If you are obsessed with the Broccoli Cheese Soup at Panera Bread, this is the recipe for you! It's made from scratch with REAL actual cheddar cheese and lots of veggies, and it's incredibly satisfying!
We eat soup for dinner at least once a week! Don't miss any of my best Soup Recipes, including our favorite Chicken Noodle & Dumpling Soup, Italian Wedding Soup, and the always popular Cheeseburger Soup with Bacon!
Table of Contents
- What makes this Better Than Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup
- Best Broccoli Cheddar Soup Ingredients
- Cheddar and Broccoli Soup substitutions and variations
- How to make Broccoli and Cheddar Soup
- Homemade Broccoli Cheddar Soup Storage
- Cheddar Broccoli Soup Recipe FAQS
- What to eat with Broccoli and Cheddar Soup
- More soup recipes to try!
- Better Than Panera Cheddar and Broccoli Soup Recipe
- More Freaky Friday Recipes
What makes this Better Than Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup
I will admit that when I made this for my family the other night, they were skeptical. My broccoli-loving kids turned up their noses at it. My husband doubted whether this broccoli cheese soup would actually make a very filling dinner.
Everybody gobbled it up just like I knew they would.
Because anyone who has ever had the broccoli cheese soup at Panera Bread can tell you it is basically one of the most delicious soup recipes ever. Like, EVER, ever.
Broccoli cheese soup is a delicious and thick soup made with lots of broccoli and other vegetables in a creamy, almost chowder-like broth and plenty of melted cheddar cheese. It’s surprisingly very filling and it makes for an incredibly comforting dish to serve on a chilly night.
The recipe comes from a blogging friend, Kathleen, from from The Fresh Cooky. We participate in a group together where every few months we secretly swap blogs and pick a recipe to recreate. Then we all surprise each other on the assigned day, which we call "Freaky Friday". (As an aside, the movie "Freaky Friday" is on Disney+ and I can't wait to show our kids!). Check out my other Freaky Friday recipes!
For the Spring Freaky Friday event, I was assigned Kathleen's blog where she posts mostly healthy, family friendly recipes and man-oh-man it was difficult to choose what to make. She has so many wonderful-sounding recipes over on The Fresh Cooky!
I seriously considered this Blackberry Grilled Chicken Salad with Fried Goat Cheese and am still planning to make it when we go blackberry picking this summer. And her Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad is another one going on my "to-make" list.
But as soon as I saw Kathleen's Better-than-Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup, I knew that's what I was going to make.
I have been looking for a really excellent broccoli cheese soup recipe for a long time and this one did not disappoint! I love that it's made with real, actual cheddar instead of Velveeta, like so many other recipes are.
You CAN use Velveeta, if you want, but I highly recommend trying it at least once with real sharp cheddar cheese. It's amazing and I know you'll love it!
Best Broccoli Cheddar Soup Ingredients
- Salted butter
- Yellow onion
- Half-and-half or whole milk - Heavy whipping cream would even work if you want extra creamy soup.
- Chicken broth
- Fresh broccoli - I prefer fresh broccoli florets but frozen is fine. Fresh broccoli will give you the best texture.
- 1-2 carrots grated
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- Freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese - This gives the best cheesy flavor and creamy texture to the soup.
Cheddar and Broccoli Soup substitutions and variations
- Broccoli - You can swap out the broccoli for cauliflower or broccolini to change up the flavor of this soup.
- Cheese - Using Velveeta cheese instead of cheddar is a popular choice for this soup, but you could also swap other cheese flavors like pepper jack or monterey jack. You can also use medium cheddar if that's what you have on hand.
- Vegetarian - For a vegetarian friendly version of this soup, simply replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.
- Dairy - I don't have a great substitute for a non-dairy cheese, but you can replace the milk or half-and-half with coconut milk if you are looking to decrease the dairy.
How to make Broccoli and Cheddar Soup
- Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then saute the onion for 5-7 minutes until lightly caramelized. Transfer the onions to a bowl and then set aside.
- Melt the remaining butter in the same pan, and then whisk in the flour. Cook for 2-3 minutes until thickened to create a roux.
- Slowly whisk in the half-and-half or whole milk. The mixture will thicken quickly. Whisk in the chicken broth, then bring to a simmer.
- Add the broccoli, grated carrots, and reserved onions, then season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
- Remove 1-2 cups of the vegetable chunks and then transfer them to a blender. Cover the blender with a towel and then blend to break up the chunks. Return to the pot of soup and stir to combine.
- Reduce your heat to low, and then stir in the grated cheddar cheese until it is melted. Remove the pot from the heat and serve immediately.
Homemade Broccoli Cheddar Soup Storage
Allow the soup to cool, then store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. It’s best to eat it within 3-4 days. If you find you made a lot of soup and want to save it for later, it can also be frozen. Make sure the soup is cooled to room temperature and store in containers or freezer bags. It can be frozen for up to three months.
How long can homemade broccoli cheddar soup last?
When you store your leftover broccoli cheddar soup in the fridge, it will last up to 5 days. Make sure to keep it in an airtight container to maintain freshness.
It reheats beautifully on the stove (the easiest approach if you are reheating more than one serving) or in a serving bowl in the microwave, if you are just fixing leftovers for yourself for lunch the next day.
Can I freeze broccoli cheddar soup?
Yes, you can freeze broccoli cheese soup, but it doesn't do quite as well as other soups on my site. To do it, cool the soup completely, then place it in a large Ziploc bag, remove the air and freeze it flat.
But know that with a creamy, milk-based cheese soup like this, when you thaw and reheat the soup there is a chance that the milk will separate and curdle.
Freezing milk-based soups is almost never recommended because of this. If you plan to use the soup as an ingredient in a baked dish such as a casserole, you may not mind the texture change though.
How to reheat broccoli cheddar soup
There are a variety of ways to reheat your soup. The best way is to put the soup on the stovetop over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. You may add a little bit of water or milk to help thin it out. You can also reheat in the microwave. Just heat a minute at a time and stir frequently to make sure it stays creamy and doesn’t separate. Again, add milk or water if it needs to be thinned out.
Cheddar Broccoli Soup Recipe FAQS
Grainy broccoli cheese soup can happen if you add the milk too quickly when the soup is at too high of a temperature. While the soup is still flavorful, the texture won't be as creamy.
To avoid this, it’s important to not let the pot get too hot before adding the milk. Just turn the heat down a little on your roux while whisking it to protect the milk as it is added.
The best cheeses for creamy soup are high in moisture and have a lower melting point, such as medium to sharp cheddar, monterey jack, fontina, Gruyere and Swiss. This cheesy soup calls for sharp cheddar which I like using because it adds a ton of flavor and pairs well with broccoli. Another recommendation is to always use freshly grated cheese for soups. It will melt so much better than store bought!
If you are trying to eat more veggies this soup is a winner. You have carrots, onions, and broccoli! Broccoli cheddar soup is also great for picky eaters because the flavor is so good and the broccoli-ness of the veggies is toned way done by the addition of the cheese. Broccoli is also loaded with fiber and vitamins. This soup is also low in carbohydrates.
In one cup of soup there is around 240 calories. Again this can widely vary depending on serving size and the ingredients you use. I use an online nutritional calculator to determine nutritional info for recipes, but I'm not a nutritionist and recommend you do your own calculations for the most accurate info.
There are a variety of ways to thicken your soup. You can use all-purpose flour, cornstarch, add more cheddar cheese, or blend some of the bigger chunks of broccoli and add it back into the soup. If you want to use flour, add a tablespoon of the soup into a bowl and stir in 2-3 tablespoons of the flour until you have a smooth mixture. Add it into the soup and cook for a few minutes to thicken. Adding cornstarch is a little different than flour. You want to add it to a little amount of cold water and whisk it into a thick slurry. The slurry can be stirred back into the simmering soup until desired consistency.
Using freshly grated cheese in your soup will make sure your soup is nice and creamy. If you are using pre-shredded cheese from the store, it is coated with a powdery substance that prevents it from sticking in the bag, but it can also prevent it melting in the soup. Try not to add your cheese all at once so you can prevent the cheese clumping together. Also, make sure your heat is not too high when adding the cheese, so make sure your heat is turned down to low before adding the cheese to the soup.
What to eat with Broccoli and Cheddar Soup
Your family is going to LOVE this Better-Than-Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup, especially if you serve it with a loaf of Homemade French Bread or Sweet Molasses Brown Bread! It's a fantastic choice if you are looking to decrease your meat consumption, and you can make it vegetarian just by using vegetable broth in place of chicken broth.
Broccoli cheese soup is also delicious with an Olive Garden Salad (mixing restaurant-inspired dishes never tasted so good!) or maybe Raspberry Pretzel Salad for dessert!
More soup recipes to try!
- Italian Wedding Soup
- Cheeseburger Soup
- Creamy Irish Leek and Potato Soup
- Easy Minestrone Soup
- Split Pea Soup
Better Than Panera Cheddar and Broccoli Soup
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon butter divided
- ½ medium onion chopped
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups half-and-half or whole milk
- 2 cups chicken broth plus up to 2 cups additional, if desired for a thinner soup
- ½ pound fresh broccoli about 3 cups, chopped into small pieces
- 1 cup grated carrot 1-2 carrots depending on size
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese about 2 cups
- Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then saute the onion for 5-7 minutes until lightly caramelized. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Melt the remaining butter in the same pan, then whisk in the flour. Cook for 2-3 minutes until thickened to create a roux.
- Slowly whisk in the half-and-half or whole milk. The mixture will thicken quickly. Whisk in the chicken broth, then bring to a simmer.
- Add the broccoli, grated carrots, and reserved onions, then season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
- Remove 1-2 cups of the vegetable chunks and transfer to a blender. Cover the blender with a towel and blend to break up the chunks. Return to the pot of soup and stir to combine.
- Reduce heat to low, then stir in the grated cheddar cheese until melted. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
- Leftover soup can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days and reheated in the microwave.
More Freaky Friday Recipes
- An Affair from the Heart – Braised Beef Short Ribs with Red-Eye Gravy
- Aunt Bee’s Recipes – Slow Cooker Ranch Chicken Tacos
- Bowl Me Over – Honey Sriracha Chicken
- Hostess at Heart – Chicken Marsala
- Lemoine Family Kitchen – Vegetarian Pot Pie Soup
- Life Currents – Pepper Jelly Cheese Balls
- Soulfully Made – Alice Springs Chicken (Outback Copy Cat Recipe)
- Take Two Tapas – Chocolate Spoons
- The Fresh Cooky – Sweet Molasses Brown Bread Rolls
- The Speckled Palate – Valentine’s Day Dessert Board
- West Via Midwest – Grasshopper Pie
- Who Needs a Cape? – Air Fryer Loaded Mini Meatloaf
Reader questions and reviews
Broccoli cheese soup from Panera is my go-to! This puts any bowl of soup I have ordered from there to shame!! So delicious!!
Amy, I am honored and so thrilled that you loved the recipe, it's definitely one of our family favorites as well!
I loved making it! Thank you so much for sharing it with us, Kathleen!
Perfect time of year for a great bowl of soup! This looks delicious - thank you for another great recipe!!
This soup looks so perfectly comforting. I don't really eat at Panera, but I bet this is better!
Oh this is perfect! My kids favorite but I've never tried making it! Thanks!
I adore being able to replicate restaurant favorites at home. Now that my younger kids will touch broccoli, I need to introduce them to this gem.
My whole family loves this recipe!!!
I love going to Panera but I spend too much money there eating the soup and salad and all the sweets. now I can stay home and have soup that is so much better tasting~
I made Your soup tonight, our dinner table has never been so quiet, the soup was absolutely wonderful. This is the recipe I will use from here on out. Thank you so much for posting it.
Turned out really good
I made this for the Soup Season Showdown and it was delicious! I also like that it is easy to prepare and not at all daunting or time consuming. I plan on making this a regular staple. Thanks for sharing!
I'm so glad you enjoyed this and are joining on my Soup Season Showdown challenge!
I chose this recipe for the Soup Season Showdown. I was so glad I did. It is the perfect solution to my Costco bag of broccoli. We are them in bread bowls and my kids got a kick out of that. So warm and creamy.
Thank you so much!!!!! This soup was delicious! I only had baby broccoli and that was perfect - nice tiny pieces!!!
I added shredded rotisserie chicken. We enjoyed the recipe!
This soup is delicious. I like that’s is fresh ingredients and quick to make. My family asks for it often. Thank you!!!
Oh thanks for the review! I'm glad you have recipe your family enjoys! It's one of my favorites.