As I sit here and type this, it is 1 degree outside...literally a singular degree. If there is a better day for a soup recipe, I sure can't think of it. And an easy, crowd pleaser is always a creamy broccoli cheddar soup. How do I know this? Because all seven of us run to the table for this soup, every single time.
No sometimes I go to Panera, but when you're feeding seven people and you're not a lottery winner...you learn to make that sh-t at home! I have been making and tweaking this recipe for years, and I will tell you, this is as close as you're gonna get to a 'copycat' Panera broccoli cheddar soup recipe, and maybe even a little bit better.
Is Panera's broccoli cheddar soup healthy?
I mean, it's a cream-based soup, so healthy is a stretch. After doing some research, I found it is high in calories, saturated fat and sodium. All things not really great. And looking at it's ingredient list, there's a lot of things on there I don't recognize. If you really want to check it out, look here.
This creamy broccoli cheddar soup has minimal ingredients, is not made in some factory and flash frozen, anddddd you will recognize everything that goes in it. It definitely worth it to make your own.
Here's everything you'll need.
- Broccoli. You can use fresh or frozen, but I usually use fresh.
- Carrots. Grate then and they will melt right into the soup and add a subtle sweetness, much like Panera's broccoli cheddar soup.
- Finely chopped onions
- Finely chopped celery
- Minced or smashed garlic.
- Flour and butter. This will make a roux to thicken the soup.
- Chicken stock
- Half and half or whole milk
- Cheddar cheese. Use a sharp one.
- A touch of cream
- Salt and pepper
It really is shockingly easy. I simply sauté some chopped onion and celery, and grated carrots in a good amount of butter, until soft and translucent. Then I throw in a little chopped garlic and cook for another hot second, just to get it fragrant.
Next comes the roux - add flour to all the butter and veggies. The roux will get cooked for about five minutes, until it smells lovely and a little nutty. To the roux you will add chicken stock. I know this is a creamy broccoli cheddar soup, but no cream-based soups are all dairy, at least none that I have ever seen.
The chicken stock will get crazy thick and cook for a bit before you puree it up. This step is optional, I find that while I like chunks of broccoli in my soup, I am not a fan of chunks of onion, celery and the carrots in this one. By giving it a quick puree before adding the broccoli, you get a smooth base evenly flavored and the subtle sweetness from the carrots throughout.
To blend the soup, I use an immersion blender. But don't think you have to run out and buy one. Use a blender or a food processor if that's what you got. Just be careful on the second blend of the broccoli, pulse it, so you don't overdo it and end up with a totally pureed soup.
After blending, add your half and half or whole milk (use whatever you have), and the chopped broccoli and bring to a low simmer until the broccoli is good and tender. Now here is where I give this a second blend - another that is totally optional. I like chunky broccoli soup, but not too chunky so I give it a quick blend to smooth it out a bit. Heat goes off, cheddar goes in, a splash of heavy cream goes in, a splash of tabasco (the kids will not notice but it rounds it out nicely) and BOOM you are done!
Tips for success
- Use fresh broccoli. I mean, I guess you could use frozen, but then you're throwing a watery element. Always chop your fresh broccoli into small pieces so it cooks quick and evenly.
- Shred your own cheese. This is a hard and fast rule for me. It melts better and you can get a nice super sharp cheddar.
- Take the entire pot off the heat before adding the cheese. This is the biggest pro tip. If you don't take the pot off the heat before adding the cheese, there is a super good chance you will end up with a grainy soup. And it's gross. I know this because I have done it before. And this applies to all soups/sauces you add cheese too. The cheese can separate if it is overheated.
- Make sure to salt as you go. And taste along the way! I always say salt each layer a tiny bit. That means, a pinch of salt with the onions and celery, a pinch of salt when you add the milk and pinch of salt with the broccoli. Taste it and see, and adjust as you go to your liking.
Last thing, all of these pics have a giant bacon, cheddar and chive buttermilk biscuit in the soup. NOTHING beats a little bacon, extra cheese and chive in a soft buttery biscuit. And they are easy AF to make, here is my recipe, and you can freeze what you don't use for a later time.
Don't wanna do the biscuits? Just use any other bread you do like or have on hand...you will not be sorry.
- 1 Immersion blender to puree the base
- 1 Grater for the carrots and cheese
- 1 onion finely chopped - roughly ½ cup chopped
- ½ cup finely chopped celery
- ½ cup julienned carrots - buy matchstick carrots already done for you and at every grocery store
- 1 garlic clove - smashed and chopped
- 6 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoon of flour
- 2 cups of chicken stock
- 3 cups of half and half can also use whole milk
- Salt and pepper to taste - season as you go
- ½ teaspoon of nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 4 cups chopped fresh broccoli florets - you can also get a 12 ounce bag of already chopped and use the whole thing
- 2 ½ cups of sharp cheddar cheese -
- ¼ heavy whipping cream not necessary but add a really nice luxurious touch at the end
- ½ teaspoon Tabasco
- In a large soup pot or dutch oven melt your butter. Add the onions, celery and carrots and cook until a little soft and translucent - about four minutes, season with salt. Add your garlic and cook another minute until fragrant. Sprinkle in your flour and mix it in. COok this for a couple minutes until it smells nutty - you want to cook the raw flour a bit.
- Slowly add your chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer this for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn't burn at the bottom. This is where your first pureeing comes in. Using an immersion blender, a regular blender or a food processor, blend this all until smooth. If you are using a blender or food processor BE CAREFUL! Start on super low in a blender and in a food processor use a low pulse. and don't use the stopper, the heat can cause the top to blow off if you don't leave some room for air to get out.
- Put the pureed base back in your pot and return to low/medium heat. Add your half and half or milk, broccoli, nutmeg, paprika and additional salt and pepper. Bring this to a simmer over low/medium heat and continue cooking until the broccoli is nice and soft and tender. Now comes the second blend, blend with immersion blender until some of the chunks have broken up and smooth out a bit. If using a blender or processor, take about ½ - ⅔ of the chunks of broccoli and some of the creamy base and blitz it up just a couple seconds to smooth it out a bit. Add this back to the pot and stir to combine. Bring to a quick simmer and cook for about five more minutes.
- Remove the entire pot from the heat and stir in your cheese a cup at a time, stirring until completely melted and velvety smooth. Sitr inthe whipping cream and tabasco last.
Other great soup ideas to warm you right up: