This is truly the best ever vegan creamy broccoli cheese soup. Honest to goodness. It's one of my all-time favorite recipes ever, and it's won the praises of vegans and non-vegans alike. It's made with all pure, whole foods, plant-powered ingredients, yet it's just as savory, luxuriously creamy, buttery, salty, cheddar-y, and cheesy as the "original". Seriously, we're talking Panera-level delicious.
This post is sponsored by Manitoba Harvest. All thoughts, opinions, and love for their products are genuine and 100% my own.
I've been looking forward to sharing this recipe all week! But between book edits, work, and a healthy dose of downtime, it's taken me a few days of chipping away at it to get it from recipe and photos to fully-formed post. You know that feeling when you finally sit down to do something you've been wanting to do and then you remember that you're supposed to be doing 2-3 other things or it's 11 pm which means you're up past your bedtime? Well that's what's happened with this post on three separate occasions this week. Yikes!
But you know what? It's completely okay because 1) balance (gimme all that work-life balance) and 2) this recipe is worth the wait. Plus, I now have half a week worth of soup noshing under my belt, so I can attest to the fact that this is one of those lovely soups that's even tastier on days two and three than it is on the first.
This creamy broccoli cheese soup is far and away my favorite recipe of 2016 (thus far) as well as my favorite soup ever. Big, bold statements, I know.
What began as a determined attempt to make a great vegan broccoli cheese soup resulted in a great broccoli cheese soup period. And this opinion is guided by the wisdom of several dozen broccoli-cheddar-soup-in-a-bread-bowl experiences at Panera between the ages 16 and 18 (because that was the cool thing to do from '00-'02). I think that might be enough contact hours to qualify me as an expert in broccoli cheese soup.
But truly, this soup is an absolute dream, and it's everything a broccoli cheese soup should be and more. It's savory, luxuriously creamy, buttery, salty, cheddar-y, cheesy, packed with broccoli, soul-satisfying (especially on a chilly winter's day), and reheats like a charm. Plus, it's made with all pure, plant-based ingredients that are 100% free from funny business (e.g., unwanted additives, preservatives, etc.). Less funny business = more room for the good stuff, like vitamins, minerals, etc. Long story short, this delectable, slurp-worthy vegan soup brings all of the flavor and way more good-for-your-bod vitamins and minerals without the undesirable junk.
Pretty soup-er, huh? So cheesy it hurts.
This pot of dreamy goodness comes together in a few simple steps + some occasionally stirring.
A base of sautéed onion and shallots is sprinkled with smoked paprika, sea salt, and pepper. Then, in goes the broccoli (lots of it), vegetable broth, and filtered water. You'll bring everything to a boil and then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 25 minutes.
While your soup base is simmering, you'll prepare a velvety cheddar cheese sauce. Bring a separate pan of water to a boil, toss in 2 cups of cauliflower florets, and cook until they're fork-tender. Strain off the water and add the tender cauliflower florets to a high-speed blender along with a ½ cup of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts (i.e., shelled hemp seeds), roasted red peppers, nutritional yeast, arrowroot powder (to thicken), apple cider vinegar, and sea salt. Then, blend until you have a silky-smooth sauce. The cauliflower and hemp seeds offer a rich, buttery creaminess to the sauce as well as a vitamin, mineral, and protein boost (½ cup of Hemp Hearts offers nearly 27 grams of plant-based protein).
Once the soup has finished simmering and the broccoli florets are tender, you'll stir the cheddar cheese sauce into the soup and continue to simmer for another 3-5 minutes to thicken. Then, you'll stir in a splash of fresh lemon juice and low-sodium tamari. I cannot emphasize the importance of these two ingredients enough as they simultaneously balance, deepen, brighten, and intensify the flavors of the soup.
And that it's. Ladle your soup into bowls, sprinkle with Hemp Hearts if you'd like, and sink your spoon (or your bread) into this creamy, cheesy soup.
Best Ever Vegan Creamy Broccoli Cheese Soup
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil*
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced (about 1 ½ cups)
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons sea salt, divided, plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 small or 2 large heads of broccoli, destemmed, and chopped into small ½-inch florets (you want about 1 pound of florets or about 5 to 6 cups)
- 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
- 2 cups filtered water
- 2 cups small cauliflower florets
- ½ cup Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts (shelled hemp seeds) or raw cashews
- ½ cup chopped roasted and peeled red peppers (I use jarred roasted red peppers)
- ½ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (pulls all of the flavors together and makes them pop)
- 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium tamari (adds depth of flavor)
- In a large dutch oven or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium-low. Add the onion, shallot, smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon of the sea salt, and black pepper, and cook for 6 minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the broccoli florets, 3 cups of the vegetable broth, and the filtered water, increase heat to medium-high and bring to a rapid simmer for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until the broccoli florets are fork-tender, stirring occasionally to ensure that the broccoli is submerged.
- Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the cauliflower florets to the pot and boil for 7 minutes or until very fork-tender. Strain off the water.
- Add the boiled cauliflower florets, remaining 1 cup of vegetable broth, Hemp Hearts, roasted red peppers, nutritional yeast, arrowroot powder, apple cider vinegar, and remaining 1 teaspoon of sea salt to a high-speed blender. Blend on high for 2 minutes or until completely smooth and creamy.
- Once the broccoli florets are fork-tender, pour the cauliflower "cheddar" sauce into the pot and stir to combine. Increase the heat to medium and continue stirring for 3 to 5 minutes or until the soup begins to thicken. Be careful not to overheat or the arrowroot will lose its thickening power. Once the soup has thickened slightly, remove from heat and stir in the fresh lemon juice and tamari. Taste and season with more sea salt, black pepper, and smoked paprika, if desired. (I usually add another ½ teaspoon sea salt, a few cranks of freshly ground black pepper, and a few shakes of smoked paprika.)
- You can enjoy the soup as is (pictured and what I prefer) or use an immersion blender to puree the soup until desired texture is reached.
- Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with more Hemp Hearts (if desired), and serve.
- Refrigerate leftovers.
**Reheat in a stockpot or saucepan over medium heat until warmed through, stirring frequently.