Broccoli Cheddar Soup in a Sourdough Bread Bowl

Panera-inspired Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Panera-inspired Broccoli Cheddar Soup
All Photos: Nathan Davison

Come on, weatherman, tell it like it is. Mother Nature’s feeling frosty? Well, bring it on.

As much as I hate having a perpetually fuschia nose and stiff, frozen fingers, a thick, piping hot bowl of broccoli cheddar soup makes me feel like I can take on any snowstorm that dares to threaten my day.

pouring bowl

The thought of tearing chunks of crusty sourdough bread and dipping it into that velvety, veggie-laden soup gave me a new resolve as I trudged through ankle-deep snow, and skittered along icy patches, doing everything I could not to slip and potentially smash open my Tupperware container of that precious, life-preserving, revive-my-iced-over-senses meal.

This recipe is adapted from one on Food Network — I basically simplified the ingredients and the process, so it’s easier on a college student’s budget (and schedule). Just so you know, when it comes to buying the cheddar cheese, look for the finely shredded packages (it melts easier) in a sharp, not mild, flavor. The broth overwhelms mild cheese, absorbing its flavor so the soup tastes more like cream of broccoli than anything else.

The best part about this soup, though, is the fact that it’s easy to do the dishes afterward — just eat the bowls!

sourdough loaves

Kitchen gadgets needed: cutting board, knife, measuring cups, large saucepan/deep pot, whisk, stove top

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 3/4 cups half and half
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 bag of frozen, steam-in-bag broccoli florets
  • 1 large carrot (or 10 carrot coins)
  • 2 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese (essentially, one 8-ounce bag)
  • 4 small sourdough bread boules

Random fact: The bread ‘boule’ refers to the round, ball-like loaf itself. ‘Bowl’ is the end result, once you’ve carved it into a handy soup container.

Time commitment: 35-40 minutes


  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan (or deep pot) over medium heat. While it melts, finely chop the onion half, then add it in.
  2. Let the onion caramelize for about five minutes. Stir it occasionally, and turn down the heat if the butter starts to burn. In the meantime, dice the carrots as finely as possible and set them aside.
  3. Next, whisk in the flour, letting the mixture cook until it’s a light gold hue. Whisk in the chicken broth, then bring the mixture to a simmer. (You should see some bubbles gently rising and popping, but not a ton.) Reduce the heat to medium-low, letting it simmer for the next 15 minutes.
    boiling broc
  4. While the pot simmers, place the boil-in-bag broccoli in the microwave and cook according to the instructions. Once it’s done, let it cool for a few minutes, then chop it all as finely as possible. (You can always puree the broccoli in a blender for a more Panera-like, all-liquid texture, but I like soups with a little heft to them.)
  5. Now, pour in the carrots and broccoli. Give it a quick stir and let it return to simmering for about 10 minutes. Since the broccoli is already steamed and the carrots are very finely chopped, simmering doesn’t take as long as the typical recipe.
    mixing soup no cheese
  6. As the soup bubbles, take a knife and carefully carve the top off each piece of bread, just like you would a Jack O’ Lantern. Cut out some of the bread inside, creating a nice little basket for the soup.
    making bowl
  7. Whisk in the cheese, then ladle it into each bread bowl. Garnish with some chunks of bread or cheese, if you’d like.

sprinkle in cheese

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