Calling all Panera broccoli and cheese soup lovers! I’m popping in with a recipe for an easy, healthy Slow Cooker Broccoli and Cheese Soup that takes less than 10 minutes to prep and will make you feel just as warm and toasty as the Panera original. Watch the short, 45-second video below to see the soup being made, and read on for the scoop on how this recipe came to be.
I originally posted this recipe on the last day of a trip I took to Charleston, South Carolina with this guy. (If you’re heading to Charleston soon, be sure to check out my Charleston restaurant and activity guide.) I decided to reshare the recipe today, because it’s become a true reader favorite, and because I’m once again in the midst of a crazy travel spree, which is exactly how this easy Slow Cooker Broccoli Cheese Soup recipe was inspired.
When I think back on our trip to Charleston, the first thing that comes to mind is ALL THE FOOD. We chose the city based on its reputation as a foodie paradise, and it did not disappoint. If you followed along on Instagram or Snapchat (@wellplated), you witnessed a portion of the mass seafood/soul food havoc the two of us wreaked. I say “portion” because, by the end of the trip, the culinary consumption reached a level I was embarrassed to continue posting.
For me, eating and drinking is, quite literally, my favorite way to gain a taste for a city. While I loved every bite and sip of our trip, whenever I return from vacation, it’s with an acute craving for wholesome foods and green veggies.
I also return to an inbox stuffed with unread emails and a dresser devoid of clean underwear. Reality, we have arrived.
This easy Slow Cooker Broccoli and Cheese Soup is the perfect recipe for when you are in need of a healthy meal but have zero time to cook it, a position I’m in now. I’ve been out of town the past two weekends and leave again this Thursday. I adore traveling, but whenever I am out of town back-to-back weeks, the “no time to cook” song becomes a refrain. I suspect that, on many a busy weeknight, it’s one you sing too.
Nearly every broccoli and cheese soup recipe I’ve found calls for the initial step of making a base cheese sauce on the stove, including recipes designed for the crock pot. Because I know we don’t always have time to fuss with this kind of prep, I decided to see if I could create a slow cooker broccoli and cheese soup entirely via the “dump and go” method: dump the ingredients into your crock pot; walk away; return hours later to a dinner that’s ready to serve.
Slow Cooker Broccoli and Cheese Soup
The most easy and healthy recipe for Broccoli and Cheese Soup you’ll find! Made with lots of fresh veggies, cheddar, and your crock pot does all the work.
YIELD: Serves 6
PREP TIME: 15 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 2 hours (on high) to 6 hours (on low)
5 cups chopped broccoli florets (about 16 ounces)
1 cup grated carrots (you can grate yourself or use bagged, pre-cut julienne carrots)
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 ounces reduced fat cream cheese (do not use fat free)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 (12-ounce) can 2% evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (8-ounce) block sharp cheddar cheese, grated*
Place the broccoli, carrots, onion, and garlic in the bottom of 5-to-6-quart slow cooker. Top with the cream cheese, oregano, nutmeg, and chicken broth. Stir to evenly distribute the ingredients. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours or low for 4-6 hours, until the broccoli is tender.
Remove the lid and stir in the evaporated milk. With an immersion blender, puree about 3/4 of the soup, so that it is mostly smooth but still has a few chunks of broccoli remaining. Alternatively, you can puree the soup in 1 cup-sized batches in a food processor or blender. (Be careful—it’s hot and prone to splatter!)
Recover the soup and let cook on low for 10 minutes until warmed through. Stir the salt, pepper, and grated cheese. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as desired. Recover and cook on high until the cheese is fully melted and the soup is hot, about 5 additional minutes. Serve warm.