We absolutely love our loaded baked potato soup around here, but it’s definitely not calorie friendly to those of us trying to watch our intake! The good news is, with a few simple substitutions, we can make a lightened-up version that is much easier on the fitness plan without sacrificing the flavor!
The Crock-pot and sheet pan meals kept us alive this winter. I’m pretty sure of it. Between me juggling several significant projects and a pending move, and my husband working his butt off to finish a number of house projects while wrangling our toddler, we didn’t have time for much in the way of home cooking that we got used to in the early days of quarantine!
And once we emerged from winter hibernation, the waistlines were starting to show it. Well, mine at least. My husband does physical work and runs after a two year old all day, so he can eat what he wants. Still, eating heavy food drags him down instead of giving him energy, so we started making some significant changes to the old menu plan – making room for healthier choices and lightening up some of our favorite recipes!
The first one on the lighten-up list was this longtime favorite of ours, my Loaded Baked Potato Soup. This one has been a blog staple for as long as I’ve had a blog (it was featured on iterations before this one) and a reader favorite. Until you look at just how much butter and cream and carbs it has in it. Oops. It was a recipe I started working on back in grad school, a.k.a. the Before Times a.k.a. When I Had A Metabolism.
You wouldn’t think this version is just as good but with half the calories, would you? It’s even loaded up with all my favorite toppings – green onion, cheese, avocado, bacon, and I’m sure there’s some sour cream buried in there somewhere!
The trick is swapping out some of the potatoes with cauliflower. That’s right, good old roasted cauliflower. You’ll taste it in there – I’ll never tell you that you can’t tell the difference between my calorie-loaded version and this lightened up version – but the thing is, it’s just so delicious you won’t care if you taste cauliflower in the mix. And you know what? You might even appreciate the cauliflower. Roasted cauliflower has a wonderful fresh crisp taste all its own.
Oh, hey, can I take a moment to remind you that you can easily grow your own potatoes? And they’re so easy to cook once you’ve harvested them. They go great in soups like this, too!
This one is definitely a winner in my house, and I’m hopeful that it’s one in yours as well!
As a note – don’t pick on me too much for all the shadows in the photos. I’m doing my best to work around construction right now!
Lightened-Up Loaded Baked Potato Soup
- 4 slices bacon chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 medium yellow onion diced
- 2 celery stalks sliced
- 1 carrot thinly sliced
- 3 each russet potatoes peeled and diced
- 1 each small head of cauliflower stem removed, cut into florets
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cups reduced-fat milk
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 10 tbsp shredded cheese
- salt + pepper to taste
- 6 tbsp chives chopped
- 1 small avocado (optional) peeled and sliced
- Chop the bacon into 1-2" strips and place in the bottom of a large stockpot. Cook over medium until crispy. When crispy, remove and dry on paper towels. Then crumble back into the pan, add the olive oil, and set the pot back on medium heat.
- When the bacon and the oil are sizzling, add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook until the onions are translucent (about 6 minutes).
- Add the chopped potatoes and cauliflower and let them cook an additional 5 minutes.
- Add the broth and season with the garlic powder. Let the mixture simmer for 15-20 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Mash the potatoes with your spoon as they soften.
- Add the milk and simmer for 5 more minutes.
- Pour the mixture into your blender and pulse until the ingredients are chopped but not pureed. You want the soup to be a little chunky.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve garnished with sour cream, shredded cheese, chives, and maybe even some more crumbled bacon if you have it!
This soup goes great with a little bit of bread or cornbread, or if you’re feeling responsible, pull apart a pita for dipping and savory munching. My wine pairing, as with my original soup, is always a nice and hearty Cabernet Sauvignon, something that can hold its own against all the flavor of bacon and potato going on here.
For my would be sommeliers out there, what are your thoughts on pairings for a hearty soup?