I call this Trader Joe’s (Butternut Squash) Soup because I buy almost all the ingredients pre-prepped in the produce section at TJ’s, and making it mainly involves dumping and stirring (and some stick blending).  This can be *most* essential when your kids are literally hanging off of you.

This soup is really good on a chilly evening and takes hardly any time to make.  I served it with some leftover cornbread muffins, and a harvest salad kit from TJ’s.  Had I been a little more motivated, it would have been great with some brie, caramelized onion and green apple panini.  But, I wasn’t motivated--the meal was still nyam nyam anyway.

If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you (sad face), I’ve listed substitutions at the end.

Time: around 30 minutes, more if you have to make substitutions

Serves: 6


1 container mirepoix

5 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved

2 12-oz packages of cut up butternut squash


3 TBS butter

2 TBS olive oil


3 c chicken stock

½ package (4 oz) cream cheese


1 TBS umami paste

½ tsp cayenne pepper or mexican chile powder

1 tsp marjoram

pepper, to taste

salt, to taste

Before we start, one little note.  If you have extra time (HAHAHAHA), roasting the butternut squash will help give more depth of flavor.  If not, it still tastes really good.  Also, I tend to cook without recipes, so this is all a little loose.  For example, I rarely measure my salt.  I have a little bowl of it next to my cooktop, grab whatever amount seems good with my fingers, and throw it in really theatrically.  Feel free to adjust however you like.

Okay, here we go:

  1. Turn on All Things Considered.
  2. Make sure the kids haven’t dumped their milk all over the couch.
  3. Heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat in a dutch oven or whatever your fave soup pot is.
  4. Once the butter has just melted, add the mirepoix and garlic.  
  5. After a few minutes, add around ½ tsp salt (guessing here - err on the side of caution.  You can always add more later - you just need a little to help caramelize the aromatics).  Add the cayenne pepper and marjoram, too.  
  6. Continue to saute over medium-high heat until everything starts to brown just a bit.  Stir in the umami paste.
  7. Add the butternut squash and the chicken stock.
  8. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to lowest setting.  Cook until the squash is tender, around 15-20 minutes.
  9. Dump in the cream cheese, then blend with a stick blender until smooth. (or, throw it all into a regular blender.  If you don’t have a stick blender, get one.  You won’t regret it).
  10. Add more salt, if needed, and grind in fresh pepper to taste.

Optional: drizzle some balsamic glaze on top.

Not optional: congratulate yourself on slayin’ din-din


Mirepoix: just a fancy French name for aromatics--or onion, carrot and celery.  The container from Trader Joe’s has the rough equivalent of one small onion, 2 carrots, and 1-2 celery stalks.

Umami paste: This seems to be a recent addition at TJ’s, so of course I had to buy it.  I lerve it.  You can always make your own (here’s a good recipe I found), but assuming you don’t have the time, you can quickly add some umami-ish depth to the soup with:

  • Parmigiano regiano cheese rind, or a few spoonfuls of grated parmigiano
  • Dash of balsamic
  • A few dashes of fish sauce
  • 1 tsp of tomato paste

If you don’t have most of this stuff, go for the parmigiano at minimum.

Butternut squash: Obviously having your squash already cut up is a huge time-saver.  If you can’t find squash that’s already prepped (some say the pre-cut stuff is inferior, but whatevs), here’s an easy way to handle it:

1. Cut off the top and bottom

2. Pierce all over with a fork

3. Microwave on high for about 3 minutes

4. Peel with vegetable peeler

5. Cut in half, then scoop out seeds

6. Cut into chunks