Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup

My kids are on a broccoli kick. A few nights ago, they both refused everything else that I had on offer; Tito munched on a bowl of buttered broccoli like it was a bowl of popcorn while he was watching soccer with daddy. Lili ate her tiny broccoli florets by the fistful. So when it was time to decide what to make the little one for her first birthday, I went with something I hoped she’d love: broccoli cheese soup (and she did).

And when you google “broccoli cheese soup,” this Panera copycat recipe seems really popular. I’ve never lived close enough to be hooked on Panera, but it seems like there is a rather large contingent of people out there who would drive for miles in order to eat this soup; if that is not possible, they’re incredibly grateful to have a copycat recipe at their disposal.

This is an easy soup and you can moderate the fat content by how much cream/half-n-half/milk you use. Just be sure to not eliminate all the fat, because it’s the fat from the cream that helps create the emulsion that makes the cheese creamy; otherwise you might end up with a weird, separated, congealed and greasy-feeling soup. Otherwise, this is really straightforward and a great way for the family to get a few servings of veggies in a delicious meal!

Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup

1 T  butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 c  butter
1/4 c flour (I used chickpea flour, which I’ve found to be a great gluten-free substitute for wheat flour in soups; it doesn’t change the flavor or texture, and it adds a little protein boost!)
2 c half-and-half
2 c chicken stock
1/2 lb fresh broccoli, finely chopped
1 c carrot, finely chopped
1/4 t nutmeg
8 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Saute onion in the 1 T butter over medium heat in a large pot. When it is soft and translucent, remove the onion from the pan and add the 1/4 c butter. Add the flour and stir constantly for 3-5 minutes. Whisk in the half-n-half and heat until there are no lumps, then add the chicken stock. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the broccoli, carrots, onions and nutmeg. Cook over low heat another 20-25 minutes, until veggies are tender. Stir in the cheese until melted, salt and pepper to taste.

You can puree all or part of the soup in a blender (carefully), but I chopped the veggies finely enough that I liked the texture as-is.

Serve with a hearty bread; I used my No-Knead, Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread.

As a bonus, this made a nice “casserole” as leftovers; I heated it up with some leftover rotisserie chicken that I’d frozen and mixed in a little rice, and it was an instant complete meal!