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Creative Ideas for Adapting a Family-Favorite Recipe: Broccoli Cheddar Hug-in-a-Bowl


In Blaire Cooks Up A Plan, Blaire describes this Broccoli Cheddar “Hug-In-A-Bowl” soup, one of her all-time family favorites, as “the ultimate comfort food.” When she learns she must eliminate dairy from her diet due to a food sensitivity, there’s naturally a period of adjustment for her and her family—but with creativity and openness to new ideas, she and her mom begin to experiment with alternatives to dairy and new ways to re-make some old favorites.

Though a creamy, cheesy soup like Blaire’s “Hug-in-a-Bowl” might seem like a real challenge to adapt for a dairy-free diet, this recipe is actually a great place to start! Both the dairy and non-dairy versions begin the same way, and the dairy is added at the end—which means a single batch can be adapted to meet a variety of dietary needs or give you an opportunity to experiment with several versions at once. Try our original dairy-rich version, our dairy-free version, or our dairy-free and nut-free version—or experiment with your own custom swaps.

Look for more great recipes from Blaire on her blog, Life at Pleasant View Farm, on Play! And be sure to tell us about your creations on Instagram or Facebook!

Broccoli Cheddar Hug-In-A-Bowl

For the base:


  • 1½ pounds of broccoli
  • 5 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon thyme


Peel the tough broccoli stems. Coarsely chop the broccoli florets and stems.

Pour the broth into a medium saucepan. Set the pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer.

Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. When the butter has melted, add the onion and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute longer. Add the heated broth, chopped broccoli, lemon juice, and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the broccoli is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the broccoli mixture cool until warm, about 30 minutes.

Transfer the broccoli mixture to a blender (do this in batches if necessary). Cover and blend until the soup is smooth. Return the soup to the saucepan, then proceed with one of the following:

Dairy Version

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Salt and black pepper

To the soup base, stir in the milk and bring to a gentle simmer over low heat. Sprinkle half of the cheese into the soup and stir until melted. Taste the soup (careful, it's hot!) and season with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the rest of the cheese. Serve right away.

Dairy-Free Version

  • 2 cups cashew milk
  • ½ pound vegan cheddar, shredded
  • Salt and pepper

To the soup base, stir in the cashew milk and keep warm over low heat. Sprinkle half of the vegan cheddar into the soup and stir until melted. Taste the soup, and season with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the rest of the shredded vegan cheddar. Serve right away.

Dairy-Free & Nut-Free Version

  • 2-4 creamer potatoes, like Yukon Gold
  • Smoked paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper

While the soup base simmers, peel, chop, and boil potatoes in water or broth until very soft. Drain, but reserve liquid; mash the potatoes with enough cooking liquid to make the potatoes creamy and smooth. Season the mashed potatoes with garlic powder, smoked paprika, and salt and pepper to taste.

After blending the soup base, stir in the seasoned potato mixture until it is incorporated into the soup base. Top with popcorn. Serve right away.

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