How To Make the Best-Ever Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole

updated Dec 4, 2020
Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole

Broccoli and long grain and wild rice enrobed in delicious cheese sauce and covered in crispy breadcrumbs. Yes, please!

Serves4 to 6

Prep10 minutes

Cook40 minutes to 45 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Cheese broccoli rice casserole in baking dish with serving removed and serving spoon placed in baking dish.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Broccoli rice casserole is one of those true Americana meals. At its core, it’s a baked casserole made with broccoli, some sort of creamy cheese sauce, and rice, but the details vary greatly. I’ve seen versions made with cream cheese, cream of mushroom soup, chicken stock, and even Cheez-Wiz! Some also include protein such as shredded chicken.

But I’d yet to find my own favorite version. I was looking for one that was easy yet refined, tasted great, and hit all the comforting notes you expect from a cheesy casserole. After much trial and error, I came up with the best version I’ve ever tasted, made with a long-grain and wild rice blend for elegance and texture, a luxurious homemade cheese sauce, and crisp-tender broccoli. A sprinkling of panko breadcrumbs serves as a crisp topping to the creamy casserole. Here’s how to do it.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

The Best Rice for Broccoli Rice Casserole

Whenever you’re using rice in a casserole, there are a few important variables to keep in mind. Here, texture was my main concern: I wanted the rice to hold up when baked and not turn to mush. I also knew that many people would want to use whatever’s in their pantry.

After testing this recipe with a few different types, I determined the best options are brown rice or a long-grain and wild rice blend. The latter adds a level of elegance while giving you a nice textural mouthfeel, making it my preferred choice. Here, we’re calling for leftover cooked rice for ease, but you can cook it fresh for this recipe and expect the same results.

If you’d prefer to use white rice, opt for a variety that holds its shape best as it cooks, such as white basmati. Stay away from white jasmine, which seems to absorb the moisture in the dish and also breaks down more than basmati when cooking. If you do use jasmine, you’ll have best results starting with cold cooked rice.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Making a Homemade Cheese Sauce

As a recipe developer with a myriad of mild food allergies, I have a hard time consuming pre-made soups, which sometimes contain ingredients and additives my body doesn’t agree with. I know I’m not alone in that reality, so I chose to use a homemade, roux-based cheese sauce in lieu of canned soup or processed cheese. The roux gives the casserole the necessary creaminess, and if you like, you can add things like poultry seasoning or sliced mushrooms to achieve those nostalgic flavor profiles.

Prepping the Broccoli

During my first run-through of this recipe, I blanched the broccoli (both stems and florets), thinking it would jumpstart the cooking process. But the stems remained tough while the florets became mushy. Ultimately, I decided to skip the blanching altogether and just call for broccoli crowns, which cook up nicely directly in the casserole (and save you a step, to boot!).

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Making This Casserole Your Own

When it comes to following recipes, I always encourage you to get creative and add what makes you feel good! Spice up this casserole by adding cayenne, paprika, mustard powder, or nutmeg. Switch up the cheese, or chop up pieces of smoked sausage or andouille to add into the mix. Add some mushrooms or cream of mushroom soup. One time I cracked open a jar of tuna and ate it on the side, and it was delicious.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell
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Here's how to make the very best cheesy broccoli rice casserole.

Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole

Broccoli and long grain and wild rice enrobed in delicious cheese sauce and covered in crispy breadcrumbs. Yes, please!

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes to 45 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces

    broccoli crowns

  • 1 medium

    shallot

  • 1

    large clove garlic

  • 8 ounces

    sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 packed cups)

  • 3 cups

    cold cooked rice, preferably a long grain and wild rice blend

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 4 tablespoons

    unsalted butter, divided, plus more for the pan

  • 3 tablespoons

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 cups

    whole milk

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup

    panko breadcrumb

Equipment

  • 8x8-inch or 1-quart baking dish

  • Large bowl

  • Chef’s knife

  • Box grater

  • Large saucepan

  • Whisk

  • Measuring cups and spoons

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375ºF. Coat an 8x8-inch or 1-quart baking dish with butter.

  2. Prep the ingredients. Cut 12 ounces broccoli crowns into 1-inch pieces (3 1/2 to 4 cups) and place in a large bowl. Finely chop 1 medium shallot and 1 large garlic clove. Grate 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese on the large holes of a box grater. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cheese for topping. Reserve the remaining cheese for the sauce.

  3. Combine the broccoli and rice. Add 3 cups cooked rice and 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt to the bowl of broccoli and stir to combine.

  4. Cook the aromatics. Melt 2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and a pinch of kosher salt, and cook until tender and translucent, about 3 minutes.

  5. Start the cheese sauce. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons unsalted butter. Once melted, add 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, stir to combine, and cook about 30 seconds.

  6. Add the milk. Whisk in 1 1/2 cups whole milk and bring to a simmer. Simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes.

  7. Add the cheese. Add the cheese reserved for the sauce and whisk until melted. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and stir to combine.

  8. Combine the cheese sauce with the broccoli and rice. Pour the cheese sauce into the bowl of broccoli and rice and stir until evenly combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

  9. Top with cheese and bread crumbs. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs.

  10. Bake the casserole. Bake until the bread crumbs are browned in spots and the edges begin to look crisped, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.