Creamy Broccoli Rice Casserole is a timeless classic for the holiday table and well-received by any crowd. In fact, an ingredient upgrade might be the only thing that could make this classic casserole any more beloved than it already is. This Broccoli Rice Casserole is made without the use of any processed cheese, and in its place, real Sharp Cheddar is enlisted. A perfectly creamy, homemade Cheddar cheese sauce brings new life to an old favorite.
In addition to an easy, cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole from scratch, we’ll also cover tips for making quick work of the broccoli and the rice, everything you need to know to make a foolproof, homemade cheese sauce, as well as make-ahead tips to keep you ahead of the game this holiday season!
If you want to elevate your Broccoli Rice Casserole for the crowd this year, taking a little extra time to trade in a processed cheese sauce for a creamy, homemade Cheddar sauce will make all the difference in the world. Both the flavor and texture of the casserole will be exponentially better, and you and your taste-testers will taste the difference! The best part? Homemade Cheddar cheese sauce is quick and easy to make and the whole shebang can be prepped in less than 25 minutes.
Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole Recipe Overview
- Have ready thawed broccoli and cooked rice.
- Soften onion and celery on the stovetop.
- Add ingredients for the cheese sauce.
- Combine sauce, rice, and broccoli.
- Transfer to casserole dish and add cheese topping.
- Bake 25 minutes.
INGREDIENT TIPS AND TRICKS
A perfectly cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole really comes down to three main components: The broccoli, the rice, and a creamy, cheesy sauce. And, of course, an extra helping of Cheddar across the top never hurt anybody. The broccoli, rice, and cheese sauce come together to create one uber comforting side dish casserole, perfectly suited for feeding a crowd at family holiday feasts.
BROCCOLI AND RICE — YOU’VE GOT OPTIONS
To save yourself a bit of time, buying your broccoli pre-chopped in the freezer section will keep you from having to dissect a crown of broccoli and chopping it yourself. To thaw the frozen broccoli before adding it to the casserole, place it in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter for a few hours before using.
If you prefer to work with fresh broccoli, you can certainly do so and it will not affect a thing in the recipe other than the prep time. Just be sure to give it a good rough chop before adding in with the other ingredients
Standard long-grain white rice can be steamed up to two days in advance and refrigerated until ready to use, or you could use instant rice. Just be sure not to overcook it, as the rice will continue to cook once it’s in the oven.
3 KEYS TO PERFECTLY CREAMY CHEESE SAUCE
A homemade Cheddar cheese sauce is a significantly superior product than a can of Cheese Whiz or a jar of processed cheese sauce, and for this reason, we will most definitely be making a homemade Cheddar sauce for our creamy Broccoli Rice Casserole made from scratch.
If you’ve never made a cheese sauce from scratch before, fear not, it’s an easy and simple process and the method used in this recipe ensures your sauce will be absolute creamy, cheesy perfection. A great, homemade cheese sauce comes down to three main elements — consistency, texture, and (quite obviously) the cheese.
CONSISTENCY | JUST THE RIGHT THICKNESS
The sauce begins with butter, finely diced onion, and celery over medium heat in a saucepan. All of these ingredients add a great deal of flavor to Broccoli Rice Casserole, but the quantity of butter used is especially important.
Once the onion and celery have softened, all-purpose flour goes in. The flour blends and essentially absorbs into the butter coating the vegetables. The flour is what thickens our cheese sauce and helps to create the perfect consistency. After the flour has been added the mix and cooked a short while, unsalted chicken broth goes in.
TEXTURE | NO LUMPS ALLOWED
Here’s where the trick for a smooth and creamy sauce comes in: Add the broth one big splash at a time and stir well after each addition until the mixture is perfectly smooth. This creates a velvety base for our cheese sauce and prevents any lumps or bumps from forming in the sauce. After all of the chicken broth has been incorporated, the cream can go in all at once, and the mixture is brought to a simmer to thicken just a tad more.
THE CHEESE | WHEN TO ADD AND THE BEST KIND TO USE
Many of us are in a pinch for time come the holiday season, and grating cheese isn’t always at the top of the to-do list. However, a good-quality, freshly grated Cheddar will make a difference in both flavor and consistency when it comes to a homemade cheese sauce. I typically use either Boar’s Head Sharp Cheddar Cheese or Tillamook Sharp Cheddar Cheese.
MAKE-AHEAD BROCCOLI RICE CASSEROLE (IF NEEDED)
Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole made from scratch can be assembled a day in advance up to the point of baking. Simply cover the casserole dish tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Thirty minutes prior to baking, remove the casserole from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature. This will help to remove the chill. Then, proceed by removing the plastic wrap and baking as indicated by the recipe or just until the edges of the casserole are bubbly.
While Broccoli Rice Casserole can be made in advance, freezing is not recommended, as homemade cheese sauce may separate after being frozen and reheated.
Perfect for potlucks, this cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole does not get any better for feeding a crowd. Taking a few extra moments to make it from scratch with a homemade Cheddar sauce will prove a major upgrade to the processed cheese versions of the past. Creamy, hearty, comforting, and homemade — it’s everything you could want in a holiday side dish and more. Please, enjoy.
5 MORE SIDE DISH CASSEROLES YOU’LL LOVE
- Homemade Green Bean Casserole is made special with fresh green beans, a simple, homemade cream of mushroom sauce and freshly grated Cheddar cheese, all topped off with toasty French fried onions.
- Southern Yellow Squash Casserole features a creamy interior of baked yellow squash, and a topping of melty cheese and crunchy Ritz crackers.
- Loaded Mashed Potato Casserole is the perfect make-ahead, hearty side for a crowd, loaded with mashed Russet potatoes, cream cheese, crispy thick-cut, bacon, freshly grated Cheddar, and chopped green onions.
- Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows and Pecans is a classic Southern side dish casserole. This recipe ditches the extra sugar and canned yams for a flavor upgrade in the form of roasted sweet potatoes, warm fall spices, and candied pecans!
- Cream Corn Casserole features sweet corn baked in a perfectly smooth and creamy sauce, topped off with melty Cheddar and buttery Ritz crackers, and baked to absolute perfection!
Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole made from scratch with a creamy, homemade Cheddar sauce.
- 2 1/2 cups cooked white rice (do not overcook)
- 1 (16 ounce) package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed or steamed to al dente
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 yellow onion, finely diced
- 3 stalks celery, finely diced
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup unsalted chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 cups freshly grated Cheddar cheese
- 1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Have ready a greased 9"x13" casserole dish, and preheat the oven to 350°.
Add the butter to a large saucepan over medium heat. Do not allow to burn. Add the onion and celery and sauté 6-8 minutes, stirring often, until softened.
Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir for about 1 minute. Add the chicken broth one big splash at a time, stirring after each addition. Add the cream and stir to combine. Simmer for 2 minutes, and remove from the heat.
Add 1 cup of the cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to the sauce. Stir to combine and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Add the cooked rice and broccoli, and stir to combine once more. Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserole dish and evenly sprinkle over the remaining cheese.
Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Serve and enjoy.
3 MORE BROCCOLI AND RICE DISHES TO TRY
- Cheesy Chicken Broccoli and Rice Casserole is the perfect comfort food casserole! Featuring shredded chicken breasts, white rice, broccoli, Colby Jack cheese, and a crunchy Cornflake topping.
- Broccoli and Wild Rice Casserole gives an elegant twist to Broccoli Casserole with stretchy Gruyere and Fontina cheese, freshly grated nutmeg, and a crunchy Panko topping.
- Broccoli and Brown Rice Casserole with Chicken is a healthy alternative to Cheesy Chicken Broccoli and Rice Casserole! Still savory, still flavorful, and still (most definitely) satisfying, the only thing you’ll be missing in this gluten-free rendition are the calories.