Coconut Carrot Soup with Cumin Oil
This creamy, vibrant and robust coconut carrot soup is drizzled with an aromatic oil studded with garlic and cumin seeds.
Senior year of college marked my transition from a by-the-book recipe follower to a casual experimenter. It was the first time I had a full kitchen, and I was eager to try my hand at new recipes.
One soup recipe that stuck with me through the years is this creamy coconut and carrot soup. The sweet, earthy flavor of carrots paired with nutty coconut milk offered a myriad of possibilities for adaptations.
I tried a coconut carrot soup with lime, crushed peanuts, and chili sauce, and a version with paprika and brown sugar. Since coconut milk is a crucial ingredient in many Indian recipes, I set out to make an Indian-inspired adaptation.
The result is this comforting soup made with onions, garlic, carrots, coconut milk, and garam masala. A drizzling oil spiced with cumin seeds and garlic provides a flavorful crunchy finish.
How to Make Cumin Oil
The garlicky cumin oil uses the technique called blooming, also known as tadka in parts of India. The method itself is simple but requires some attention.
Start by heating the oil in a small saucepan. Use a neutral oil like canola. Once hot, add the cumin seeds. As soon as the seeds begin to sizzle, add in the sliced garlic. The garlic and cumin seeds will deepen in color.
When the garlic reaches a pale golden shade, immediately remove the oil from the heat. As long as the oil remains in the pan, the residual heat will continue cooking the spices, so transfer the cumin oil into a heatproof bowl.
The most crucial part here is to observe the oil through each step. The oil should be hot but not smoking. If at any point it feels like the cumin or garlic is darkening too quickly, immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour the oil into a heatproof bowl to stop the cooking process. Burnt spices and garlic are bitter and inedible. Start over if this happens.
If you want to learn more about the technique of blooming spices, check out this post: How to Bloom Spices.
Here are some thoughtful ingredient substitutions that work:
- For a lighter version, instead of using full-fat coconut milk, use light coconut milk. Note that the soup will have a thinner consistency, so start with half the amount of vegetable stock, then add more if necessary.
- If you don't have garam masala handy or can’t find it at your local grocery store, you can make it at home.
- Not a huge fan of cumin seeds? You can omit them altogether or swap in an equal amount of brown mustard seeds.
Think of this recipe as a guide for you to mix and match the flavors to your liking. Try these simple, but tasty variations for a fun twist:
- For a tart flavor: Stir in the juice of 1 lime into the soup just before serving.
- For a deeper ginger flavor: Thinly slice a 1/2-inch piece of ginger and add it with the garlic when making the cumin oil.
Creamy Soup Recipes
- Creamy Sweet Potato Soup
- Creamy Tomato and White Bean Soup
- Creamy Asparagus Soup
- Potato Leek Soup
- Cream of Celeriac Soup with Brussels Sprouts Chips
Cook the aromatics:
In a medium pot or Dutch oven, heat the 3 tablespoons of canola oil over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, occasionally stirring, until the onions are soft and translucent and a fork easily pierces through carrots. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the black pepper.
Add the ginger and garlic:
Turn the heat down to medium-low and stir in ginger and garlic. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until ginger and garlic are fragrant and slightly softened.
Simmer the soup:
Stir in coconut milk, vegetable stock, garam masala, chili powder, and another 1/2 teaspoon salt. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Blend the soup:
Remove soup from the heat and using a handheld immersion bender, carefully blend directly in the pot until smooth.
Alternatively, let the soup sit for 5 minutes until cooled slightly, then ladle the soup into a blender. Place the lid on the blender and remove the center cap from the lid. This opening will help the steam release as the soup blends.
Cover the lid with a kitchen towel as you blend the mixture so that the soup doesn’t splatter on you. Starting at a low speed and gradually increase the speed until it’s completely smooth. You may need to work in batches; don't fill the blender more than a third full.
Return the blended soup to the pot and adjust seasoning to taste with salt and black pepper. If the soup is too thick for your liking, you can thin it out with more stock or water. Keep it warm on the stove while you prepare the cumin oil.
Make the cumin oil:
In a small tadka pan or saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons of neutral oil over medium heat. Once the oil begins to glisten and ripple, add the cumin seeds. If the oil is smoking, turn the heat down before adding the cumin to prevent them from burning. Once the cumin seeds start to sizzle, add the sliced garlic.
Cook the cumin and garlic, occasionally swirling the pan until the garlic just begins to turn golden brown.
Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour the cumin oil into a small heatproof bowl. If you leave the oil in the pan, the residual heat will burn the cumin seeds and garlic.
Serve the soup:
Divide the soup among serving bowls and top each with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of the cumin oil. Garnish with fresh cilantro and enjoy alongside naan or crusty bread.