Beef, Pumpkin, and Shiitake Soup

beef pumpkin and shiitake soup served with fresh basil
Photo: Christopher Testani
Prep Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 50 mins

This deceptively simple recipe is inspired by flavors from around the world: from Vietnamese pho to a rustic French stew to the famous oxtail soups from the Caribbean. When the beef chuck or neck bones are fork-tender, you add the vegetables that won't need long to cook. Fresh basil and a splash of fish sauce are not to be skipped—the latter adds an exceptional hint of umami flavor.


  • 3 pounds beef chuck, neck bones, shin bones, or oxtail (or a combination)

  • 1 large onion, halved and peeled

  • Kosher salt

  • ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns

  • 1 dried bay leaf

  • 2 thyme sprigs

  • 1 pound pumpkin or winter squash, such as Sugar Pie, calabaza, or butternut, peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-size pieces (2 ½ cups), peels reserved

  • 6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and reserved, caps sliced into ½-inch pieces

  • ½ small head Savoy or Napa cabbage (8 ounces), 1 large outer leaf removed and reserved, the rest cored and cut into bite-size pieces

  • 1 basil sprig, plus more leaves for serving

  • 3 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce, plus more to taste

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus more to taste


  1. Combine beef and 10 cups water in a pot. Bring to a boil, skimming any foam and impurities from surface. Add half of onion, 2 teaspoons salt, peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme, pumpkin peels, shiitake stems, and cabbage leaf. Gently boil over medium-low heat, partially covered, until meat is falling-off-the-bone tender, about 2 hours. Strain (if you want a clear broth, line a fine-mesh sieve with cheesecloth), reserving broth and beef and discarding remaining solids. Wipe pot clean.

  2. Return broth and beef to pot. Coarsely chop remaining onion half and transfer to pot, along with pumpkin and mushroom caps. Simmer over low heat until pumpkin is crisp-tender but still holding its shape, about 10 minutes. Stir in cabbage and basil sprig; simmer until cabbage is tender but still vibrant green, about 5 minutes more. Remove and discard basil. Stir in fish sauce and lime juice. Add more salt, fish sauce, and lime to taste, and serve topped with basil leaves.

Cook's Notes

Inexpensive marrow and collagen-rich cuts like beef chuck, neck bones, and shin bones are ideal in this stew. You can pick them out, shred the meat, and add it back before dining.

The bones can be removed after straining and the meat shredded into bite-size pieces before it returns to the pot. For a heartier soup, stir in cooked rice or rice noodles to serve.

Related Articles