Oh yes! Creamy Broccoli and Cheese Soup that’s quick, easy, and entirely from scratch! This homemade Panera Bread copycat is filling and flavorful and is always met with a request for seconds [and thirds!] by my family and friends.
Last week I threatened promised that I’d share one last soup recipe from my soup-a-palooza recipe testing. You can pretend to be surprised, but I’m banking a few of you stopped by today for that very thing. The rest of you took off running =) Come back I love you!!!!
Since downing a big bowl of the stuff at Panera last week, I haven’t been able to get broccoli and cheese soup off my mind. It also happens to be one of Paul’s favorites and has been requested non-stop since the temperature began to drop outside. I did a quick google perusal of homemade broccoli cheddar soup recipes and almost fell over. Oodles and oodles of additive-rich canned cheddar soup, cream of broccoli soup, and an ever-present smorgasbord of velveeta “cheese product.” Oh the franken-foods! I nearly fell out of my chair when the faux-cheesiest of them all had bajillions of 5 star reviews. Come on kids! We’re better than that! Eat real food.
Speaking of eating real food, Panera Bread has a similar philosophy with their menu! Their bakery fresh breads and pastries beat the pants off anything you could find lurking on a dusty shelf. And if any of those yummy artisan breads are left over at the end of the day? They donate it to local organizations! Kudos, PB! They also offer an array of seasonal dishes on their menu and have an amazing selection of soups on rotation. Over the years I’ve tried their vegetarian black bean, their creamy tomato, and even their garden veggie soup with pesto. Of course my go-to will forever be the broccoli and cheddar. If I’m going to drive two towns over for soup, chances are that will be the one I get =) Most of my girlfriends live an hour or so away so when our crazy schedules align we’ll meet at our half-way point [at Panera!] to play catch-up and stuff our faces.
The hardest part isn’t the drive… or the scheduling… Nope! The hardest part is not snorting soup through our noses while we laugh at each other.
I won’t name any names, but I will give you soup!
Sketch-Free Broccoli and Cheese Soup
Creamy Broccoli and Cheese Soup that’s quick, easy, and entirely from scratch! This homemade Panera Bread copycat is filling and flavorful and is always met with a request for seconds [and thirds!] by my family and friends. It’s music to my ears!
I made this soup 5 times. Five. This one was the BEST! Thick, creamy, cheesy, broccoli-y [pretend that's a proper adjective!] and positively swoon-worthy. Not to throw my own confetti or anything. Hah! This soup is quick and easy [30 minutes or so and it's good to go!] but I included uber-detailed instructions to help you out in the kitchen. Hopefully you don’t mind!
- one bunch of fresh broccoli [enough for a few cups of chopped tops]
- 2 cups vegetable [or chicken!] broth or stock
- ½ cup of sharp cheddar cheese, plus plenty extra for topping [freshly grated]
- 1 heaping cup of regular gouda cheese [freshly grated, rind removed]
- 1 cup of shredded carrots [or a little extra!]
- 1 small white onion [about ⅔ cup or 1 cup, chopped]
- 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 cup half and half [or heavy cream], room temperature
- 3 TBSP all purpose flour
- 3 TBSP butter
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ⅛ tsp allspice
- ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
- ⅛ tsp dried basil
- ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
- ⅛ tsp salt [will vary based on salt content of your stock/broth]
- a few cranks of freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- First ze veggies: Chop em! Dice the onions super small, mince the garlic, an shred the carrots if you didn't buy pre-shredded. This can all be done ahead of time and stored in the fridge for later. For the broccoli, chop ⅔ of it into tiny florets [just cut off as much stem as you can and it'll fall apart in the pot] and then take the remaining ⅓ and give it a rough chop so you have a few large pieces to add to the soup. Totally optional!
- Add your veggie broth to a pot on medium-high heat, add your ⅔ of your broccoli [about 2 cups of florets] as well as your onion, garlic, carrots, and bay leaf. Simmer on medium, covered, for about 15-20 minutes or until the veggies are tender.
- Once the broth is done, start your roux: In a large pot, melt 3 tablespoons of butter on medium heat, whisking constantly. Once melted, slowly add 3 tablespoons of flour as you continue to whisk.
- For a thicker soup, use an extra tablespoon of each. I skipped it. Remove from heat and slowly pour in the broth from your veggie mixture [its okay if some of the veggies jump in along side it!] and stir to incorporate.
- Next pour in the veggies and slowly stir in 1 cup of room temperature half and half.
- Return to the burner on very low heat, uncovered.
- Spoon out the bay leaf and season with the above herbs and spices, adding a little extra of whichever you like to taste. I personally adore the pinch of nutmeg in this soup but feel free to leave it out if it's just not your cup of tea! The soup is great both ways! Depending on the saltiness of your broth, you might skip the salt entirely or prefer to add a bit more. Taste and tweak as needed after adding your cheese.
- Oh yes: the cheese! Once the soup has warmed back up, stir in the grated cheeses [slowly and in small batches] and remove from heat immediately. I won't tell if you sneak extra cheese in your soup =)
- That extra broccoli you left on the side? Blanch in boiling water, steam in your microwave, or basically cook it however you'd like, then stir that green goodness into your completed soup for great texture and an extra burst of broccoli.
- Garnish with a little extra grated cheddar and a sprinkle of parsley and even a pinch of spicy red pepper flakes if you'd like! Anything goes!
Feeling fancy? garnish with red pepper flakes, parsley, and extra sharp cheddar
Gluten-Free? To make this soup gluten-free you can use pureed potato to thicken the soup without using a flour-based roux or use sweet rice flour in place of all purpose flour.Cheese-based soups and sauces are a bit tricky, since cheese has a borderline multiple personality. It starts out solid, begins to melt, then thickens, then [if temps are too high] jumps right back into solid territory by curdling. Best way to avoid that last little quirk? Use full fat dairy products for your cream base [they stand up to heat better than lowfat dairy], add your dairy products towards the end of the cooking process on a lower heat setting, and also combine sharp cheeses with creamy ones, for better melting and texture. I chose higher quality, full-fat cheeses to ensure maximum flavor and melting. The result? Pure creamy deliciousness!
You’ll wind up with two BIG bowls of the stuff or four appetizer-sized portions to pair with sandwiches or salads. Ooh! It also reheats like. a. champ. And it’s freezer friendly! LOVE that!
so… how was it?
Comfort in a bowl! I’m in love. Wanna round it out into a full meal? Add a piping hot veggie and cheese panini or even serve up the soup in a bread bowl! Am I allowed to swoon now? I’m swooning.
Disclosure: This post is part of the DailyBuzz Food Tastemaker’s program. I received a stipend to try Panera’s soups and create an original recipe inspired by the experience. As always, all opinions and content are my own!