Persian-Style Butternut Squash Soup

Persian-Style Butternut Squash Soup

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From:, November 2019

Swap out your basic butternut squash soup for this fragrant version that includes sweet potato and a medley of spices like cinnamon, cumin, coriander and saffron. A drizzle of maple syrup and a few drops of orange water brighten the flavors, while a sprinkle of sumac adds a pop of color and a tangy edge. This healthy butternut squash soup would be a wonderful starter for your Thanksgiving meal.

Ingredients 6 servings

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Original recipe yields 6 servings
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  • 4-5 saffron threads (see Tips)
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2¾ pounds), peeled, seeded and cubed ( ½-inch)
  • 1 large sweet potato (about 8 ounces), peeled and cubed ( ½-inch)
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 3½ cups water
  • 1-2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • A few drops of orange blossom water (optional)
  • Ground sumac for serving (see Tips)


  • Prep

  • Ready In

  1. Grind saffron threads with a mortar and pestle to get ¼ teaspoon ground saffron. Place the ground saffron in a small glass bowl. Add 2 tablespoons very hot (but not boiling) water. Stir, cover and set aside to steep.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring, until soft and translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes. Add squash, sweet potato, cumin, salt, cinnamon, coriander and pepper. Stir to combine; cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add 3½ cups water to the pot; increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the reserved saffron water. If there is saffron clinging to the side of the bowl, drizzle in a little more water, swish it around and add it to the pot (this is precious stuff!). Stir to combine; cover and simmer until the squash and sweet potato are soft and cooked through, about 25 minutes. Taste the broth for seasoning and adjust as desired.
  4. Transfer the soup to a blender and add maple syrup and orange blossom water, if using. (Start with 1 teaspoon maple syrup and just a drop or two of orange blossom water—and don't measure over the soup.) Puree until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Taste and add more syrup and orange blossom water, if desired, but keep in mind the maple syrup and orange blossom water should not overwhelm the soup. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with sumac, if desired.
  • Tips: Saffron adds flavor and golden color to a variety of Middle Eastern, African and European foods. Find it in the spice section of supermarkets, gourmet shops or at It will keep in an airtight container for several years.
  • The tart red berries of the Mediterranean sumac bush add fruity, sour flavor to many regional dishes. Find ground sumac in Middle Eastern markets, specialty-food shops and online.
  • To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Nutrition information

  • Serving size: 1 cup
  • Per serving: 175 calories; 7 g fat(1 g sat); 5 g fiber; 29 g carbohydrates; 3 g protein; 54 mcg folate; 0 cholesterol; 6 g sugars; 1 g added sugars; 22,431 IU vitamin A; 39 mg vitamin C; 109 mg calcium; 2 mg iron; 188 mg sodium; 750 mg potassium
  • Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (449% daily value), Vitamin C (65% dv)
  • Carbohydrate Servings: 2
  • Exchanges: 1½ starch, 1 fat, ½ vegetable

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