I love to cook, but one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is recreate some of my favorite pre-vegan foods. It’s especially cool when I can recreate something that no longer exists, vegan or otherwise.
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As a kid, my family and I would occasionally go to the 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant in College Park, MD. It was a really neat place, a hodgepodge of WWI and WWII memorabilia, 1940s music, and views of airplanes taking off and landing at College Park Airport. It’s been closed for nearly ten (‽) years now, but I can remember one thing as if it were yesterday: beer cheese soup.
Even though I am a vegan and therefore wouldn’t eat it even if I could (I do believe there is another location somewhere in the LA area), it was so delicious and rich that soon after they closed (when I wasn’t a vegan yet) I took to the internet to find a copycat recipe. Though it isn’t exactly right, this recipe from cdkitchen was the basis of many years of delicious souping, and also the basis of today’s recipe. Several years down the line, however, and this baby needed a little veganizing. You may also notice that I cut the size of the recipe in half in the photos. You can absolutely do that as the recipe makes quite a bit of soup. It does store in the fridge for about a week, and it also freezes really well.
So let’s get started! First off, we need to soften a finely chopped onion and some vegan bacon in a little oil over medium/medium high heat. You can of course use whatever vegan bacon you like, but I’m using McCormick Bac’n Pieces (in the “chips” size) because: a) they have an incredibly strong bacon flavor, b) I don’t have to chop them up, and c) the bright red color is really pretty in the finished product. You decide which was the determining factor.
Now add the nutritional yeast and the liquids (except the beer): unsweetened cashew milk (or the milk of your choice), hot sauce, vegan Worcestershire sauce, bouillon concentrate (I like reduced-sodium Better Than Bouillon), and the cheese sauce. If you read the original recipe, it calls for a jar of Cheez Whiz. I’ve tried making this recipe with double the shredded cheese instead of the Diaya Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac sauce packet, but I just can’t make it work. I call on you creative cooks out there to improve upon the recipe. In the meantime, add that luscious cheese sauce and use the macaroni it comes with separately (or, cook it up and add it to the soup when you’re ready to eat!
Keep heating and occasionally stirring over medium/ medium high heat until the milk starts to steam. Mix the cornstarch with a little bit of water into a slurry and stir into the soup and keep stirring until it starts to thicken. Then stir in the beer, foam and all. Use your favorite beer, though I don’t recommend dark beers as they can make the soup quite bitter.
Again referring back to the original recipe, you’ll see that, apart from straining out the solids, we’re pretty much done. Here’s where I go AWOL. I have always felt that this recipe is not cheesy enough, and where I used to add a generous handful of shredded Cheddar cheese, I now add Daiya cheddar style shreds and stir until *almost* completely dissolved. Oh, and I don’t strain the soup, either. I like all of the soft onion pieces and the chewy bits of bac’n.
And that’s it! Serve in smallish soup cups (it’s very rich!) with beer bread, soft pretzels, or a nice fresh salad. It’s not the cheapest meal in the world, or the healthiest, but it’s absolutely delicious and fantastic for cold, cozy nights. Enjoy!
Beer Cheese Soup|Printable Version
Makes 10 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
1 T canola oil
2 T vegan bacon, finely chopped
2 small onions, finely chopped
6 c unsweetened cashew milk (or the milk of your choice)
1 t hot sauce (or to taste)
2 T vegan Worcestershire sauce
¼ c nutritional yeast
2 T reduced-sodium Better Than Bouillon vegetable base
2 boxes Daiya Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac (sauce packets ONLY)
3 T cornstarch
12 oz beer
8 oz Daiya cheddar style shreds
Parsley and chopped vegan bacon, for garnish
1. In a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, saute the onions and bacon in the canola oil until softened.
2. Stir in the next 5 ingredients and heat until steaming.
3. Mix the cornstarch with a few tablespoons of water to make a slurry, then stir into the soup. Continue to stir over medium heat until slightly thickened.
4. Pour in the beer, including the foam.
5. Add the cheddar, a small handful at a time, and stir in to melt.
6. Serve garnished with parsley and/or chopped bacon, if desired.