This Vegan Broccoli Cheddar Soup is the BEST copycat we’ve ever had. It’s super creamy, decadent, flavor-packed, and made with 10 healthy, simple ingredients. Have this cheesy classic ready in 40 minutes or less! Try it for meal prep or an easy weeknight dinner.
A Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup
After visiting Panera Bread for our Fast Food Video and not being able to order their popular Broccoli Cheddar Soup, we knew it was time to get in the kitchen and make our own veganized version of this creamy soup. To our surprise, it was ridiculously easy to make!
We made this vegan version healthier than the restaurant and store-bought versions so it could be enjoyed by all. This Creamy Vegan Broccoli Cheddar soup is not only rich and delicious but oil-free, gluten-free, and made without processed vegan cheese shreds. Trust us when we tell you this soup is next-level and will quickly become one of your family’s favorite soups.
Ingredients You’ll Need
Cashews: The secret to making this soup naturally cheesy and creamy. For best results and flavor, use raw, unsalted cashews. If you are looking to make this soup nut-free, substitute the raw cashews 1:1 with raw sunflower seeds.
Nutritional yeast: Adds additional cheesy flavor and B vitamins. Make sure to purchase nutritional yeast flakes, not Brewer’s yeast. The two are often confused but very different products. Nutritional yeast should be stocked near the spices in the grocery store or purchased online. Our favorite brand is Bragg’s.
Lemon juice: Adds an acidity that helps brighten up the flavors and balance the richness. Please use freshly squeezed lemon juice – pre-bottled lemon juice is watered down and has a different flavor profile.
Vegan chicken broth: Classic Panera broccoli cheddar is made with chicken broth, so we used Better than Bouillon vegan chicken broth to make it as close in flavor as possible. If needed, feel free to use vegetable broth instead!
Aromatics: A blend of onion, celery, and garlic makes the base of this soup. Don’t skip the sauté – it adds an essential foundation of flavor.
Broccoli and carrots: We recommend using fresh broccoli florets and carrots. Frozen will work, but it will add additional water to the soup, making it thinner and slightly less flavorful.
Spices: A simple mix of nutmeg, salt, and black pepper is all you need! If desired, add ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder for a bit of color.
Soak the cashews. We typically like to soak the cashews overnight in the refrigerator, but if you don’t have time, do a quick soak in hot water. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, remove the pot from the heat and add in the cashews. Soak for 20 minutes or until softened and drain.
Make the cashew cream base. Drain the cashews and transfer them to a high speed blender along with 2 cups of filtered water, nutritional yeast, and lemon juice. Blend on high until smooth and set aside while you prepare the rest of the soup.
Sauté the aromatics. In a large pot over medium heat, add in 2 tablespoons of vegetable broth (or olive oil or vegan butter if not oil-free) along with the diced onion and celery. Cook until softened, then add in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add additional vegetable broth as needed to prevent burning.
Add liquids. Add in the remaining vegetable broth along with all of the blended cashew mixture. Mix until uniform.
Add in broccoli, carrots, and nutmeg. Mix again until combined.
Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower to a simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring often, until the soup has thickened.
Season with salt and pepper. Once thickened, remove the broccoli cheddar soup from the heat and season to taste.
Serve. Serve warm and garnished as desired. Enjoy!
This easy Vegan Broccoli Cheddar Soup is hearty enough to serve on it’s own with a sprinkle of vegan cheddar cheese shreds and fresh parsley. If you’d like to make it more hearty, serve it in a bread bowl or serve with our homemade croutons, Garlic Herb Dinner Rolls or a crusty slice of No Knead Bread.
Leftover vegan broccoli cheddar soup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheat any leftovers in the microwave or in a small pot on the stovetop until warmed through.
If frozen, allow to thaw for 1-2 days in the refrigerator, then reheat as normal.
Why is Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup not vegetarian?
Panera makes their traditional version with chicken stock, making the soup neither vegetarian or vegan.
Why is my broccoli cheddar soup grainy?
This can happen if you do not blend the cashews completely smooth or if you simmer the soup on too high of heat. If the soup gets too hot, the soup can separate and become grainy and curdled.
Are any of Panera’s soups vegan?
If you are hoping to order a vegan soup at Panera, you can now order the Ten Vegetable Soup. It is naturally vegan as is and can be enjoyed with a baguette on the side. This is the only option for now, but hopefully, they will add a few more soon!
Why is my soup not thickening?
If you used the correct liquid measurements, it’s possible it just needs a bit longer to simmer! The longer this soup simmers, the thicker it gets. It will continue to thicken as it cools, too. As a last resort, you can always stir in a cornstarch slurry (1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl) until it has thickened to your liking.
Tips for Success
Use a high-speed blender. Blending the cashews until silky smooth is essential to making this broccoli cheddar soup the right creamy texture. For best results, use a high-speed blender or a single-serve blending cup. Please do not use a food processor or the Ninja Professional Plus Blender. It is incapable of blending cream sauces completely smooth and will leave a slight grittiness in your soup.
Finely chop the broccoli and carrots. This allows the vegetables to be dispersed evenly throughout the soup and makes it thicker.
This Vegan Broccoli Cheddar Soup is the BEST copycat we’ve ever had. It’s super creamy, decadent, flavor packed and made with healthy, simple ingredients. Have this cheesy classic ready in 40 minutes or less. Try it for meal prep or an easy weeknight dinner.
1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight* (see notes)
2 cups filtered water
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 cups + 4 tablespoons vegan chicken broth (we used this one) or vegetable broth of your choice
Drain the cashews and transfer them to a high speed blender along with 2 cups of water, nutritional yeast, and lemon juice. Blend on high until smooth and set aside.
In a large pot over medium heat, add in 2 tablespoons of vegetable broth along with the diced onion and celery. Sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more, adding 2 more tablespoons of vegetable broth as needed to prevent burning.
Add the remaining vegetable broth to the pot along with all of the cashew mixture that you had blended. Mix until uniform. Add in the broccoli, carrot and nutmeg and mix again until combined. Bring the mixture to a boil and lower to a simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring often, until the soup has thickened.
Once the soup has thickened, remove it from the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve warm with a garnish of fresh parsley and croutons. Enjoy!
If you don’t have time to soak the cashews overnight, you can do a quick soak in hot water. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Once it is boiling, remove the pot from heat and add in the cashews. Soak for 20 minutes or until softened and drain.
We used the Better than Bouillon vegan chicken broth for this recipe. To make the broth, we mixed 3 1/4 cups of water with 3 1/4 teaspoons of paste.
If you’d like your soup to be a little more yellow and “cheddar” looking you can add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric at end.
Disclaimer: The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional’s advice. This page may contain affiliate links, which simply means that we earn a commission if you purchase through those links, but your price remains the same. Thank you for supporting Sweet Simple Vegan!
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