This low-calorie butternut squash minestrone soup with sausage and mushrooms is the perfect winter keto dish. Instead of roasting the butternut squash beforehand, I use it pureed to serve as a base for the minestrone-inspired soup, which I am calling Butternut Squash Minestrone.
What is Minestrone Soup
The Joy of Cooking describes minestrone (pronounced min-es-tro-ne) as “An Italian soup made with many kinds of vegetables, even zucchini blossoms. Sometimes macaroni or other pasta and sometimes rice is added instead of dried beans.” I’ve also leant that minestrone can be a thick soup of Italian origin made with vegetables…There is no set recipe for it, since it can usually be made with whatever vegetables are at one’s disposal.”
These loose definitions of minestrone inspired this recipe. I made it with what was in my refrigerator and what sounded good at the time. I encourage anyone experimenting with soups to dream big. Use what’s available to you. Be flexible.
This soup still feels most like a minestrone to me. When I was growing up, most minestrone I encountered featured sausage and beans. This soup includes sausage, adds mushrooms for texture, and uses butternut squash as the broth base instead of beans. The result is a very thick soup with earthy overtones compounded with spicy sausage and mushrooms for some wonderful umami.
Butternut Squash vs Beans
Most minestrone recipes feature beans as the base of the soup. I’ve never really loved beans. If I am going to eat a carb heavy soup ingredient, it needs to be something I love.
- Butternut squash compares favorably to beans in terms of net carbs. Per ounce, butternut squash has 2.1 g net carbs, while pinto beans have 4.9 g, black beans have 4.2 g, and white beans have 5.2 g. Using beans would nearly double the net carbs in the soup.
- Butternut squash happens to be my favorite winter squash. It has a sweetness combined with earthy flavor that can’t be beat. I love its color. It roasts beautifully. It’s an instant comfort food for me.
Here are the equipment, ingredients, and instructions for replicating this butternut squash minestrone soup.
Slow Cooker/Crockpot: My crockpot is a workhorse in my house. It makes quick work of any soup-based entrée and is a foolproof method for making meat moist. For this recipe, any large 6 to 8-quart crockpot will do.
Sharp Knife: A sharp knife is essential when you’re working with butternut squash. Squash can be quite tough and cumbersome. A sharp knife will actually help you versus working against you in this important step of the recipe. You can also invest in a good knife sharpener to sharpen your knives periodically.
Ingredients and Substitutions
To make this easy and hearty butternut squash minestrone soup, you will need
- Butternut Squash – A medium sized squash will work best for the soup recipe. When picking a butternut squash, try to pick one that is uniformly dark and feels hollow when tapped. A squash with green tints to it is not fully ripe yet and will be tough to cut through. If you want to save some time, you can also just use pre-cut butternut squash available at most grocery stores.
- Sausage – Any meat sausage (or traditional cut meat) will work well. I’ve used Turkey Sausage but you can also use Italian Sausage or Sausage made with a mixture of pork and beef. If you’d like a protein boost to the recipe, you can add shredded chicken.
- Mushrooms – White button mushrooms tend to work better in slow cooked soups because they are less concentrated in flavor and let the other ingredients take priority. You could use Maitake or Baby Bella mushrooms as substitutions.
- Heavy Whipping Cream: In the US, heavy whipping cream comes in a bottled version. Heavy cream and heavy whipping cream are the same – wherein they have at least 36% milk fat. Please do not substitute with light whipping cream which is less viscous and can make the soup runny.
8 oz cream cheese (like Philadelphia) can be used instead of heavy whipping cream. The cream cheese will need to be added at the beginning with the mushrooms if you use it.
- Italian Seasoning: Italian Seasoning is just a mixture of dried herbs (basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary and thyme) sold in a packaged format here in the US. If you don’t have it, just use a few sprigs of fresh herbs in equal proportions. It’s perfectly fine to skip one or two of them. Don’t stress about it, use what you have.
- Chicken Bouillon: Bouillon is just dehydrated veggies, meat, seasoning and salt sold in a cube format. I’ve heard different names for it. The most popular version is this one sold by Knorr and comes in pre-packed cubes.
Two cups chicken stock or broth can be used instead of the chicken bouillon cubes and water combination (or even my homemade bone broth). Any leftover stock can be used in making chicken soup with cabbage noodles. You can also add spinach, broccoli, or celery for a green veggie boost.
Chop off the ends so the squash sits flat on either side, then peel the skin using a vegetable peeler. Alternatively, microwave the squash for about 2 minutes to soften it a bit before peeling.
Cut the bell-shaped bottom of the squash (where the seeds are) off the longer, cylindrical top. After that, cut the bottom in half and scoop out the seeds with a sturdy spoon. Chop the squash into rough chunks and toss the butternut squash into the crockpot. The hardest part is over!
Chop the sausage by cutting into roughly bite-size pieces and add to the crockpot so that eating the soup is easy.
Add the mushrooms (I use pre-sliced mushrooms for this step which saves time and costs about the same as whole mushrooms), bouillon cubes and water to the crockpot. As mentioned before, you can use chicken stock instead of the bouillon and water mix.
The goal is to have the squash soft enough to puree easily. I also like for the mushrooms to be cooked and soft, but still with some toughness that will make you chew. Four hours on high heat setting worked well for me. You can adjust time/temperature based on your schedule.
Transfer the cooked squash with a slotted spoon to a bowl, add the cream and then puree with an immersion blender or a kitchen blender. After pureeing, return it to the rest of the soup ingredients, and it’s ready to serve!
This soup is best served with steamed vegetables as a side, with whole roast chicken, sprinkled with cheese or just a squirt of heavy whipping cream (as shown in the picture).
This soup keeps well in the refrigerator for about one week. In addition, microwave prior to serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
Any protein like beef chunks, chicken chunks, pork or bacon will be a good substitute to sausage.
Minestrone soups traditionally have beans (technically a legume), onions, celery, carrots and tomatoes.
Butternut Squash Minestrone Soup
- Cutting Board
- 6 Quart Slow Cooker/Crockpot
- Immersion blender
- Blender (optional)
- 1 Butternut Squash ,medium size about 2lb
- 16 oz Sausage
- 4 cubes Chicken Bouillon
- 2 cups water
- 32 oz White Mushrooms ,sliced
- 2 tbsp Italian Seasoning
- 1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
- Prepare the butternut squash – peel, remove seeds, and cut into rough chunks. Place in the bottom of a crockpot.
- Chop the sausage into easy bite-sized chunks and place on top of the butternut squash.
- Add the bouillon cubes, mushrooms, Italian seasoning, and water. Cook on high heat for four hours.
- Transfer the cooked butternut squash to a large bowl. Add heavy whipping cream. Puree with an immersion or upright blender.
- Return the pureed squash and cream mix to the crockpot, stir, and serve!
- Use chicken, pork or beef instead of sausage.
- Cream Cheese can be substituted for heavy whipping cream.
- Microwave the squash for about 2 minutes to soften it a bit before peeling.
- This soup will store well for about a week in the refrigerator.