazon). It contains the addictive combination of red chile peppers, galangal, lemongrass, shallots, and more. Most brands are packed in 4 ounce containers. You’ll use about half of that.
- Ginger paste – ginger paste should be readily available in the produce section of your grocery store. Note that some brands add sugar. I use one of those brands, but wanted to be sure to point it out, in case added sugar is a problem. Handling fresh ginger is not a big deal, but it’s weird with its papery skin and fibrous root. Weirdly wonderful, but, prepackaged paste is a good substitute.
- Lemongrass paste – lemongrass paste is always in my fridge. Always. Fresh lemongrass is highly seasonal where I live, and when I can find it, I rarely consider it worth the effort. I don’t feel guilty at all about using lemongrass paste, and you shouldn’t either. Find it in the production section, usually with the refrigerated herbs.
- Pumpkin Puree – As I said, my blogger instincts might normally call for a roasting of a pie pumpkin. But, a can of pumpkin puree is perfectly acceptable. Look at the ingredients on the can: there should be one, pumpkin. Buy the can and feel good about it. I do.
- Vegetable broth – would it surprise you to learn that I buy broth from the store? Like, a lot of store-bought broth. I’m the first person to extol the virtues of homemade broth, but I’m also a realist. Before a recipe is posted here on SoupAddict, it’s tested at least three times, which means I’m cooking soup for dinner during the week. A lot. I go through a ton of broth. Weekend broth-making is great, and it’s even fairly fast in a pressure cooker, but I’m not about to finish the day at my corporate job by firing up a batch of vegetable broth before even being able to start dinner for the night. Store-bought broth is perfectly fine, with cautions. Read the labels, understand sodium levels. Pay attention to ingredients – most are made with oils. There are big differences between brands: experiment to find the one you like. I actually prefer my store’s name brand broths. They’re less intensely brothy, which gives me more control over the end flavor of the soup.
- Coconut milk – cracking open a whole coconut to create coconut milk is one thing I’ve never done, lol. I exclusively use canned, unsweetened coconut milk for cooking. Usually full fat, unless shopping finds me in a guilty mood. Like broth, there are often significant differences between brands. Not necessarily in flavor, but in ingredients. I usually go for as few as possible. Why canned? Boxed coconut milk is made for drinking and usually contains an eye-opening list of ingredients. Plus, full fat coconut milk comes with a ring of irresistible coconut cream around the edges. Any soup you see on this site with white designs on the surface (such as in these photos), was made with coconut cream scraped from the can.
As you’ll see in the recipe, Thai Pumpkin Soup comes together in a just a few super simple steps. But don’t forget the toppings! They’re optional, of course, but garnishes can take an already great soup and send it right over the top.
Toppings for Thai Pumpkin Soup:
- Cilantro: Fresh cilantro is a natural choice to pair with Thai-leaning cuisine. If you have cilantro avoiders in the house, serve it on the side, or just skip it altogether. I don’t recommend substituting flat-leaf parsley, as it’s a bit strong. Fresh Thai basil would be nice, though, if you have access to it.
- Green onions: The easiest of easy prep: buy a bunch at the store. Wash them off and peel off any loose or wilty layers. Remove the root end, and then slice thinly on the diagonal. Also, if your store has a salad bar, check to see if they have pre-sliced green onions. I often raid the salad bar when I make soup.
- Chile peppers: If you and your people love things spicy hot, top the soup with slices of hot chile peppers, such as jalapenos (hottish), Fresnos (hot), or Thai bird or habaneros (yeowza).
- Crushed red pepper: For a more controlled heat, sprinkle some crushed red peppers flakes over the soup. Aleppo pepper is quite lovely, too (although not spicy).
- Seeds: If you enjoy crunch with your soup, scatter some seeds over the top. Sunflower or pepitas are particularly nice, as their nutty flavors go really well with this soup. For extra oomph, make a batch of my Honey Sriracha Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, which is both soup topping and awesome snack!
The irony here is that it probably took you longer to read this post and its tips than it will be to make the soup. Thank goodness! 😀
Oh, and Thai Pumpkin Soup is make-ahead awesome, so don’t hesitate to make it the day before a busy evening, or enjoy leftovers for lunch the next day. It’s creamy, flavorful, and satisfying.
Thai Pumpkin Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small white or yellow onion , chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder (or use 2 cloves garlic, minced)
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste (or freshly grated ginger)
- 1 tablespoon lemongrass paste (optional)
- 3-4 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 15 ounces pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
- Kosher salt
- 14 ounces canned unsweetened coconut milk , well shaken
- lime or lemon juice
- fresh cilantro , chopped
- thinly sliced serrano or jalapeno chile
- roasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
- crush red pepper flakes
- swirls of coconut cream
- Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a 4-5 quart Dutch oven or stock pot over medium until shimmering.
- Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent (about 6 minutes).
- Scoot the onions to one side and add the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil to the cleared side. Spoon the curry paste, ginger paste, lemongrass paste (if using), and garlic powder over the oil, and stir until fragrant. Mix into the onions.
- Add the broth and the pumpkin puree, and mix thoroughly.
- Raise the heat to bring the soup to an active simmer for 10 minutes.
- Turn heat to low. Taste the soup and add salt by the big pinch until flavorful.
- When the soup and completely stopped bubbling, whisk in the coconut milk.
- Add a splash (or squeezof lemon or lime juice and taste. Adjust with additional salt, if necessary.
- Serve with optional toppings.
- Leftovers keep well for several days in the fridge.