If you're wondering if your holiday table really needs another creamy casserole, let me tell you emphatically that the answer is yes.
My kids are pretty generous eaters, but on Thanksgiving, with so many different dishes from different cooks, even the familiar feels strange. This comforting broccoli and cheese casserole is made specifically for them, for that reason, but will delight everyone else at the table too. Tender broccoli gets smothered in a creamy, tangy cheese sauce, then topped with butter crackers and more cheese for a side dish as welcome on your holiday table as it will be on a Tuesday night in February. Here's the five-ingredient broccoli casserole your whole family will love.
Broccoli Cheese Casserole: Watch the Video
Easy Cheesy Broccoli, Please
It's always nice to have a green vegetable on your table, and it's even better if that vegetable is covered in cheese. Little eaters are often put off by casseroles with mushrooms and onions, but they're guaranteed to dig into this one. If you're scoffing at the idea of adding a special kids' dish to your traditional holiday spread, know this: Kids can be overwhelmed at the holiday table, and having one comforting option (just for them!) will actually help them feel more open to trying other food at the table.
Keep Your Casserole Easy with These 3 Steps
1. Blanch the broccoli. Blanching and draining the broccoli before adding it to the casserole prevents the broccoli's moisture from ruining your cheese sauce. You can do this in advance, if you need to. And on really busy nights, you can use frozen broccoli florets instead.
2. Use an oven-safe skillet. Using one dish to cook the sauce and bake the casserole makes this dish even easier. We like a large cast iron skillet, but feel free to use whatever oven-safe skillet you've got. Alternatively, you can transfer this to a casserole dish before baking.
3. Bake, don't broil! To avoid burning the crackers, you'll actually want to bake, not broil this dish. The short bake time also helps thicken the cheese sauce!
How to Make This Broccoli Cheese Casserole in Advance
Assemble the casserole without the crackers and cheese for topping and refrigerate. About an hour before baking, bring the dish to room temperature, add the toppings, and bake as directed.
Easy Broccoli and Cheese Casserole Recipe
Prep time: 15 minutes to 30 minutes ; cooking time: 15 minutes to 18 minutes
What You Need
broccoli (about 2 large heads), crowns and stalks cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons
kosher salt, divided
(1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups
whole milk or half-and-half
2 1/2 cups
shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces), divided
1 1/2 cups
crushed buttery round crackers (about 24 crackers or 1 sleeve), such as Ritz
Measuring cups and spoons
Chef’s knife and cutting board
Large 12-inch skillet
Heat the oven to 375°F and boil water. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat.
Boil the broccoli. Add the broccoli and 1 teaspoon of the salt to the boiling water. Cook until vibrant green and tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain the broccoli and set aside. (Skip this step if using frozen broccoli.)
Make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add the milk or half-and-half and stir vigorously to avoid clumping until smooth. Cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of the cheese and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir until melted and smooth. Remove the pan from the heat.
Add the broccoli to the cheese sauce and top the casserole. Add the drained broccoli and stir to combine. Sprinkle the crackers and remaining 1/2 cup of cheese evenly over the top.
Bake the broccoli casserole 15 to 18 minutes. Bake until the cheese on top is melted, the crackers are golden-brown, and the sauce is bubbly, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Using frozen broccoli: Use 2 pounds of frozen broccoli florets (do not thaw or cook first) and increase the baking time by 10 minutes.
Make ahead: The casserole can be assembled without the cheese and cracker crumbs on top, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Let sit at room temperature 1 hour before finishing with the cheese and cracker crumbs and baking.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.