Baby, Recipe

summer squash soup

A couple months before the baby turned one, I freaked out: Wait, I’m expected to keep a small child alive on human food? I am unprepared! How is this done? Why don’t they cover this in parenting classes? Because, realistically, that first year is easy food-wise: just gimme the milk and nobody gets hurt. But the doctor warned that by the end of the first year, milk alone is not enough to meet their nutritional needs and from that point on, boy, are you in the spotlight. “Oh, you feed your baby [insert food that most children want to eat exclusively — chicken fingers, goldfish crackers, macaroni and cheese — here]?” the neighborhood Mompetitor sniffs as you bust out all you could bribe your kid to eat that day at the park?

And so begins the next “phase” of this sporadically updated site: the one in which I try to feed a tiny human real food, with sustenance. After tossing and turning one night trying to figure out some sort of Food Management System that didn’t involve me buying a set number of freezer packages and jars each week, I had my eureka moment one night, and I declared it: SOUP! Soup will be the answer. Seasonal, delicious, chock-fulla-good-stuff soup! You can make soup out of just about anything, and by golly, I would. Pureed until he handled textures like a pro; chunky and stewy soon after that. Make a big batch over the weekend and you’re set for the week.

People, I nearly patted myself on the back for my brilliance as I took the baby to the Greenmarket to buy summer squash, onions and sweet potatoes. “Soup! Soup is the answer!” I hummed as I wheeled him from stand to stand. And thus, you know where this is going. For three nights, the baby slurped down as much soup as we’d heat up for him. Hooray for carrots! Hooray for zucchini! And on the fourth night, he put his hand in front of his mouth and decided he would from that point forward, despite being unable to hold his own spoon, that he was too grown-up to be spoon-fed. And then the real fun began.

Summer Squash Soup
Adapted from my original take on it, which was adapted from Gourmet

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
2 pounds yellow summer squash or zucchini, halved and thinly sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 sweet potato, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil and butter in a large, heavy wide pot over moderate heat. Cook onion with salt, stirring until it begins to caramelize, about 8 minutes. Add remaining vegetables and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes off heat before pureeing to desired consistency. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

61 comments on summer squash soup

  1. Andrea

    This sounds great. My 7 month old won’t allow me to put a spoon in his mouth though, so it’s all finger foods over here. He’s my third, but the first who wants to do it all himself this early. I’ll try this in a couple of months once he’s got a bit more control over the spoon. :)

  2. Annie

    I definitely give you a big pat on your back for trying soup with your little one. I think mine was running and jumping before she was given a normal soup (I thicken hers with baby cereal).
    I’m gonna have to make this soon. It sounds yummy.

    1. deb

      Two more things about soup: Actually, I think the idea was originally planted by my MIL. My husband was born in Russia and she said it was common to make big pots of hearty soup for the baby’s main meal. She made us a pot with all of the vegetables he likes and chicken that was pureed when we were still doing purees (I meant to recreate it and give you a recipe, alas, we’d moved onto solids before I did) — you could add chicken to this (or cook chicken in it) and have a similar effect. You can keep the soups chunkier as the baby can handle and wants more texture. My convoluted point is: the line between baby food purees and pureed soups is thin, which opens up a whole category of meals that you can provide for your kid (and feed yourself in the process), should they be willing to been spoon fed or are delightfully advanced in utensil-holding.

      Second, the other reason why I was so excited about soup was that it fits with my primary goal in baby-feeding, which is that he will eat what we do. And yes, that means the goal of this sideblog is for it to eventually disappear as he eats everything you’d find on the main site. In the interim, while he’s still only has a third of his teeth and can’t hold a spoon etc. etc. there will still be transitional meals/dishes formulated just for him. I’ve got a least three more recipes in this category coming, so I’m not going anywhere yet!

  3. My oldest is almost 3, and I’m still wondering what he should eat. I want him to eat what we do, but it isn’t always practical with our crazy schedules. So, I use the freezer to stash a few quick-fix toddler-friendly homemade things: fishcakes, meatballs, pasta sauces, muffins, etc. And, when all else fails, there’s always scrambled eggs or cheese quesadillas (with a side of whatever veggies I can come up with).

  4. I bought a copy of Montessori From The Start, and wished I’d had it from the beginning. I don’t hold with all their tenets, but I do favor their methods for eating: have their own proper chair and table that the child can get into and out of by themselves, a child-friendly location for their dishes, place mat, napkins, real flatware (demi size is perfect), real bowls, plates, and glasses. I was lucky enough to buy a “toy” dish set at IKEA that was perfect. They advocate real glass or ceramic, and at her second birthday party, my daughter drank out of a glass all by herself, with no issues.

    I let her feed herself as soon as possible, with a KidCo food grinder at the table. She ate what we ate, and if she didn’t like it, she could nurse or be hungry. Generally, she liked it, and she’ll even eat things I don’t like. We started with beans early, because they’re mushy, yet small and compact. She still eats beans happily.

    Yes it was (and is) messy, and for a while there, eating in only a diaper was the best way to stay sane, but now at almost 3, the only thing I do for her at mealtimes is that which requires a sharp knife. And I never have to worry about fixing her special food.

  5. Erin

    I’m just royally impressed he waited as long as he did to eat your food. My babe is just 8 mos old and really interested in anything we have. It’s crazy the things she’ll eat.
    I love this blog, love your main blog, and really appreciate all you do for us moms!!!

    1. deb

      Erin — I should clarify that this site is not an exhaustive list of what he eats. (He’s always been offered what we’re eating, but he also goes to bed very early, making family dinners impossible.) This site is more about a search for solutions — i.e. what works as a nutrient-packed, baby-delighting meal in a format he can handle that doesn’t require a separate hour of food prep daily.

  6. So how do you feed him the soup now that he doesn’t want to be spoon fed?

    My baby girl is just about 10 months and will only have her morning yogurt by spoon. She’s also doing this slightly confusing and infuriating thing where she loves something one day and then refuses it the next. It is definitely keeping me in my toes trying to come up with variety for her! I’d live to give her soup but am wary if how she would handle it.

  7. Deb- My boy is about to turn one and I hear you and the “hand over mouth…none of that please”. It sucks. I have found that if I feed him off of an adult spoon or fork he will actually eat the food. I even tried to swap out for the baby spoon (on more then on occasion) and he prefers to eat like the “big kids do.”
    We have been doing pasta with corn and tomoatos and he loves anything chicken or turkey. Oh, and I have found that good old refried beans and rice are a nice combo…alas, the diaper changes have been epic! He also still only has two teeth…those gums can crush a heck of a lot! All I can say is that if my boy is hungry he will eat… so I am just trying to give him homemade wholesome food and as much variety as I can. Enjoy!!! Thanks again for all your blog posts…you are awesome!

  8. musicianmommy

    Ok I have a word-or two- for all the mompetitors out there: I have two kids, one is a boy, 6 years old and he will eat anything. By anything I mean celeriac root, artichokes in olive oil (we are Turkish), sea beans- you name it, he’ll eat it. AND, I have a daughter, 2.5 years old, will only eat carbs ( except potato; go figure), meatballs, sweetcorn, the occasional broccoli, cheese, tomato soup, some ground beef such as in lasagne.. that’s about it. So, it’s NOT you it’s them. They decide what they like. I am a professional cook and if two kids come out so different through the same system of feeding, well, we need to relax :) By-the-way, she’s healthy apparently so just enjoy raising the critters; they grow up so fast..

  9. Carmen

    Sounds very yummy. So for the meat purees, you would just boil the water with some veggies and purees? It sounds too simple, but I guess it is. Do you get your inspiration for your baby’s food from your recipes or do you have a special book? Thanks so much.

  10. Jaime

    Oh, can I relate to your food freakout. Sure, we made our own baby food and carefully chose which new foods to introduce at what time (and officially became the Weird Parents at daycare who insist on bringing all of our daughter’s food for her…because we politely opt out of the corn dogs they provide…), but the knowledge that the bulk of our daughter’s nutrition was coming from breastmilk was SO reassuring. Now she’s 14 mos. and OMG THE PRESSURE! Recent successes for us have been your/Gwyneth’s carrot-ginger miso dressing (HUGE hit) and sauteed grated zucchini (grating it first has been great, because it cooks faster AND is a nice not-quite-pureed/non-chokable finger food texture).

  11. amanda

    oo oo oo, let me guess…he’s moved on to the “dunk hand in dish and suck food off of fingers” phase!! :D my two year old still resorts to this method, when he becomes frustrated with his inability to hold the spoon horizontal the whole way to his mouth. ;)

  12. I have a 14 month old baby girl. Before I had her I never would have thought feeding her would be such a challenge. She always refused most baby foods. It’s only within the last couple of months that she’s been eating better. She eats pureed red lentil soup (made with squash, potato, tomatoes, carrots, celery, onions, & garlic) and pureed chicken soup (made with similar veges, pasta, and thighs). I make big batches and stock up the freezer. I don’t know what I’m going to do when she wants to feed herself. Yikes.

  13. Helena

    I have a 12 month old baby and live in Portugal. Here, soup is the first thing we introduce to a baby, at either 4 or 6 months, followed by fruit and cereal. Usually, after 6 months, the soup has some meat in it. My baby is, thankfully, more than glad to be spoonfed, and will happily gulp down whatever we feed him, but his soups (made once or twice a week and kept in single servings in the freezer) include all the vegetables we eat and are pureed, they just have less salt than we would add to our food. They are, nonetheless, delicious and a great way to make sure he eats the best things for him.

  14. Elissa

    Soup is the best for our little guy, too – he really likes the cauliflower soup from your main site, and different variations of squash (butternut, pumpkin, etc) soups now that they’re in season. And I don’t mind eating soup more often myself, since it means only one meal to cook!

  15. Terri

    I started my son on a spoon, thinking it was safer, but in reality – he was so busy stabbing things with the spoon, that not much headway was made. I switched him to the fork, and he started doing much better, and was definitely proud of himself.

    Beans are still a favorite, I really can’t go wrong with them. I used the leftover rice cereal (sonce he hated it) to thicken soup enough that it would stick to his spoon, so that he was getting something with it.

  16. Michelle

    Looks great, but I wish this post had come out a month ago where there was still lovely looking summer squash at the NYC farmers markets. Think it’ll still work with the anemic-looking specimens out there now?

    By the way, like the Portuguese commenter I think fortifying babies with soups is common across cultures. My Korean friend says her son subsides on a chicken juk and I know another who relies on her nanny for a delicious Chilean stew that’s the cornerstone of her toddler’s diet.

  17. I’m working on getting my 2 1/2 year old to eat soup. Anything not stone cold gets a “it’s too hot” reaction… and he’s never wanted us to feed him from the time he was about 7 months, that can be a nightmare, but even more fun is the reaction when we try to cut something. He loses touch and always has. Nothing more stressful than trying to convince a ten month old… no you can’t eat a whole banana yet.

  18. chris in ri

    Hi Deb
    This soup thing sounds great! What to do you use for low sodium broth? Do you make your own, or do you have a good brand you can recommend? I sometimes make my own (but not lately, ha!), so I have been using Better than Bullion. I like it, but it is quite salty and I have been looking for something that is Better in the Salt Department. Thanks
    Chris in RI

    1. deb

      chris in ri — I agree about Better than Boullion. I used a Pacific brand for one batch and some homemade stock (that my MIL made, seriously, she spoils us all rotten) the next. Now I’m on a stock-making kick (well, bird-taking-apart kick, which leads to backbones for stock) so it’ll be homemade in the future.

      A more wintery soup — This is a great one, with or without the cheesy croutons. (I spoil the kid and would let him at half of one if he finished the bowl.) I also made this eggplant soup for the baby last week though I’ve had little luck getting it in him. I try not to take it personally!

      Two other foods on his agenda right now: The filling for this stuffed cabbage with turkey swapped for beef, formed into patties and cooked in the tomato sauce/juice has gone over shockingly well the last few days. We chopped up some of the cabbage too. I’m also auditioning a riff of this chicken salad without the nuts with all of the ingredients very finely chopped, almost minced.

  19. Karen

    I LOVE this sideblog! My 11 month old has refused to be spoon-fed for a couple of months now. I grew up in Latin America where they put soup in bottles and cut a huge hole in the nipple so the baby can drink the soup that way. I’m not sure what I think about that but I guess I was fed that way as a baby. QUESTION for you: I’ve heard of some moms making everything into little pancakes that babies can pick up and eat by themselves. Do you have any recipes for something like that? I’m thinking something made with healthy (not white) flours and loads of veggies like spinach, kale, roots, etc… Or it could be a lentil or meat patty. I’d love to see a post about that if you’ve tried it. THANKS!

  20. Jules

    Is it really weird that I don’t even HAVE a baby yet and I’m already worried about the mompetitors? I know I want to raise my kids one day on real foods, and intorduce them to “adult” foods early so they are comfortable with what we’re eating… but to be honest I’m already exhausted and we haven’t even gotten married yet!!! Thank you Deb for being a shining example of motherhood without being preachy. And OMG did you make an ADORABLE baby!! I’m praying for curly hair…

  21. Sandra

    WOW!!! Just made this recipe and it was DELICIOUS!!! Poor 9mo old baby girl didn’t get to eat her whole plate cuz I kept stealing bites! My husband loved it too!!!! Thank you!

  22. I had a similar experience to the comment #14. A 6 year old and 2 year old, very different tastes and eating habits. I too am a professional chef and made ALL of my kids baby food and more, and they have very different likes and dislikes form birth. I also believe they should eat what we do, but as they have gotten older, I have had to mold what I do a bit. I cook one meal, but sometimes leave things separate for them, but mix them together for the grownups. The same meal, 2 ways. my son only likes raw green beans and carrots, so if we are cooking them for dinner, I leave them uncooked for him. we grow and eat a bunch of our own food which is great, and letting the kids cook with me helps too. But it is certainly hard as kids get older and influenced by friends and family that the pristine world of pureed homemade baby food gets tainted and I sometimes long for the days when I could actually control everything that went into their mouths with ease. thanks for the beautiful photos, and good luck with all the eating adventures ahead!

  23. HI, I forgot to mention one great kid food that I got a lot of play out of for both of my kids. Nori. the seaweed sheets used for wrapping sushi are fabulous finger food for babes! Both of my kids went through this stage where they wanted to eat paper, so giving them edible paper was a good solution. It is also great because if you give them little pieces of it, they have to work to pick it up or get it to stick to their fingers. It is a fun fine motor skill activity and it keeps them busy and also eating something delicious and nutrient dense. Saveur Mag has a great little article on Nori this month. I knew nori was full of minerals, but it also seems to have protein in it which is great! I know this is not connected to the recipe in this post but I wasn’t sure where else to leave the comment, and wanted to share the idea with other moms. Hope your boy likes it too!

  24. Brilliant! My husband is the soup maker in the family and he made baby versions for the granddaughters when they reach this stage. It never occurred to me to have it daily. So much better than a daily diet of canned baby food, even if it is organic.

  25. Juliet

    Deb,I love your site. I made this last night while holding my 18 mo old girl(not recommending this activity, but it is occasionally necessary). It is somewhat challenging to chop a sweet potato with 1 hand. However, if you hold baby as far from the knife as possible, then WHACK said potato hard, you get the knife half way through. Then just hammer the knife+potato combo against the cutting board a few more times and you can split it cleanly. Bonus: it is super entertaining for baby as well as an excellent example of civilized adult behavior. Sadly she had to go to bed before soup was completed so I ate it for dinner and she (might) get leftovers.

  26. Michelle

    Thanks for all of the baby recipes! My son is the same age as Jacob so your posts definitely resonate. He absolutely loved the homemade applesauce.

    With soups I’ve had luck cutting the veggies into finger food sized pieces, simmering for awhile in broth and spices and then setting aside some of the pieces before adding cream or pureeing the soup. The ingredients are usually the perfect texture for him and it gets us around the spoon feeding refusal.

  27. Robyn

    HI! i tried the nori over the weekend for my 8.5 month old, and while it was a bit messy and stuck to everything, he loved it! i also made the little pancakes that another commenter was talking about. i just googled “healthy baby pancakes”. the best thing is that the pancakes are a really easy way to use up all the old baby food purees that are in the freezer that the baby doesn’t want anymore. i made a whole stack, and he really loved them. i have to admit, though: i didn’t find one without white flours. i was in a hurry and used… bisquick! bad mother bad mother!!!! :)

    my son also LOVES Deb’s Spinach and yams, and pears in vanilla sauce. made that this weekend too, and everything smelled so wonderful!

  28. Deb, I just gotta say I have 2 kids under 2 and a 3rd one on the way- I appreciate your site. My husband is Indian, and a large amount of the food we prepare is North Indian fare. I have actually (just recently) mastered making things like chick pea masala, and most recently muttar paneer and making a “spice stock” (mix the hotter spices with a little bit of water and plain yogurt) that I add at the end instead of the beginning- my husband has yet to figure it out! I cook, separate some for the babies, then slide the food over in the pan, heat up a little oil and add the spice mix. I hope this makes sense…

  29. I’ve just printed off all of your baby recipes. As a grandmother who cares for three granddaughters five days a week, the littlest is six months old with dairy intolerence.
    So sad because out of all the grandkids, this one loves food and has been mesmerized with watching us eat. I can’t wait to see how she reacts to your recipes compared to the jars of organic baby food.

  30. NSH

    deb, you’ve written extensively about your own food-pickiness so I have to ask: what are you going to do when little Jacob refuses to eat a vegetable because he hates it and it’s “icky” or “gross”? keep serving it, or accept his dislike? (i don’t mean this accusingly at all! rather, when are you going to accept a dislike as a personal quirk — ie, hating beets– and not a temporary thing — ie, a kid on the playground also hates spinach?)

  31. Carrie

    Pot pie is apparently a good answer too! My 12.5lb 9month old just ate a whole pot pie all to herself (one of those single serving pies ~3 or 4″)

  32. I am dying for some new baby food recipes… coming from someone who sincerely prays God doesn’t have too big of a sense of humor and gives her a picky eater… your recipes give me hope! :)

  33. Angelita

    Deb! Bring on more baby food ideas please! I’m dying to know how you guys are making it through the winter without spoon-feeding! My 9 month old is refusing all things on a spoon these days and here in Michigan even our Whole Foods is offering slim pickings right now for fresh veggies and fruits… sweet potato fries are getting old too. Ideas Ideas Ideas I need some help! Thanks!

  34. I hope you keep going! I fell in love with Smitten Kitchen and when I saw that you had a baby food RSS I almost fell over! I am on kid number three and this time I am going for homemade all the way! I have made a ton of your recipes from both sites and actually had to just add a “Why I love Smitten Kitchen” tab on the recipe part of my website because looking at my notes…….well a lot of the kids favorite recipes I got from you!

    This was an amazing and tasty dish by the by and I can’t wait for the next one to be posted!

    The pictures are amazing….I swear they are……they even make me want to eat baby food!

  35. michelle

    So I am pretty sure you are still feeding that sweet boy of yours. What is he eating and what have you learned?

  36. Marie M.C.

    Real food for real babies. Yeah! When my son was a baby (1969) all my friends were feeding their babies Gerber’s. Why? I could never figure out why. I fed him what we were eating. I never put food in the blender. I would slice off an end of french bread for him to gnaw on when he was teething. If I was eating a peach I’d cut up some for him and let him feed himself. I stopped trying to feed him when he was eight months old. He didn’t want any “help”. Even oatmeal. (And we all know the glue properties of oatmeal.) What helped? I had something called a “Pelican” bib. They’re still made — I just googled and found them selling for an insane price ($18!) on Amazon. It’s a soft but rigid plastic bib that has a pelican scoop. Food baby drops falls into it. You can scoop it back out to his bowl for another go ’round. Just give him food he can hold and put in his mouth. They’ll feed themselves and it helps with eye/hand co-ordination, too. One of his favorite dishes was beef and barley soup. (Yes, folks the beef was cooked until it was falling apart. No, he never choked.) Just image the mess that made!

  37. I am a strong believer that babies will develop a better palette for food if you give them real food – things you would want to eat but of course, limiting certain aspects (ie: salt, spiciness). I am a huge follower of SK and as a mother of a 22 month girl, I definitely encouraged my daughter to eat real food vs. “baby food”. I run a small baby/toddler food delivery service and post recipes on our FB page- littlegreenwagon. So if you’re looking for additional recipes, feel free to check us out!

  38. fay

    My daughter goes to day care and I pack her lunch in the form of soup every day. It’s the easiest thing! Cook a big batch once or twice a week of different kinds, then freeze. I make her adult kind of soups, just easier on the salt and spices. Curried lentil soups and minestrone are favorites!

  39. Anina banana

    I love the SK<goo blog!!!! But have not noticed a new post on here in a while, have you discontinued?

  40. Jesse

    Don’t go too low on salt– preferably the real kind. Salt is very important for brain development. Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions has lots of good info. Enjoy mommyhood!

  41. My little Oliver started ‘refusing the spoon’ about 3 weeks ago, while we were (and still are) away on a big overseas trip. We tried everything, including sitting him in a bucket on the hotel floor and letting him at it himself. Finally, I basically gave up and reverted to some serious boob feeding.

    I don’t know exactly how we thought of it, but one day we tried ‘tipping’ puree into his mouth, just like we’d tip him water from our water bottles. He loved it! Couldn’t get enough tipping! Now we just have to make sure all his food is of tip-able consistency and we’re on the eating wagon again. Until the next blind corner…

  42. beckaroo bonzai

    hey! my kids still love pureed soups in sippee cups – obviously the kind w/o the little holes. it’s like veggie smoothie. and look ma, no mess! and you’re doing awesome! I love the new inspiration as I’m due w my 4th.

    PS, made your pineapple upside down cake again last night for a bbq. I used the cast iron skillet this time as opposed to the sauce pan/cake pan last time. turned out great! you will now have even more followers!!!

  43. I felt exactly the same. My toddler is now a great little eater (emphasis on now because who knows what the next phase will bring) and our 6 month-old has just started eating too. It’s a kids’ food fest around here so I started a site aimed at trying every idea I can think of to make food healthy, fun and really a lovely experience, hopefully for life. We’ll see… But for now we have things like a healthier Plum & Blackberry Crisp and that seems like a good start!

    Good luck everyone!

  44. Lekha

    My son has turned 5 – not only is he a picky eater (except for meats and fish) but he has a lot of food allergies – I am hoping to try some of your dairy and egg free recipes :) They look delicious :) And I was also hoping for some more Indian recipes I have a hard time with them – I am south Indian and our food is very different from the north Indian and Andhra fare that you normally get in Indian restrants :)

  45. Mandy

    Hi Deb! My son just turned 7 months and has been eating solids since 4 months. He loves your recipes! I made chicken for the first time for him today, and it has a bit of a dry, powdery texture. What recipes do you have for meats for baby, and how did he like them? Also, what else did you make for him? One of the docs at our pediatrician wants to sit down with me and discuss only feeding him 3 fruits and 3 vegs. And maybe meat. I don’t agree with that, I don’t want to raise a picky eater! So far, looking good!
    If its easier, you can email me at

  46. Shannon

    What a great recipe! This post really spoke to me because I’m now in the boat where my son is 10 months old and I’m at the stage of figuring out what healthy solids to prepare for him. He tried this soup last night and loved it! Thanks again!

  47. wow look what i found! am amazing baby food blog. your posts are amazing, hope i can blogroll you at my site. will keep following thanks

  48. OSD

    Thank you for doing these baby food posts. I have been a long time reader of your site and my friend recently had a baby. I’m not a big baby person but I am a big food person, so this is the perfect way for me to help until the little one is old enough for me to talk to :)

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