One pot, one hour, and one of the best broccoli cheese soups is yours with this quick and easy recipe. Make it a copycat Panera version, or even better with your variations.
This is my favorite homemade soup. It is the perfect comfort food for a cold day, and I never make a single batch. We can't stop eating this soup.
I had researched for several weeks and had a couple of inspirational recipes. I ended up combining Pioneer Woman with an Allrecipes recipe. I wanted one pot cooked on the stovetop, to cook the broccoli in the soup, and I didn't want to use any cream
I presented my wife with this wonderful homemade soup with grilled ham and cheese sandwich. She was a thrilled wife.
👨🍳How to make this recipe
- Prepare fresh broccoli by trimming the broccoli florets into bite size pieces.
- Mince a small onion and saute in butter in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the garlic near the end of cooking.
- Sprinkle in flour and make a rour.
- Slowly add chicken broth and milk while continuing to stir to thicken.
- When thickened, add the broccoli. Decrease to simmer and cover.
- Cook until the broccoli is tender—about 25 minutes.
- Puree a bit with an immersion blender or potato masher.
- Add in cheese, and simmer for 5 more minutes until cheese is melted.
I suggest fresh broccoli for this soup. One large head will make about 3 cups of broccoli florets. But it is acceptable to be a little over or under on the amount of broccoli.
I chop up the medium-sized stems, but I generally skip the large thick trunk.
The size should be relatively small to fit easily in a spoon.
Frozen Broccoli can be used. A 12 oz. bag of frozen broccoli will be about 3 cups or a bit more of florets.
Frozen broccoli is generally blanched before freezing. If you thaw the broccoli before cooking, it may cook a bit faster than fresh. But if frozen when added, it may take a few minutes than fresh.
Most frozen broccoli is large, so it must be chopped to spoon-size before cooking.
Sharp cheddar is the most common cheese for this soup.
I fess up. I like Velveeta. I usually choose half Velveeta and half sharp cheddar cheese. But select the cheeses you like. Most will want a mixture of different cheddars.
Shredded cheese has some anti-clumping coating and is preferred to solid cheese—I use the brand name shredded cheese.
Velveeta is made for melting and will do well in this soup and make it creamier than all cheddar.
If your cheese separates or clumps, it is your cheese, not the recipe. Usually, this will be generic poor-quality cheese or outdated cheese. But it rarely will happen since we add it at the end of cooking and just melt it.
Many suggest heavy cream or half&half. I find there is more than enough milk fat in the cheese. I always use lower-fat milk. The Velveeta also makes the soup creamier. But use the dairy of your choice.
Copycat Panera's Broccoli Cheese Soup
If you want to copycat Panera, just add carrot and celery simultaneously as the broccoli.
You will need about 1 cup of carrots. Matchstick cut carrots are available in most produce departments. Or one large or two medium can be cleaned and then diced or julienned.
The second component is one rib of thinly sliced celery.
Bacon Broccoli Cheese Soup
Everything is better with bacon. This is my wife's obsession. Chop three strips of bacon into ½ inch squares and fry until done. Drain and add along with the cheese.
Cauliflower Cheese Soup
Several commenters want to use cauliflower to replace the broccoli, but cauliflower may take a few minutes more to cook. So use the same volume, and the endpoint of the cauliflower is tender, and you should be fine.
Add some flavor with an optional touch of nutmeg or paprika. Add about ¼ teaspoon at the start of simmering if you wish—one or the other, not both.
A single recipe makes about 7 to 8 cups of soup, and you need some working room in the pot to make the roux and mix.
For a single recipe, a four-quart or larger soup pot or Dutch oven. For the suggested double recipe, I use a 6 ½ quart Dutch oven.
Usually, chicken broth is used, but vegetable broth is also acceptable. I typically use lower sodium broth and add more salt later to taste.
Good refrigerated for 3-4 days. It will freeze well for 3-4 months. It never lasts more than two days at our house.
📖Comfort Soup Recipes
This recipe is part of our Our Best Soups.
This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
🖼️Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
These are double batch pictures. The recipe discussion below is a single batch, and the ingredient list is for a single batch, but the images are for a double batch.
Rinse and spoon size chop one head of fresh broccoli with the broccoli florets being bit size. I discarded the broccoli stalk. This should be about two cups.
Mince a small or ½ of a medium onion. Over medium-high heat, melt four tablespoons of butter. Add onion and saute until clearing—about 3 minutes. Add one clove of minced garlic and cook one more minute.
Decrease the heat to medium. Add ¼ cup flour and continue to cook and stir continually until browning some—about 3 minutes.
Slowly add two cups of chicken or vegetable broth, and stir to mix in the flour mixture. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Allow to thicken some, then add two cups of milk. Bring to a low boil and allow to thicken.
Add broccoli, cover, and turn down the heat to simmer. Simmer until broccoli is tender—about 25 minutes.
Option: Some people like to puree with an immersion blender through the soup at this point. I only want a little of that blending, so I suggest a potato masher.
Add 2 cups of cheese of choice. I used sharp cheddar and Velveeta. Simmer another 5 minutes and serve.
Easy Broccoli Cheese Soup
- 1 head broccoli - large
- ¼ cup butter
- 1 onion - small
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 cups chicken broth - or vegetable
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups shredded cheese of choice - assume 4 ozs. equals 1 cup if not shredded cheese
For Panara copycat soup-add with broccoli
- 1 cup carrot - matchstick, shredded, or diced
- 1 rib celery
- Rinse and spoon size chop one head of fresh broccoli. I discarded the broccoli stalk. This should be about two cups.
- Mince a small or ½ of a medium onion. Over medium-high heat, melt four tablespoons of butter. Add onion and cook until clearing—about 3 minutes. Add one clove of minced garlic and cook one more minute.
- Decrease the heat to medium. Add ¼ cup flour and continue to cook and stir continually until browning some—about 3 minutes.
- Slowly add two cups of chicken or vegetable broth, stir to mix in the flour mixture. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Allow to thicken some, then add two cups of milk. Bring to a low boil and allow to thicken.
- Add broccoli, cover, and turn down the heat to simmer. Simmer until broccoli is tender—about 25 minutes.
- Option: Some people like to run an immersion blender through the soup at this point. I only want a little of that blending, so I suggest a potato masher.
- Add 2 cups of cheese of choice. I used sharp cheddar and Velveeta. Simmer another 5 minutes and serve.
My Private Notes
- Choose the cheeses you like. I prefer half Velveeta and half shredded sharp cheddar.
- Frozen broccoli works fine but may take a few minutes longer. Cook to the point of the broccoli is tender.
- If you want to copycat Panera, then add 1 cup matchstick-cut carrots and 1 stalk of thinly sliced celery at the same time as the broccoli.
- Make it Bacon Broccoli Cheese Soup. Everything is better with bacon. Chop 3 strips of bacon into ½ inch squares and fry until done. Drain and add along with the cheese.
- Great as leftovers. Good refrigerated for 3-4 days and frozen for 3-4 months.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Editor's note: Originally published December 19, 2015. This has become one of my go-to recipes and is now updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.