Recipe: Baked Potato Soup – Inspired by Panera Bread
I LOVE Panera Bread’s Baked Potato Soup. A few years ago we used to go to Panera almost every weekend for lunch. Courtney and Joslyn would usually share a large mac and cheese and bread, but a bread bowl and potato soup was always too tempting for me to pass up. Of course, most of Panera’s soups/stews aren’t the healthiest, so when I started experimenting with a recipe of my own, I wanted it to be healthier, but just as rich and creamy. This recipe nails it!
My biggest problem with getting the right recipe was matching the exact flavors and consistency. A lot of copycat recipes online use cream cheese, heavy cream and/or a lot of bacon to add flavor. Personally, I’ve tried these variations before we started eating healthier, and they just make the soup feel fatty and not very satisfying. Instead, I went with different varieties of vegetables and used the natural starch in the potatoes to help thicken the soup. An immersion hand blender helps break up the potatoes and thicken the soup, as well. You can also take pre-made mashed potatoes and mix those into the soup near the end to thicken even further. This works similar to heavy cream/cream cheese, but avoids the fat and richness. Whole milk near the end will also help with the flavor.
The official description from the Panera Bread site says they use russet potatoes, smoked bacon, spring onions and chives (along with “seasoning salt” which probably has MSG in it). I made a few modifications to this by adding new textures and making the soup a little healthier along the way. First, instead of just russet potatoes, I also added red skin potatoes with the skins still on them. This adds color and texture that the soup lacks. Instead of spring onions I went with leeks, which are very similar but have a lighter onion flavor. Carrots and celery are almost always staples in my soups, and I found a way to put them in here as well. If you’re a fan of Panera Bread’s Potato Soup, be sure to give this a try and let us know how it went! I’m pretty confident you’ll enjoy it Oh, and be sure to check out our other Panera Bread recipe for Summer Corn Chowder – we love that one as well!
- Serving size: 8-10
- 2 celery stalks diced
- ⅓ leek stalk minced
- 3 or 4 russet potatoes peeled and diced
- 3 or 4 red Skinned potatoes diced with skins left on
- 2 carrots peeled and diced
- ⅓ vidalia or yellow onion diced
- handful of fresh chives chopped
- 3 slices of farm bacon (optional)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 32 oz container of low sodium chicken stock
- salt and pepper to taste
- (adding extra pre-mashed potatoes is an option for making the soup creamier)
- Bring the russet and red skins potatoes to boil in a large pot. Cook for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- In a large soup pot, add the olive oil and butter until butter is melted.
- Add the bacon and cook for 2 minutes
- Add carrots, leeks, onion, celery and cover. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes
- Add chicken broth and salt and pepper. Keep covered and bring to boil. Then simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Add in the potatoes and remove cover. Continue simmering for about 20 minutes.
- Use an immersion hand blender a couple of times to break up some of the potatoes. This will thicken the soup. Then add in the milk (and extra mashed potatoes if you would like) and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- Serve hot.