This silky smooth lemon cauliflower soup is the perfect hearty weeknight dinner. It's got rice and chicken in it, and is topped with a smoked gouda cheesy crisp which is so tasty when it melts into the warm soup.
This lemon cauliflower soup recipe was inspired by three of our all-time favorite soups: Greek avgolemeno soup (we use Chef John's recipe), a smoked cauliflower soup from The Charleston in Baltimore, and a classic chicken noodle soup.
It's got lemon and rice from the avgolemeno, creaminess from the cauliflower which makes it feel more like a chowder than a broth, and shredded chicken from the chicken noodle soup.
Lemon cauliflower soup is pretty simple to make so I won't belabor the development process except to say that the first few times we made this lemon cauliflower soup we liked it, but we didn't love it. It wasn't blog-ready. Something was still missing. Several bowls later it hit me: it needed some smokiness. That smoky umami flavor was the best part of The Charleston's smoked cauliflower soup, of course it was needed in here, too.
The challenge was how to add smokiness without over complicating an otherwise simple recipe.
Don't worry, I'm not about to ask you to buy liquid smoke, or to roast the cauliflower (resulting in a dark brown, unpleasantly colored soup), or even to use of those smoke gun doohickeys you see on Top Chef.
The solution is actually so much simpler than that: Cheesy crisps made from smoked gouda cheese.
How to make smoked gouda cheese crisps
There are a few different ways to make smoked gouda cheese crisps, but the simplest way is to bake deli-sliced cheese on a silicone mat or parchment paper.
It really is that simple. Pick up some deli-sliced smoked gouda cheese (my local Wegman's sells it pre-packaged, or you can get it at the deli counter) and bake it in a 400F oven for 10 minutes. The cheese bubbles and browns and turns almost lacy and is so good whether you decide to crumble it up, dip it, or float it on top of your hot soup.
If you don't want to go the cheese crisp route, you could also just top your soup with a handful of grated smoked gouda. But I think it works best with the textural contrast you get with the cheese crisps.
a few quick recipe notes
- If you can't find deli-sliced smoked gouda, you can use ¼ cup of shredded smoked gouda and bake it the same way.
- I use a Vitamix 5200 to blend the cauliflower to a silky smooth consistency. It's a super powerful blender that totally liquifies the cauliflower so there's no graininess whatsoever.
- The veggies just need a rough chop because they're all going to get pureed in a blender, but the bigger your pieces are the longer they will take to cook. Adjust accordingly!
- You'll notice the recipe calls for 2 quarts of chicken stock, but you might not use all of it bc it depends how much you need to cover the cauliflower. We tested this recipe in a bunch of different size/shaped pots and I've written the instructions to make it easy to adapt to whatever pot you're using and whatever kind of blender bowl you have. As long as the stock covers the cauliflower, you're fine!
lemon cauliflower soup FAQ
You either didn't blend it long enough or your blender isn't powerful enough to fully liquify the cauliflower. To remove any lumps and get it as smooth as possible, strain the soup by pushing it through a wire mesh strainer.
Yes! Swap the chicken stock for vegetable stock, skip the chicken, use 2x the amount of rice, and use a smoked vegan cheese on top. I can't speak to how vegan cheese melts in the oven, but topping the soup with shredded smoked vegan cheese should add that smoky flavor just fine.
It adds a really nice umami flavor and richness. It's not an uncommon way to add depth of flavor in soups. If you like it here, you should try it in your other favorite soups!
lemon cauliflower soup with cheesey crisps
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoon oil (for cooking the chicken)
- 2 small onions (roughly chopped)
- 1 stalk celery (roughly chopped)
- 1 head cauliflower (roughly chopped)
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 4 cloves garlic (finely minced)
- 2 lemons (zested and juiced)
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ cup rice or orzo
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 4 slices smoked gouda cheese (for topping)
- chives (minced, optional for topping)
- Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook whole chicken thighs 3-4 minutes per side until well browned. The chicken does not need to cook all the way through. Remove from pot and set aside.
- Reduce heat to low and add additional oil to skillet if needed, no need to clean it out first. Sweat celery and onions over low heat until very soft, 7-9 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent browning. Increase heat to medium and add garlic. Cook 60 seconds more.
- Add 1 quart of chicken stock and chopped cauliflower to the pot. Use second quart of stock to fill the pot until the cauliflower is just barely covered. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to scoop cauliflower, onion, and celery pieces into a blender. Pour stock from the pot into the blender just until the cauliflower pieces are covered. Blend on high until very smooth. Use additional chicken stock as needed until desired consistency is reached. Return soup to empty pot over low heat.
- Cut chicken into bite size pieces and add it to the pot along with soy sauce, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
- If adding rice, cook for 20 minutes. If adding orzo, cook according to package directions.
Smoked Gouda Cheese Crisps
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Arrange slices of smoked gouda cheese on a sheet pan lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes until bubbly and browned around the edges.
- Remove from oven and let cool completely before lifting from the pan.