This Vegan Cauliflower Soup is thick and creamy and highlights the nutty and grassy notes of the cauliflower. It’s accented with a tangy paprika drizzle and toasted pine nuts.
How this Vegan Cauliflower Soup Happened
My lovely wife was craving cauliflower soup on a chilly December evening. I wanted to make a soup that helped the natural essence of the cauliflower shine. Great mouthfeel was important as well. But I also wanted some bright pops of flavor to keep it interesting.
I reached for a couple of trusty books – The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook (from America’s Test Kitchen) and The Flavor Bible for inspiration. The former I like for its solid and detailed recipes and the latter for creative brainstorming of flavor combinations.
I adapted the cauliflower soup recipe from the vegetarian cookbook and enhanced it with some flavor affinities suggested in the Flavor Bible.
What makes this soup tasty
There are a few different things going on with the flavors.
Because of the clever cooking method, which I learned from the cookbook and explain below, the cauliflower shows off two flavors by itself. You get both the creamy, nutty essence of cooked cauliflower and the grassy-floral vibes of raw (or less cooked) cauliflower.
The flavoring oil adds even more layers of flavor. The paprika gives a delightful sweetness, the vinegar a tartness, and the pine nuts a direct, almost smoky nuttiness.
The texture of the soup itself is creamy and smooth but not heavy. The mouthfeel is almost fluffy from the blending, though it’s still a substantial dish. This all creates a nice balance in the soup.
The toppings add a layer of textural contrast – toasted pine nuts have a nice “break” as you bite into them and the sauteed cauliflower florets provide a softer, more fibrous bite.
How to Make the Soup
Cutting the Cauliflower
It’s important to cut the cauliflower a certain way to get the best flavor. You’ll carefully remove the stem and core with a knife. The stem and core should be sliced thinly so they will cook through and become tender.
Break off about a cup of nice-looking small florets and set them aside. You’ll saute these and use them in the final garnish.
Slice the rest of the cauliflower into half-inch slices. Even thickness will help it cook evenly and the soup to have a nice texture.
Saute and Simmer
You’ll saute onion and leek in plant-based butter until tender, then add some water, the cauliflower stem and core, and half of the sliced cauliflower (not the florets, and set the other half aside).
Once you’ve simmered the first half of the sliced cauliflower for 15 minutes, you’ll add the other half. The first half gets nutty, while the second half stays a little bit grassy. This step is done when the recently-added cauliflower is tender.
Make the Drizzle
The drizzle consists of sauteed cauliflower, toasted pine nuts, plant-based butter, sweet paprika, and tangy vinegar.
You’ll saute the cauliflower and pine nuts in the butter, then add the paprika to the pan to toast it lightly. Stir the vinegar in, and the drizzle is ready.
Blend, Garnish, and Serve
When you’re ready to serve, blend the cauliflower, leek, onion, and liquid together until smooth. Season it with salt and pepper to taste, adjust the consistency if you need, and pour it into bowls.
Garnish with a generous spoonful (or two) of the drizzle, sprinkle some chopped chives onto the soup, and enjoy!
Easy Veggie Dishes to Pair with the Soup
- Roasted Oyster Mushrooms – one ingredient – they’re crispy, juicy, and addictive
- 3-Ingredient Sauteed Kale – the easiest and tastiest way to eat a ton of greens
- Sheet Pan Dinner #1 – mushrooms, brussels sprouts, and potatoes all roasted together
- 3-Ingredient Sauteed Summer Squash – highlights the natural sweetness of the squash
Other Wholesome Plant-based Soups
- Cream of Mushroom Soup – delightfully creamy and mushroomy
- Hot & Sour Soup – the Chinese classic, loaded with mushrooms, tofu, and more
- Minestrone – veggies, potatoes, white beans, and risotto in an herby saffron broth
- 3-Ingredient Lentil Soup – simple and satisfying to the core
As always, if you try this recipe out, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @gastroplant on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.
Vegan Cauliflower Soup
- 1 head cauliflower
- 8 Tablespoons plant-based butter divided
- 1 leek white and light green parts only; cut in half lengthwise and sliced thinly
- 1 small onion sliced thinly
- 5 cups water divided
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 Tablespoon sherry vinegar see note
- 2 Tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- Chives to garnish
Prepare the cauliflower
- Carefully remove the stem and core of the cauliflower with a knife. Slice the core and stem thinly. Break off about a cup of nice-looking small florets, each 1/2 inch across at the largest, and set them aside in a bowl. Slice the rest of the cauliflower into 1/2-inch slices. Separate the sliced cauliflower into two equal batches.
Saute and Simmer
- Heat 3 Tablespoons of plant-based butter in a large pot over medium-low heat. When the butter is melted, add the onion and leek. Saute until the onion is translucent and tender, 7-8 minutes, stirring often. If either ingredient starts to brown at any point, reduce the heat slightly.
- Add 4.5 cups of the water, the sliced cauliflower stem and core, and half the sliced cauliflower. Increase to medium-high heat until the water begins to simmer, then bring it back down to medium-low. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add the rest of the sliced cauliflower. Simmer until the second batch of cauliflower is tender, 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
Prepare the drizzle
- Melt the remaining 5 tablespoons of plant-based butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cauliflower florets and pine nuts. Saute until the florets are lightly browned and the pine nuts are toasted, 5-7 minutes, stirring often to prevent the nuts from scorching. Add the paprika. Stir for 1 more minute to mix well and lightly toast the paprika.
- Transfer the contents of the skillet to a bowl and stir in the vinegar.
- Transfer the soup to a blender and blend on high until smooth, about a minute. Transfer the soup back to the pot. Taste the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste (see note). Stir in water, 2 Tablespoons at a time, if you want a thinner consistency.
- Transfer the soup into portion-sized bowls. Divide the drizzle among the bowls, making sure to include some paprika oil, some cauliflower florets, and some pine nuts. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.