Chinese Medicine: Warming Winter Soup to Build Energy

BY Cathy Margolin TIMEDecember 12, 2014 PRINT

In accordance with both the seasons and Chinese Medicine’s healing principles, I wanted to share this recipe as we move from late fall to winter. 

The winter months are traditionally the time to eat warm, cooked foods in Traditional Chinese medicine. Salads and other raw foods are too cooling and should be avoided during the winter. With this in mind, the recipe below is a warm, hearty soup.

Soups like this are great for warming the center of the body and keeping your body functioning optimally. I chose this soup recipe because it contains foods that benefit the kidney energy (the organ, in Chinese Medicine, that pertains to the winter season) including sweet potatoes and kidney beans. 

In general, grains, seeds, and nuts have an inward-moving energy and are good for winter. Also, remember this time of year, since winter energy is about storing and rest, it is good to go to bed earlier and get very restful sleep and to lighten one’s activities list.

Kidney Bean, Tomato & Winter Squash Soup

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic (cut in half)
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup chopped parsnip
  • ½ cup chopped yam
  • 14 ounces plum tomatoes (BPA free cans or use tomatoes in the box)
  • Pinch of rosemary
  • 3 slices of ginger
  • 2 small dried hot red peppers (or to personal taste)
  • 1 15-ounce can of kidney beans (BPA free! Or get loose kidney beans and soak them first before using for this recipe)
  • 5 cups of water
  • 3 cups of kabocha, butternut, or hubbard squash, diced into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt to taste, ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley.

Add a few slices of raw astragulus root to this or any soup to give you a little extra energy and immune boost.


Heat the butter in a saucepan, wok, or dutch oven and add the onion. Cook until it is just softened. Add the garlic, parsnip, yam and cook for about 3 minutes over medium heat.

Add the tomatoes, rosemary, ginger, peppers, beans, and water. Bring to a soft boil, reduce heat, cover and let simmer for about 1/2 hour. Stir occasionally.

Add squash and simmer for about one hour until squash is tender. Check liquid levels, add water if necessary, and don’t forget to stir occasionally.

Add salt and ground pepper. Adjust seasonings to personal taste.

Garnish each bowl with a sprig of cilantro or parsley.


This article was originally published on

*Image of “soup” via Shutterstock

Cathy Margolin, L.Ac. Dipl. OM Founder Pacific Herbs
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