Copycat Panera Autumn Squash Soup – have you tried this soup at Panera? Oh my word, it’s wonderful and I think this one’s really close!
I couldn’t stand it another day, I had to figure it out! Although I already posted a butternut squash soup this season, this one is quite different. It’s also crazy delicious. And honestly, I’m a bit obsessed with it. Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, you can’t have enough delicious, healthy soup recipes when the cold winds start to blow and this Copycat Panera Autumn Squash Soup is both!
This recipe actually started a few weeks ago. Scott and I were running errands and decided to catch a quick lunch at our local Panera. It was a cloudy, cool day and their fall soup sounded delicious. I just wasn’t prepared for how delicious. “Oh my word.” I said as soon as I tasted it. “This is wonderful!”
After that day, I found lots of excuses to visit Panera again. And again. There are lots of new seasonal items on their menu at this time of year. Did I try anything else? Nope, I was an old stick in the mud, ordering the same thing over and over. It might have been because was so intrigued with the delicious flavor and just couldn’t put my finger on what made it so good. It’s creamy, silky smooth and full of flavor. But what was the flavor?
After the third or fourth visit, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I wanted to be able to make it myself, serve it to family, enjoy it with friends, present it in small pretty bowls for dinner parties and warm up with it after bike rides on clear, cool autumn days. I knew I had to figure it out!
I went home and started googling, hoping to find some clues. I actually found several copycat recipes for Panera Autumn Squash Soup but when I visited the Panera Bread website and read their description of the soup, the pieces of the puzzle started coming together:
A rich blend of butternut squash and pumpkin simmered in vegetable broth with select ingredients including: honey, apple juice, cinnamon and a hint of curry, then finished with sweet cream and topped with roasted and salted pumpkin seeds.
Cinnamon and a hint of curry? I would not have guessed curry but but I was beginning to see what gives the soup that depth of flavor. It was time to get to work.
I picked up butternut squash and a sugar pumpkin (see notes below for what kind of pumpkins are best for cooking and baking). I had everything else I needed. The squash and pumpkin were simply halved, then roasted till soft and tender. After that, it’s was easy. It took a few tries to get it just right but I realized it was the combination of curry and cinnamon, in small amounts that made this soup so uniquely delicious.
I did add a few of my own touches. I love incorporating lots of veggies in my soups to bump up the nutrition so, in addition to onions and garlic (the usually base for many soups), I added shallots and carrots along with the roasted butternut squash and pumpkin. The veggies and spices are simmered with chicken stock while the pumpkin and squash roast, then everything is blended till silk smooth and gorgeous. I believe Panera uses cream in their soup, I just add a big scoop of Greek yogurt to keep the calories down and add a delicious creaminess.
Panera tops their soup with a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds. I sautéed pumpkin seeds with a touch of butter and a sprinkle of paprika, curry and sea salt.
I like adding a generous scoop of these flavorful seeds when I serve my soup.
So there you have it. I pretty sure that I’m decently close to imitating the yummy Panera soup. I’m definitely sure this version will be repeated over and over again here at The Café. It’s so satisfying, it comes together in less than an hour, is perfect for home or work lunches, would make an elegant appetizer soup or a lovely light dinner served with warm crusty bread and a simple green salad.
I have a feeling that once you try this Copycat Panera Autumn Squash Soup, it will be a frequent request at your house!
P.S. There are a few kitchenwares that I’d be hard pressed to live without. Well, I could for sure, but they do make my life in the kitchen much easier. Near the top of my list is my immersion blender. I love this thing. It’s reasonably priced and makes preparing a pot of soup like this so… simple and a lot less messy. It’s also has an attachment for a small chopper which comes in super handy.
- 1 large butternut squash 2 1/2-3 pounds
- 1 medium sugar pumpkin* 2 1/2-3 pounds
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large sweet yellow onion peeled, halved and roughly chopped
- 8 ounces carrots
- ½ cup roughly chopped shallots
- 2 medium cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon mild curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 8 cups low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 1 cup apple juice
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt more to taste
- ½ cup Greek yogurt I use full fat
- ¼ freshly ground black pepper
- salt to taste
- For the pumpkin seeds:
- 1 teaspoon butter
- ½ cup pepitas or pumpkin seeds
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoons mild curry powder
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line a sheet pan will foil. Set aside.
Cut squash and pumpkin in half. Scoop out seeds and stringy flesh. Drizzle a little olive oil on the prepared sheet pan. Place, cut side down, on sheet pan and roast for 30-40 minutes until very tender. Remove from oven and set aside till cool enough to handle.
While squash and pumpkin are roasting, heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and shallots and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until slightly translucent and soft. Add minced garlic, curry and cinnamon and cook for another minute or until nice and fragrant.
Add broth, apple juice and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside till squash and pumpkin are finished baking.
When squash and pumpkin* are tender. (Pierce them with a small thin-bladed knife to tell - it should insert really easily.) Set aside till cool enough to handle, then scoop out flesh and add to Dutch oven.
Return mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender or transfer mixture, in several batches to a regular blender**. Puree until very smooth and silky. Add Greek yogurt and pepper and stir to combine.Taste and add more salt if needed (There are a lot of veggies to season in this soup so don't hesitate to add more salt if the taste is bland.) You also may want to add a tablespoon or two of honey. My squash was very sweet and it didn't need any extra sweetness. The description of the Panera soup does include honey.
Serve hot with a generous scoop of the pumpkin seeds.
For the pumpkin seeds, melt butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add pumpkin seeds and stir to coat. Sprinkle with paprika, curry powder and salt. Continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously, or until pepitas begin to turn golden. Taste and add a bit more salt, if needed. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
* Those big pumpkins you see at the pumpkin patch are perfect for jack-o'-lanterns but they're not good for cooking. Their flesh is stringy, bland, and watery. Instead look for the smaller pumpkins with a smooth-textured flesh. They are sweet, flavorful and "meaty". Look for pumpkins labeled "sugar pumpkins" or "pie pumpkins". Some specific names are Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, Ghost Rider, New England Pie Pumpkin, Lumina (which are white), Cinderella, and Fairy Tale.
** If using a regular blender, be careful. The steam from hot liquids can create pressure and actually blow the lid off and make a huge mess, if the center insert is in place. To prevent this, remove the center insert and cover the opening with a folded towel. Alternatively, you can insert a narrow tip funnel into the opening and hold it in place. This will also allow the steam to escape.