Cream of Cauliflower Soup

This is going to sound terrible. But until today, I had been prejudiced towards vegetables based on color. I adored deep colors. I bought produce according to my preconceived notion of their superiority alone. And when I passed the lowly, pale white cauliflower, I turned up my nose without giving it any further thought and went, ‘peh.’ And reached for a more becoming candidate in the Brassicaceae oleracea family, like Brussels sprouts. I was a vegetable bigot.

Not surprisingly, I’ve had my eye on those punky purple shocks of cauliflower heads that have been animating Farmers’ Markets these past few weeks. I could just see a lavender-hued soup brewing away with one of those. Mmm. Purple. But for some reason last Wednesday, all the purple heads weren’t looking so fresh — not nearly as unblemished and crisp as the white ones beside them. Bah! I said, like a bushy-mustachioed Hitler. Don’t they have any others? What about orange cauliflower, what about even yellow? Anything, please, but this sickly snow white. Well, as you can probably figure by now, the answer to that dilemma was no.

Immediately then, I softened. I took another look at the Plain Jane cauliflower. I just don’t have much need for it, I tried to reason. I didn’t think it fitting for the quickly stir-fried-with-garlic applications that I treat most vegetables to. I couldn’t imagine tossing it in a pasta primavera (that dull contrast with the color of pasta… ). I hadn’t yet heard of mashing it up as a “fauxtato,” or low-carb substitute for potatoes. I suppose I could have added it raw to a salad, but that somehow seemed pointless. Sadly, I realized that each one of these judgments had been based solely on color. It was a shameful moment, to say the least.

‘flower power

So with a heavy sigh, I chose a crisp white head of cauliflower and decided to give it a go.

That is, with the help of some bacon.

Shallots, onion, white wine, butter and lots of cream. I think we’re off to a beautiful start. Cream of anything soup is an instant winner for me. Especially with vegetables that aren’t especially sweet — broccoli, spinach. Cauliflower seemed like another good match, even if it’s exactly the same color as cream.

Though cream soups are known for being incredibly heavy and rich, I find that when using a dense vegetable, like cauliflower or broccoli which adds to the body of the soup, it’s easy to go light on the heaviness without taking away flavor. So in this recipe, three orders of creaminess are offered as options — whole milk, half-and-half and heavy cream. This time around, I stayed in the middle range with the half-and-half. I also added a couple strips of bacon for a smoky enhancement to the cauliflower’s mild sweet flavor. Depending on how fresh your cauliflower is, you may want to omit this to fully experience its flavor.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup
(makes 6-8 servings)

1 head cauliflower, trimmed of stalks and chopped to pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
2 strips bacon, chopped
1 cup half and half, whole milk or heavy cream (or any combination, depending on desired richness)
2 tablespoons butter
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons fresh dill or chives, chopped

Heat a large soup pot or Dutch oven over a medium flame. Add the bacon, and stir for a minute. Add the onion, shallot and garlic. Stir occasionally for 5-7 minutes, until softened. Add the white wine, and raise heat to medium-high to bring to a boil. Add the bay leaf, cauliflower and all the stock and season with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring once or twice. Once it begins to boil, turn heat to low, cover and let simmer for 20-25 minutes.

Open and turn off heat. Try to remove that bay leaf. If using a handheld blender, puree until thick and somewhat uniform in texture. I like to keep it a little bit chunky. Or, if you have a food processor, let soup cool for 10 minutes or so, then work in batches to puree. Once the soup has been blended, return to the pot and cook over medium-high heat. Add the cream, half-and-half or whole milk. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary. Bring soup to just a boil, but don’t let it keep boiling as the milk will burn. Turn off heat and stir in the butter and dill or chives. Serve in bowls and garnish with more of the herbs.

Cost Calculator
(for 6-8 servings)

1 large head of cauliflower: $3
1 onion (at $1/lb): $0.25
2 shallots (at $3/lb): $0.20
1/2 cup dry white wine (two-buck Chuck!): $0.40
2 strips bacon (at $5/lb): $0.65
1 cup half-and-half (at $2.99/pint): $1.50
3 cups chicken stock (homemade): $1.00
2 tablespoons fresh dill (at $1/bunch): $0.35
2 tablespoons butter (at $4/16 oz): $0.25
1 clove garlic, bay leaf, salt and pepper: $0.20

Total: $7.80

Health Factor

Five brownie points: Dead in the middle. I’ve been garnishing my food like crazy lately, and it’s not just because the herbs aren’t going to stay crisp in my crisper for too long. Okay, maybe it’s mostly because of that, but I have this almighty attitude about dusting things with them knowing that it’s adding flavor and nutrition all at once, and you can never have enough of both. Not that I’d need much help with this cauliflower soup. Its color betrays the fact that it carries plenty of fiber, folate and Vitamin C. Three florets supposedly grant you 67% of your daily intake of Vitamin C, even. So much for those old-fashioned nutrition color codes. Although if I’d gotten the purple ones, it would have more antioxidants to boot.

28 Responses

  1. Katie

    I had cream of cauliflower the other day. I was at a work lunch and I didn’t know what to get for my starter so I asked the waitress to choose for me and that’s what she chose. I was a big wary of it – I have similar colour-inspired prejudices when it comes to vegetables – but it was SO good. And now I know how to make it at home. Thanks! K

  2. thew

    Great minds cook alike, evidently. I made some cauliflower soup yesterday with curry spices, milk instead of cream, and a bit of stock made from smoked turkey drumsticks for that mysterious background flavor.

  3. Ann

    Looks good! And cauliflower is awesome roasted, too. Or stirfried with some sesame oil, red pepper flakes and garlic.

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  5. OhioMom

    Must be a cauliflower weekend 🙂 I made spicy potato and cauliflower stir fry for dinner today.

  6. Les

    haha, my sister was just saying the same thing about choosing only certain colored veggies
    and yes, cauliflower is yum. i made an indian korma dish with cauliflower, spinach and potatoes. delicious

  7. Carrie

    I’m sorry…but all creativity and skill aside (which I very much admire and enjoy keeping up with)… you had me at “vegetable bigot.”

  8. Judy Petruccio

    You are brilliant!

  9. Ben Sargent

    Hey…I thought you said you don’t make chowders! This is getting very close to chowder territory…and boy does it look good!


  10. Johnna Knows Good Food

    This is a good combo for a great soup!

  11. Cassie

    Wow! Just what I was craving this rainy day in November! Even the kids are lapping it up…why not sprinkle a bit more cooked bacon on top before serving? Can one truly have too much bacon?!

  12. Heidi

    quite good, thanks for sharing your recipe!

  13. Travis

    I’m working on the soup right now and absolutely love your website! This is the first of your recipes I’m trying and used 2 tablespoons of dill weed…which seems quite strong at the moment. I’m hoping it will taper down once the cream etc., is added. Is dill weed an ok substitute to fresh dill and are the measurements comparable?
    Thank you!! I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

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  15. Patty

    I just made you soup and two of my dorm mates asked to try it (one even asked for seconds 😀 )

    I used dried parsley in place of the dill as that was what I had on hand and it worked wonderfully.

    This was one of the first (of what I hope will be many)of your recipies that I have tried.

    Thank you for your detailed and informative posts.

  16. boxofnames

    I just made this exactly as you recommended and it is absolutely fantastic. Your website has inspired me to give up restaurant going for Lent (even though I’m not a practicing Catholic.) This soup is quite a kick-off.

  17. Judy

    Thanks for the inspiring cauliflower soup photo. I went right to work chopping up garlic, onion and cauliflower.
    First I sauteed one small chopped onion, two fat cloves of garlic in olive oil til was soft and almost transluscent. Next I added the chopped cauliflower, salt and enough water to barely cover it. Covered pot and simmered til veggies soft enough to mash. Mash it. Add spices like:
    mustard, tumeric, more garlic powder if needed, more seasalt, pepper, and some grated parmasean cheese. I have a hand blender but you can use the reg kind. Instead of milk or cream I used a little unsweetened almond milk. I reheated everything and tasted it once. When you declare it delicious pour into mug or bowl and garnish with fresh parsely or scallions. What a healthy treat on a cold day. Took about a half hour to make. Went great with a nice salad.

  18. Judy

    Thanks for your site! I’ll be back!

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    Great take on the regular cauliflower soup. Too bad we can’t use it on a cauliflower soup diet:)p

  21. claudia

    MMMMM, so wonderful! Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  22. tim acken

    Maybe the best way ever to eat cauliflower

  23. Very nice article I like your site carry on the amazing posts

  24. Lily

    “We usually have cream of corn, mushroom or asparagus but never cauliflower. Will definitely try this out. Bacon yum!

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