I’ve been craving Broccoli Cheddar Casserole for quite some time, and I finally got around to making it for lunch today. Yay! This awesome homemade version contains NO “cream of” soups and, thanks to pre-cooked rice, doesn’t take much effort to pull together.
Wait, what? You don’t have any pre-cooked rice on hand? Maybe it’s time to try making a big pot of rice and freezing it, so it’s on hand and ready to go whenever needed. Frozen rice thaws quickly on the countertop or after a short zip in the microwave. I make a big pot of rice just about every week simply because I’m obsessed with Spinach Rice Breakfast Bowls, so I usually have some pre-cooked rice in my fridge for that.
I used brown jasmine rice for this Broccoli Cheddar Casserole because I love it’s fragrant aroma and the nutty whole grain flavor, but you could use plain brown or white rice if you prefer. Want to add a little meat? Toss some cooked chicken, bacon, or even deli ham to make it a meal. Me? I like it just the way it is. Creamy, delicious, and filling! I luuuuurve me some broccoli!
Broccoli Cheddar Casserole
- 1 lb. frozen broccoli florets ($1.99)
- 8 oz. medium or sharp cheddar, shredded ($2.39)
- 4 cups cooked rice (white or brown) ($0.67)
- 1 small yellow onion ($0.32)
- 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
- 3 Tbsp butter ($0.30)
- 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour ($0.03)
- 2 cups milk (2% milk fat or higher) ($0.60)
- 1/2 tsp salt ($0.02)
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika ($0.03)
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper ($0.02)
- Freshly cracked black pepper ($0.03)
- Roughly chop the broccoli florets into smaller, bite-sized pieces. Combine the broccoli, about 3/4 of the shredded cheddar, and the pre-cooked rice in a large bowl. stir until they are evenly mixed. Save the remaining cheddar for sprinkling over the top of the casserole.
- Begin to preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Finely dice the onion and mince the garlic.
- Add the butter, onion, and garlic to a small sauce pot and cook over medium-low heat until the onions are soft and transparent (2-3 minutes). Add the flour and stir until a paste forms. Continue to stir and cook the paste for about two minutes, or just until it turns a light golden brown.
- Whisk the milk into the butter and flour mixture. Turn the heat up to medium. Continue to whisk the mixture as it heats, allowing it to reach a simmer, at which point it will thicken. Remove the sauce from the heat.
- Season the sauce with the salt, smoked paprika, cayenne, and about ten cranks of a pepper mill. Taste the sauce and add more seasoning if desired. The sauce should be heavily seasoned because it will be spread out over the broccoli and rice, which contain no seasoning of their own. Make it just a bit saltier than you'd prefer if eating the sauce on its own.
- Pour the sauce over the rice, broccoli, and cheese, and stir until everything is evenly coated in sauce. Coat an 8x8 or 9x9 casserole dish with non-stick spray, then spread the casserole mixture evenly in the dish. Top with the remaining shredded cheddar.
- Bake the casserole for 35-40 minutes, or until you get some light browning around the edges and on top. Divide into six portions and serve.
Broccoli Cheddar Casserole
Step by Step Photos
Start by roughly chopping a one pound bag of frozen broccoli florets. If you don’t mind the stems, frozen “broccoli pieces” are usually a little bit less expensive than just the florets. Chop them to your desired size. I wanted to keep them a bit chunky, but small enough to actually fit on a fork.
Shred an 8oz. block of medium or sharp cheddar. The reason I didn’t use mild for this recipe is that medium and sharp have a little more bite or flavor, which will be helpful when it’s spread throughout the casserole. I also have to note that I was pleasantly surprised to find that the regular price for a block of cheddar at Whole Foods was less expensive than the SALE price at my two local grocery chains. Woot! It pays to shop around.
Combine the chopped broccoli, 4 cups of cooked rice, and about 3/4 of the cheese in a large bowl. Set the remaining bit of cheese aside so you can sprinkle it over top of the casserole later. I did not thaw the broccoli. I just let it semi-thaw as I prepared the rest of the casserole.
Stir those three ingredients together until they’re mixed.
Now it’s time to make the béchamel sauce (it sound fancy, but is fairly easy). Begin to preheat the oven to 350 at this point, too. Finely dice one small onion and mince two cloves of garlic. Add the onion, garlic, and 3 Tbsp of butter to a small sauce pot.
Cook them over medium-low heat until the onions are soft and transparent (about 2-3 minutes).
Add 3 Tbsp of all-purpose flour to form a paste. Stir and cook this paste for about two minutes, or just until it starts to turn a little golden brown. This is a “roux”, which is what helps thicken the milk into a sauce. Cooking this paste mixture for a couple minutes before adding the milk toasts the flour and gets rid of that raw flour or paste-like flavor.
Whisk two cups of milk (2% milk fat or higher) into the paste. Turn the heat up to medium and keep whisking until the milk begins to simmer, at which point it will thicken.
Once it’s thick enough to coat a spoon, you can go ahead and turn the heat off. It will thicken even further as it starts to cool a bit. Oh, and congratulations! You just made a béchamel sauce!
The plain sauce doesn’t take like much, so it needs to be seasoned. Heavily. You want this sauce to be seasoned a little past the point that you would if you were eating the sauce on its own. Remember, the sauce will be spread out over all that rice and broccoli that contain NO seasoning, so it has to carry the weight for them. I added 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp smoked paprika, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, and about 10 cranks of a pepper mill. You can experiment with other seasonings like mustard powder, onion powder, garlic powder, or chili powder.
Pour the prepared sauce over the broccoli, rice, and cheddar in the bowl. Stir until everything is evenly combined.
Coat the inside of an 8×8 or 9×9 inch casserole dish with non-stick spray. Spread the Broccoli Cheddar Casserole mixture into the dish.
Top with the remaining shredded cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until there is light browning around the outer edges and on the top.
Cheesy, creamy, and REAL.