Persian-Spiced Winter Vegetable Soup

A few thoughts on soup…

1. I’m still on my soup-for-breakfast kick and since it’s lasted more than 18 months, I don’t think it can be called a “kick” anymore. It’s now a “thing.” That’s an important distinction.

2. A bowl of soup is a really excellent way to sneak more vegetables into your day. I load up my plate with veggies, and then I’m, like, “Bonus! There are extra veggies in my soup!” and I feel all smug and accomplished for the rest of the day.

3. One of the ways to make soup more fun is top top it with garnishes. I’ve yet to eat a bowl of soup that wasn’t improved by dropping a 1/2 teaspoon of ghee and some freshly-ground pepper on top, but you can get more exotic and fancy, if the spirit moves you. I’ve listed lots of garnish ideas for this soup below. One of them is inspired by a soup we ate in Prague during one of the most unusual meals I’ve ever eaten. We dined at La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise, a Michelin-starred restaurant that’s widely acknowledged as the best restaurant in the Czech Republic. Between us friends, it was a little fussy and pretentious for me. The wait staff was wonderfully attentive and the food was both creative and delicious, but they all took themselves so seriously. I think food is fun; they, clearly, see food as Art. They’re correct in their assessment of their food; it was artistic and beautiful and challenging. But would it kill them to enjoy it, too? We certainly did! We ate little, perfectly round, roasted potatoes rolled in ash (to imitate the old-fashioned way of cooking potatoes in the ashes of a fire). Another course was garlicky, plump escargot. Our favorite was a satiny smooth pumpkin soup that was listed on the menu as served with “pork cracklins” — which appeared in the form of whipped cream infused with the flavor of bacon. We stirred the rich, bacon-y cream into the pumpkin soup and nearly passed out from the heaven of it all. So… I recommend you try the Coconut Whipped Cream garnish listed below sometime; it might change your life.

Thoughts on this recipe…

This soup is assertively spiced, so prepare your tastebuds. The sweetness of the butternut squash and tomato paste are amped up with exotic spices, and just a few potatoes give it a velvety texture. The paprika+cumin+cinnamon packs a little bit of a punch, and you can adjust the heat by changing the amount of Aleppo pepper you use. I love spicy foods for breakfast, but not everyone does, so you’ve been warned.

Because this soup has a tomato base, it will taste even better on Day 2 and 3 than it does on Day 1, so you might want to plan ahead. I’ve also noticed that the spices mellow out over time, becoming less sharp and more warm.

This recipe makes a fairly large batch, and you can freeze/defrost this soup well, so don’t be afraid of the quantity.


Persian-Spiced Winter Vegetable Soup

Serves 10-12 | Prep 20 minutes | Cook 90 minutes | Whole30 compliant

  • 2 tablespoons ghee or other cooking fat

  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, chopped into 1-inch cubes

  • 2 medium onions, coarsely diced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 2 teaspoons ground paprika

  • 1/2 to 2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper (or crushed red pepper flakes), depending on how spicy you like your life

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste

  • 6 cups broth (any flavor)

Pistachio-Parsley Pesto:
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves

  • 1 small clove garlic

  • 2 tablespoons shelled pistachios

  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper


Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add fat and allow it to melt, then toss in the butternut squash, onions, garlic, and potatoes. Stir to coat the veggies with the fat and cook, without browning, until the vegetables are beginning to soften and look golden, about 20-30 minutes.  You don’t want anything to get brown, so keep an eye on the heat. This is not one of my “crank it up and let it go” recipes. This smells wonderful, so enjoy!


Add the cumin, paprika, Aleppo pepper, cinnamon, salt, and black pepper to the pot. Stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.


Add the broth to the pot and stir to combine, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Simmer, covered, until squash is tender when poked with a fork, about 20-30 minutes.


While the soup is cooking, prepare the pistachio-parsley pesto. Purée all the ingredients — with a blender, food processor, or stick blender — until very smooth. Set aside. (See below for additional, delicious garnishes.)


When the soup is done, purée it carefully with a stick blender, blender, or food processor; work in batches, if necessary. When it’s smooth, taste and adjust seasonings. You can add water or broth, 1/4 cup at a time, if it’s too thick. Serve in a pretty bowl and top with your favorite garnishes.

Tasty Garnish Ideas

This soup is delicious just the way it is, but if you add a garnish or two, it turns into something really special. Just add a touch of any or all (!) of these on top. In the photo above, I used Pistachio-Parsley Pesto and Onion-Raisin Relish, but all of the options listed here are delicious and 100% guaranteed to fight food boredom.

Onion-Raisin Relish: Stir-fry half of a onion in 1 tablespoon cooking fat with 1-2 tablespoons raisins until the raisins are soft, and the onion is browned and crisp.

Whipped Coconut Cream: Refrigerate a can of coconut milk overnight; Thai Kitchen works really well. When the coconut milk is cold, flip the can upside down and open the bottom with a can opener. Pour off any liquid that’s separated and scoop the thickened coconut milk into the bowl of mixer. Whip on your mixer’s highest setting until the milk is fluffy and has taken on the texture of whipped cream, about 5-7 minutes. (This would be really nice sprinkled with crushed pistachios.)

Nuts: Plain pepitas or slivered almonds, or crushed pistachios. Or Spicy-Pumpkin-Spiced Pepitas. (Or Magic Dust from Well Fed 2.)

Herbs: Minced fresh parsley, cilantro, or both with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil or a dollop of ghee.

Meat (to make it a meal): Browned ground lamb seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic; or roasted/grilled chicken.

Eggs: A perfect fried egg cooked in ghee — or a few chopped hard-boiled eggs.

Coconut: Caramelized Coconut Chips

threesoupsMore Smooth Veggie Soups

These are all great any time of day, are 100% paleo, and are Whole30 approved. Grab a spoon!

Paleo Sweet Potato Soup with Bacon

Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup

Golden Cauliflower Soup

Nom Nom Paleo’s Curried Cream of Broccoli Soup

Stupid Easy Paleo’s Curried Kabocha Squash Soup

The Domestic Man’s Pumpkin and Chorizo Soup



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  • DJDeeJay says:

    This looks fantastic! I will definitely have to try it.

    One question: you mention leeks in the directions but they’re not listed in the ingredients. How many do you use and are they necessary? (I hate cleaning them – they’re so high-maintenance.)

    • Sorry! I took them out of the recipe for that very reason: annoying, annoying vegetable.

      • DJDeeJay says:

        Ha! So glad we think alike on that one. And I also LOVE a pureed root vegetable soup for breakfast. You can make it every week of the year and make it differently every time. So addictive.

    • Mareej says:

      This soup sounds great will be trying today Leeks are one of my favourite soup ingredients .easy prep cut off top wherever you think is best then take a knife and slice down length ways in a cross shape when looking from the top splay the leaves under tuning water to remove trapped dirt chop slice what ever takes your fancy

  • Yum! This soup sounds great and I LOVE all these garnish ideas. I think I’ll try the onion raisin relish first!

  • Kelly H. says:

    So we love everything you’ve ever made. We have both your cookbooks…they are covered in stains and falling apart we use them so much. I have to be on a ketogenic diet now for a medical condition, and I’m realizing most of your recipes are pretty high carb. So I could have about a tablespoon of this. Are carbs just something you don’t have to worry about? Anyway….I’d love to see some lower carb stuff with your signature awesome spice blends 🙂

    • I’ve actually needed to start eating more carbs recently, so I’m not going to be developing any ketogenic recipes in the near future. Sorry about that! The best way for me to come up with recipes that suit the way I need to eat. I’ve never been good at doing it any other way, which is why I don’t have a lot of paleo treats or baked goods. It’s just not my strength.

  • Courtney says:

    I’m confused about the inclusion of potatoes in this recipe. I thought potatoes weren’t a Paleo food nor Whole30 approved. Are they supposed to be sweet potatoes or white potatoes? Love your cookbooks!

  • Judith says:

    This looks great! Especially with the garnishes. I just made your chocolate chili for the first time today. It was really, really good. I just put a few roasted root vegetables in the bottom of the bowl and filled with the chili, Yum.
    I let it simmer for closer to 2 1/2 hours and the flavor just kept getting better. I even froze half of it for later use. Thank you!

  • Nina_CZ says:

    I am a huge fan of soups, especially your Zucchini soup from WellFed2. I’ve been thinking about a similar “kick” for a while now, but because I do not eat breakfast, I might wanna make it a dinner thing, maybe… 🙂 For sure will be trying this one too! 🙂 Greetings from Czech Republic! 🙂

  • Lydia says:

    I have two giant bags of bones from my most recent side of beef purchase taking up room in our freezer. I eagerly await your broth post because my SO hates the way my method (in the crock pot) smells up the house and it’s just too cold right now to put the crock put outside. Hurray for upcoming broth post!

  • Via says:

    This looks really tasty! My partner is starting a FODMAP elimination/challenge soon, though — do you think leaving out the onions and garlic will still give a reasonable soup, or should we just wait to try it until she’s in the re-introduction stage? (For that matter, do you think the chocolate chili would work without the onions? We use both of your books regularly, and I was sad to see how many of our favorites would have to wait until the elimination is over if the onions are part of what ‘makes’ the dish.)

    • Getting rid of onions is tough! Sorry you guys need to do that.

      I think they’ll both be fine without the onion/garlic — not the same, but will still taste good, I think. My advice: make a 1/2 batch of each and see if you like them… or make a whole batch, and if it doesn’t taste good without the onion, freeze it. When you can eat onions again, defrost, add sauteed onions, then simmer the whole thing for 30 minutes.

  • Erin baker says:

    What kind of potatoes do you suggest?

  • Ladymarin says:

    Lovely new recipe, Mel! Excellent as an accompaniment to your North African Salmon, btw. Haven’t futzed with any garnishes yet, but a drizzle of coconut milk turns it into a spicy, creamy, delectable bowl of something very reminiscent of my favorite childhood comfort food: campbell’s tomato soup. And yet far superior, of course!

  • danilynnbali says:

    Making this right now! Can’t wait to eat it in a couple days like you suggest 🙂

  • Jenny says:

    Melissa, made this last night and it was so delicious – love the kick of the spices. My new go-to butternut squash soup recipe. Thank you, thank you for sharing!

  • Cindy Beers says:

    I have never left a comment on a blog before but I was so blown away by this soup that I felt inspired to comment! Wow! This soup was a party in my mouth! And I’ll have enough for the party to continue for many more meals. Thanks Melissa for your ingenuity, humor and fabulous recipes.

  • Paul Cleary says:

    I made this soup, turned out to be “too spicy” without any toppings (at least for my wife).

    I also made this chicken recipe without the feta cheese:

    The chicken was rather bland.

    So, I chopped up the chicken, and stirred it into the soup, and it made for an AWESOME Indian style dish.

    Will try the Pesto topping next time on the soup.


  • Wes says:

    I have just started a primal/paleo diet and thought potatoes were on the “do not eat list”, are you saying it is ok ?

  • Patti says:

    Love love love your cookbooks and you! We don’t eat white potatoes due to diabetes so is there any other veggie you could recommend to add to this soup to get the creaminess? anyone who wants to start on Paleo I give them your cookbook. It saved me!

    • I’m so glad you’re enjoying the cookbooks, and thank you for spreading the word!

      You can use sweet potatoes in place of the white potatoes. If you don’t eat those either, then maybe parsnips or carrots? I haven’t tried those, but I bet they would taste great. If none of that will work for you, add another pound of butternut squash instead. Let me know how it goes!

  • Ligia says:

    I just made this tonight with the pesto . We loved it and most of the kids liked it too. It was a bit too spicy for the littlest ones with 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, but I wi definitely be making this again, we loved it! We always love your recipes, they are always so flavorful and delicious. I have both your books and regularly refer to them for dinner ideas. Looking forward to your next book.

  • Cindi @ My Primal Adventures says:

    This was amazing!! I used sweet potato in place of the white potato, and skipped the pesto–but totally did the raisin-and-onion relish and crumbled ground pork cooked in 5-spice over top. Awesome, Mel!

  • Sarah Nicholas says:

    Delicious! We added the pesto, ghee and the last few slices of your Spicy Nigerian Beef. Breakfast is served! Cannot wait to try the sautéed onions and raisins. Thanks again for another hit.

  • It’s 6 degF in Denver this evening & I DON’T CARE BECAUSE I HAVE A POT OF DELICIOUS SOUP! I made the onion/raisin relish & the parsley/pistachio pesto & OMG it’s sooo good.

    I’m going to eat a second bowl in front of the fireplace while watching Olympic ice-skating. Winter paradise!