Broccoli Cheese Soup
It’s about time you met this Broccoli Cheese Soup recipe. It’s rich and indulgent, but not so much that it weighs me down.
My husband declared it the best he’s ever had, and started throwing out one-liners in between spoonfuls:
“It’s the velvet of the soup world.”
“All the sin without any of the guilt.”
“This may be the universe’s best delivery system for broccoli.”
“It’s like a warm blanket after being outside on a long winter day.”
I tried to make a great broccoli soup six months ago. I gave up after several failed attempts, and recently tried again after discovering Sarah Jampel’s method in Bon Appétit. Thank you for showing me the way, Sarah.
I have high standards for broccoli cheese soup. I wanted soup that met the following qualifications:
- Sufficiently green and full of fresh flavor
- Luxuriously smooth but with some texture from tender florets
- Preferably free of flour and heavy cream
I wanted all that, and I didn’t want to feel like I was eating a bowl of queso (don’t get me wrong, sometimes that’s exactly what I want to eat). This recipe checks all the boxes!
Perhaps the coolest feature of this soup is that it makes use of the broccoli stems that we usually toss. Less waste, more nutrients, can’t lose.
In fact, I feel good after I eat this soup, similar to how I feel after enjoying a big kale salad. Cruciferous veggies work miracles, I tell you, and did you know that broccoli contains loads of vitamin C? We could all use some extra right now.
Broccoli Cheese Soup Ingredients
This flavorful soup is made without heavy cream, milk or flour—or even vegetable broth. You’ll just need a few basic ingredients to make it:
- Butter contributes to the irresistible flavor and silky texture. Technically, you could replace it with two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, but I like butter better here.
- Onion and garlic form a savory base layer. Since we’re blending them all up later, we don’t need to chop them finely. In fact, you can just smash the garlic with the side of your chef’s knife (be careful), peel off the skin and throw it into the pot. So easy!
- Russet potato, peeled and cooked until tender, lends a luxuriously creamy texture once blended. This is a trick I’ve used in my vegan mac and cheese and vegan queso recipes—it really works.
- Lots of broccoli, of course. The stems contribute body and extra broccoli flavor. We’ll purée half of the broccoli florets, and cook the rest in the pot for texture.
- Water brings it all together. I’ve been experimenting with using water instead of vegetable broth in soups lately, and so far I’ve been impressed. Store-bought vegetable broths can contribute unwanted color, off-putting flavors and excess salt. Water has none of these issues. Plus, it saves you a few bucks.
- Sharp cheddar cheese offers maximal cheddar flavor and a creamy texture. You can start with four ounces (half of a block) and add more to suit your preferences. Hand-grated cheese is best, since pre-shredded cheeses are coated in powders that can cause the cheese to glop together once melted. Buy white cheddar if you can. Yellow cheddar might turn this soup an unfortunate color, but I haven’t tried to be sure.
This soup is vegetarian, gluten free, and I even came up with some substitutions to make it dairy free/vegan (really!). Those details are in the recipe notes.
Equipment Notes & Suggestions
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This recipe yields a substantial amount of soup (around 10 cups). If you are serving two people or don’t want a lot of leftovers, you could easily cut the ingredients in half. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- I swear that soups always taste better when they’re cooked in a Dutch oven. I used my 5.5-quart Le Creuset for this recipe. A large, heavy-bottomed soup pot will also work well.
- You’ll need a lid for the pot. In a pinch, you could use a metal baking sheet.
- If you are making the full batch, you’ll need to blend it in batches in your stand blender. I could not blend the full batch at once in my Vitamix. Transfer the blended portion to a heat-proof pitcher or container as you blend the rest, then combine it all in the soup pot.
- Or, you could use an immersion blender. The trouble with immersion blenders is that they never yield soup as creamy as you could accomplish in your stand blender. I wish it weren’t true!
Safety note: Never fill a stand blender past the maximum fill line, or you could end up with a giant mess (and a hot one, if you’re making soup). You need to know how your blender works. My lid’s design allows for steam to escape, but if yours doesn’t, you’ll want to remove the center piece so the contents don’t build pressure as they blend. Cover the hole with a tea towel, but don’t place your hand over it because the steam is hot.
What to Serve with Broccoli Soup
This soup is a light meal on its own, or would make a proper meal with a sandwich or crisp salad. Here are a few options that are deliberately not very cheesy, for the sake of balance.
- Chickpea Salad with Carrots and Dill or French Carrot Salad
- Green Goddess Hummus Sandwich or Hummus Quesadillas
- Honey Mustard Brussels Sprout Slaw or Simple Seedy Slaw
Please let me know how your soup turns out in the comments! I love hearing from you.
Broccoli Cheese Soup
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
- Yield: 6 bowls 1x
- Category: Soup
- Method: Blended
- Cuisine: American
This broccoli cheddar soup recipe is so satisfying! It’s loaded with fresh broccoli, and creamy thanks to a potato and cheddar cheese (no cream, no flour!). Recipe yields about 10 cups (quite a bit) and is easily halved.
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (reduce or omit if sensitive to spice)
- 1 ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, divided, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 pounds broccoli with stalks (3 large or 4 medium)
- 1 large (about 12 ounces) russet potato, peeled and cut into 1 to 2-inch chunks
- 6 cups water
- 4 to 8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese, depending on your mood
- Thinly sliced chives or green onions, for garnish (optional)
- Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and about 10 twists of black pepper.
- Stir to combine, then cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened and are just starting to turn golden, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, slice off and discard the rough bottom ends of broccoli stalks. Use a vegetable peeler to peel off the tough outer skin on the stalks, then discard those bits. Slice the stalks off and cut them into pieces about 1 to 2-inches big. Set aside.
- Working with the broccoli tops now, cut as closely to the base of the florets as you can. Slice any remaining stalks into chunks to match to the rest. Reserve the broccoli florets—we’ll use them in a bit.
- Add the chunks of broccoli stalk and potato to the pot and stir. Pour in 6 cups water and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Raise the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot.
- Simmer until the broccoli stalks and potatoes are tender throughout and easily split apart when pierced with a fork, about 20-25 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the reserved florets into small pieces (I chop them all in one direction, then turn the cutting board and chop again).
- Once the potato and stalks are tender, add half of the florets to pot, stir, cover, and cook until they’re bright green, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Working in a couple of batches (never fill your blender past the maximum fill line or it could explode!), carefully transfer several cups of the mixture—both the liquid and solids—to your stand blender. Blend until completely smooth, then transfer the mixture to a heat-proof vessel temporarily as you blend the rest. Alternatively, use an immersion blender (it just won’t be as lusciously creamy). Return the purée to the pot.
- Return the pot to medium heat and add the remaining florets. Cover the pot and cook until they’re bright green and easily pierced through by a fork, another 4 to 7 minutes. Add almost all 4 ounces of the grated cheddar cheese (reserve a small handful for garnish) and stir until smooth. Carefully taste (it’s hot) and stir in more cheese if you’d like more indulgent flavor/creamy texture, more salt for more overall flavor, and/or more black pepper for kick.
- Divide the soup into bowls and top with a sprinkle of cheese, plus some thinly sliced chives and/or red pepper flakes, if desired. Leftover soup keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 4 days (though the color darkens a bit with time). I haven’t tried freezing this soup but suspect it will work fine—please let us know in the comments if you do.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit’s broccoli cheddar soup by Sarah Jampel.
Make it dairy free/vegan: Replace the butter with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. When blending the soup, add ½ cup raw cashews (soaked for 4 hours if not using a high-powered blender, such as a Vitamix, then rinsed and drained), 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar, and a scant ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard. Omit the cheese.