I always joke about this being prime “orange food season”. But it’s so true! It feels like everything coming out of my kitchen these days is some shade of orange. Especially when it comes to soups. Because I just love a cozy Fall soup with a base of butternut squash, sweet potatoes and/or carrots.
Today’s orange food of choice is carrots. They’re one of the co-stars in this Roasted Carrot and Fennel Soup with Garlic-Thyme Croutons.
The first step to making this soup is roasting the carrots and fennel in your oven. The carrots take a bit longer than the fennel, so I give them a few minutes head start before adding the fennel. I know sometimes it’s tempting when making soups to just toss everything into a big pot and cook it on the stovetop, but that would be a mistake here. Roasting the carrots and fennel beforehand really brings out their earthy sweetness. And that gives so much more flavor to this simple, vegan soup recipe.
After roasting the carrots and fennel, finish cooking them on the stovetop with a sautéed onion, fresh thyme and vegetable stock. Once all the vegetables are very soft, you’re ready to blend! For the smoothest texture, a blender is my tool of choice. But an immersion blender or food processor works as well.
I exhibited restraint and kept the seasoning to a minimum here, using just salt, black pepper, garlic and fresh thyme. I wanted the flavors of the carrots and fennel to really shine. But a touch of something warming, like ground cinnamon or paprika, would be a nice addition if you wanted to jazz things up.
But my favorite way to jazz up a puréed soup is with toppings! I almost always have a partial loaf of bread stashed away in my freezer, so homemade croutons happen frequently in my house. They’re a great way to make a simple soup feel more like a meal.
This soup itself if gluten-free. If you want to keep the whole recipe that way, simply use your favorite gluten-free bread to make the croutons.
For the Soup:
- 1 lb carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 3/4 tsp. salt, divided
- 3/4 tsp. black pepper, divided
- 1 medium-large fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
- 4 cups vegetable stock
For the Croutons:
- 4 cups cubed bread (a rustic Italian or French loaf works best)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
- Add the chopped carrots to a large rimmed baking pan and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 1/2 tsp. each of the salt and black pepper. Transfer to your pre-heated oven and roast for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the baking pan and add the chopped fennel and garlic. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and stir everything together. Return the baking pan to your pre-heated oven and roast for an additional 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottom pot set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the fresh thyme and the remaining 1/4 tsp. each of salt and black pepper and cook for 1 minute more.
- Transfer the roasted carrots and fennel to your pot with the onions. Add the vegetable stock and bring the soup to a simmer. Simmer with the lid slightly ajar for 25-30 minutes. The vegetables should be soft. Turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly.
- Once cool enough to handle, purée the soup using an immersion blender, blender or food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Work in batches, as needed. And be careful when transferring warm liquids.
- Return the puréed soup to the pot and taste and adjust for salt and black pepper, if necessary. Re-warm before serving.
- Meanwhile, make the croutons. Toss the bread cubes with the olive oil, thyme, salt and garlic powder. Spread them out onto a rimmed baking pan (I used the same one from above, no need to clean it between uses) and transfer to your pre-heated oven. Bake until the bread cubes are dry and crisp, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- To serve, ladle the warm soup into bowls. Top with the croutons. If you have a few reserved fennel fronds, you can add them too. Enjoy immediately.
- Leftover soup can be stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator for 3-4 days. Croutons can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.