This Vegan Broccoli Cheddar Soup is one of my absolute favorite meals to make during the colder months. It’s basically a hug in a bowl: creamy, cozy, and ultra-savory. It’s my whole food, plant-based take on the infamous Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup, and the best part is that it’s just as nourishing as it is comforting.
What Makes this Soup So Great
Wholesome ingredients. Unlike the traditional version which is brimming with dairy, this Vegan Broccoli Cheddar Soup is made of simple, whole plant foods. Potatoes blended with soaked cashews make this recipe thick and creamy without the heavy feeling dairy often leaves in your tummy.
Budget-friendly. The soup is made with affordable ingredients, many of which you’ll probably already have in your kitchen. Rather than achieving the cheesy flavor with processed vegan cheese (which can be on the pricey side), we are simply using potatoes, a handful of cashews, and spices.
Great to feed a family or meal prep. This recipe is super easy to make, and it yields a big pot! The recipe can be easily scaled in order to feed many people, and it also freezes really well in case you want to keep it on hand for a quick low-effort meal in the future.
Vegan Broccoli Cheddar Soup Ingredients
- Raw cashews will help make the soup thick and creamy like a chowder.
- Vegan butter or olive oil to sauté the vegetables.
- Red pepper flakes are an optional addition if you like a little heat.
- Onion and garlic for our aromatic flavor base. As much or as little garlic as you like.
- Russet potato will be cooked and then puréed with the raw soaked cashews in order to thicken the soup without heavy cream. These add a ton of body to the soup as well.
- Carrot for a hint of sweetness and color.
- Vegetable broth. I love to use chicken-style vegetable broth (like Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base or Edward & Sons Not Chick’n Bouillon) to make the soup more savory, but you can use any kind of vegetable broth you like.
- Nutritional yeast will contribute a savory and cheesy flavor to our vegan broccoli cheddar soup without adding any dairy! Plus it’s very nutritious and packed with B vitamins and extra protein.
- Onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika will enhance the umami and the cheesy flavor of the soup.
- Lemon juice. To brighten everything up and add a subtle tanginess like real cheddar cheese.
- Broccoli. Chop it up into bite-sized florets.
How to Make Vegan Broccoli Cheddar Soup
- Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil or vegan butter until tender.
- Add the potatoes and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are tender.
- Scoop out the cooked potatoes with a spider or slotted spoon. Add them to a blender with soaked cashews and a cup of water and blend until completely smooth. Add more water as needed to get everything moving in the blender. If your potatoes were very large or starchy, you might need extra water.
- Add the broccoli florets and carrots to the broth along with the spices (nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika) and allow them to simmer for about 5 minutes until tender. We’re doing this before we add the potato-cashew cream back into the mixture because once the soup is thickened, it tends to bubble and splatter vigorously. It’s easier and faster to cook the broccoli in the thin broth.
- Stir the potato-cashew cream into the soup. Let it come back to a very gentle simmer to thicken the soup.
- Add the fresh lemon juice into the soup. Taste and add salt and pepper to preference. (The exact amount of salt needed will depend on the sodium content of your broth.)
A fresh loaf of crusty bread is the perfect accompaniment to Vegan Broccoli Cheddar Soup.
I love to top this soup with fresh, thinly-sliced scallions or chives — it really completes the dish, in my opinion. You can also top it with extra red pepper flakes for a kick, or with a sprinkle of vegan cheddar-style shreds.
Can I make this recipe without cashews?
Yes! Cashews are simply my go-to because they have a very neutral flavor, creamy texture, and thickening power. However, there are many alternatives if you can’t (or don’t like to) eat cashews. In every case, you will still add it to the blender (in Step 4 of the recipe card) with the cooked potatoes, and blend until completely smooth.
- Substitute in 1 cup of silken tofu. In this case, you may not need to add the full 1 cup of water to the blender because silken tofu contains a lot of liquid. Start with 1/2 cup water and add more as needed.
- Substitute in an equal volume of blanched almonds, soaked 4+ hours. In my experience almonds do not blend up quite as smoothly as cashews, so there may be some textural differences in the finished soup. Ensure that you have soaked the almonds. A high powered blender is a must for this. If you cannot find blanched almonds, you can use whole raw almonds, but you will want to peel off their skins after soaking as these will contribute a gritty texture to the soup.
- Substitute an equal volume of raw sunflower seeds, soaked 30 minutes. These contribute a nice creamy texture similar to cashews, but they don’t have quite as neutral a flavor. Make sure the sunflower seeds are raw, since roasted ones will have a much more prominent sunflower flavor.
- Substitute in one 15 oz can (or about 1 1/2 cups) of cooked white beans. Drain and thoroughly rinse them first. These help make the soup thicker and creamier but they don’t have quite as creamy of a mouthfeel as cashews, because they are so low in fat. I recommend white beans (not other varieties) because they have the softest and most buttery texture.
Can I make this recipe without potatoes?
If you cannot eat potatoes, you can try replacing them with about 4 cups of cauliflower florets (about 1 small head of cauliflower). Add them into the soup at the same time the potatoes are called for, and simmer them until tender. When you remove the cauliflower to the blender and add the cashews, they may require less than the 1 cup of water because cauliflower is not starchy like potatoes.
The soup will be a little less thick and luscious without the potatoes and it will have a slightly earthier flavor, but in general puréed cauliflower does have a nice creamy texture.
What if I don’t like nutritional yeast?
That’s ok! You can still prepare the recipe without nutritional yeast, but it won’t have quite as “cheesy” a flavor. It will have a more simple yet still savory taste, similar to a regular potato chowder. You can always top it with some vegan cheddar-style shreds (we love the ones by Violife) to add the cheese flavor back in.
Is this recipe gluten-free?
It sure is! Just make sure that whichever vegetable broth or vegan bouillon you’re using is gluten-free and you should be good to go.
Storage and Reheating
Vegan broccoli cheese soup can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the fridge, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
It’s super simple to reheat on the stove (over medium-low heat) or in the microwave. The soup can sometimes thicken when refrigerated due to the starch in the potatoes. If that happens, you can simply add in an extra splash of water (or veggie broth if you have a carton on hand) to get it back to your preferred temperature.
More Vegan Soup Recipes
Vegan Broccoli Cheddar Soup
- cutting board and knife
- vegetable peeler
- Dutch oven or stock pot
- slotted spoon or spider
- high powered blender
- 3/4 cup raw cashews soaked 4+ hours
- 1 tablespoon vegan butter or olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 pound Yukon gold or russet potatoes peeled and cubed, about 4 cups, or 3-4 medium-sized potatoes
- 2 carrots peeled and chopped
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 4 cups broccoli chopped into small florets
- vegan cheddar-style shreds (we like Follow Your Heart or Violife)
- In a large pot, heat the vegan butter or olive oil over medium-high. Sprinkle in red pepper flakes if using, and allow to bloom for a minute.
- Add in onion and sauté until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add in garlic and sauté for another minute.
- Add in cubed potatoes, vegetable broth, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low or medium-low to bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until potato is easily pierced with a fork.
- Using a slotted spoon or skimmer, scoop about half of the cooked potatoes out of the soup and into a high-powered blender. (Some of the onions will wind up in there too; that's okay.)
- Before blending the potatoes, add broccoli and carrots into the soup, along with spices (onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika) and nutritional yeast. Bring the mixture back up to a simmer. Let it simmer over low/medium-low for about 5 minutes while you blend the potatoes.
- Add soaked cashews into the blender with the potatoes, along with 1/2 cup water, and blend until completely smooth. Add extra water as needed to get everything to blend smoothly into a thick creamy consistency. (The exact amount you need will depend on how starchy your potato is. Russets will take a little more water than gold potatoes.)
- Stir the creamed cashew and potato mixture back into the main pot of soup. Add in the fresh lemon juice. Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, until warmed through and slightly thickened.
- Taste and add salt and pepper to preference. The exact amount of salt will very depending on the brand of veggie broth you use.
- Serve with crusty bread, or in a bread bowl if you're feeling fancy! Optionally, top with vegan cheddar-style shreds, scallions, and/or hot sauce.