Broccoli Cheddar Soup, you are one of the Great Comfort Foods of our time.
Creamy and cozy this healthy version of broccoli cheddar soup is inspired by the infamous bowl at Panera Bread, a soup that has now been enjoyed by multiple generations of our family.
One of the most fun parts of being an aunt is seeing my nieces fall for the same foods I loved as a kid, which lately means trips to Panera.
My orders have evolved over the years (meaning I now order things for lunch besides a bagel with double cream cheese), but a constant when the weather turns cool is the cheesy broccoli soup.
That soup has inspired recipes here, from Instant Pot Broccoli Cheese Soup, to Slow Cooker Broccoli Cheese Soup, to this dual Broccoli Cauliflower Soup.
While I’m all for making the most of kitchen gadgets, sometimes what you need is a classic stovetop soup. That is where this healthy broccoli cheese soup comes into play.
This vegetarian broccoli soup is warm and filling, but not so heavy that you need to recover with a nap afterward.
It’s the perfect soup to transition us through the seasons, where other Panera-inspired favorites like Crockpot Potato Soup and creamy Chicken Wild Rice Soup await on the other side.
How to Make Broccoli Cheddar Soup
This easy broccoli cheddar soup skips the fuss of making a roux.
Instead, the creaminess comes from cauliflower, which thickens soups without adding many calories or carbs (try it in Cauliflower Chowder, yum!).
Smooth, Melty Broccoli Cheddar Soup
My other trick to making a rich, creamy broccoli cheddar soup that’s good for you is one I borrowed from Cheese Fondue.
- Toss the cheese shreds with cornstarch prior to adding them to the soup.
- The cornstarch thickens the soup, without the need for heavy cream.
And like cheese fondue, YOU MUST ADD THE CHEESE SLOWLY!
Unless you are making broccoli cheddar soup with Velveeta (please don’t—real cheddar tastes so much better and is better for you too!), if your cheese won’t melt in your broccoli cheddar soup, you likely committed one of these errors.
- Adding the cheese too quickly. As with Instant Pot Mac and Cheese, if you add too much cheese at once, it will lump up and refuse to melt.
- Using pre-shredded cheese from a bag. While convenient, pre-shredded, bagged cheeses contain a powdered coating to keep them from clumping. It also keeps them from melting. Grate the cheese yourself from the block for smooth, melty broccoli and cheddar soup. It’s worth it!
- Broccoli. Rich in vitamins and minerals, broccoli is incredibly nutritious. It also pairs wonderfully with cheese to create a scrumptious, crowd-pleasing soup.
- Cauliflower. A healthier way to make the soup thick and creamy. Cauliflower is packed with vitamins and fiber. You can’t taste it here, but it’s an important thickener.
- Carrots. I like to sneak in some extra nutrition and sweetness by adding carrots.
- Butter + Onion. These two work together to develop a delicious flavor base.
- Chicken Broth. The main liquid source for the soup, and it also helps cook the vegetables.
- Milk. The key to a rich and creamy broccoli soup. I used 2% milk.
- Dijon. Adds tang and helps elevate the cheesy flavor.
- Nutmeg + Cayenne. A hint of nutmeg adds an almost imperceptible warmth, but it really makes all the difference. While the cayenne is optional, I love that it gives the soup a little kick.
- Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese. For the most intense and satisfying cheese flavor, you need to use extra sharp cheddar cheese.
- Cornstarch. Tossing the cheese with cornstarch helps thicken the soup to the perfect consistency.
- Parmesan. For an added layer of salty, nutty, cheesy goodness.
- Cook the onion with butter, salt, and pepper.
- Stir in the carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, and garlic.
- Pour in the broth.
- Let simmer until the vegetables are tender.
- Puree the soup.
- Heat the soup over low heat, then stir in the milk, mustard, nutmeg, and cayenne (if using).
- Toss the cheddar with the cornstarch.
- Add the cheese to the soup a little at a time. Stir in the Parmesan. DIG IN!
- To Store. Refrigerate soup in an airtight storage container for up to 5 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in a pot on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze soup in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, shred the cheese and chop the vegetables. Refrigerate each ingredient in a separate airtight storage container until you’re ready to finish the recipe.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Dutch Oven. Perfect for making this cheesy broccoli soup.
- Immersion Blender. Easily blends soups without having to transfer them from the pot.
- Cheese Grater. Use this tool to easily grate your own cheese.
The Best Dutch Oven
This lifetime piece will quickly become a staple in your kitchen. It can be used on the stovetop or in the oven.
All that’s missing is the bread bowl.
A big dunk with No Knead Focaccia should do it!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! To make this recipe vegetarian, swap the chicken broth for vegetable broth.
To avoid that dreaded grainy broccoli cheese soup texture, don’t let it get too hot too fast once you’ve added the cheese. Make sure your soup stays at a simmer over low heat while you’re adding the cheese. It’s also important to add your cheese very slowly to avoid the grainy texture (I dive into this more in the blog post above).
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small yellow onion finely chopped
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 carrots scrubbed and cut into 1/2 to 3/4-inch pieces
- 8 cups broccoli florets about 2 heads
- 3 cups cauliflower florets about 12 ounces or 1 small head
- 2 cloves garlic minced, about 2 teaspoons
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup 2% milk whole milk, or half-and-half (the higher the fat, the richer the soup)
- 1 to 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard to taste (I use 2)
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Pinch cayenne pepper optional
- 4 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese shredded (about 1 cup), plus additional for serving, do not use pre-shredded cheese, which does not melt as smoothly
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
In a large Dutch oven or similar large, sturdy soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, salt, and black pepper. Cook until the onion softens and begins to turn translucent, adjusting the heat as needed so it becomes tender but does not brown, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Add the carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, and garlic. Cook until the broccoli is very lightly sautéed and bright green, about 5 minutes.
Add the broth. Bring to a simmer over medium-high.
Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring periodically, until the vegetables are completely tender, about 15 minutes.
Puree the soup, either in batches in a blender (be careful not to overfill it—blenders love to splatter) or directly in the pot with an immersion blender. Leave the soup as chunky or as tender as you like.
Heat the pot over low. Stir in the milk (or half-and-half), mustard, nutmeg, and cayenne.
Place the cheddar in a bowl and sprinkle the cornstarch over the top. With your fingers, toss to coat the shreds evenly.
Working only 1 small handful at a time, add the cheese very slowly to the soup, stirring constantly and allowing the cheese to melt completely before the next addition. Stir in the Parmesan. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired. Enjoy warm with crusty bread and additional cheese sprinkled on top.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate soup in an airtight storage container for up to 5 days.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers in a pot on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze soup in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Serving: 1(of 4)Calories: 363kcalCarbohydrates: 30gProtein: 22gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 51mgPotassium: 1261mgFiber: 8gSugar: 9gVitamin A: 9322IUVitamin C: 203mgCalcium: 428mgIron: 2mg
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