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Panera Bread Vegetarian Summer Corn Chowder

By Todd Wilbur


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Panera’s top soup pick in the summer is a creamy vegetarian chowder that’s full of flavor and very simple to duplicate at home once you know an important flavor secret. I started my hack using a vegetable broth since that’s what all the other “copycats” call for, but I found its strong vegetable flavor dominated the soup, so I quickly bailed on that plan. Starting over, I referred to the soup ingredients posted online by Panera Bread and noticed there is no broth in the soup, which means every copycat recipe I found online is wrong. I didn’t want to make the same mistake in my recipe, but without the broth this soup would be severely lacking in flavor, and that’s no good either.

In many soup recipes, the broth or stock is important for the umami quality provided by the yeast extract added to the product. Yeast extracts are one of the many ways food manufacturers add an MSG flavor-enhancing effect without adding true MSG. Panera does in fact list “yeast extract” as one of the ingredients in the soup, so I needed to find a readily available ingredient that provides the same savory quality. Enter nutritional yeast—or “nooch” as it’s often called—a flakey, nutrient-packed, vegan ingredient that’s growing quickly in popularity thanks to the savory, cheesy flavor it adds to a variety of foods (it’s great on popcorn). Nooch is also popular with the vegans and vegetarians since it’s fortified with vitamin B12, an essential nutrient that's mainly found in animal-sourced foods.

Now, with nooch in there, along with yellow corn, red skin potatoes, poblano pepper, tomatoes, cilantro, and other tasty things, no broth is required. Just add water and a little patience for this Panera vegetarian summer corn chowder recipe.

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  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup diced white onion
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