Spicy Carrot and Cilantro Soup

Carrot and Cilantro Soup

Matty prepared this vibrant soup as the first course of our recent dinner party (the same gathering that had us noshing on Renegade Pickles as our guests arrived).

The key to this recipe is to use the most delicious, sweetest carrots you can find (of course) and a fresh, perfect bunch of cilantro.

The pungent cilantro is tempered by the sweetness of the carrots — so it’s surprisingly mellow for the amount of cilantro that goes into it.  That’s a good thing, considering that as the soup was being served one of our guests told us she hates cilantro.  Oops!

Nevertheless, like everyone else at the table she eagerly finished her soup — and raved about it — so it’s safe to say that this healthy recipe is a keeper.

Spicy Carrot and Cilantro Soup

Adapted from Linda Balslev’s recipe in her NPR story, Cilantro: The Controversial Herb.

1 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 large Onion
1 pound Carrots
2 tsp. Ground Coriander
1/4 tsp. Cayenne
4 cups Vegetable Broth
1/2 cup Cilantro Springs
1 Tbs. Light Brown Sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste

If necessary, prepare the Vegetable Broth according to the package directions.  We used Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base* which I find tends to be a bit salty — for a lower-sodium soup, simply reduce the amount of bouillon mix you add to the water.

While that’s heating, chop the onion into medium-sized pieces (about 3/4″ squares, more or less).  Peel the carrots and slice them into thin rounds.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Sauté the onions for a few minutes, until they begin to turn clear.  Add the carrots, cayenne, and ground coriander, and sauté for another minute.

Add the vegetable broth and bring to boiling.  Simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes, until the carrots are soft.

Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.  Transfer to your blender or food processor, add the cilantro, and purée until smooth.  You may want to do this in multiple batches.  Also, be careful if using the blender that it does not shoot out the top when you first start — cover the lid with a towel or plastic wrap to be safe.

Pour the soup back into the pot, and mix in the brown sugar.  Salt and pepper to taste (remember, the Bouillon is fairly salty, so if you use that it probably won’t need much extra salt, if at all).  Re-heat if necessary, and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

* I just took another look at the Better Than Bouillon ingredient list, and was disappointed to find that it contains partially hydrogenated oil.  Boo!  So… does anybody have a recommendation for a trans-fat-free, low-sodium, but-still-delicious vegetable broth or bouillon mix that makes a good substitute for chicken stock?  Thanks!

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R,FTW! is short for Recipe For The Weekend! (or, if you prefer, Recipe For The Win!).  My goal is to present healthful — and delicious — recipes that are easy and fun to make, with an emphasis on better-for-you substitutions that don’t compromise taste.

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15 Responses to Spicy Carrot and Cilantro Soup

  1. Peggy October 2, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    Try Pacific Natural Foods Organic vegetable Broth (low sodium). Ingredients: filtered water, organic carrots, organic tomatoes, organic celery, organic onions, organic garlic, organic leeks, sea salt, organic bay leaves, organic parsley, organic thyme. Or make your own!

  2. Andrew October 2, 2010 at 11:35 pm #

    Anita & David –

    So I’ve been saving veggie scraps for about a week now, and even though I haven’t been cooking all that much, it’s a sizeable collection! I had no idea I threw away that much organic material!

    Onion peels, broccoli stalks, and even the discarded leaves from yesterday’s artichoke, and even found some dill that was “on its way out” in the back of my fridge…

    I think I’m going to need another week or two of scraps, and then will try simmering all of it for awhile and see what happens.


  3. Anita October 1, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    I agree with David Kirkwood. How about saving your carrot tops, or beet greens, turnip greens, or potato peelings? Throw all your vegetable refuse into a freezer bag or plastic tub, and store in your freezer until you have enough to add to some water and make your own vegetable broth! Pour the broth into a freezer container, and save until you need it. (How hard is that?)

  4. David Kirkwood September 30, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    I checked Cook’s Illustrated. Their test kitchen compared 10 commercial brands. They didn’t love any of them but found that the Swanson brand Vegetarian Vegetable Broth was the best despite the high sodium and massive chemicals.

    • Andrew September 30, 2010 at 11:49 am #

      Good idea. I just searched their site and found this article – which I’m guessing is the same one. I don’t have a subscription, but the intro is fascinating. One more great argument for making your own, that’s for sure!

  5. nance September 30, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    I am wondering about Trader Joe’s Organic Low Sodium Vegetable Broth. It contains filtered water, organic vegetables, Organic carrot juice concentrate, organic onion juice concentrate, organic tomato paste, sea salt, organic seasoning, and organic olive oil. 140 mg sodium. I use it a lot for soups. While it may not be the best choice, such as David’s, it’s better than many alternatives. Add a bunch of healthy ingredients and it makes a delicious soup.

    • Andrew September 30, 2010 at 10:28 am #

      As a packaged broth/stock goes, that sounds about as good as you’re likely to find. One more reason to love Trader Joe’s, right? 🙂

      Sidenote: In Fortune Magazine’s recent story on Trader Joes, they said that the company’s revenues are about $8 Billion a year. That’s about the same as Whole Foods, in about half the square footage.

  6. David Kirkwood September 27, 2010 at 9:02 am #

    Sadly, they have given all that they have. I don’t compost cooked foods. They go to the Green Box.

  7. David Kirkwood September 27, 2010 at 8:35 am #

    Ah, now I feel like I’ve been a harsh, humourless Slow Fooder.

    My vegetable stocks have more to do with what I have on hand than a recipe. Onions, leeks, celery, carrots and garlic make a good base. Fennel (I use the stocks), corn cobs (even after the kernels are gone) parsnips, red bell peppers, leeks (even the tops), mushroom (shitake stems, even button mushrooms), turnips etc. are all good additions (celery root is especially good). I avoid broccoli (bad flavour result) and use asparagus (strong flavour and colour) minimally. Herbs like parsley, tarragon and thyme work well – lovage?

    Chop the veggies coarsely. Sweat them with some oil or butter. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 hour. If you can, let the vegetables sit in the stock while it cools. Drain and strain. Reduce to desired strength.

    • Andrew September 27, 2010 at 8:46 am #

      Hey, no worries! I really do appreciate your comment and the fact that you called me out on something. It’s the best way for me to get better at what I’m doing, and I hope that all of my readers will benefit from this conversation.

      Thanks for the veggie stock advice. It does sound fairly easy, and a whole heck of a lot more appealing than scooping some salty brown goo out of a jar! 🙂

      What do you do with the leftover, mushy vegetables after straining?

  8. David Kirkwood September 27, 2010 at 6:22 am #

    I don’t get it. You are asking people to avoid processed foods while headlining a recipe that uses a prepared vegetable bouillon! Homemade is easy, flavourful, healthy, and sustainable.

    • Andrew September 27, 2010 at 8:11 am #

      Hi David,

      You make a great point. As I noted in the post, I didn’t realize until after we made the soup that the bouillon was not so great — and that I’m now looking for a better option. (I also changed the ingredient list to “Vegetable Broth” so it doesn’t specifically include a bouillon).

      I actually could have omitted the fact that I used the bouillon, but I decided to include it because I’m okay with not being perfect — and to illustrate that even the most die-hard of us can make mistakes… and that’s okay.

      The important thing is to recognize the goof, and then do my best not to make the same mistake again (hence my request for alternatives, several of which have already been emailed to me by some awesome readers).

      I definitely agree that a homemade vegetable stock is a much better way to go, for many reasons; however, there are only so many hours in the day, and again, I’m not perfect. Having said that, I did receive one recommendation for an easy way to make veggie stock (storing vegetable scraps in the freezer until there are enough to make the stock), and I’ve already started collecting those scraps!

      If you have a quick and easy vegetable broth/stock recipe, I’m sure all of us would appreciate it if you’d share it with us.

      Thanks for the comment, and by all means please keep calling me out on my mistakes. 🙂


  9. Dave September 24, 2010 at 3:52 pm #

    While this is not exactly the same, or not even close to the same for that matter; the other night I made a pretty good tomato soup. What jogged the memory was the use of the veggie bouillon because I used it in this soup as well. It involved fresh tomatoes from someone’s garden that were roasted in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, the aforementioned veggie bouillon, hot spices like cayenne pepper and anything else in reach, cooking with wild abandon, and enough butter and salt for you to want to pretend you never met me. 😉


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