This recipe for Cozy Vegan Broccoli Cheddar Soup is full of vegetables and perfect for a weeknight! Inspired by Panera, this will be a family favorite.
Most people I know associate Broccoli Cheddar Soup with the fast casual restaurant chain Panera. They are particularly known for their soups served in bread bowls, with this being the most recognizable. This was never my favorite lunch offering there growing up (I normally went for the Cinnamon Crunch bagels), I could always see the appeal.
How can you make broccoli cheddar soup without real cheese?
Nutritional yeast works well as a substitute to contribute a “cheesy” flavor that is rich in umami. Typically I do not recommend blending potatoes as they can become “gluey.” This is why you never want to use a blender when making mashed potatoes.
However, in this recipe, a bit of blending works well because the texture is actually reminiscent of melted cheese. It all contributes to a comforting, richly textured final product. Onions, garlic, and dried herbs help round out the rest of the flavors.
Ingredients for This Recipe
- Olive oil, for cooking
- 1/2 of a yellow onion onion
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1 small head of cauliflower, made in florets (about 1 and 1/2 cups)
- 1 medium golden potato, chopped in bite sized pieces
- 1-2 large carrots, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened nondairy milk
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 medium head broccoli, cup into florets (about 2 cups)
- Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
- Pretzels, to top
I’ve outlined below some possible swaps for these ingredients, since I’ve found the base recipe to be rather flexible.
How to Make Vegan Broccoli Cheddar Soup
- Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, sauté onion for 5 minutes until golden. Add garlic, 1/2 tsp sea salt, a few twists of pepper, and dried thyme. Cook for 30 seconds more, stirring frequently to insure it does not burn.
- Add cauliflower, potato, carrots, and broth to pot. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until vegetables are soft (about 15 minutes). Remove soup from pot, add to a blender, and process until creamy. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to blend.
- Pour smooth soup back into pot and add nondairy milk and nutritional yeast. Mix well and adjust seasonings if need be. Turn heat to low.
- Add broccoli. Let soup warm for 5-10 minutes more and serve hot with a squeeze of lemon juice and some pretzel pieces.
Ways to Customize this Dish
I love using frozen riced cauliflower in place of regular florets (if you can find it for a reasonable price). This eliminates a lot of the blending that takes place in the second to last stage.
Water can be substituted for vegetable broth. If you do this, I recommend using a bit more salt and herbs to carry added flavor.
Oregano or herbs de Provence work well in place of thyme here, so feel free to get creative with the seasonings you have on hand. Always remember that older dried herbs will be less flavorful, so feel free to adjust when needed.
Pretzels are optional as a topping and can be omitted or substituted for oyster crackers or crispy chickpeas.