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How can I save my bland pumpkin soup?

I made a modified version of the Chez Panisse Vegetables roasted pumpkin soup recipe yesterday, but it tastes really bland. Here's what's I did:

- roasted 1 sugar pie pumpkin
- meanwhile, sauteed 1/2 an onion, a handful of carrots, four garlic cloves, and thyme in oil until they were soft.
- scooped out the pumpkin and put it in the pot with a quart of chicken stock, brought to a simmer.
- added salt, pepper, about 1/2 tablespoon of butter, and more thyme.
- pureed the whole thing

It's still really bland. The original recipe didn't call for the carrots and onion, but I thought it would be too boring. And it is. Here are some thoughts I have for fixing it:

- add some sauteed onions, garlic, and some ginger
- add cream
- add something acidic -- orange juice?

Suggestions welcome!

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  1. Start with a couple of cubed potatoes to add body, add ginger and some ground white pepper. Add the cream at the end when you re-blitz. You could add more sauteed onions at the beginning as well.

    1. ginger would be great imho, also the pumpking soup we have in the carribean has some cayenne in it. not enough to be spicy, but it kicks up the flavor.

      1. maybe some peanut butter, serve with a shot of creme fraiche?

        1. You could curry it w/ cumin, coriander, tumeric, etc. and chiles.

          Or add nutmeg and sour cream and/or roasted sweet potatoes.

          1 Reply
          1. re: chowser

            My suggestion would also be curry. I also suggest coconut milk.

            1. re: chez cherie

              I second this suggestion--but use judiciously. I injured taste buds with a chipotle-pumpkin bisque last Christmas and still haven't been entirely forgiven.

              1. re: chez cherie

                Add smashed blackbeans to that and you have a winner!

              2. I just finished off a batch of a soup that's almost exactly the same. GINGER!!
                and there was a tomato in it, and I think I used a chicken or veg stock. Lots of pepper. There was a potato and it did lend that body needed. AND a dollop of cream to serve.
                At first, it was a little bland. The ginger made ALL the difference, to me. It was in the original recipe, and after checking the seasoning, I added a little more grated fresh, as well as a little dried ginger.


                1. ginger, curry, a shot of cream.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: gini

                    ginger, curry, sauteed onions, garlic, whizzed, then finished with cream.

                    GINGER loves PUMPKIN! (but ginger is promiscuous, as she loves carrots... and chicken ... and... orange dal... and beef...and) ;-)

                  2. How about 1 T maple syrup. Makes it tastes quite rich.. not really sweet.

                    1 Reply
                    1. Add a good amount of cumin, bay leaf, ground chipotle pepper, canned black beans & coconut milk. Serve with a dash of bitters & squeeze of lime.

                      1. I make a yummy squash soup w/cannellini beans and it calls for cumin and cinnamon sauteed in w/the onions/garlic. Also, some diced tomatoes cooked in w/the stock, onions and squash before pureeing the whole thing.

                        1. Is it adequately salted?

                          1. Cut up the pumpkin before roasting - the caramelization will add flavor.

                            Add garlic and a bit of cayenne. Also, you probably need more salt and pepper than you think. Squashes tend to be bland.

                            I find that pumpkin soup is really nice served with a bit of parmesean cheese sprinkled on top - that will also add some flavor.

                            1. Marsala wine adds a nice richness to pumpkin soup

                              1. I read somewhere that the magic ingredient for soups is cauliflower. It disintegrates, but adds a body and flavor to soup. Looking forward to winter to test out this theory!

                                1. cut up a sweet potato and bake until caramelized. Puree and add to soup with some ginger.

                                  1. A little smoked paprika? A splash of wine? Thank you.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Bride of the Juggler

                                      Thanks to everyone for the suggestions. I sauteed a big onion, some garlic, and a bunch of ginger. Added the soup, re-pureed it, and added milk, butter, salt, and a tiny amount (1/4 tsp) of curry powder.

                                      Much improved! Thanks again.

                                      1. re: stonefruit

                                        I'm late, but I would have tried maple syrup, lime juice, and hot sauce...taste, repeat.

                                        Hot sauce and worchestershire sauce are my soup flavoring staples, but I'm not sure about worchestershiere w/ pumkin.

                                      2. re: Bride of the Juggler

                                        Bride, I'm with you - I'd go w/smoky paprika. And maybe a shot of worcestershire as well. I ALWAYS add a bit of that to soup.

                                      3. I would get your hands on some curry paste like Pataks, fry up a decent amount with some onions and then stir it into your soup. Add some coconut milk and some cilantro, puree again. Creme fraiche or yogurt on top.

                                        1. I think the trouble was the onion and carrots. They added too much sweetness, I think.

                                          I always like the idea of such soups better than the reality. I can never even decide what texture I want. They always come out too bland for me. I think I prefer them in ravioli with a brown butter sage sauce best of all.

                                          1. Same thing happened to me. I was in a jam and couldn't get to the store as guests were arriving shortly. Raided my pantry and added a can of corn, some cream and mined chili peppers, serranos to be exact. The corn added some sweetness, the cream thinkened it upa bit and the serranos added a nice touch of heat at the end. I topped it with toasted pecans and chives.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: angelo04

                                              you know, angelo04, your pantry raid sounds like it was really creative and successful! in fact, i am going to post a thread called "Pantry Raid". You have inspired me!

                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                Thank you, it was a spur of the moment burst of creativity and it was well received. To add to the anxiety, it was last Thanksgiving with 18 people on the way. We tend to keep a well stocked pantry as we cook often. Having quality ingredients on hand always helps.
                                                Damn, I missed my calling, this accounting thing just isn't as much fun as these kitchen escapades.

                                            2. I make an unusual cream of pumpkin soup that includes some tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and cayenne or chipotle. Definitely not bland.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Indy 67

                                                Indy -- any chance you could share that recipe? I am making pumpkin soup for Thanksgiving Eve and my mom will not eat anything with curry flavoring so those ideas are out- but I think she'd love the flavors you're describing.

                                              2. I made pumpkin soup last weekend, and I was surprised too by the fact that the pumpkin was very tasteless. I was planning to make a coconut pumpkin soup and when I had basically made the soup with roasted pumpkin, coconut milk, mirepoix, I was struck by a very bland soup.

                                                So, the life saver was curry powder, cumin, allspice, nutmeg, sugar, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. At that point the soup was excellent, very balanced, flavorful and delicious. Here is the recipe: http://christonium.com/culinaryreview...

                                                1. Curried pumpkin soup is divine. A bay leaf is also a good addition.

                                                  I will get crucified for those, but I looooove celery in my pumpkin soup. A lot of people hate that flavor, but I think it adds a satisfying zing to the soup.

                                                  1. Unfortunately, some sugar pie pumpkins don't have a lot of flavour to start with. Which is too bad because that soup sounds like it was a lot of work and should have been delicate but very tasty. Try adding a small dollop of dijon mustard and seeing if that doesn't perk things up a bit.

                                                    You might have better luck with a more consistent orange squash like kabocha or butternut or hubbard squash (if you can find it). "Pumpkin" pie filling is usually hubbard squash incognito.

                                                    Ginger sounds like a great addition - or maybe a little bit of nutmeg and white pepper. I like aleppo pepper for these things too, because it is only gently hot but has a rich, tangy chili fragrance (I get mine from Penzey's but any Turkish shop will have it cheaper).

                                                    I now admit that my most frequent addition to weeknight pumpkin soup is Huy Fong chili-garlic sauce, which is like the anti-Chez Panisse condiment. In fact, I am going to make some right now. Thanks - now I know what's for dinner!

                                                    1. Add a little Thai curry paste.

                                                      1. I like to add miso paste for depth.

                                                        If you'd rather go the spice route, try cumin and coriander, or some kind of hot sauce.

                                                        1. On Thanksgiving Eve, I made a version of Spicy Pumpkin Soup on epicurious (link below). I wanted a pure(-ish) version of pumpkin soup, minus the apple, cumin, curry, this and that. While I personally like those flavors, I find that lots of other people, including my mom, find them offputting, and I do find the pumpkin flavor warming and soothing, minus interrupting/competing flavors.

                                                          So I searched through about thirty pumpkin soup recipes before deciding to go simple, simple. Roasted 2 sugar pumpkins. Caramelized leeks in with fresh thyme and wine (wine sub, as we don't cook with booze, so organic grape juice/vinegar/lemon/my own stock) for a good long time. That added SO MUCH flavor, perfect complement to the pumpkin, which did end up having a lot of flavor on its own, as I did add lots of oo, salt and pepper when roasting in cubes. So the leeks, pumpkin, together in the pot, with some cream, then I blended, then some crushed red pepper and homemade stock that I made (Silver Palate). Though I make many, many soups, this was actually my **first-ever** soup with my own homemade stock. Yay! I felt like a diva***

                                                          I let the soup sit overnight, as I always do, and then added some more stock when heating the next day. I roasted the seeds and whipped up a cool little "pepita cream" with Greek yogurt, sour cream, a little half and half, fresh sage, and the toasty pepitas. So I garnished each bowl with a swirl of pepita cream, a sage leaf, and a few roasted pumpkin seeds. PERFECT (and accompanied by sandwiches on homemade baguettes) for a cozy dinner on Thanksgiving Eve.