Cambodian Spiced Pumpkin Soup

Jet lag brings out the worst in me, and after 36 hours of travel to reach Paul in Cambodia, I was tipsy with sleep deprivation and drooping with hunger. Ignoring my desperate mutterings about going to sleep, Paul grabbed a moto driver and whisked us across town to Friends, a non-profit restaurant and job training center for at risk youth. I ordered half the menu in my hunger, and recall finding it all delicious with one exception...the pumpkin soup was outstanding! The flavor was deep with a warming blend of spices set off by a rich coconut and pumpkin base. I begged the cooks for the recipe, and they rattled off a long list of spices. I have been obsessively trying to recreate that soup for many years. This Cambodian Spiced Pumpkin Soup is a Westernized version that brings me back. The recipe base was inspired by Bon Appetit.

Yield: Serves 6 as a main


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium ripe bananas, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 cups low-salt chicken or vegetable broth (reduce salt in recipe if not using low salt broth)
  • 1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 2 (13.5 ounce) cans unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1-2 teaspoons soy sauce or fish sauce (optional)
  • fresh cilantro, yogurt, pumpkin seeds (optional garnish)


  1. Heat a large pot over medium high heat. Add butter, carrot, banana, onions and garlic. Reduce heat to medium and cook stirring frequently for 8-10 minutes, until onion is translucent and vegetables are soft. 
  2. Add spices and salt (nutmeg, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, sage, allspice, curry,  cayenne, salt) and cook for 1 minute until spices are fragrant.
  3. Add bay leaves, broth, pumpkin and coconut milk and bring to a boil. 
  4. Once soup comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. 
  5. Puree soup until smooth.  Adjust seasonings to your preference, we like to balance out the warming spices by adding 1-2 teaspoons soy sauce or fish sauce to the soup. This soup can be quite thick, adjust the texture by adding water, broth or yogurt to achieve your desired thickness. 
  6. Serve warm with yogurt, cilantro, and pumpkin seeds.