Thick, cheesy and loaded with broccoli! This Better Than Panera Broccoli soup is a delicious homemade version of a restaurant favorite.
The first time I went to Panera I ordered their broccoli cheddar soup and I have never looked back. It’s been a favorite of mine for years! I’m positive it’s loaded with all sorts of strange additives which is why I’ve been dying to make my own version. This is NOT a copycat version- it’s waaay better! I’ve added a few things here and there to make it healthier and more flavorful.
I started by cutting up 3 medium heads of broccoli. I know, that seems like a lot, but this is broccoli soup! I also cut up a leek and a small yellow onion. Instead of chopping up the carrot I julienned it into 1-inch long ribbons. I also minced up two cloves of garlic. I had to think about how long each ingredient needed to cook, so the leek, onion and garlic went in first. Then the broth, seasonings, and carrot.
I turned to my cheesy vegetable chowder for the creamy base. In a separate pan I added butter, flour, milk, and cream, then cooked it until it was extra thick. That way when I added it to the broth it wasn’t super watered down. It gave it that nice consistency that Panera’s soup has without it being gelatinous (often a result of using cornstarch instead of flour).
All that was left to do was add the broccoli and cheese. It may seem weird to wait and add the broccoli until the very end, but trust me, no one wants to eat (or smell) soup with overcooked broccoli in it. Give it 6-8 minutes to boil before removing the soup from the heat. The broccoli will continue cooking as you stir in the cheese.
Now comes the hard part. Let the soup sit for a good 10 minutes before you plan on serving it. As it sits the soup with thicken even more, and it won’t burn your tastebuds when you eat it! ? We enjoyed eating ours with a big slice of my no-knead artisan bread. So good together! We had leftovers the following day for lunch and they reheated beautifully. And that’s saying a lot if you know me! I hope you’ll enjoy this version of Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup as much as we did. Drop a comment below if you give it a try or if you just want to say hi.
Better Than Panera Broccoli Soup
- 5 tbsp butter - divided
- 1 small yellow onion - diced
- 1 leek - white and light green part only, quartered lengthwise and sliced
- 2 cloves garlic - minced
- 4 c. or 1 - 32 oz. box, low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. paprika
- 2 carrots - peeled, julienned, and cut into 1-inch strips
- 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 c. milk
- 1 c. half & half or heavy cream
- 3 medium heads broccoli - cut into small florets
- 2 c. grated medium or sharp cheddar cheese
- In a large pot or Dutch oven set over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of butter. When the butter has melted, add the onion and leek, saute for 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute for a minute longer.
- Pour in the chicken broth and sprinkle in salt, garlic powder, black pepper, paprika, and carrots. Bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan set over medium heat, add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for about a minute. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking vigorously as you add the milk little by little. Whisk until smooth. Constantly whisk as the mixture comes to a gentle boil. When it begins to thicken add the half & half (or cream) and simmer for an additional 3-4 minutes or until very thick. Remove from heat and pour into the soup, whisk to combine.
- Add the broccoli and cook for 6-8 minutes, then remove from heat. Gradually add the cheddar, stir until the soup is nice and smooth. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with additional grated cheese, if desired.