A big, warm bowl of comfort: Roasted cauliflower and dill soup

by Terry B on November 19, 2008

Roasting the cauliflower mellows its flavor in this hearty, creamy [but dairy-free] Roasted Cauliflower and Dill Soup. Substitute vegetable broth for the chicken stock and you’ve got a satisfying vegan meal. Recipe below.

A quick note: I’ve totally dropped the ball in terms of providing any ideas for Thanksgiving this year. But at the end of the post, I’ll provide a few links for some interesting sides.

As proof that you just never know where inspiration will strike, this soup started out as a tuna sandwich. On a recent Sunday, that’s what sounded good for lunch. But Marion and I wanted our sandwiches on better bread than we had at home, so we walked up to Kurowski Sausage Shop, a Polish deli/grocery/bakery in our neighborhood. By the time we had walked the five or so blocks in the brisk November air, though, some soup was sounding pretty good—and Kurowski serves up delicious homemade soups fresh and cheap in their refrigerator case.

After flirting with bigos and borscht and some other Eastern European delights, we settled on a hearty cauliflower soup flecked with fresh dill. Being no fools, we got two containers—a whopping $1.29 each. Back home, the tuna sandwiches became half-sandwiches, bit players to the soup’s star performance. And as I leaned over my steaming bowl with big chunks of cauliflower and carrots, I knew I would be attempting my own version soon.

Big flavor and healthy goodness

Okay, let’s get this over with. Yes, cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, a member of the cabbage family, like broccoli, kale and brussels sprouts. For some people, the flavor is just a little too big. If you’re one of those people, I’d hazard a guess that you formed that opinion when you were a kid and were served cauliflower [or broccoli] cooked to death and not given a fighting chance to woo your young taste buds. Maybe it’s time to revisit it. I only recently discovered that I now like beets, for instance.

Whatever cauliflower camp you’re in, roasting it mellows the flavor beautifully, giving it something of a root vegetable or squash quality. The carrots, roasted along with the cauliflower, become sweeter, and the whole soup tastes of autumn.

Good taste aside, cauliflower is just plain good for you. According to How Stuff Works, “After citrus fruits, cauliflower is your next best natural source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that appears to help combat cancer. It’s also an important warrior in the continuous battle our bodies wage against infection.” Cauliflower is rich in fiber, folic acid and potassium too. And studies have shown it to be a natural cancer fighter. Cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables contain indole-3-carbinol, a substance that may affect the metabolism of estrogen in the body, helping to prevent breast and ovarian cancer. It may also be associated with a reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Want more? Cauliflower is a blood and liver detoxifier. It actually triggers the liver to produce enzymes that can remove cancer-causing chemicals. And it can stop the spread of cancer cells, even in the later stages of their growth.

Deconstructing, reconstructing a soup. The soup we got at Kurowski had some nice things going for it—the aforementioned big chunks of vegetables, for one thing. And the fresh dill, a light, refreshing note. By contrast, most recipes I found called for puréeing the soup; for me, this demotes a robust bowl of soup from potential main course to first course—not enough to hold my interest for a whole meal. And they used thyme instead of dill. Nice, but not as lively as what I wanted here. They also called for heavy cream or at least half and half, every last one of them. Sometimes I like that in a soup, but I wanted creaminess without cream this time [I achieved this by puréeing part of the soup—you’ll find details in the recipe]. Pretty early on, I decided to roast at least the cauliflower, a step the original soup was lacking—I knew this would add a satisfying depth. And it did.

Roasted Cauliflower and Dill Soup
4 main course servings [if served with plenty of crusty bread]

Florets of 1 head of cauliflower, about 6 cups
3 carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped [see Kitchen Notes]
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth [see Kitchen Notes]
2 cups water
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Using a knife and your hands, break cauliflower head into bite-sized florets and place in large bowl. Peel and slice carrots and add to bowl. Drizzle vegetables with olive oil and toss to coat. Spread into a single layer in a large roasting pan [or onto a large baking sheet with a rim] and season with pepper. DON’T add salt at this point; your broth will probably add plenty. Roast vegetables in the middle of the oven until tender and golden brown, stirring occasionally, for about 25 to 35 minutes [mine took the full 35]. Remove from oven and transfer back to the bowl you used earlier. The soup can be made a day ahead up to this point; cool vegetables slightly, then cover and refrigerate.

If you’re making it right away, peel and chop onion and garlic while the cauliflower mixture roasts. When it’s ready, heat a large, heavy pot or dutch oven over a medium flame. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté onion until softened and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add cauliflower mixture to pot, along with broth and water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low to let soup simmer 20 minutes or so.

Toward the end of this time, carefully ladle out 3 cups of cauliflower and broth and purée it in a food processor or blender. Avoid puréeing carrots with the cauliflower and broth. I do this partly to maintain the soup’s pale, creamy color and partly because you want the sweetness of the carrots to be isolated bites as you eat the soup, and not to add an overall sweet flavor to it.

Return the purée to the soup pot and stir to blend. Remove from heat, stir in the fresh dill and adjust seasoning with salt. Serve.

Kitchen Notes

Garlic—do as I say, not as I do. Every recipe that included garlic and roasting said to roast it along with the cauliflower. I had my doubts, but did so anyway. As I feared, the small bits of garlic roasted faster than the chunky vegetables, and some of them burned. The simplest approach, I think, is to sauté the garlic with the onion, as I have written here. If you really want to roast it, try adding it in the last 10 minutes of the roasting time.

Getting the broth right. Honestly, my first choice would be some of Marion’s homemade chicken stock. But store bought broth is getting better. I used Trader Joe’s Organic Free Range Chicken Broth, good and inexpensive. If you want to make this with vegetable broth, one kind I can recommend is Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base, by Superior Touch.


A little something on the side for Thanksgiving. First I’m assuming you’re either doing turkey or not doing turkey and already have that covered. If you need more information on preparing the iconic Thanksgiving bird, there are far better informed sources than me on the topic a phone call or Google search away. So here are a couple of traditional sides we do here. Marion has written about them in years past:

Kasha, a wonderfully nutty grain that just loves gravy.

Sweet Potato Vichyssoise, a beautiful, elegant, cool surprise for a first course.

And last but by no means least, Susan over at Food Blogga has taken it upon herself to post a boatload of interesting Thanksgiving sides this year. You’re sure to find something wonderful there.


{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Donald November 19, 2008 at 11:45 am

Now see Terry, you’ve gone a given me inspiration for the head of broccoli flower and cauliflower I have. I am kind of warm to the idea of roasted garlic though, but that’s just because I am always warm to that idea. :-)

Sylvia November 19, 2008 at 10:47 pm

I love cauliflower and I like the idea .Sounds pretty good .
The kitchen notes are great makes me want eat turkey, now.But I had to wait until Christmas ;(

Mimi November 20, 2008 at 1:25 am

Oh, dear, I want to make this right now. Well, I want to eat it. I don’t have the energy tonight to make it. But, oh, TerryB, it is just what my soul requires.

Terry B November 20, 2008 at 2:44 am

Thanks, Donald. Roasting the garlic is fine—just take care that it doesn’t burn. You might even consider roasting the individual cloves whole and chopping them up before adding to the soup.

You know, Sylvia, we think turkey is too good to confine to one designated holiday. We try to roast a turkey at least a couple of times a year. And we’re often buying turkey cutlets to do various things with.

Mimi—Sorry you can’t have it right now, but if you roast the vegetables one night, you can quickly make the soup the next.

Kim November 20, 2008 at 4:09 am

Terry, this looks so good….I love fresh dill! I’ve used on burgers when I didn’t have pickles in the house but lately I’ve found they work well in other dishes too! Thanks for this recipe!

Toni November 20, 2008 at 6:25 pm

I’ve been in a roasted veggie mode recently, but hadn’t considered cauliflower – why is that? And no, it isn’t because I don’t like it – I do! This one’s going on the menu this week, for sure!

Kevin November 21, 2008 at 1:19 am

That soup looks good. I really like the use of the fresh dill in it!

kitty November 22, 2008 at 1:47 am

wow, that looks great
Mark was just talking about a cauliflower soup craving the other day. Cauliflower has a lovely texture to it.

we’ll try cooking this over the weekend. Let you know how it goes!

Terry B November 22, 2008 at 3:49 am

Kim—Fresh dill on burgers? Sounds so crazy, it just might work! Actually, it sounds pretty darned good.

Toni—I know you try to eat vegetarian or vegan several days a week. With vegetable broth, this would fit the bill.

Kevin—The dill really does make this soup.

kitty—Thanks for stopping by! Do let me know how it goes.

Susan from Food Blogga November 22, 2008 at 7:13 pm

Terry, this is one fine looking bowl of soup. I actually prefer cauliflower in soups because it makes them so thick and creamy. I’m glad you went with dill as well. It seems it always relegated to seafood but has so much more potential. ps–thanks for the shout out!

evi November 23, 2008 at 3:48 am

This soup sounds delicious and you make cauliflower sound more sacred than mother’s milk. I just bought some!

Terry B November 23, 2008 at 8:06 am

Susan—I also love fresh dill with roasted potatoes. And you’re welcome. Thanks for posting the cool recipes!

evi—Well, maybe not as sacred as mother’s milk [I’m speaking now of either the actual thing or the euphemism for alcohol], but close. Enjoy!

diva November 24, 2008 at 10:12 am

NO! you didn’t!! i adore cauliflower and dill especially, and in a soup?? that’s great. i’m glad your tuna sandwiches turned into this amazing soup. i’ve got tuna sandwich planned for lunch but no way in hell will it turn into such a glorious soup. i’m sad. x

Ruthie February 10, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I made this last night and it was fabulous! Thanks for the inspiration. We’ll be keeping this soup in regular rotation until spring. I made a few minor adaptations and blogged about them, if you are interested in checking that out.

Kate August 2, 2011 at 2:09 pm

This soup sounds great, and even though it’s August, I’m going to make it this week! One question, though-next to the line “1/3 cup chopped fresh dill” is written “[see Kitchen Notes]”, only I don’t see any notes. I am I missing something? Thanks!

Terry B August 2, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Thanks, Diva and Ruthie!

Kate—Oops! My mistake. I probably meant to say something about only fresh dill working in this recipe, but after almost three years, I can’t remember. Thanks for the catch (I’ve updated the recipe). I hope you like the soup!

Kate August 2, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Thank you so much for the quick response! I will use fresh dill when I make this. :-)

Kate January 26, 2012 at 8:19 pm

I did make this and it was great! Happy soup month! :-)

Ang November 12, 2015 at 12:44 pm

I have the fondest memories of my husband and I sharing this soup at a small local European restaurant when we were dating, many moons ago. After years of trying different recipes, I finally found the perfect soup. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. Every time we eat this soup, we go down memory lane. It’s our special soup.

Terry B November 12, 2015 at 9:49 pm

Ang, I love this story. Thank you so much for sharing it.

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