Panera Bread has the best broccoli cheese soup ever!! It's so rich and creamy. It's also ridiculously bad for you and loaded with ingredients that are on the do not eat list. When I first started this diet trying to make anything with cream or cheese without the cream or cheese came out tasting.... well let's just say I gave up on trying to make it taste like cream and cheese. Although I think that's really the point. It's not dairy so why should I expect it to taste that way. I love cheese. To this day it's the hardest thing I had to give up and the thing I would pick if I got to choose to have one thing back. No offense to the vegans, but no vegan cheese will ever replace the real thing in my opinion. However, I have to hand it to them for their creativity. The discovery that I could use cashews (or any nut really) in place of dairy was a major breakthrough. For the first time in almost a year, I was able to eat faux dairy and not cringe at how horrible the taste and texture was. In fact, it was one of the most enjoyable meals I'd had in a long time. Even if it didn't taste like cheese, it still tasted amazing. This broccoli cheese soup is a product of that discovery. It's fairly simple to make, and if you buy the cashews in bulk, it can be budget friendly as well. It's vegan, grain free, and with some minor tweaking, it could also meet the paleo guidelines. With a side salad or a piece of homemade Kamut bread, it makes a wonderful meal that warms your soul just like the soup at Panera Bread.
The basis for making delicious broccoli cheese soup without the cheese is pretty much the same as making it with the cheese except for one major difference. It requires some advanced planning since the cashews will need to be soaked for several hours before you can make them into delicious cheese sauce. Once you've done that, you just whip them up in a food processor with a few other things and you've got yourself some really awesome vegan cheese sauce.
Then you just proceed to make broccoli cheese soup just like you would if you were using actual cheese.
Broccoli Cheese-Less Soup
Vegan, gluten free, grain free, oil free
For the Cheese Sauce:
1 Cup raw cashews soaked
3 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 Tablespoon potato starch
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon tahini
3 teaspoons Braggs Liquid Aminos
A Splash of almond milk
For the Soup:
2 cups carrot sliced
3/4 cup onion chopped
1 bunch broccoli (6-8 cups) chopped
32 oz. vegetable or chicken broth (5-6 cups)
1 1/2 cups almond milk
Salt and Pepper to taste
Vegan Cheese (optional)
- Place Cashews in a bowl, cover with water and let soak for 4-8 hours or overnight.
- Blend the garlic in the food processor until it is finely chopped.
- Drain and rinse the cashews. Add them to the food processor and blend until a thick, chunky paste forms.
- Add the nutritional yeast, starch, lemon juice, tahini, and Braggs to the food processor. Blend until creamy. If the mixture seems to thick or isn't blending well, add some almond milk as needed to thin it out. It should have the consistency of hummus when it's done. Set aside.
- In a large pot combine the carrots and onions. Add just enough broth to cover them and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over medium heat until the veggies are tender adding more broth as needed.
- Add the rest of the broth and stir in the cheese sauce.
- Add the broccoli and bring the soup to a boil. Simmer on medium-low heat until the broccoli is tender, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom.
- Using a blender or food processor, blend the soup in small batches until it reaches your desired consistency of creaminess.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and top with vegan cheese and crackers if desired.
Tips/ Substitution Suggestions
- Replace the potato starch with another starch of choice (corn, tapioca)
- Replace the Braggs with soy sauce or a soy free alternative such as coconut aminos for a soy free option.
- Replace the almond milk with non-dairy milk of choice