This lightened up version of a classic broccoli cheddar soup is insanely flavorful without being a bowl full of naps waiting to happen. It strikes the perfect balance between winter comfort food, and vegetal goodness that will get you ready for all the cookie eating that’s in your future (or present).
This post was originally published on December 7, 2018. It has been updated with new photos and content. Enjoy!
Someone I know recently shared with me their cookie eating strategy during the holidays. They refer to it as a “reverse cookie advent calendar” of sorts. It basically means that 25 days out from Christmas they have one cookie. The next day they have two, and so on and so forth until they get the most glorious/gluttonous of days and indulge in a full 25 cookie brigade.
This sounds delightful in its ritual to be honest. But all I could think about (besides how I suddenly had a deep and fervent urge to make all the cookies) was the fallout after the sugar rush. As I get older (gracefully, of course) sugar hits me harder, and like immediately. I’m not sure I’d make it past cookie number five before having to immediately chug 32 ounces of water and lay down for a spell.
And even though you may not commit yourself to a formal challenge like that of the reverse Advent Christmas cookie ilk, the holiday season is really a challenge in and of itself – in stress management, balanced eating, and treating yourself without absolutely wrecking yourself in the process.
I’d like to go on record here by saying I’d NEVER tell anyone to deprive themselves of anything that makes them truly happy, sated, or otherwise delighted. But for me, it’s great to have something green in my back pocket for those moments when I’ve maybe overdone it and could use a shelter from the sugar storm, so to speak.
Lightened Up Broccoli Cheddar Soup
While this won’t undo the cookies of the past, it will put something warm, nourishing, and delicious in your belly. A winter classic, broccoli cheddar soup, gets a lighter treatment that leaves it less heavy but still truly satisfying and full of cheesy, comforting flavor. And the best part is, it only takes a handful of ingredients, 30 minutes, and one pot.
What You’ll Need to Make This Healthy Broccoli Cheddar Soup
The ingredient list here is pretty humble, but everything on it is totally necessary to make something so simple so flavorful. So here we go!
- Broccoli – This is kind of obvious, right? You can use fresh or frozen. Chop it small (because it will cook faster) and don’t forget to use the stems too (just make sure to peel them before you chop them along with the florets).
- Cheddar cheese – I recommend a sharp one, but not one that’s super aged or is going to break the bank. One because the drier the cheese the more difficult it will be to melt into the soup, and two because fancy cheese should be reserved for fancy cheese boards.
- Pecorino cheese – Even though it doesn’t take top billing here, this secondary backup cheese is super important. Pecorino is a sheep’s milk cheese, similar to parmesan. It’s salty, a little nutty, and gives this soup a sharp punch that keeps it from getting dull and murky.
- Shallots – You can also use half a yellow onion, but shallots are a bit sweeter in flavor.
- Baking soda – I’ve touted the joys of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and its ability to break down veggies to make the smoothest soups you’ve ever laid eyes on, and this time is no different. It helps break the broccoli down in much less time, which gets soup on the table faster, and has the added bonus of cooking the broccoli thoroughly, without having to take it to that yellowy, green, soggy state that is so not appealing.
- Lemon juice – A little citrus at the end keeps everything punchy and wakes up the flavors. I’m a big fan of finishing any soup with a hit of acid.
- Salt and Pepper – Because always.
How to Make Broccoli Cheddar Soup, But Healthier!
- Pop some butter in a heavy bottomed pot over medium low heat. Add the shallots, salt, and pepper, and sweat until softened, but not brown.
- Add your broccoli, baking soda, and enough water to barely come to the surface of the broccoli.
- Bring the whole thing to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for ten minutes, or until the broccoli is very tender.
- Blend the soup using an immersion blender, or in batches in a jar blender until smooth.
- Add the cheddar and pecorino cheeses, while the soup is off heat, and stir until the cheeses melt completely. I usually just buzz it in with my immersion blender.
- Add your lemon juice and season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
- Serve up immediately with crusty bread or a salad!
Tips For Making Lightened Up Broccoli Cheddar Soup
I was never a waitress, so I never made tips…but it’s ok, because I’m full of em now!
- If you’re lazy like me, you can grate your shallot or onion on the large holes of box grater instead of painstakingly chopping them fine. I do this for anything that ends up getting blended in the end.
- Don’t throw away your broccoli stems. They’re maybe the most delicious part of the whole vegetable. To prep them, trim off the bottom inch or two (where it’s woody, and hard to get your knife through), give them a quick peel, and chop into bite sized pieces.
- When pureeing soup using an immersion blender, I find it’s most effective to tilt the pot a bit so the soup pools towards one side. Then hold your immersion blender in that area at a slight angle (so the liquid can circulate in and under the blades a bit).
- When pureeing soup using a jar blender, I find it’s always safest to break it down into two batches. This is because hot liquids expand when blended. A good rule of thumb is to never fill your blender jar more than halfway full. Also, hold a clean kitchen towel on the lid of blender as you get started, to keep an extra barrier between you and close to boiling soup.
- This will keep warm for about 30 minutes if it’s covered and set over a very low flame.
What to Serve With Your Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Soup on its own (usually) does not a full meal make. So here are some goodies to go along with, and maybe also some for afterwards.
- Creamy Lemon Spaghetti with Crunchy Breadcrumbs
- Open Faced Mushroom Melts
- Crispy Pan Fried Chicken Thighs
- One Bowl Chocolate Chip Cookies
And for more easy soups to try, check these out!
Lightened Up Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Yes this has butter and cheese in it, but because it’s so simple you don’t need a ton of either of those things to make a real impact. Go for a little of the real stuff and see how amazing it can be.
- Prep Time: 5 Mins
- Cook Time: 20 Mins
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 6 Servings 1x
- Category: Soup
- Cuisine: American
3 T unsalted butter
2 shallots, minced (or half a medium yellow onion)
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 head broccoli, chopped small (including stems – trimmed, peeled, and chopped)
⅛ tsp baking soda
3–4 C water
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
¼ C grated pecorino romano cheese
Juice of half a lemon
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallots, salt, and pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the broccoli, baking soda, and just enough water to cover (I usually end up just shy of 4 cups).
Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, or until broccoli is very tender.
Blend in batches using a jar blender, or in the pot with an immersion blender until smooth. Add the cheddar and pecorino and whisk to combine. If using an immersion blender I stir the cheese in and then buzz it one final time with the stick blender – this makes it silky smooth.
Add the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Don’t skip the baking soda, even though it seems weird, it’s what helps the broccoli get tender quickly, which means a faster, smoother soup!
If you’re lazy like me, you can grate your shallot or onion on the large holes of box grater instead of painstakingly chopping them fine. I do this for anything that ends up getting blended in the end.
Don’t throw away your broccoli stems. They’re maybe the most delicious part of the whole vegetable. To prep them, trim off the bottom inch or two (where it’s woody, and hard to get your knife through), give them a quick peel, and chop into bite sized pieces.
When pureeing soup using an immersion blender, I find it’s most effective to tilt the pot a bit so the soup pools towards one side. Then hold your immersion blender in that area at a slight angle (so the liquid can circulate in and under the blades a bit).
Keywords: light comfort food, broccoli cheese soup, healthy comfort food