With the cold weather, I’ve been thinking about comfort foods! Cozy foods perfect for a snow day or as a first course for a dinner party or holiday meal. Today’s recipe for bacon cheddar soup combines those thoughts into a cheese filled, creamy, smoky soup you’ll love along with a glass of a yummy fall or winter beer as accompaniment.
Ready to indulge a little? Then I have the soup for you!
Bacon Cheese Soup
Do not make any mistake. This soup is rich and intense. Smoky, creamy, with crumbles of crispy bacon, and plenty of flavorful cheddar. It is just the sort of thing you crave on a chilly fall night, or while the snow is falling in the winter. It is food like a warm hug.
However, since it is so rich, it is not for the faint of heart! Nor for large portions. Though it is so yummy you might want to keep it to yourself, this is a soup to share with friends and family. Have a small bowl. Enjoy every drop. And feel satisfied instead of overfilled.
Though I do make a few different cheese soups, this one is a favorite of mine. And it is the one which is most purely All About The Cheese. Lots of it. I figure go big or go home!
What do you need?
- Cheddar Cheese – Sharp and smoked!
- Bacon – Thick cut and smoked
- Aromatics – Shallots, carrots, and garlic
- Flour – For gluten free, use cornstarch and make a slurry with the stock
- Stock & Cream – Low sodium stock (there’s a lot of salt elsewhere in the recipe) and either cream or milk
- Thyme – Fresh if you can get it
The Cheese – When I first made this soup, I used a block of good, sharp cheddar, and the flavors with the bacon were really nice. I could have stopped there with great soup, but I realized I wanted bring the smokiness into the cheese as well. Kind of layer on the flavors and really infuse the broth as well with the smoke.
As soon as I tried it, I knew it was a great idea!
On one hand I had the sharp flavors of an aged New York cheddar, and on the other, the maple flavors of a smoked Vermont variety. I don’t know if the two cheese regions get along or they are all competitive, but I can say their cheeses get along just fine.
The Bacon – With the cheeses sorted, it was time to the think about the bacon! We like to think about bacon here at BitofBaconHQ, though only sometimes. A little bit. 😉
I wanted crispy bacon with a decent amount of fat for the roux and good, thick cut one to make substantial crumbles. It turns out that six slices is just the right amount, giving me at least 4 tablespoons of fat and enough crumbles for six servings of soup.
How do you make bacon cheddar soup?
To make creamy bacon cheese soup, start by cooking bacon until crisp. Then saute the aromatics in the bacon fat. Add flour and chicken stock while whisking, then cheese by the handful. Finish with cream and bacon crumbles.
Cook the bacon
By far the easiest way to cook a several slices of bacon is to use the oven.
Just lay your slices on a baking sheet (line with foil if you want) and put them in a 400F oven. Cook for 8 minutes, then turn the baking sheet and cook until browned and crisp. For a full pan this can take me 7-8 minutes. For a half pan like this I find they are done around 4-5 minutes. So check at 4 minutes and keep an eye on them!
Move the bacon to a plate and save the fat.
Tip: If you prefer a turkey bacon, or some other lean bacon, you will likely need to add some butter to the pot for the roux to make the 4 tablespoons you’ll need. Also, note that turkey bacon doesn’t tend to be crispy so keep that in mind.
Make the soup
Start by cooking up your carrots, onions, and garlic in the bacon fat you saved. Once they are soft and browned, add the flour and whisk until smooth. Then sprinkle in the thyme and whisk in the chicken stock.
Bring the soup to a simmer to thicken.
Now it’s time for the cheese! Take the soup off the heat (this will keep it from being too hot) and add the cheese by handfuls while whisking vigorously. Continue until all the cheese is added and melted.
Tip: Move the pot back onto the heat if the cheese isn’t melting quickly. You’re trying to keep in the Goldilocks zone of not too hot and not too cold.
Add the milk or cream and bring the soup back to a simmer. Crumble up about half the bacon and add that to the soup.
Serve with more bacon crumbles and croutons to top the soup.
Recommendation: Make my Olive Oil Fried Croutons. These croutons are crispy/chewy and seriously awesome.
Tips for Melting the Cheese
We need to talk about melting the cheese. You really don’t want to break your cheese in a cheese soup. Which is all about the cheese. So, I have a few tips:
If you try my recipe for Bacon Cheddar Soup, I would love to hear from you in the comments with your experience and rating! And I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
Smoky Bacon Cheddar Cheese Soup
- 6 slices thick cut bacon
- 4 cups chicken stock, low sodium or no sodium
- 1 medium shallot, finely diced
- 1 medium carrot, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 6 tbsp flour, divided - 4 tbsp for the pot and 2 tbsp for the cheese
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried
- 4 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
- 4 oz smoked cheddar, shredded (I used maple smoked)
- 1 cup whole milk, or half and half
- fried croutons, optional
- Heat the oven: Set the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven to 400F.
- Cook the Bacon: Lay out the bacon on a baking tray. Cook for 8 minutes, then turn the tray around and cook for another 5-7 minutes.
- When the bacon is done, transfer it to a paper towel lined plate. Reserve the bacon fat.
- Saute the vegetables: Add 4 tablespoons of the bacon fat to a dutch oven.
- Over medium heat, saute the shallot and carrots for 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and saute for 1 minute more.
- While the vegetables are sauteing, heat up the chicken stock in a saucepan until it is steaming.
- Make a roux: Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of the flour to the pot, whisking it into the bacon fat. Let the flour bubble for 1 minute, whisking frequently. Stir in the chopped thyme.
- Slowly pour the hot chicken stock into the pot while whisking. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
- Melt the cheese: Toss the shredded cheeses with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. Pull the pot off the heat and start adding the cheese by the handful, whisking as you go.
- Once the cheese has all melted and the soup is smooth, put it back on the heat, add the half and half and bring the soup back to a simmer.
- Finish the soup: Crumble up the bacon. Add half the bacon to the soup and reserve the rest for sprinkling over the top. Serve the soup with the crumbled bacon, some thyme leaves if you wish, and croutons.
- Cheese: You can use all sharp cheddar if you wish. It won't be as smokey but it will still be quite good.
- Melting the Cheese: For melting with no clumping or curdling, follow my tips!
- First, coat the cheese with starch. By tossing the cheese with some of the flour, you will protect the cheese as it melts.
- Second, shred the cheese. This keeps it small so it can melt quickly before it separates.
- And, third, watch the temperature. Your soup needs to be above 140F or the cheese won't melt properly, but it also needs to be below about 160F or it might still curdle. If you wish, check the soup with a thermometer to be certain of the temperature.
- Bacon: This is standard pork bacon and I use the thickest bacon I can find in the store. If you use a leaner bacon, you may need to add some butter to the pot to make up the 4 tbsps for the roux.
- Small Servings: The soup is very rich so plan to serve it in small bowls. A glass of beer makes a good accompaniment to the soup and cuts through the richness.
First published October 2017. Rewritten, expanded, and rephotographed.