One-Pot Wonders

Melissa Clark's Seared Broccoli & Potato Soup

October 12, 2022
23 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

"This is not your average broccoli soup," Melissa Clark writes. "Instead of merely boiling the broccoli to cook it, here, the florets are seared until deeply browned on one side while remaining bright green on the other. This gives the soup a layer of caramelized flavor while also preserving the fresh green taste of the broccoli itself. It’s a technique inspired by Andrew Feinberg of Franny’s restaurant in Brooklyn, who also uses it for zucchini soup." Adapted slightly from the New York Times (November, 2014). —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 pounds (2 heads) broccoli, separated into small florets, stems peeled and diced
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large Spanish onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, more for finishing
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 pound potatoes, peeled, and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, more to taste
  • Grated or shaved Parmesan, to finish (optional)
  • Flaky sea salt, to finish
  1. In a large soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over high heat. Add about a third of the broccoli, just enough so that it covers the bottom of the pan in a single layer without overcrowding. Cook broccoli without moving it for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until dark brown on 1 side only (leave the other side bright green). Transfer to a big bowl and repeat with remaining broccoli and more oil. When all the broccoli has been browned, season with 1 teaspoon salt and set aside.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add butter and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to pan. Add onions and garlic, black and red peppers, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook onion-garlic mixture until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add potato to the pot with 1 quart water and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, cover pot and cook until potato is just tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add broccoli, cover again and cook until tender, another 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Add lemon zest and roughly purée soup with an immersion or regular blender, leaving some small chunks for texture. Stir in lemon juice. Finish with grated Parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil, black pepper and flaky sea salt.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • Vicky Maldonado
    Vicky Maldonado
  • Suma Chandrasekaran
    Suma Chandrasekaran
  • Carol Skeer Diamond
    Carol Skeer Diamond
  • Hailey
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

34 Reviews

AJ January 19, 2024
Perfect as written have made it many times. Sometimes if I don't have lemon I don't add it, sometimes if I'm out of parmesan I leave that out as well. It's pretty forgiving and always delicious.
Priscilla F. January 14, 2024
It’s a brilliant recipe and as a vegan, I appreciate it. The Parmesan garnish can be vegan, of course. Searing the broccoli as directed, gives the recipe lots of flavor.
AntoniaJames September 14, 2023
AntoniaJames September 15, 2023
I made this in my Instant Pot pressure cooker, on the pressure setting for 1 minute with a five minute natural release before manually releasing, instead of simmering. I also used a medium large Yukon gold potato that I didn't peel, but cut into 1/2" chunks. I used a hand blender for about half the soup, leaving quite a few broccoli and potato chunks in for serving.

Made that way, it turned out rustic, but delicious. I am not sure that I'd serve this at a dinner party, but for a cool late summer evening with "just us" at home, it was the perfect starter.

Now moved to my Keepers collection. ;o)
Nellie March 24, 2022
I was not a fan of this recipe. Made exactly as written and found the taste bland and the color unappetizing. I love broccoli and soup, this felt like a mushy broccoli side.
Scdaube March 7, 2022
Very good and healthy. Subbed cauliflower for the potato as I love the combination of broccoli and cauliflower in soup. Love that it uses water instead of broth. Am so glad to find a soup recipe that does not need a quart of broth - which to be honest is usually store bought - which does not feel or taste as good.
Sophieib January 11, 2022
Loved this recipe but made a few tweaks after reading the reviews and running out of lemons.

I ended up using in total:
1 spanish onion
6 cloves of garlic
4 small white potatoes
1 head of broccoli (sliced florets in half)
1 tsp of miso
1/2 tsp of black pepper
1/3 tsp of red chile flakes
2 cups of chicken stock
2 tbsp of coconut oil for frying the broccoli
2 tbsp of butter for frying the onion-garlic mix
1 tsp of salt (but might reduce it in future as the stock made it a tad too salty for my taste)

The end result was so flavourful and light! Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe :)
Vicky M. November 21, 2021
Great Veganizable Recipe.
Pro Tip: Costco Broccoli Bag!

Made this as written the first time, and I agree with many of the reviewers, the flavor was flat . Second time i made it I...
- used vegetable broth (low sodium) instead of water
- sliced the broccoli florets in half so they seared more easily
- for about 50% of the salt the recipe asks for I used SMOKED sea salt.
- cooked in a cast iron dutch oven which i think helped crank up the char flavor
- 1/3 cup of nutritional yeast which really rounded it out (didn't use parmesan)

This batch came out a little thick so i just added water until it was the right consistency.
TSmith November 19, 2019
I made this with water as directed and thought the flavor was really lacking. Maybe because I'm used to using stock, or maybe because I didn't get enough sear on my broccoli? I might give it another shot and cut up the florets more to get more surface sear and go 50/50 water/stock or just all stock.
Suma C. August 22, 2019
Cut the broccoli florets so there is a flat side to be charred. The searing step uses quite a bit of oil so I skipped the butter and didn't miss it. Probably feeds more like 6-8 and if you are using as a side can probably spread it even further. Will make again!
Carol S. November 13, 2018
Really good soup! I used a bag of organic florets from Costco to save prep time. Love the smoky flavor imparted by searing. Used vegetable stock, added a bit of miso and cut back on the salt. Wanted to add nutritional yeast as well, but it had expired. I also used half white half sweet potato. I hope Melissa, that you are not disturbed by all the tampering that goes on with the recipe! It's such a great flavor base, and everyone has their favorite nuances to play with.
Drisana November 2, 2018
This soup was delicious. I was surprised at how easy it was to make. I cut my broccoli head into thirds and pan seared for efficacy and chopped the stalk into bits to sautée afterwards. The lemon added brightness to the flavor and rounded everything out.
Andrea M. October 18, 2017
So bright, fresh and tasty. Sure, wearing the broccoli is more effort than boiling in a pot, but totally worth it. I added in a few extra broccoli stems I needed to use. Can someone please explain to this Australian what red pepper flakes are? Are they chilli? With or without seeds?
Renee B. October 22, 2017
Crushed red pepper. Pizza places usually have a glass shaker of them on the table. Here's a photo
Nate January 15, 2018
They are crushed red chili peppers (including seeds). Here's the Wikipedia page:

"Crushed red pepper shakers have become as standard as salt and pepper on tables at Italian style restaurants and especially pizza parlors in the United States."
Dianne J. October 11, 2017
I've made this soup several times from the NYT Cooking website. I use chicken broth and a few more potatoes than called for. I tried roasting the broccoli, which was a little easier, but it's really not as good as browning in the pot. Be sure to cut your florets in half so there's a flat side for good browning. That caramelization is really what makes the soup.
Hailey January 19, 2017
This soup is AMAZING. I made a few of my own adjustments-- used coconut oil instead of olive oil, vegetable stock instead of water, and used 1/2 regular potatoes, 1/2 sweet potatoes.

The flavors from the seared broccoli are amazing. I also blended 3/4 of it in a Vitamix until it was super smooth-- and the texture is lovely with the extra small bits of broccoli and potato. YUM
NCdana November 21, 2016
This soup is notably better on the second day. It can be frozen too. Served with olive oil, lemon wedges and Parmesan.
Debra November 15, 2016
Could this be made the day before and reheated for lunch? I have 8 house guests for Thanksgiving that will need lunch and I'll be busy with Turkey Dinner prep.
Kristen M. November 15, 2016
Yes, absolutely, the flavor might be even better the second day! Just be sure to give it a taste after reheating to adjust the lemon and salt.
LeslieJ November 14, 2016
This is one of my favorite soups! To make it easier, try lightly roasting the broccoli (and maybe subbing half cauliflower) in a 425 over on parchment paper and just shaving the lemon zest off with a peeler (use a lot!). I use a med-sized Yukon Gold potato and 1 can of chicken stock and 2-4 cups water. Leave some texture when you puree. Yum - pablum for adults
S P. October 17, 2016
Forgot to mention I also used my own chicken stock, and eye balled the salt (someone mentioned too much salt).
S P. October 17, 2016
Turned out great! Thinner than I expected, but I had added a little more broth to stretch the soup. Didn't use the red pepper (kids) or parmesan, but it would be excellent with them as well. I disagree that it is too much work. The broccoli cooks up faster than implied--much faster than roasting would. I also did not have many dishes to wash up. One of the easier soups I've made.
Jessica T. September 28, 2016
Loved this soup. Pan frying the broccoli was a great idea that brought complexity to the soup. The addition of lemon really made the soup brighten up and the addition of Parmesan added more savory notes to the dish. Also paired it will jalapeno cheddar bread. So delicious. Will definitely make it again!