This spicy carrot soup has only 6 ingredients, takes 20 minutes to make, is naturally gluten free, vegan friendly, and makes a satisfying winter meal!
This soup was inspired by a habanero carrot sauce that Chef David Banks prepared on a recent episode of The Chef's Kitchen. Around the 50-second mark in the video, Chef Banks talks about the sauce, which he says is almost like a "mother sauce" to him, since he uses it in so many different applications. The moment I tasted it, I was in love. It's so simple, yet has such a unique and complex flavor.
I've had the pleasure of working with Chef Banks many times on The Chef's Kitchen, and I've always been impressed by his cooking skills and the flavor of his food. He showed me how to prepare the sauce and I couldn't get over how few ingredients were used and how downright easy it was to make. Sure, it makes a lovely sauce for fish and meat, but I just wanted to eat it with a spoon. So, naturally, I turned it into a soup!
To make this spicy carrot soup, all it takes is a whole bunch of carrots, a bit of brown sugar, salt, a few cups of water and some butter. The butter adds depth and silkiness, but without it, the soup tastes like it's missing something. If you're butter averse, I really don't recommend skipping it. You can, however, make this recipe dairy free by using a vegan butter substitute such as Earth Balance instead.
"But wait, you said this is a spicy carrot soup, right?"
There's one more ingredient I didn't mention: the habanero pepper. Now, listen, what I'm about to tell you might sound counterintuitive, but I need you to trust me here. Despite having two whole habanero peppers in the recipe, this soup is by no means hot or overly spicy. It has a nice, gentle warmth that hits you in the back of your throat and doesn't linger at all. It's pleasant, not aggressive. In fact, when I had a friend taste it, she said, "I don't really taste any spice at all."
When most people think of habanero peppers, they think of fire, and they're not incorrect in that notion. Habaneros are very spicy, but they also have an incredibly unique and fruity flavor that just can't be replicated with any other chili pepper. That flavor pairs beautifully with carrots and is essential to making this carrot soup taste unlike any other carrot soup you've ever tried.
Most of the heat in habaneros - actually, all chili peppers - is found within the seeds and "ribs," which are the white pithy membranes that the seeds are attached to. If you remove all of the seeds and membranes before adding the chilies to the pot, the heat is lessened significantly. That said, if you want more heat, all you have to do is leave some of the seeds and ribs in.
This spicy carrot soup really is wonderful on it's own, but I wanted to add a few extra finishing touches to bump up the flavor and add a bit of texture. A swirl of plain, whole milk yogurt adds creaminess, but also gives it a nice pop of acidity. If you're trying to keep this vegan, a dairy free sour cream makes a nice substitute, or even a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. You can also just omit it altogether. It's nice, but by no means necessary.
For crunch, I sprinkled a few toasted sesame seeds on top. They add a little bit of a toasty flavor but also give a nice textural contrast to the otherwise silky smooth soup. Although I call this a "spicy carrot soup," it's far from being 5-alarm hot, unless, of course, you want it to be. It makes a quick and easy lunch or dinner, and will warm you up from the inside out.
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