Growing up, potato latkes topped with my mom’s homemade applesauce were the star of my family’s Hanukkah table. I still adore latkes and look forward to them every Hanukkah. But with eight nights of holiday dinners to share, I also enjoy introducing new flavors to my own family’s table.

This year, after lighting the menorah, we will tuck into this creamy kabocha squash soup. The silky roasted squash is delicately spiced with cinnamon and cumin, and the soup is topped with fresh basil and olive oil-crisped challah croutons. It is hardly traditional Hanukkah fare, but somehow it still tastes like home.

Kabocha Squash Soup With Challah Olive Oil Croutons

Serves 6


  • For the croutons:
  • 8 ounces day-old challah, cut into small cubes (about 6 cups)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • For the soup:
  • 1 large kabocha squash (about 5 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup whole milk or coconut milk
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh basil, for topping


  1. Make the croutons: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add the challah cubes to a large bowl, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt, then toss to evenly coat. Spread the challah evenly over a large baking sheet and bake, stirring once or twice, until the challah is lightly golden and crisp, 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. The croutons can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one day.
  2. Make the soup: Raise the heat to 400 degrees. Poke the squash all over with a fork and place in a baking dish. Bake until tender and a knife inserted into the squash glides through with no resistance, 45-60 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully halve the squash lengthwise, then let cool to the touch. Remove the seeds, then scoop out the squash flesh into a bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, chili powder, cinnamon and cumin and cook, stirring until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the cooked squash along with the vegetable broth, milk, salt and pepper. Raise heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
  5. Add the soup to a high-power blender (work in two batches if it doesn’t all comfortably fit at once) and blend until very smooth. Alternately, blend the soup in a food processor or using an immersion blender. Return the soup to the pot, taste and add more salt if desired.
  6. Divide into bowls and serve hot, drizzled with a little more olive oil and topped with a few croutons and chopped basil.