~ This delicious, beautifully balanced Instant Pot Sweet Potato Soup is a treasured family heirloom with a long, beloved history. With some creative updates, its now THK-worthy easier to make and full of great nutrition yet Grandma Jo still proclaims this modern twist to be PERFECT! Try it as a first course for holiday meals (as we so often serve it), or freeze individual portions for easy meal prep! ~
This Recipe Is: Freezable Make Ahead Vegetarian Option Gluten Free (see note)
This Sweet Potato Soup is truly special, in more ways than one.
From the first sip youll understand part of the story, as you delight in the delicious balance of flavors and as you dip your spoon again for more (and moooore ). Its:
- wonderfully, richly creamy (but without loads of artery-clogging fats details on that later )
- savory and earthy yet with a light sweetness from the carrots and the sweet potatoes
- perfectly accented with a freshness from the orange juice just a gentle acidity to cut through the richness
- delicately spiced with the warming trio of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg
Thats what youll taste. Mmmmmm keep dipping that spoon
So much depth from such a simple soup. Special.
But I actually taste much, much more. So many more ways that this soup will always hold a special place in my heart and at my table.
A Truly Special Soup
For me, each sip is like a blissful tumble down a rabbit hole of happy memories (but really, no carrot and bunny puns here, I swear!).
With each spoonful, there are years of holiday celebrations at my father-in-laws house, as Scotts family gathers together in a jumble of giggles and jokes, and the simple joy of being all together.
Grandma Jos always stationed in the kitchen, where shes already been cooking for a week or more. And the house welcomes us with a thousand smells of fresh herbs and sauteing onions, burbling casseroles and time and again, a truly ginormous pot of this soup.
The theme of these holiday meals varies, as Jo creates a masterpiece experience centered around a recent trip, a beloved cookbook, a favorite restaurant for her, inspiration is everywhere.
There was the year of the Tuscan Thanksgiving feast after her trip to Italy. An international culinary adventure with Peruivan specialties after she returned from the Amazon. A sampling of artists favorite recipes, since Jo is an artist, too. And the gorgeous triumph of Beef Wellington (for a crowd impressive).
The list goes (deliciously) on and on.
And yes so often, there is this soup. Its become one of the hallmarks of our holiday celebrations, no matter the occasion or theme.
Jo builds the layers of flavor for days upon days, reheating it with a final flourish before serving it up in steaming bowls as we all tumble into our seats around a beautifully set table, eager to dip into the first course of another of Jos legendary meals.
In this soup, I taste the love that Jo has for us all and I taste the weeks of excited planning and scheming, the hours upon hours and days upon days of cooking that it takes her each year, to bring her vision to its triumphant, delicious finale. Her gift to us her unique talent for binding an already close family even closer.
Could anything taste more wonderful?
But with another spoonful, I can tumble even deeper through layers of memory, back to the restaurant where Grandma Jo first tasted this soup herself, and begged the chef to share his secrets.
That restaurant The Inn at Turners Mill was a local icon, for nearly two decades, before it closed back in 2007. When I was in high school, it was the place for prom dates, and later in my life it was the obvious choice for baby showers, for a last hurrah before my twins were born, and later still, for a treasured night out without toddlers.
Literally a lumber mill built back in the mid-1800s, it was perfectly historic yet the essence of modern high-end dining. As an adult, Turners Mill was the first place I ever encountered a chefs tasting menu, expertly paired with wines for each course.
Now that Turners Mill is long-gone, I treasure this soup as a rescued version of one of their recipes.
My Updated Twist on a Beloved Recipe
I wanted to share all of this the flavors, the memories with all of you. But how?
There were three challenges: quantity, cooking technique, and nutrition.
My task was to retain everything we treasured about the original recipe, but somehow put my own (healthier, easier) spin on a family heirloom.
Jo eagerly conspired with me to see if we could do it and we did! After a bit of tinkering and tweaking through a few trial batches, Jo finally deemed it perfect.
We had won! Heres how we did it:
The initial problem was the sheer volume of soup involved.
The chefs original version, and its vague verbal list of ingredients, could literally feed the masses with restaurant-sized quantities measured in gallons and pounds. Jo had already pared the recipe down considerably, although itstill made a generous first course for 10-20 hungry people and yet barely even skimmed the top of her gargantuan soup pot. (Luckily, it freezes well!)
I knew I could never slurp my way through that much soup in my everyday life, and you probably couldnt either. And even though I often freeze little individual portions for lunches later on I just dont have room to freeze gallons of soup!
I recalculated and rebalanced the ingredients, slashing Jos bountiful quantities in about half again. (But dont worry, its easy to scale the yield back up if you do need to feed a small nation some day.)
2) Cooking Method
Another challenge was how to develop the layers of flavors that Jo typically creates in stages over several days in a shorter, easier way that would make it THK-do-able. No recipe that called for that many days of labor would ever be something I could share with you here and I knew it would also be something that I would probably never actually make myself.
There had to be an easier way.
The pressure cooker is genius for solving this type of problem. Big flavors compressed into small cooking times. Perfect! So I grabbed my timesaving friend hello, Instant Pot!
Ah, here was the real trick. With four different veggies goin on, there was a lot of nutritional goodness packed into every spoonful of Jos Sweet Potato Soup.
The original, restaurant version of this soup literally required a gallon (or more) of heavy cream, and even Jos smaller recipe called for 2 entire quarts of cream still way more saturated fat and calories than Id prefer, especially in a recipe I wanted to make often.
Enter evaporated milk!
Swapping in evaporated milk and just a little bit of half-and-half allows us to eliminate the full cream altogether, and dramatically slash the fat and calories in our updated version of this Instant Pot Sweet Potato Soup!
Its a brilliant strategy often used in healthier recipes. So, lets talk about that more specifically for a minute
What is Evaporated Milk and Why Is It Great In Healthy Recipes?
Evaporated milk is (as its name so clearly suggests) milk thats gone through an evaporation process. As Wikipedia explains, that process removes about 60% of the milks water (and also makes it shelf-stable).
For health-minded cooks, thats great because with so much less water evaporated milk is denser and creamier than regular milk. It gives a silkier, fuller body to soups and sauces, but without adding the fats and calories that (gallons?!?!) of cream would.
A couple of important notes here:
1) Evaporated Milk vs. Sweetened Condensed Milk First, be sure you dont grab a can of sweetened condensed milk by mistake. They often sit side-by-side on grocery store shelves, but theyre definitely not interchangeable. Sweetened condensed milk is very, very sweet yummy in desserts, but definitely not yummy in Sweet Potato Soup!
2) SHAKE! And second, make sure to notice the all-important words printed (in very tiny letters for such an important note!) on the cans label: SHAKE WELL. They arent kidding. (And again I wonder why is this super-important direction so small and hard to find?!?!) So let me repeat: SHAKE WELL.
In fact, I often find that, in addition to a bit of shaking, I actually need to whisk the milk a little, too. Evaporated milk often separates, with a thick layer forming at the bottom of the can. Since were using it to create thickness and creamy body in place of full-fat cream, we WANT that silky layer dont leave it behind!
If shaking the can around before you open it doesnt get all those solids incorporated back in, then briskly whisk them into the milk before adding it to your soup.
But now Im getting ahead of myself, spouting directions on how to make the soup. Lets start back at the beginning
How to Make This Instant Pot Sweet Potato Soup
My version of this beloved soup truly is super easy. Basically just THREE simple steps!
It requires literally about 10 minutes of hands-on time (mostly just to peel and chop the veggies), and your Instant Pot does the magical transformation part.
No slaving away over a soup pot for me or for you!
One great thing about it is that the ingredients are all pretty easy to keep on hand. Even the veggies are ones that tend to hold up well for quite a while.
Its terrific to be able to whip this up any ol time, when I just want a steaming, nourishing bowl of
soup happy memories.
Step #1 The prep work is easy. Peel some sweet potatoes, carrots and an onion, and give the veggies a quick, rough chop. (You know I adore my trusty 8 chefs knife for jobs like this!)
Youre shooting for approximately 1-inch pieces. But youll be just fine, even if they arent exact (no need for a ruler, friends!).
Step #2 Then, toss your ingredients right into your Instant Pot. Those veggies join up with just a few more items: orange juice, veggie or chicken broth (you can read more about why we use reduced-sodium broth HERE), that evaporated milk we discussed, and some seasonings.
Give em a quick stir, and off they go!
Step #3 A few minutes later, theyre steaming hot and richly flavorful, ready for you to puree them into silky smooth joy.
Thats all there is to it! And even though its so darn simple, Grandma Jo still proclaimed this version our updated Instant Pot Sweet Potato Soup to be PERFECT! Woot woot!
But maybe youre worrying about that blending step. Or wondering what that weird blendy-looking-tool in my photos could possibly be. Ah! If thats the case read on. Youve got options! Lets discuss
How to Blend Your Sweet Potato Soup (2 Options)
I absolutely, positively adore my immersion blender for this task (thats the weird blendy-looking-tool). As I mentioned in our annual Holiday Gift Guide for Foodies, its definitely not something I use every day. But for jobs like this, its priceless.
If you dont have an immersion blender (sometimes called a stick blender), thats ok, too. You can use a regular blender instead just be sure to follow a couple of safety precautions so you dont send a dangerous spout of fiery sweet potato lava across your kitchen ceiling when you press the on button.
- When using a regular blender for hot liquids like this, dont fill your blender container more than about half full. (Youll need to work in batches.)
- Also, remove that little center plastic part from the lid of the blender (thats why its there). Then, hold a folded dish towel over the opening as you turn the blender on.
(By now, are you totally getting why immersion blenders beat the pants off of regular blenders for recipes like this?!?)
Mmmmmmm ready to dip your spoon into a steaming bowlful? Or maybe do a swan dive right into the pot?
Give me just one more sec here. You do have one little decision left make, but its an easy one!
Half and Half or Not?
Feeling really virtuous, or closely watching calories? Its actually ok to leave out the half and half from this recipe altogether. I sometimes do!
But to ratchet this recipe all the way up to Grandma Jos perfect rating, just a splash of silky half and half really rounds out all the flavors.
You can stir it into the entire batch (as we direct on the recipe card). Or, you can swirl it into individual bowls for a pretty presentation.
Oh! And speaking of presentation if youve purchased whole carrots with their lovely greens still attached, those are a gorgeous final garnish. The bright leafy green color is a stunning contrast against the soft orange soup.
Alternately, though, you can grab some Italian flat leaf parsley instead. Pretty, either way!
Adaptations and Serving Ideas for Your Sweet Potato Soup
Holiday First Course Definitely, this is THE soup to serve for Thanksgiving dinner, or as a starter for other autumn feasts and holiday celebrations like Christmas or Easter. Our own family celebrations wouldnt be the same without it, thats for sure!
Vegetarian Meal To adapt this as a vegetarian soup, just use veggie broth instead of chicken broth. With a hearty, grainy loaf of bread alongside, its a delicious vegetarian meal to warm you up on chilly evenings. Plop the ingredients into your Instant Pot as you walk in the door, and a truly comforting dinner will magically be ready in no time! (And BTW, if you love this type of dinner, be sure to check out our whole showcase of Healthy Vegetarian Meals!)
Meal Prep Now that Ive adapted this soup to be easier and more healthful, I actually truly do use it for meal prep, too. It not only keeps well in the fridge but also freezes beautifully. I love to measure out little one-cup individual portions into zipper bags, freeze them flat, and keep them on hand to quickly reheat for my workweek lunches. A little bowl full of happy memories and holiday cheer any day of the week!
No matter how or when you serve this Instant Pot Sweet Potato Soup, I hope that itll become a true favorite at your house, too! Give it a try and make some soup-filled, treasured family memories of your own!
Family-Favorite Instant Pot Sweet Potato Soup
- 3 sweet potatoes (about 30 ounces total), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (to equal about 5 cups of chunks)
- 2 cups chopped 1-inch pieces sweet onion (from about 1 medium onion)
- 2 - 2 1/2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces (to equal about 1 1/4 cups)
- 2 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces (to equal 1 - 1 1/4 cups)
- 2 1/2 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth for a vegetarian option)
- 1 3/4 cups pulp-free bottled orange juice
- 1 (12-ounce) can (to equal 1 1/2 cups) evaporated fat free milk (NOT sweetened condensed milk)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (from the spice aisle not fresh)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup half and half (optional but recommended see note)
- Optional for garnish: minced fresh parsley or carrot greens
Combine all ingredients (except half and half and the optional garnishes) in your Instant Pot's insert, stirring to combine.
Close Instant Pot lid (making sure the "venting" steam release knob is set to sealing, not venting). Select Manual, High Pressure, 10 minutes. (It takes my 6-quart Instant Pot Duo60 about 20-25 minutes to build enough pressure to seal and then begin the 10-minute cook time.)
When cook time is completed, CAREFULLY manually vent the steam via the steam release knob (being careful to avoid steam burns).
Blend soup until silky smooth using an immersion blender, or in batches in a traditional blender. (If using a traditional blender, don't fill it more than about half full per batch. Also, remove the center cap from the blender's lid, and cover the center cap's hole with a kitchen towel, before turning the blender on.)
Stir in half and half. If desired, serve sprinkled with fresh parsley or carrot greens.
by Two Healthy Kitchens
Half and half: To shave some fat and calories, you can opt to skip the half and half, and the soup will still be delicious. However, a little half and half is recommended to round out the flavors and add a bit more silky richness. Either way, this is still vastly more healthy than the original restaurant recipe, which called for several quarts of full-fat whole cream.
Make-ahead and freezing tips: If you'd like to prep ahead of time, you can peel and chop the sweet potatoes, onion, carrots and celery up to a couple of days ahead, storing them in the refrigerator until you're ready to make the soup.
This soup also reheats beautifully, so it's a great make-ahead recipe for entertaining or for weekly meal prep. Gently reheat before serving. You can stir the half and half in either before or after reheating.
The soup also freezes really well. I've frozen large containers to reheat later for a meal, and also measured out 1-cup single servings to freeze flat in individual zippered bags.
Gluten free note: Many purchased broths are gluten-free, but some may contain a wheat-derived ingredient, so be sure to check the ingredient list or look for gluten free labeling if needed.