The Best Broccoli Cheese Soup (Better-Than-Panera Copycat)

This is the best broccoli cheese soup.

Not only that, it’s some of the best soup I’ve ever tasted, period.

The Best Broccoli Cheese Soup (Better-Than-Panera Copycat) - Make the best soup of your life at home in 1 hour! Beyond words amazing!!

If you like Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup, this blows the pants off it.

It’s an easy soup to make and is ready in 1 hour. It’s absolutely perfect comfort food and I couldn’t stop eating it. I ate it for lunch and dinner for a couple straight days until it was gone. I loved this soup beyond words.

The Best Broccoli Cheese Soup (Better-Than-Panera Copycat) - Make the best soup of your life at home in 1 hour! Beyond words amazing!!

I kept the soup vegetarian by using low-sodium vegetable stock rather than chicken stock, and made it healthier by using fat-free half-and-half.

But you’d think that it was made with heavy cream based on how thick, rich, and truly decadent it tastes.

The Best Broccoli Cheese Soup (Better-Than-Panera Copycat) - Make the best soup of your life at home in 1 hour! Beyond words amazing!!

I love broccoli and used plenty because I prefer big chunks of broccoli in every bite but you can use less. I also used some stalks to make use of the entire head and not waste any, but you can use florets only if preferred. Even people who ‘don’t like broccoli’ should love broccoli when it’s bathed in a creamy, cheesy broth.

There’s a few optional spices like smoked paprika, mustard powder, and cayenne pepper. They’re not mandatory if you don’t keep them on hand, but they do add extra depth of flavor, albeit subtle. The cayenne doesn’t make the soup hot in the least, it makes it not taste boring.

The Best Broccoli Cheese Soup (Better-Than-Panera Copycat) - Make the best soup of your life at home in 1 hour! Beyond words amazing!!

Use a high-quality cheddar cheese that you grate yourself. Don’t use the cheapest cheese you can find because the flavor just isn’t there.

I prefer extra-sharp, although sharp may be used. Pre-grated cheese in ziptop bags is resistant to melting and won’t incorporate well.

The Best Broccoli Cheese Soup (Better-Than-Panera Copycat) - Make the best soup of your life at home in 1 hour! Beyond words amazing!!

Read the recipe at least twice before beginning because while it’s a simple soup, there are a few fast-moving stages. While one thing is simmering, you need to be chopping for the next stage, while stirring the simmering pot intermittently between chopping.

You’ll be rewarded with the best, creamiest, richest, and most amazing soup.

The Best Broccoli Cheese Soup (Better-Than-Panera Copycat) - Make the best soup of your life at home in 1 hour! Beyond words amazing!!

Print Recipe

The Best Broccoli Cheese Soup (Better-Than-Panera Copycat)

This is the best broccoli cheese soup. Not only that, it’s some of the best soup I’ve ever tasted, period. If you like Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup, this blows the pants off it. It’s an easy soup to make and is ready in 1 hour. I kept the soup vegetarian by using low-sodium vegetable stock rather than chicken stock, and made it healthier by using fat-free half-and-half. I love broccoli and used plenty because I prefer big chunks of broccoli in every bite but you can use less. I also used some stalks to make use of the entire head and not waste any, but you can use florets only if preferred. There’s a few optional spices like smoked paprika, mustard powder, and cayenne pepper. They’re not mandatory if you don’t keep them on hand, but they do add extra depth of flavor. Use a high-quality cheddar cheese that you grate yourself. Read the recipe at least twice before beginning. You’ll be rewarded with the best, creamiest, richest, and most amazing soup.

Yield: about 6 cups, serves 4 very generously or 6 to 8 modestly

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: about 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon + 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 small/medium sweet yellow onion, diced small
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced finely
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock (chicken stock may be substituted)
2 cups fat-free half-and-half (regular half-and-half may be substituted; whole milk or 2% milk will work but soup won't be as creamy)
2 to 3 cups broccoli florets, diced into bite-size pieces + 1 cups stems, optional (I used 3 cups florets and 1 cup stems as not to waste them)
2 large carrots, trimmed, peeled, and sliced into very thin rounds, about 1/16th-inch
3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika or regular paprika, optional and to taste
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder, optional and to taste
pinch cayenne pepper, optional and to taste (doesn't make soup spicy and serves to enhance flavor)
8 ounces grated high quality extra-sharp cheddar cheese, with a small amount reserved for garnishing bowls

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan, add 1 tablespoon butter, the diced onion, and sauté   over medium heat until the onion is translucent and barely browned, about 4 minutes. Stir intermittently.
  2. Add the garlic and cook about 30 seconds, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn. Remove from heat and set pan aside.
  3. In a large heavy-bottom pot (I use this Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 6-3/4-Quart Oval French (Dutch) Oven) add 4 tablespoons butter, flour, and cook over medium heat for about 3 to 5 minutes, whisking constantly, until flour is thickened. You are making a roux and it's very important the mixture is thick or soup will never thicken properly later.
  4. Slowly add the vegetable stock, whisking constantly.
  5. Slowly add the half-and-half, whisking constantly.
  6. Allow mixture to simmer over low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until it has reduced and thickened some. Whisk intermittently to re-incorporate the 'skin' that inevitably forms, this is normal.
  7. While mixture is simmering, chop the broccoli and carrots. After simmering 15 to 20 minutes, add the broccoli, carrots, and the onion and garlic you previously set aside.
  8. Add the salt, pepper, optional paprika, optional dry mustard powder, and optional cayenne. If you don't have these seasonings on hand, it's okay, but they do add subtle depth of flavor. Stir to combine.
  9. Allow soup to simmer over low heat for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until it has reduced and thickened some. Whisk intermittently to re-incorporate the 'skin' that inevitably forms, this is normal.
  10. While soup simmers, grate the cheese. It's important to use a high-quality cheese (not the cheapest thing you can find) because the flavor of the soup depends on it. Do not use pre-grated cheese in ziptop bags because that cheese is resistant to melting and won't incorporate well. After simmering about 20 to 25 minutes, add most of the cheese, reserving a small amount for garnishing bowls. Stir in the cheese until melted and incorporated fully, less than 1 minute.
  11. Transfer soup to bowls, garnish with reserved cheese, and serve immediately. Soup will keep airtight for 5 to 7 days in the fridge. Reheat gently in the microwave. I find the soup is less likely to 'break' or separate when reheated in the micro rather than on the stovetop, but do what you think is best. I don't recommend freezing the soup because I feel like the cheese and half-and-half will not do well upon thawing and soup could break, but I haven't actually tried freezing it.

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247 comments

  1. This was so amazing! I just finished eating my second bowl and am thrilled at how good this soup was! Even my meat loving husband loved this soup. That’s high praise from someone who doesn’t think a meal is complete without meat.

  2. I made this tonight after a rough week and my husband and I just melted. Food for the soul, indeed! And truly better than Panera.

    PS I cooked the onion and garlic in the Le Creuset pot, then added the butter and flour right on top and stirred and it worked fine, even if by accident – haha.

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and I’m glad it came out great for you! And glad your method worked just fine! I find my huge Le Creuset pot that I make soup in is pretty forgiving about things like that, too :)

  3. I couldn’t stop eating it. The only optional ingredient I had was the cayenne, and I didn’t feel like shelling out 8 bucks for two spices I probably won’t use much. So, trusting my palate, I added about 10 oz. of decent lager. If I had had some Guinness, I would have used that, but I just had a lager on hand. That really added some great flavor notes to this soup. If anyone is wondering, I added it in during the initial reduction phase. I also doubled the garlic. Next time, I’ll be using 4 cloves. Fantastic recipe. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and I’m glad it came out great for you! The lager sounds like a great addition! There are lots of recipes out there for beer and cheese soup and you just kind of combined them all into one! Sounds great!

  4. We just made this soup last night and it’s amazing! We added some smoked cheddar cheese because we had some on hand and it was so delicious! Best soup I’ve ever had – and I east a lot of soup! Thanks so much for this!

  5. Hi, just wondering if it would be ok to double this soup recipe? I need to feed 6-7adults and 2 children.

  6. Can this be made one day ahead then reheated in a pot?  

  7. I made this tonight for my family and OH MY! It was so, so good! Your directions were so clear and it came out beautifully! I also used plenty of broccoli and the stocks because I’m a huge fan, and as a total cheese-lover, I added an extra handful (or two) of cheese. Definitely good advice that the cheese has to be high quality and EXTRA sharp is a must. Not just for cheese-philes 😉 Thank you for this recipe!

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and I’m glad it came out great for you! Thanks for the compliments on my clear directions (I try) and I’m a major cheese lover too :) Love that you added extra!

  8. I made this last night and I used a big block of Cracker Barrel extra sharp cheese that I grated myself and almost instantly after I added it I could’ve kicked myself. The cheese did not melt like yours did but instead was that consistency of trying to melt cheese into not warm enough milk and instead of creamy ooey gooey was almost grainy/clumpy and not dissolved and creamy. I’m so mad at myself because I had tasted it while cooking and it was delish! I wish I knew what went wrong :( it was otherwise perfect!

    • I don’t know why your cheese didn’t melt other than maybe the soup wasn’t quite hot enough to melt the cheese and increasing the temperature could have helped it incorporate better?

      And I’ve actually made this soup with Cracker Barrel extra sharp so I can’t say it was the brand of cheese. I’ve also made it with other brands from Trader Joe’s to some of the Kerrygold cheddars and have never experienced any issues nor have I had anyone write in with this issue (and this is one of the most highly commented-on recipes I have). Thanks for trying the recipe and I am thinking that it was simply a temperature issue.

  9. How is this a plant based recipe, you are using milk and cheese.

  10. I followed this rcioe exactly. I wasn’t that good. Just ok.  No way better than Panera.  Maybe it will taste better if I use whole cream, and chicken stock.  Just not impressed, probably won’t make again. 

    • You can always try with adding tons more fat and salt, i.e. heavy cream, full-sodium chicken stock, add salt, etc. and see if you like that homemade version better. I prefer this one. We all have different tastes. Thanks for trying the recipe!

  11. I made this soup a couple of weeks ago, added the optional seasonings and we loved it.  I did freeze two containers.  Today I removed one from the freezer and allowed to thaw on counter.  Gently reheated on the stove top and it was fabulous.  The cheese and cream did not break.  I believe you will be very pleased with the results if you try freezing.  

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I was a bit skeptical about adding the dry mustard powder and paprika, but I’m glad I followed your advice. Hands down the best broccoli cheese soup I’ve ever had

  13. Fantastic recipe. My personal favorite soup and this ones incredible. The little addition of the spices really did add a nice depth to it that I didn’t expect. Thanks for the recipe, this is going to be a new regular thing around this household.

  14. Just finished making and eating this soup. This is a great recipe. It has tons of flavor. My husband loved it, too!

  15. Made this tonight with all of the optional seasonings except the cayenne pepper. First time ever making soup, and it turned out great! Delicious with bread too!

  16. First of all, I am obsessed with your recipes so I already know this is delicious without trying it. Do you think I could try this in the crockpot… I want to make it for a potluck. I am thinking if I cook on low for 4 hours it should be good? Thoughts?

    • I haven’t tried it in a crockpot so can’t say for sure how it will go. Because of the cheese and the milk/cream, that’s the biggest wild card. You just don’t want it to get too hot that the cheese/dairy separates. You could always just make it on the stovetop and then transfer it into a crockpot and put on the ‘warm’ setting just to keep it warm. That’s probably what I’d do.

  17. Nailed it! This soups rocks!

  18. Loved, loved, loved  this soup!  I agree…..better than Panera’s.

  19. This sounds absolutely amazing, I will try it! However, my daughter is allergic to dairy. Would this work with Almond Milk or another substitute?

  20. I’m making this today and was wondering if you have ever used frozen broccoli? I sent my hubby and he came home with frozen instead of fresh.

    • I haven’t and don’t recommend it because it’s already mushier than fresh and then by simmering in the soup it’s likely to get even mushier and disintegrate. You really want fresh for this recipe since it’s the star of the show.

    • I’ve used frozen for a different soup before and it turned out ok.   Just don’t cook as long….

  21. It has taken me a while to “enjoy” broccoli, even as an adult. At the store the other day, I decided I wanted to make this soup and stumbled across your recipe. It turned out amazing! I pureed it a little but it was still chunky and delicious – thanks!

  22. I came across this website looking for soup recipes for the cold weekend, and I’m so glad I did!  I used what I had on hand, so it perhaps wasn’t quite the same as yours, but it was still delicious.  I only had frozen broccoli and the gourmet shredded sharp cheddar cheese, but even with those alterations, it was still delicious.  Thanks so much for sharing!

    I had the recipe up on my iPad so I could follow the instructions, and it was hard to read even after enlarging the recipe as much as I could.  The text came across as difficult to read and had a grey hue.  This could just be my iPad, but I’ve not had problems with other websites/ recipes, so I thought I would just let you know about my experiences!

    Thanks again!

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and I’m glad it came out great for you with the swaps you made. And all ipads and computers are different and from my ipad my site font reads just fine. Enjoy the soup!

  23. Absolutely delicious! I used chicken stock and I minced the carrots, I also did not use low fat anything, I definitely suggest using the paprika, dry mustard and cayenne, it was a huge success, without a doubt one of the best broccoli and cheddar cheese soups I’ve ever had and without a doubt the best one I ever made!

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and glad it came out great for you! Glad it was one of the best broccoli and cheddar cheese soups you’ve ever had and without a doubt the best you’ve ever made!

  24. I am not feeling well and wanted a soup recipe that would make me “feel good”😷😉 I prepped all ahead and it made it all so much easier. It BLOWS AWAY Panera’s, and I’m a old fan of that one now! This was a humongous hit! Thank you for your efforts and sharing this incredible soup❣

  25. Awesome. Served with some chopped bacon garnish and some crusty bread! VG!!

  26. Amazing! more of a creamy soup rather than cheesy. I could eat this since it was fat-free half and half, didnt bother my lactose issues :) I used chili powder instead of the paprika. gave it a little heat in a good way. Reheated in crock pot day after for work party+done on low, it didnt separate! :) Will DEF make this again. Also added a little more garlic, 3 cups florets+a few more carrots/used large vidalia onions. Had a little issue making rue, had to do twice but otherwise easy. Doesnt make alot though but is filling :)

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and glad it came out great for you! I always add extra broccoli too because I am a broccoli lover! Glad the FF half and half didn’t separate in the crockpot!

  27. Ok two comments here… First of all THANK YOU  to all of you who left comments AFTER you tried the soup! I find it so frustrating when I go to a recipe and look for comments to see what people thought or may have chagned and all I read is “Oh this looks good” “Ooh looks delicious will have to try this for dinner” …. that’s just not helpful to me, or maybe I’m just Hangry right now so being super irritable haha. 
    Second of all… WOW…. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this recipe and so does my 7 year old! Thank you so much for posting this. 
    I am a single mom and on an extremly tight budget so haven’t used high end cheese but for us it still tastes amazing, can’t imagine how much better it would be with good quality cheese. 
    Epic recipe, clear instructoins ( I suck at cooking) tastes incredible!!!

  28. This soup is the best! Panera broccoli cheese was my favorite soup, and my family just moved across the country where the nearest Panera is 3 hours away. After having this soup I’m not even sad there isn’t one closer, because this is even better. Thank you, thank you for posting it!

  29. I adore this recipe! Also, I have a tip! Steam your broccoli and carrots as early as the day before! Then, throwing this together is a total no-brainer! Thanks Avery! This is a tremendous soup. Sometimes I throw in up to 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast to reduce the cheese fat!

  30. The consistency was more like what you get with “cauliflower cheese” than soup in my case. Not sure if that meant I used too much flour…? It tasted good but was too thick for me.

    • You could have over-thickened things when making the roux, possibly by adding too much flour. Thick soups are very easy to fix though – just add more broth next time (or cream).

  31. Absolutely the best broccoli cheese soup.  I just used one pot, my la cruset 4 qt., added the spices to the onion garlic mixture to bloom and then added the butter and flour to continue with roux, etc.  Added half & half and milk at the end to prevent separating and a tsp. natural honey & fresh parsley. Yum.

  32. Just made up this recipe and keeping my fingers crossed that it works only I’ve done mine in the slow cooker, so no prep with the onion etc, I also don’t have full cream milk so used all skimmed. I know it won’t be as creamy but thinking prior to adding the cheese, I might remove a third of the veg before giving it a blitz. Anyone out there tried this in the slow cooker or used the skimmed milk?

  33. Christine Leahy Reply

    HI, Averie, Do you nutritional info for your broccoli cheese soup? I’d love it for all your recipes. Your recipes are delightfully easy, yet heavenly tasty! Thank you for sharing!

  34. Great recipe! I make a very similar soup often but have never used the mustard, paprika, and cayenne- -I love the extra subtle kick of flavor! I’m eating low carb these days so I leave out the flour. I use 2 or 3 onions and saute them in butter, along with the carrots and broccoli stalks, add the vegetable stock and spices , and simmer until everything is soft. Then I puree some or all of the soup with my immersion blender and add the broccoli florets, half and half,and cheese. It’s not as creamy and wonderful as yours, but you could pour the puree through a strainer before adding the rest to make it smoother.

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