Ultimate Broccoli Cheddar Casserole: After much testing, this is my favorite way to make broccoli casserole. Simple ingredients layered in the right order can make something really delicious! | macheesmo.com

Ultimate Broccoli Cheddar Casserole

This is my go-to Ultimate Broccoli Cheddar Casserole from scratch recipe. It includes a few other simple ingredients like bacon and rice.

I must admit that this Broccoli Cheddar Casserole recipe took me more than a few times to get right. But after perfection, I think it’s truly outstanding, even ULTIMATE! Some might think that it’s embarrassing that it took me a few times to get a casserole recipe right, considering I’ve been developing recipes for over a decade. After all, a casserole is about as basic as it gets right? RIGHT?!

I mean sure. If you are just stirring together stuff with a few cans of soup and popping it in the oven, that’s definitely true (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but making a broccoli and cheese casserole from scratch can be a lot harder than you might think.

It took a few stabs to nail down the right amount of rice (too much equals a brick) and the order of ingredients (can’t just stir everything together). The cool things are that A) I did all the work for ya. Just follow the steps, ya’ll.  And, B) you can make this well in advance and pop it in the oven to reheat and it’s maybe even better than the first time you bake it because of some unknown casserole law of nature.

Casserole Failure

First, let’s just get this picture out of the way. This is WRONG. Very very wrong. It actually didn’t taste that bad but the proportions and toppings were just way off in my opinion.

Failed Casserole
FAILURE.

Compare that to the nice clean layers and perfectly browned topping in the final broccoli cheddar casserole version and you’ll agree that I had a lot of work together from my first version to my last version here.

Cooking the parts of the casserole

Before we assemble this bacon, broccoli, cheddar casserole, let’s cook the parts!

Let’s start with bacon. You could easily make this casserole vegetarian by just toasting the breadcrumbs in some olive oil, but bacon is delicious so unless you have a reason not to, I’d add it.

Bacon for Broccoli and cheese Casserole
Why not?!

Crisp up the bacon in a skillet and then use the bacon grease to brown your bread crumbs over LOW heat so they don’t get too toasty.

You’ll obviously need broccoli for this recipe. A lot of it actually. You could use frozen, but fresh is better. Blanch it in some salted water for a few minutes and then remove it. It should have some crunch too it still. Try not to overcook the broccoli or it will just fall apart in your casserole.

Blanched broccoli for casserole.
Lotsa trees.

The key to using rice in from-scratch casseroles

Rice is the glue for this broccoli cheddar casserole. You can cook a batch in your broccoli water after blanching if you want or, even better, use leftover.

Most importantly: actually measure the rice here people. Do not eyeball it for this recipe. The difference between two and three cups of rice in the casserole is the difference between perfection and brick of food.

Cooked rice for Ultimate Broccoli Cheddar Casserole
The glue.

Making the Casserole Sauce

Because I wanted to make this broccoli cheddar casserole from scratch that means I needed a sauce that wasn’t from a soup can. The sauce the casserole is a standard béchamel sauce, but with onions and garlic added in. Melt the butter and cook the onions and garlic until they are translucent. Then add in the flour.

Making basic sauce from scratch for casserole.
The roux.

Once that cooks for a minute or two add the milk slowly, whisking or stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Then the cream and mustard.

Season with salt and pepper and stir in your rice. It’ll look a bit watery at this point, but will thicken as it bakes.

Rice and sauce - Broccoli Cheddar Casserole
This’ll be a bit watery.

The layers of this game are important. I actually don’t recommend stirring the broccoli and cheese into the rice base. Keeping stuff separate works better for this casserole.

Assembling and Baking the Broccoli Cheddar Casserole

Pour in your rice mixture into a buttered dish. Then layer on your broccoli and cheese.

Ready to bake Broccoli Cheddar Casserole
Layers.

Bacon and bread crumbs go last! When I saw how nice these layers were working out, I thought this casserole would be a winner.

Bacon added to Ultimate Broccoli Cheddar Casserole
Bacon and crumbs.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until it’s bubbling and the topping is browned.

Let it cool a bit before serving, but it’s best warm, obviously!

Casserole Swaps and Substitutions

There is some room here for swaps and substitutions as with all casseroles.

  • Mushrooms! I love adding mushrooms to a hearty casserole like this. Saute the mushrooms and add them to the layer with the broccoli.
  • Veggie Friendly! For a vegetarian version of this casserole, leave out the bacon or add in some crumbled seared tofu or seitan.
  • Rice swaps! Try subbing out wild rice or brown rice for the white rice. Just make sure to cook it well and measure it so it doesn’t get gummy.

What to serve with Broccoli Cheddar Casserole

This recipe can absolutely be a meal on its own, but if you’re looking for something to serve with it, I would recommend keeping it light. Something like this ultimate fall salad would be great or if you have some fresh corn then this spicy corn salad would be a nice side dish.

Some chips and dips would be nice as well as a side dish as well. This slow cooker caramelized onion dip would be good with chips or veggies or you could make some homemade baba ganoush.

Storing and reheating instructions

This ultimate broccoli cheddar casserole recipe actually reheats beautifully. Feel free to make it in advance and warm it in a 300-degree oven until it’s heated through. If you have leftovers, they’ll store in the fridge for up to a week or you can freeze it in individual portions. You can reheat the casserole in the oven until warmed through or even if does okay in the microwave in short bursts on high.

Fall is casserole season and this recipe is a keeper.

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My Ultimate Broccoli Cheddar Casserole Recipe

Ultimate Broccoli Cheddar Casserole

Serves:
Serves 6-8
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:
Ultimate Broccoli Cheddar Casserole: After much testing, this is my favorite way to make broccoli casserole. Simple ingredients layered in the right order can make something really delicious! | macheesmo.com
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After much testing, this is my favorite way to make broccoli casserole. Simple ingredients layered in the right order can make something really delicious!

Ingredients

2 pounds broccoli, blanched
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup cream
2 cups cooked long grain white rice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
8 ounces bacon, crispy
1 cup breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a large 9×13 baking dish.
  2. Blanch broccoli in salted boiling water for about 2 minutes until it’s bright in color. It should still be a bit crispy, not soggy at all. Remove and let cool.
  3. If you need to cook rice, you can do so in the broccoli water, but it’s easiest to use leftover rice. Once rice is cooked, measure out two cups of cooked rice.
  4. Add chopped bacon to a skillet over low heat, cook until pieces are crispy and fat is rendered, about 7-8 minutes. Then remove bacon and add breadcrumbs. Stir well until bread crumbs absorb the bacon grease and start to brown. Remove from heat.
  5. In a large pot (you can use the same one for cooking broccoli and rice – just wipe it out), add butter and melt over medium heat. Then add onions and garlic and cook until translucent. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  6. Add flour to the pot and stir. Cook for a minute or two, then add milk in 1/2 cup batches, stirring constantly to incorporate. Add cream last. Once mixture is together and warm, add rice. It’ll be a bit watery at this point, but will thicken while baking. Add mustard to mixture and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  7. Pour your rice base into the prepared casserole dish. Top with broccoli florets. Then top with grated cheese, followed by bacon and breadcrumbs.
  8. Bake casserole at 350 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes until it’s bubbly and browned on top.
  9. Serve while warm!

Nutrition Info

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18 Responses to “Ultimate Broccoli Cheddar Casserole” Leave a comment

  1. Nick, can I cut the recipe in half to try it before Thanksgiving or will that mess up the proportions and the seasoning? Also, my recipe which I wrote to you about some weeks ago is corn pudding. I am trying a NYT recipe also for Thanksgiving but would love your input.

  2. Thanks Nick for sharing yet another great recipe. I followed the recipe exactly and it was delicious to say the least. A keeper for sure. My husband and I ate half of it for supper. I had it for lunch the next day too. I wouldn’t cut the recipe in half as I don’t believe there would even be any left overs.

  3. Made this w/o bacon and w/ brown rice instead of white. Worked well (but I wish I’d included bacon)! Thanks!

  4. I made this recipe and substituted left over ham for the bacon. It was great. I would use it again for a way to use up leftovers. You can only eat so much Split Pea with Ham soup.

  5. This looks amazing! I run a keto website and was looking for a cheesy broccoli dish – what do you think of replacing rice with cauliflower rice?

  6. This dish looks delicious. I have a hard time getting my family to eat broccoli, but I personally love broccoli and cheese. Will definitely give this recipe a try.

  7. You can definitely replace the rice with cauliflower rice, or just with nice big chunks of cauliflower instead. This is super delicious with some crusty bread, too! Thanks for the recipe!

  8. Nick, I’ve been absent from your food blog for about 2 years. Decided I’d wander back by to see what you’ve been up to. This recipe enchanted me. I’m going to try it for Thanksgiving. You’ve done beautiful work here.

  9. When it’s cold, this kind of meal is exactly what I’m craving for! I’ll do it straight away, but without the bacon Nick, if you don’t mind. Thanks for the yummy inspiration!

  10. The mustard is a subtle addition but very smart. I like the tang.

    I made a half portion with turkey bacon, frozen broccoli and panko breadcrumbs (moving soon and trying to clear the fridge).

    Came out excellent. Although it didn’t really get crispy on top before the cheese was looking very baked and it was bubbling.

    For next time I would reduce the amount of onion. I like a heavier amount of rice. But I just cooked the frozen broccoli and it was still crunchy and tasted great.

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