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This easy broccoli and cheese soup recipe is a quick lunch or satisfying dinner for chilly days. Pair the rich, creamy soup with a simple side salad and a warm baguette and you’ll feel like you’re dining in a restaurant!

Close overhead shot of a spoon in a bowl of broccoli and cheese soup

Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup

Panera Bread is one of my favorite fast casual restaurants, and the broccoli cheddar soup is one of the best items on the menu. This easy broccoli cheese soup is my homemade version of the café classic — and it’s even better than the original. You just can’t beat made-from-scratch soup on a cold evening. Total comfort food!

I checked out the ingredients in Panera’s soup and used that as inspiration for my own pot. The grated carrot, Dijon mustard, hot sauce, and paprika are all borrowed straight from the restaurant’s recipe, and they add just the right touch to make the soup slightly more complex and flavorful. Otherwise, this soup is pretty straightforward — a creamy base made with a roux from flour, butter, chicken broth, and cream, as well as plenty of fresh broccoli florets and loads of grated cheese. The simple and flavorful bowl will warm you from the inside out!

Whisking broth into a pot

What cheese is best for soup?

I know it’s controversial, but this recipe includes Velveeta cheese! While good quality cheddar adds so much great flavor to the soup, I find that Velveeta melts into a smooth, creamy consistency that gives the soup a rich texture and mouthfeel that you just can’t achieve with cheddar alone. Of course, you can omit the Velveeta and substitute with an extra cup of cheddar, but I highly recommend preparing it this way. It’s really the best broccoli cheese soup!

Adding vegetables to a Dutch oven

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a pot of broccoli & cheese soup. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Butter: for rich flavor, this fat sautés the veggies and helps to make the roux that thickens the soup. I use salted butter, but unsalted butter is fine as well, since you can season the soup to taste as you go.
  • Onion: for savory flavor.
  • Flour: to make the roux that thickens the soup.
  • Chicken broth: the liquid base of the soup. Use homemade broth when available, or pick up a can of store-bought. Use low-sodium chicken broth if you’d like to control the salt in your soup. You can also sub with vegetable stock or vegetable broth for a vegetarian dish.
  • Broccoli florets: chopped into bite-size pieces. I like fresh broccoli florets here, but frozen is also fine.
  • Carrot: grated for a hint of sweetness, color, flavor, and nutrition.
  • Paprika, Dijon mustard, and hot sauce: ingredients that you’ll find in Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup. They add more depth of flavor and jazz up the pot!
  • Velveeta cheese: for its creamy, smooth texture.
  • Cheddar cheese: for its great flavor. I typically use a mild cheddar, but you can use sharp cheddar cheese or even extra-sharp if you like a stronger taste.
  • Half-and-half or heavy cream: gives the soup its rich, creamy texture. You can substitute half whole milk for some of the cream to lighten it up a bit.
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper: to enhance the other flavors in the dish.
Adding cheese to a pot

How to Make Broccoli and Cheese Soup

This is a great recipe for busy weeknights because it doesn’t require much prep time and it only simmers on the stove for about 30 minutes. Skip an order at Panera and whip up a batch of the good stuff right in your own kitchen. Just don’t forget the crusty loaf of bread on the side for dipping!

  1. Make the roux in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot (which will thicken the soup) with butter, onion, flour, and chicken broth. Add the fresh broccoli florets and grated carrot.
  2. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat until the broccoli is tender.
  3. Use an immersion blender to puree some of the soup, leaving plenty of visible broccoli florets and carrots. You still want some great texture!
  4. Over low heat, whisk in the Dijon mustard, hot sauce, cheese, and cream. Cook, stirring, until the cheese melts and the soup is warmed through.
  5. Ladle the soup into individual bowls, garnish with chopped fresh herbs if desired, and serve!
Overhead shot of a spoon in a blue pot of broccoli and cheese soup

Serving Suggestions

This cheese and broccoli soup pairs nicely with a crisp green salad or a Caesar salad. It also goes well with saltines or oyster crackers, homemade buttermilk biscuits, a loaf of crusty bread, a bread bowl or a baguette (just like at Panera Bread), 3-ingredient sour cream muffinscorn sticks, pumpkin muffins, or a pan of cornbread for dipping.

Storage

Properly stored in an airtight container, the soup will last in the fridge for 3-4 days.

To Reheat: Place the soup in a pot and warm over a low flame on the stovetop, just until heated through. Be careful not to let the soup boil, or the cheese may curdle. You can also reheat individual portions in the microwave for 1-2 minutes on high.

Can you freeze broccoli cheese soup?

I do not recommend freezing this creamy broccoli soup. Dairy-based soups tend to separate or curdle after freezing, resulting in an undesirable texture.

Square overhead shot of a bowl of broccoli and cheese soup on a wooden board with bread

Recipe Variations

  • Add meat. Diced ham, shredded rotisserie chicken, or even cooked, crispy bacon would all be delicious additions to this soup.
  • I prefer the way that the Velveeta melts into the soup and adds a thick, creamy texture. If you don’t want to use Velveeta, you can substitute with an additional cup of cheddar cheese.
  • Include some minced garlic or a dash of garlic powder if you like. Mustard powder is a nice addition, and you can substitute cayenne pepper for the hot sauce to give it some kick.
  • For a vegetarian soup, use vegetable broth or vegetable stock instead of chicken broth.
  • Broccoli Cauliflower Cheese Soup: substitute cauliflower florets for half of the broccoli.
  • Broccoli Cheese Soup for 2: Cut the ingredients in half and prepare just 2-3 servings of soup for a smaller household.
  • For a larger family, double all of the ingredients to yield about 11-12 cups of soup.
Front shot of spoon scooping up a bite of broccoli and cheese soup

Tips for the Best Broccoli Cheese Soup Recipe

  • If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can puree about 1-2 cups of the soup in a regular blender and then return it to the pot with the rest of the soup.
  • For an even chunkier soup, don’t use an immersion blender at all and just leave the broccoli florets whole.
  • Fresh or frozen broccoli florets will work in this recipe. If using frozen broccoli, thaw and drain first.
  • Use a block of cheddar that you grate yourself — not a bag of pre-shredded cheese. The pre-shredded cheese will not melt as smoothly into the soup.
  • Half-and-half or heavy cream give the soup the best rich and creamy texture. If you prefer, you can substitute with fat-free or low-fat half-and-half, or use some whole milk, but the soup won’t be quite as thick.
  • Do not boil the soup after you stir in the cream, or the soup may curdle.
Overhead shot of a spoon in a bowl of broccoli cheese soup with bread

More Soup Recipes to Try

We love cozy, easy soup recipes throughout the fall and winter. Check out this post for a convenient roundup of more than 60 of our favorites, or try one of these:

Square overhead shot of a bowl of broccoli and cheese soup on a wooden board with bread

Broccoli and Cheese Soup

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings 6 cups (approximately)
Calories 336 kcal
This copycat Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup recipe is a quick lunch or easy dinner for chilly days

Ingredients
  

  • ¼ cup salted butter
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth (or use vegetable broth for a meatless option)
  • 8 ounces chopped fresh broccoli florets (about 4 cups) (or substitute with 4 cups of thawed, drained frozen broccoli florets)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
  • Pinch of sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
  • 4 ounces Velveeta cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup (about 4 ounces) grated mild cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups half-and-half or heavy cream, at room temperature
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional garnish: chopped fresh parsley
  • For serving: baguette

Instructions

  • Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring regularly, until soft (about 5 minutes). Sprinkle flour over the onion and cook, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes.
  • Slowly whisk in the chicken broth until incorporated. Add broccoli and carrots. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  • Season with salt, pepper and paprika.
  • Use an immersion blender to puree a small portion of the soup, leaving plenty of visible broccoli florets and carrots in the soup for a little bit of texture.
  • Return soup to very low heat; whisk in the Dijon mustard, hot sauce (if using), Velveeta, cheddar, and half-and-half. Cook, stirring regularly, until cheese is melted and soup is warmed through (about 5-7 more minutes). Do not boil. Ladle into individual bowls, garnish with fresh parsley, and serve with warm, crusty baguette.

Notes

  • If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can puree about 1-2 cups of the soup in a regular blender and then return it to the pot with the rest of the soup.
  • For an even chunkier soup, don’t use an immersion blender at all and just leave the broccoli florets whole.
  • Fresh or frozen broccoli florets will work in this recipe. If using frozen broccoli, thaw and drain first.
  • Use a block of cheddar that you grate yourself — not a bag of pre-shredded cheese. The pre-shredded cheese will not melt as smoothly into the soup.
  • Half-and-half or heavy cream give the soup the best rich and creamy texture. If you prefer, you can substitute with fat-free or low-fat half-and-half, or use some whole milk, but the soup won’t be quite as thick.
  • Do not boil the soup after you stir in the cream, or the soup may curdle.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 336kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 13gFat: 26gSaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 78mgSodium: 838mgPotassium: 423mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 2830IUVitamin C: 42mgCalcium: 360mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: broccoli cheese soup, broccoli cheese soup recipe, panera broccoli cheddar soup recipe
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in October, 2020. The photos were updated in September, 2022.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

    1. Hi, Julie! I do not recommend freezing this soup. The cream-based broth has a tendency to separate when thawed, giving the soup an undesirable look and texture.