On January 1, 1804, Haiti became the first Black republic to defeat their slaveholders and gain their independence. On that day and every January 1 since, Haitians at home and abroad have been celebrating the monumental feat by preparing and enjoying soup joumou—a rich and nutrient-filled pumpkin soup! Oral history states the delicacy was previously forbidden to the people of Haiti by those who enslaved them, so even today, eating it feels like a celebration of revolution. Here’s hoping you’re filled with the same sense of pride and joy as you prepare and enjoy it!
Soup joumou calls for 2 to 3 soft winter squashes to be peeled and blended as the base. We have also cut and seasoned a bone-in beef steak. We recommend preparing your meat first, in order to allow it to marinate to perfection while everything else is prepared. The meal can also be made vegan by only including the root vegetables, veggie broth, greens and using noodles to ensure it’s still nice and robust!
In addition to one acorn and one butternut squash, we are going to add half a cabbage, 6 to 8 medium red potatoes, a turnip, onion, garlic, celery, carrots and manioc (also known as yucca or cassava).
Our chef for the day, Dana, loves to cook—especially Haitian dishes that remind her of learning to cook at the feet of her mother and grandmother. Over the years, she’s perfected their soup joumou—calling back home once she’d moved into her own place to make sure she had the recipe and steps just right.
The squash can be softened in many ways prior to peeling and spooning out the flesh into the blender to puree for soup. Some choose to cut and boil the gourds; others roast them for a smoked flavor. In this case, we cut our squashes into a few big pieces, add 2 cups of water, and pressure cook them on high for 30 minutes.
Once the squash is soft and then cooled, remove the flesh from its outer skin using a fork or spoon, and scoop out the inner flesh into a blender. Mix in a little water (if you boiled the squash, use that water) and blend until it’s a smooth, uniform consistency. For added flavor and spice, toss in half of a carefully de-seeded scotch bonnet or habanero pepper as you blend.
Brown your marinated meat along with some chopped onion…Haitians don’t cook without onion!
Place the other chopped ingredients in the pot, add a broth of your liking, pour in the blended squash and allow all of the flavors to come together over a low flame for 30 minutes.
As your soup cooks, be sure to taste with a clean spoon, and flavor to taste. Here, we added half of a lime’s juice, allowing the tartness to cut through some of the sweet profile of the butternut squash.
If you wish to add leafy greens to your soup, add them towards the end of the cooking time as they won’t require as much as some of the denser ingredients like your root vegetables.
Although this soup is made for the celebration of Haiti’s independence, it can still be served and enjoyed any time of year. Make a big pot and call over some friends and family, and be sure to share the significance this meal carries for Haitians and the Diaspora at large. Bon appétit!
Below is the recipe if you’d like to try your hand at Soup Joumou this upcoming New Year.
New Year's Day Soup Joumou
1 lb beef (optional)
1/2 box noodles (optional)
1 butternut squash
1 acorn squash
4 cloves garlic
1-2 scotch bonnet or habanero pepper
2 fresh limes
8 small red potatoes
1 small malanga (root vegetable)
1/2 head of cabbage
2 stalks celery
1 small turnip
1 qt. beef or vegetable broth
2 sprigs green onion for garnish
Clean and marinate your meat to start; that way, the seasoning can set in while you peel and cut everything else in preparation for the soup. Remove any excess fat and place the meat in a medium bowl, season with salt, pepper, garlic, onions and lime juice, cover and set back into the fridge to marinate. Meat is optional, you can forgo using it if you’d like this to be vegan!
Wash, peel and cut all of your vegetables. Be very careful with the peppers—they can even spice the air around you! Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after cutting them.
Place your squash in the instant pot with 2 cups of water and cook on high pressure for 20 minutes. Once done, release the pressure and put the squash and its water into a blender, add the scotch bonnet/habanero pepper to the mix and blend everything until smooth.
Take the meat that has been marinating, add a tablespoon of olive oil and some onions, and brown the meat using the sauté feature on your instant pot.
After the meat has been browned on both sides, add in the cut carrots, root vegetables, potatoes, celery, blended squash and 1 qt. of your preferred broth and let everything simmer together using the soup or stew setting.
Periodically stir everything together and using a clean spoon, you can dip into the soup and taste how the flavors are coming together. If the soup is a little too sweet, you can squeeze in the juice of a lime to bring back the savory vibes! Continue to let everything marinate together and season to taste.
If adding cabbage and/or noodles, add towards the end as those are softer ingredients and you don’t want them to break down too much in the soup.
- Let everything simmer together, once your root vegetables have softened through and through, it’s time to eat! Cut and add some green onions on top of your bowl for a little added crunch and garnish.