This vegetarian broccoli cheddar soup is easy to make, and waaaay better than the much loved one at Panera. It's vegetarian, and has a lot more broccoli. And it's a lot cheaper to make than running down to Panera to buy a bowl.
As a bonus, this easy broccoli cheddar soup is ready in about 30 minutes.Jump to Recipe
Want to make this recipe perfectly the first time? I want to help with that. So, check out this Table of Contents to see which sections of this post will help you the most.
- ❤️ Why you'll love this recipe
- 🧅 Main Ingredients + Notes
- 🔪 Recommended Equipment
- 📝 Instructions Overview
- ⏰ Tips to Simplify and Save Time
- 👩🍳 Preparation Tips
- 💡Ideas for Possible Variations
- 🧀 What's the best cheddar cheese for broccoli cheddar soup?
- 🥦 Can I use frozen broccoli?
- 🌱 Is Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup vegetarian?
- 🧊 What's the best way to store this soup?
- Vegetarian Broccoli Cheddar Soup (recipe)
Creamy, filling soups are perfect when it's cold outside. And we had a snow storm sweep through this week, dropping about a foot of the fresh fluffy stuff. This broccoli cheddar soup will be a staple for me over the next month or more, along with this soup recipe, Easy Mushroom Soup. My Creamy Spiced Pumpkin Soup - Cappuccino Style is another go-to fall and winter soup.
Can you tell I like creamy soups??
Back to this broccoli cheddar soup, I made it to try to improve on a favorite, Panera's Broccoli Cheddar Soup, and to make it vegetarian (their soup uses chicken stock and likely a cheddar that uses animal rennet).
And IMO, it's the best broccoli cheddar soup ever.
If it's soup weather where you live, check out these 10 Cozy Vegetarian Soups Perfect for Fall. They're both my favorites, and favorites of readers.
❤️ Why you'll love this recipe
- If you like Panera's Broccoli Cheddar Soup, you will LOVE this cheddar soup! I've had it for lunch 3 days in a row, and would have eaten it for dinner too, I'd only made more. (A major oversight I will correct next time around.)
- It's an easy soup to make - ready in around 30 minutes!
- This is a rustic soup, so there's no need to be precise when chopping up the broccoli.
- It has a wonderful broccoli flavor since it uses the broccoli florets AND the stalk.
- You can make it your own by varying the amount of half and half and cheese, if you want it even creamier and cheesy-er.
🧅 Main Ingredients + Notes
The secret to faster and easier meals often lies in the ingredients. For example, store-bought items and ingredients you make ahead and store in the refrigerator (or freezer) can turn a 60-minute recipe into a 30-minutes meal or less.
For the all of the ingredients, measurements and directions for this creamy soup, go to the Recipe Card at the bottom of this post.
- Unsalted butter
- Yellow onion
- Garlic - either garlic cloves or garlic paste in a tube.
- All-purpose flour
- Spices - salt, pepper and paprika (either regular or smoked paprika)
- Vegetable stock - or use Better Than Bouillon Roasted Vegetable
- Broccoli - both broccoli florets and the stalk.
- Half & half - or you can use heavy cream, if that's your preference or go lighter by using 50% whole milk and 50% half & half.
- Cheddar cheese - I use a sharp cheddar cheese that uses a vegetable rennet, and I grate it myself.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links to products and foods I use in my kitchen. This means that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. To view my entire storefront of recommended kitchen tools and equipment, check out my shop on Amazon.
🔪 Recommended Equipment
Having the right equipment for recipes makes prepping soooo much easier. If you want more fuss-free prepping and cooking, check out my updated list of favorite kitchen tools and equipment.
- Chef's knife
- Vegetable peeler - for the carrot.
- Dutch oven - such as Le Creuset, or other large pot suitable for soup.
- Whisk or wooden spoon - for the roux.
- Immersion blender - if you want to partially purée the soup, as shown in my photos. Use a high speed blender or food processor if you want to completely puree the soup.
📝 Instructions Overview
Detailed instructions for making this cheesy broccoli soup are in the recipe card below, but here's an overview!
Prep the veggies. Chop the onion, broccoli and carrot. I peel the carrot first, and if the stalks of the broccoli are rough, I lightly peel them as well. Just enough to smooth them out a bit.
Make the roux. Melt the butter, and stir in flour to create a paste. Stir in the spices. Cook for several minutes until it becomes a light golden color. Stir in the garlic and spices, and cook for 1 - 2 minutes until fragrant.
Add the broth slowly, constantly stirring, to create a thick sauce.
Broccoli and carrot. Add the broccoli and carrots, cover the pot, and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender.
If you want to partially purée the soup using an immersion blender, this is the time to do it, before adding the half & half and cheddar cheese.
Finish the soup. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the half & half and grated cheddar cheese. Stir occasionally until the cheese is melted. The soup can come to a very lazy simmer, but no more than that. Otherwise, there's risk that the half & half will separate.
Serve. Serve hot with crusty French bread for sopping.
⏰ Tips to Simplify and Save Time
- Purchase broccoli and onion already cut up. If your market carries it, these bags will be in the produce department.
- Buy pre-grated cheddar.
👩🍳 Preparation Tips
Trim the ends of the broccoli stalks, and use a vegetable peeler to lightly peel the stalks if they're rough.
Add the broth gradually - ¼ cup at a time, and stir in each ¼ cup to re-thicken the paste before adding more. After you've added 1 cup of broth, you can add the rest more quickly.
Once you add the half & half, do not bring the soup back to a boil It should only reach a very slow simmer.
If you like your soup creamier, swap out 1 cup of vegetable broth for half & half. For a cheesier soup, add another ¼ cup (2 ounces) of cheddar.
💡Ideas for Possible Variations
- If you like a little more umami flavor to this broccoli cheese soup, add 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce. Annie's Naturals sells one that's vegetarian.
- Serve the soup in a hollowed out bread bowl.
- Use gluten-free flour to make this cheddar soup gluten free.
- If you want to add a little heat to this soup, add a pinch or two of red chili flakes.
- A teaspoon of nutritional yeast adds a more umami to this soup, as well as protein.
🧀 What's the best cheddar cheese for broccoli cheddar soup?
- Get a good quality of cheddar cheese, and buy it as a block that you grate. Pre-grated cheese is coated with cellulose to keep it from caking. This coating also mutes the flavor of the cheese and it doesn't melt as well.
- I use sharp cheddar cheese, but you can use extra-sharp if you prefer a stronger cheddar flavor.
- To keep this soup vegetarian, use a vegetarian cheddar cheese that uses a vegetable rennet. Be sure to check the ingredients on the package for the type of rennet use in making the cheese. These cheese makers all make a vegetarian cheddar:
- 365 (Whole Foods)
- Boars Head
- Trader Joe's
🥦 Can I use frozen broccoli?
I like the broccoli in the soup to be al dente. Not crunchy, but not completely soft. Frozen broccoli, when thawed and then heated, is mushy. If you want to completely purée the soup to make it smooth, then frozen will work fine.
🌱 Is Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup vegetarian?
No, Panera broccoli cheese soup is not vegetarian. They use chicken stock / broth to make it, and it's probable that the cheddar cheese they use is not vegetarian.
🧊 What's the best way to store this soup?
- Refrigerator: This soup will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
- Freezer: I tend to stay away from freezing soups with cream or half and half. When they thaw, there's a lot of risk that the cream will separate.
For more soup recipes, visit my page that shows all the soups, chilies and stews on this blog!
Vegetarian Broccoli Cheddar Soup (recipe)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup yellow onion about ½ medium-large onion
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon paprika or smoked paprika
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 4 cups broccoli florets and stalks cut into small pieces (1 bundle of fresh broccoli)
- 1 medium carrot peeled, and small diced
- 1 cup half & half see Ingredient Notes in the post for options
- 6 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese about 1 ½ cups
- Prep the veggies. This recipe moves along fairly quickly, so prep everything ahead of time. Dice the onion, chop the broccoli into small pieces, peel and small dice the carrot, and mince the garlic.
- Make the roux. Melt butter in a large dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook 3-4 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Whisk in the flour and nudge around the pot for 3-4 minutes, or until the flour begins to turn golden in color. Stir in the salt, pepper and paprika, and cook for another minute, until fragrant.Add the vegetable stock, ¼ cup at a time for the first cup. Whisk each ¼ into the roux, and re-thicken before adding additional broth. Gradually whisk in the remaining 2 cups.
- Broccoli and carrot. Stir in the broccoli and carrot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the broccoli and carrot are tender. If you like a partially puréed soup, use the immersion blender (stick blender) to purée it to your preference.
- Finish the soup. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the half & half and grated cheddar cheese. Stir occasionally until the cheese melts. Pro-tip: It's important to finish the soup over medium-low heat to prevent the soup from coming back to a boil, or even a very active simmer. It's fine if the soup comes to a very lazy simmer, but no more than that. Otherwise, there's risk that the half & half will separate.Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
- Serve. Serve hot with crusty bread.