Well folks, it’s time to face facts. It’s November, and that means that Trader Joe’s pumpkin madness is drawing to a close for another year. Still, there’s time for one final pumpkin post before holiday food mania sets in upon us, and that post I’m reserving for Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Soup.
On the pumpkin weirdness scale I think we can agree that pumpkin soup is not as out there as pumpkin greek yogurt – there is, after all, a rich tradition of squash-based soups. Nevertheless, I’ve never actually seen a purely pumpkin-based soup before now. The soup itself not much more than pumpkin puree mixed with water and a few spices – essentially a watered-down verision of Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter (which is to be expected, given the soup recipe listed on the pumpkin butter jar). That simplicity means that the soup tastes almost exactly like you would expect it to, like a big mouthful of pumpkin, but with one slight surprise – it’s notably, quite sweet. There’s no sugar added, so that sweetness comes from the natural sugar in the ripened Wisconsin pumpkins that go into the dish. A sweet, vegetable soup is not necessarily the taste I would have been looking for, but the mellowness of the pumpkin and the richness of the flavor keep the sweetness from becoming too overpowering, but its still a taste that takes some getting used to. The tongue may also detect the mild presence of some typical pumpkin spices (nutmeg and clove, mainly), but these don’t add much to the basically pumpkin taste.
Straight from the box, it’s a very basic, not particularly impressive soup. The soup has almost the exact same texture and consistency of a bowl of Campbell’s Tomato soup, and it shares the same the same simple, workman like nature as well. Few are the individuals going to a bowl of unadorned tomato soup for the soup alone, not when there’s a can of minestrone at hand. Tomato soup is only going to show up on the table when it’s been paired with the right dishes, or fancied up with addition ingredients, and the same is true of this pumpkin soup. Eaten straight the soup is okay, though maybe slightly to sweet to have broad appeal, but if finessed into a more robust soup or stew you might really have something here.
Trader Joe’s seems to sense this themselves, offering a couple of easy soup augmentations on their webpage – suggesting topping it with a dollop of sour cream, or giving it some Indian flare with a bit of coconut milk or coconut cream and curry powder. You can delve deeper into the twists and turns of pumpkin soup with the Trader Joe’s approved Hazelnut Frico Soup-Topper recipe, or check out some of the third-party innovations like this pumpkin and chicken stew.
The takeaway from all this is that there’s not much reason to pick up this soup unless you’re going to do so with an experimental attitude. The soup is not by itself a compelling buy, but could become the compelling center of an ambitious dish.
I should spare a word for the one thing about the soup that did impress me – the really clever box design. Trader Joe’s packages this soup in tiny, soft-sided 17 oz. boxes that, in addition to being long-term shelf stable, also folds out into a convenient spout with the application of a quick squeeze to all four corners. Clever, Trader Joe’s, just don’t forget to keep putting that much thought into the food.
Would I Recommend It: Only if you already have a recipe already in mind.
Would I Buy It Again: ‘fraid not – slightly too sweet for my tastes.
Final Synopsis: A functional, sweet pumpkin soup in search of a delicious recipe.