If you love broccoli cheddar soup, you’ll love this lightened-up version! It features a sneaky healthy ingredient to help thicken it up, while using less cheese, but you’d never know just by tasting it.
This soup reminds me of the kind I used to get at Panera Bread®, but it’s made without flour, heavy cream, or too much cheese. And I’m pretty sure this recipe packs more broccoli into each bite, too!
It’s the kind of soup you want to cozy up with on a cold, rainy day. It’s creamy and comforting, without leaving you with a heavy feeling later.
Ingredients You’ll Need
What’s in healthy broccoli cheddar soup?
- Broccoli (use fresh or frozen)
- White beans
- Cheddar cheese
- Salt & black pepper
Instead of using white flour to make a roux (which thickens a traditional broccoli cheddar soup) we are going to blend an entire can of white beans into the broth of this soup. This adds texture, but you would never know there are beans in this soup just by tasting it.
Plus, you’ll get extra fiber and plant-based protein in each bite! I also like to blend a 1/2 cup of cashews into this soup for added creaminess (instead of using heavy cream), but that’s optional if you need a nut-free soup.
In fact, you hardly need to add cheese to this soup at all, thanks to these extra add-ins. If you need a vegan soup, feel free to leave out the cheese, or swap it for a dairy-free alternative.
How to Make Healthy Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, and saute the onion until it starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic, and stir briefly until it’s fragrant, about 1 more minute.
Drain and rinse a can of white beans, then add them to a blender. Add in 4 cups of water, and a 1/2 cup of cashews (if using), and blend until totally smooth.
Pour the liquid into the large pot as soon as the garlic has been sauteed, to help prevent it from burning.
Add the broccoli, carrot, salt and pepper to the pot, and bring the liquid to a boil. As soon as it is boiling, lower the heat and cover the pot.
Let the soup gently simmer until the broccoli is very tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.
4. Blend again.
When the broccoli is fork-tender, transfer roughly 3 cups of the soup to a blender. Be sure to grab any large pieces of broccoli you see, so there won’t be huge chunks of broccoli in the soup.
Pulse the broccoli briefly in the blender, to help the pieces break down, but you don’t want it totally pureed. A little texture is a good thing in this soup!
5. Serve warm.
Return the blended soup to the pot, and add in the shredded cheese. Stir briefly, until the cheese is melted and incorporated in the soup. Adjust any seasoning to taste, adding more salt or a splash of lemon juice, to help brighten it up. I like to add a tiny pinch of nutmeg to this soup, for an extra layer of flavor.
Then serve warm, with any toppings you love, like extra cheese or chopped fresh herbs.
Substitutions & Common Questions
Which cheese works best? Use an extra-sharp cheddar cheese for the most flavor, but you can also use goat cheese if you find that easier to digest, or any other variety you like.
Typically, you’ll get the smoothest results by using a block of cheese that you have to shred at home. Shredded cheese that you would buy at the store is usually coated in starch to help prevent it clumping in the bag, which can add a gritty texture to recipes.
Can I skip the cheese? Yes, it’s probably the easiest ingredient to leave out of this recipe. You may want to add a little extra salt or a teaspoon of lemon juice, in that case, to help boost the flavor.
Can I use cauliflower instead? Yes, you can make cauliflower cheese soup instead of broccoli cheese soup, if that’s what you have on hand. It’s delicious either way.
What if I don’t have beans? You could replace the can of beans in this recipe with 1 pound of blended, steamed cauliflower instead. It won’t have the exact same texture this way, but it should work Or, you could add an extra 1/2 cup of cashews to this recipe, to achieve a similar creaminess.
Healthy Broccoli Cheddar Soup
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 yellow onion , chopped
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 4 cups water
- 1 (15 oz.) can white beans , rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup raw cashews (optional, but recommended)
- 1 pound broccoli florets , chopped (about 10 cups)
- 1 large carrot , shredded (about 1 cup)
- Salt & black pepper , to taste
- 4 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese , shredded (1 cup)
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat, and saute the onion until it starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and stir briefly, just until fragrant, about 1 more minute.
- Add the drained beans to a blender, along with the water and cashews (if using). Blend until very smooth, then immediately add it to the pot, so the garlic won't burn.
- Add in the broccoli and shredded carrot, along with 2 teaspoons of salt and a 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil.
- Once the liquid is boiling, lower the heat and cover with a lid. Let the soup gently simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the broccoli is very tender.
- Transfer roughly 3 cups of the soup to a blender, making sure to grab any large pieces of broccoli, so there won't be large chunks in the soup. Blend briefly, pulsing the broccoli into smaller pieces, but not blending until it's totally pureed. You want some texture in this soup! (Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender to blend directly in the soup pot.)
- Return the blended soup back to the pot, then add in the shredded cheese. Stir briefly, just until the cheese has melted, then adjust any seasoning to taste. I usually add in more salt, just a 1/4 teaspoon at a time, until the soup is extra flavorful.
- Serve warm with any extra toppings you love, like extra cheese or a pinch of nutmeg. Leftover soup can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
If you try this healthy broccoli cheddar soup recipe, please leave a comment and star rating below, letting me know how you like it.