How to make healthy choices every day

Butternut Squash, Leek and Apple Soup


Back in the summer, I was asked to be the guest chef at a restaurant here in Copenhagen for the upcoming fall season. But not just any restaurant: a hyper-local organic restaurant sourcing 95% of their ingredients from within 200 kilometers of their front door, and one that holds classes to educate and inspire city dwellers to eat sustainably all year round. Oh, just kind of up my alley. And it is run by a woman who I clicked with instantaneously, our first conversation touching on everything from mushroom foraging to manifesting one’s own reality through the power of positive thinking. I said yes because I was so moved by her ultimate mission, what the restaurant stood for, and not really taking into account that I hadn’t cooked in a professional kitchen in many years. But after giving me permission to call the event “The Grand Pumpkin Orgy”, how could I possibly say no?

Fast forward a few months to a couple weeks ago. I am standing at the cutting board preparing vegetables for soup. The soup to be served at the restaurant, which will be full of guests, all there to eat my food. I feel confident and excited, using all of my pumpkin comprehension to develop a menu of stellar proportions, and not letting the true weightiness of the event bog me down. Once cooked, everything goes into the blender. I puree it. I taste it. And it’s delicious. Without any major adjustments at all, it is exactly what I wanted it to be: clean and pure and tasting of the ingredients it is made with, only better.

Then the doubt creeps in. Wait a second. That was easy. Is this really good enough? How can I serve such a simple dish to all these people with undoubtedly high expectations of what this dinner is supposed to be? Why did I ever think I could do this in the first place?! BAH!

I brought my recipes in for the chef to review, sheepishly handing them over as if there was something wrong with them; not impressive enough, flashy or complex – just what I believed to be delicious. After a raised eyebrow, he said that he wasn’t sure apple and butternut squash would go together. I gulped, but told him as confidently as I could that I believe in the intelligence of the season, and trust that whatever grows together, goes together. Right?

The soup was a hit. Clean and pure and tasting of the ingredients it was made with, only better. Not only was the chef impressed (and later excused himself for judging my soup before making it himself), but the guests as well. As I went around to the tables asking everyone how it was, they all reaffirmed my belief that my instincts are not completely out of whack, and that, quite simply, good ingredients make great food. After several years eating locally-grown, seasonal produce I’ve learned that you can pretty much step back and let the ingredients do the work for you, since true deliciousness needs little intervention. Cooking like a pro, to me, means respecting the ingredients and doing as little as possible to bring out their tastiness.

So, this soup is that soup. The one I served at the restaurant to all of those people that scared me, but also reminded me that simple is best. It is a deep and delicious love song to autumn. The ingredients are inexpensive, widely available and the process is foolproof. It’s an oven soup! That’s right: everything cooked together right on a baking sheet so there isn’t even a pot to wash. Me likey.


Butternut Squsah: the Nutrient Storage Facility

Winter squash rocks because it is a virtual storehouse of nutrients. Unlike summer squash (re: zucchini, crooknecks, pattypans), winter squash has had a lot more time to develop and pump itself full of vitamins and minerals throughout its lengthy life on the stem. We’re talking oodles more vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin C, manganese, potassium, and even some extra dietary fiber thrown in. This combination of nutrients spells good news for asthma sufferers, those with heart disease, elevated cholesterol, or inflammatory conditions such a rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.

Nature designed summer squash to be rather delicate, with a high water content for those hot summer days when we need a cool down. Naturally, their shelf life is rather short during our abundant harvest season when produce is plentiful. On the flip side, winter squash has a tough outer skin and lower water content, which allows it to be stored for a very long time – some varieties up to six months. This means that we can keep these vitamin bombs around for a long time after the first frost to provide our bodies with the nutrition we need to see us through the long months of winter when there is nothing fresh in sight.

Put that in your oven and roast it!


The Garlicky Rye Bread Croutons, although an additional element to create, are the crowning glory of the dish, and really make it special. If you’re not into bread, try toasting some pumpkin seeds for the top, or something else crunchy to add contrast to the silky smooth soup.

It begs mentioning that the apple cider vinegar in this recipe is not optional. Why? Because it adds acidity. Acidity is the one thing missing in almost every home cook’s food because, well, we are never really taught about its importance. If you read the introduction in my cookbook, I have a section called “The Holy Trinity of Flavour” explaining that salt, sugar and acid are the three foundation flavours of any successful dish. Adding just a touch of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to almost anything you make (no kidding!) heightens and brightens the other flavours and creates a surprising balance of tastes. Try it and see for yourself.



96 thoughts on “Butternut Squash, Leek and Apple Soup”

  • Wow this was wonderful and the croutons are dreamy! Loved the smells while it was all cooking too. I left out the ground star anise as couldn’t find it and don’t have a pestle & mortar, so I don’t know how much of a difference it makes? Is there an alternative?
    Also did you use rye bread or sourdough in yours as you mention both in the recipe.
    Thanks and much love x

  • I made this tonight. Mine definitely didn’t look like this, probably because I had too much leek (I had the ginormous ones in my CSA this past weekend), but it tasted amazing!! I’m not a soup person at all, but when I saw this, I knew I had to try, and I’m so glad I did. You’re a freakin’ genius!

  • I’ve made this recipe twice now.The first time I used pumpkin instead of butternut squash, and it was okay. The second time though, I used a butternut squash. Instead of roasting everything, I roasted the squash, garlic and apple, and then sauteed the leeks and onion in a pot with some ghee, then added the broth and let it simmer for a bit while I roasted everything. Then I added the roasted food to the pot and used my immersion blender to smooth everything out. Oh my gaaaahd, it was soooo good!!! The roasted garlic really adds the most amazing flavour. Oh and I didn’t have star anise or cardamom, so I added cinnamon and nutmeg instead. Definitely adding this recipe to my winter staples! Thanks Sarah!

  • Keep these creations coming, Sarah! A scrummy testament to a beautiful and bountiful season. This is the soup to end all soups!

    • Hi Val,

      Yes, probably, but it won’t be as completely smooth as you would with an upright blender. Try it anyway and let me know!

      Happy soup-ing 🙂
      Sarah B

      • Hi sarah,

        thanks, I will 😉
        One more question, is the apple roasted in the oven with the vegs or not?

      • Hi Val,

        Yes, you’ll see in the instructions it includes the apple in the veg prep and roasting 🙂

        xo, Sarah B

  • This is delicious and will be a winter ’15 staple. I love the flavor from the star anise, which is a new-to-me spice, first used just last weekend in the plum upside-down cake recipe from your book (also a new go-to)!

  • This soup is so comforting and warming for a cool fall night in MI. I didn’t have a large butternut squash, so threw in some baked sweet potato. I was also missing the star anise, so put in some anise liqueur I made last year. It turned out very delish! I think next time I will add turmeric, since it is such a great spice for all that ails you… Love your unique perspective on veggies!

    • I made it with turmeric tonight. It was OK. I didn’t have star anise so I added some anise seeds to my own bowl, knowing others wouldn’t care for it. Same with the ACV. It wasn’t a hit with my family at all but I liked it myself! I think I’d add more butternut squash and garlic.

  • I made this soup tonight. I really like the flavor (the apple cider vinegar really makes a difference) but mine came out light green instead of bright orange….did you use just the white part of the leek?

    • Yep the apple cider vinergar in this soup is like a fairy godmother in Cinderella. It comes and all these flavors just glow in your mouth…. Magic

  • I made this tonight with half butternut and half acorn squash both from my garden, and let me just say, it was absolutely delicious. Much more flavor thaN any butternut soup that has come before it (that I’ve made, anyway!) And the croutons…..mmmhmmmm!

  • I also have your book and am in love with your recipes. I have learned to love Leek, so this one will be a great recipe to try. I have been reading Ditching the Drive-Thru by Natalie Winch and she emphasizes farm fresh foods and where to get them and how to find local farms it’s been a great resource!

  • Such a great recipe! I made it last night, it’s really filling and I love using apples in a soup! Apple cider vinegar is a must and a few drops of lemon juice right before serving just made it fab. Definitely will be making it again. Can’t wait to see the app 🙂 xxx

  • Please do a recipe with haichya persimmons! They are in season right now in cali but I can only find unhealthy recipes for them. You’re amazing at creating healthy alternatice recipes with a twist. I would love to see one that takes advantage of fall persimmons!

  • Fantastic recipe. My grocery store didn’t have whole star anise, but they did have anise seeds. Used those instead and the blender had no trouble pulverizing them. The flavors are perfect. Will add to my fall/winter repertoire.

  • First thing I want to say is that I just discovered your blog and was so inspired by it that I went out and bought your book, which is lovely and informative. I just read about your trinity of sugar salt and vinegar, and as coincidence would have it, I just posted a butternut squash soup recipe on my blog, but without any acid. I’m definitely going to try adding a bit of acid next time, and maybe an apple.
    Thank you so much for the delicious healthy recipes.

  • Lovely lovely recipe….
    Is it possible to know what is the name of that restaurant in Copenhagen?
    Thank you 🙂

  • Soup looks awesome…
    But honestly it’s your DISHES that I am in love with!
    I want them all!
    Can I find them in the states?

  • A pureed butternut squash soup is my idea of the quintessential fall dish. It’s also something I grew up with… my mom would make huge batches of butternut squash soup and we’d work on that for a few nights. The addition of some rye bread croutons is so wonderful.

  • Finally, an App!!!! I’ve been wondering how long it would take you to make one. So looking forward to it 🙂

  • Awesome take on the old (and by now quite boring) potato and pumpkin soup we do my side of the world. Got all the ingredients, will try it for dinner today! Congrats on the app, I signed up already without realizing it’s not for us android users 🙁 When will a version for us be released?

  • I’m loving the apple, leek and butternut squash combo. That sounds incredible! And your rye croutons look out of this world. Can’t wait to give this recipe a go!
    xx Sydney

  • oh Sarah, it’s so heartwarming to read about something I witnessed with my own own eyes, meaning you meeting H. at the book signing, I was the next one in queue 😉 and hope you enjoyed the vinegar 🙂 pumpkin+apple soup is my favorite of the pumpkin soups, will try it with star anise next time!

  • This sounds so intriguing. Thanks for sharing a fabulous recipe!! And thanks for the tips, all that you do, and just being you! 🙂 With love from the DC area.

    P.S. I have tons of mushrooms that grow in the woods of my neighborhood–especially in the playgrounds!–but I have no clue which ones are edible. Is there a good resource you could share?

  • I just made this soup and it is very delicious – one of those “more than sum of its parts” soups! The star anise is the star ingredient I think. It was so quick and easy to pull off (especially with an immersion blender). And I love the concept of an “oven soup” – it was literally chop, roast and blend – I managed it very unstressfully with my toddler in tow.

  • I make a carrot soup all autumn long but I’m starting to get a little bored with it. I’m definitely going to make this instead.
    Your photographs are lovely, by the way.

  • Oh Sarah, thank you so much for sharing this! We all have self doubt in the kitchen at times and it can be easy to forget that sometimes the simplest combinations of ingredients make the best dishes. Reading this post is great reminder to believe in oneself and stand by your ideas! Thank you as always!! xoxo

  • Hi Sarah
    I LOVE this recipe and everything you do! Your blog is a constant resource for me. I have your book too! You are so inspiring & im a ( fledgling ) blogger too . Seeing your work is really motivating to eat better & blog more! Thank you

  • Yes, a little acidity from vinegar is such an amazing addition, especially when something is missing from the taste and you can’t really put your finger on it. I’m such a fan of soups for fall, this is on my list!

  • The following stride to cook the dinner is the planning of the vegetable. It ought to be peeled, and after that cut it the long way down the middle. Next, evacuate the seeds and strings at the center and cut the squash into slight cuts.

  • “I believe in the intelligence of the season, and trust that whatever grows together, goes together. “- I absolutely love this. Sometimes it seems like we complicate food way too much, and need to just step back and remember the intelligence of the seasons. Kudos to you for sticking with your gut and making something so beautiful.

  • That’s wonderful news! Now two of my favorite blogs, GKS and MNR have apps! I’m super psyched about; it will make your recipes that much more easier to share! (: So very glad for you.

  • Sarah, you are wonderful. Your instincts, intentions and information is so thoughtfully delivered. You have gained (and earned) the trust of many many of us. Thank you for tapping into your inner light and shining brightly. I love you mucho.


  • I’m so shocked that the chef didn’t think butternut and apples would go together and I’m happy to hear that everyone loved it! Those croutons look amazing.

    I totally agree that adding acid is key. I pretty much add apple cider vinegar to everything.

  • I totally know that feeling of self-doubt! You make something and you think it’s great, but somehow you just lose all objectivity in the face of having to present it to someone else. What will they think? Will they like it?! It’s so hard to gauge what a reaction will be! But I’m so glad you followed your gut and served this soup – it’s absolutely beautiful and really respects the purity of the autumn produce. 🙂

  • “What grows together, goes together”! I love that I haven’t heard that before, but it is so true.

    I have everything I need to make this soup and plan to get a pot on this afternoon.

    Thanks for the inspiration and simplicity : )

  • Congrats!! Hopefully, an app for Android users is also included. Love your recipes and looking forward to trying the soup.

  • You really are an inspiration for the seasons, love your blog, book (food bible) and your turn of phase. Looking forward to the Ap!!

  • Everytime I make a butternut soup, I put in an apple. Without the apple the soup tastes a bit bland, in my opinion. For years I tried to find the perfect pumpkin soup and all I needed to do was add an apple 🙂

    So I truly believe that your soup is absolutely fantastic (as all of your recipes are).


  • Congratulations on the app – can’t wait!
    And the soup looks wonderful. Makes me want to see a diagram of all the veggies and fruits that grow at the same season … Do you have a good resource for that? In any case, BRAVA e GRAZIE!

  • Woot Woot! I have all these ingredients at home except for the Cardamom and Star Anise. Are these deal breaker ingredients?

    • Dear Sarah, thanks for this great news! I second Rezveer Dwyer: will there be an android app ?! I know someone who can develop it for you if you need… He’s good! (he’s my brother ;-P)
      Can’t wait to make those tiny sweet potatoe fries !! Take care <3

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