Broccoli Cheese Casserole Recipe

Watch broccoli disappear in a flash for holidays, potlucks or Sunday dinner with this Broccoli Casserole made without any canned soups! It’s elevated with seasoned, caramelized, roasted broccoli (no mushy or bland broccoli here!), and a from scratch, creamy, cheesy sauce infused with both sharp cheddar and Parmesan. Top this make-ahead friendly irresistibly creamy casserole with your favorite toppings from Ritz to panko, to stuffing!

Watch How to Make broccoli casserole

up close of broccoli casserole showing how creamy and cheesy it is


 

You will love this recipe for Broccoli Casserole

 

  • CROWD PLEASER!  Broccoli never tasted so good or disappeared more quickly – perfect for holidays, company or potlucks!
  • ROASTED BROCCOLI. Caramelized and seasoned to perfection for the best textured casserole!  
  • ZERO CANNED SOUP!  This updated recipe tastes 10X better than your grandma’s old-fashioned recipe!  
  • FROM SCRATCH SAUCE. The easy cheese sauce is irresistibly creamy, cheesy and anything but bland.
  • VERSATILE.  Make it as cheesy as you like, use your favorite cheeses, and pick your topping.
  • MAKE AHEAD FRIENDLY.  Prep ahead of time then just pop in the oven to bake to glorious cheesy perfection. 
top view of broccoli cheese casserole in a baking pan with Ritz cracker topping
ingredient icon

Broccoli and Cheese Casserole ingredients

This Broccoli and Cheese Casserole is elevated by homemade cheese sauce made from pantry friendly ingredients. Let’s take a closer look at what you’ll need (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Broccoli:  Use fresh broccoli for the best texture and flavor.  To save a little time, purchase bags of broccoli florets, just make sure you chop up any extra-large pieces so the florets are all roughly the same size.
  • Homemade Cheese Sauce:  This sauce is epic.  It begins with a roux that’s whisked with chicken broth, milk and seasonings, then finished with both cheddar and Parmesan. Use reduced sodium chicken broth so the casserole isn’t too salty.
  • Cheese.  Freshly grated Parmesan is used for its salty bite and cheddar for its sharp richness.  Please only use freshly grated cheeses because the pre-shredded varieties don’t melt nearly as well – especially Parmesan.
  • Seasonings: The sauce is seasoned with onion powder, garlic powder, dried parsley, salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne for sublime flavor in every bite.  
  • Chicken bouillonThis imparts a complex, savory, goodness to the cheesy sauce (it’s like salt with FLAVOR). You may use bouillon powder, bouillon cubes or bouillon base (like Better Than Bouillon or Zoup!).  Add it to the sauce without dissolving in liquid first. 
  • Topping: The photos show Ritz mixed with butter but panko and butter are also delicious!

Broccoli Cheese Casserole Recipe substitutions

This Broccoli Cheese Casserole recipe can easily be adapted to meet dietary needs or customized with your favorite ingredients. Here are a few ideas:

  • Frozen broccoli: I don’t recommend frozen broccoli because it has a tendency to end up watery and mushy instead of tender.  If you still decide to go the frozen broccoli route, make sure you thaw it out completely then pat it dry before roasting.
  • Gluten-free Broccoli Casserole:  Use your favorite gluten free flour in the roux, and double check the Dijon is gluten free. For the topping, use gluten fee panko. My favorite brand is Aleia’s Gluten-Free Panko made of rice and potato flour – it’s spectacularly crunchy!  
  • Swap cheeses: Use any other favorite melting cheeses to create a different flavor profile such as Gruyere, Asiago, Gouda, smoked cheddar, Monterrey, Pepper Jack, Havarti, Colby etc.
  • Add or swap veggies: Swap all or some of the broccoli for other veggies such as asparagus, zucchini, cauliflower, green beans, mushrooms, etc.
  • Add protein: Swap some of the broccoli for cooked chicken, Italian sausage, ground beef, ground turkey, chorizo, or cubed ham, etc. If using ham, omit the bouillon.
  • Add rice: Swap some of the broccoli for cooked brown rice, wild rice, or white rice.
scooping up broccoli casserole recipe with a spoon

How to make this Broccoli Casserole Recipe

Let’s take a closer look at how to make this Broccoli Casserole recipe with step-by-step photos (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Step 1: Roast broccoli.  Add the broccoli to the baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper and paprika.  Toss until evenly coated; spread into an even layer. Roast for 15 minutes while you make the cheese sauce.
showing how to make broccoli casserole by roasting broccoli in a sheet pan
  • Step 2: Make sauce. In a large saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Whisk in the flour, then cook for 3 minutes. Reduce heat, then gradually whisk in milk and chicken broth. Add Dijon and all spices. Simmer until thickened.
a collage showing how to make broccoli casserole by making a cheese sauce by cooking flour, then whisking in broth, adding seasoning, then simmering until thickened
  • Step 3: Add cheese. Turn heat to low and whisk in cheddar until melted, followed by Parmesan cheese until melted.
showing how to make broccoli casserole by adding cheese to the sauce
  • Step 4: Combine.  Add broccoli and stir until evenly coated.  Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to the 9×13 baking dish. 
a collage showing how to make broccoli casserole by adding broccoli to the cheese sauce and stirring to combine
  • Step 5: Make topping. Combine Ritz and butter in a bowl and stir until combine.  Evenly sprinkle over the cheesy broccoli. 
showing how to make broccoli casserole by mixing Ritz with butter in a bowl
  • Step 6: Bake. Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese sauce is bubbly.  Broil for a couple minutes until crackers are golden. 
showing how to make broccoli casserole by adding cheesy broccoli to the casserole dish and topping with Ritz crackers
top view of broccoli cheese casserole in a baking pan with Ritz cracker topping

TIPS FOR making broccoli and cheese casserole

Follow these tips for the best Broccoli Casserole every time.

  • Chop broccoli uniformly.  This will ensure it roasts evenly.
  • Don’t crowd roasted broccoli. Line the broccoli an even layer so it cooks evenly and roasts instead of steam. 
  • Don’t overcook. Overcooked broccoli s mushy broccoli! Note that older broccoli will roast quicker than fresh broccoli.
  • Shred the cheese yourself.  Quality, hand shredded cheeses will taste far superior and melt beautifully for a silkier sauce.  Do not use pre-bagged cheeses for sauces or your destined for grainy/gritty sauce failure. Pre-bagged cheese is coated in anti-clumping chemicals designed to prevent the cheese from clumping in the bag; these same chemicals prevent your cheese from melting gorgeously. Also, low-fat cheeses will not melt as well.
  • Cook flour for three minutes.  Three minutes can seem like a long time, so set a timer. Cooking the flour long enough eliminates the raw flour taste and helps to prevent lumps in the sauce.  
  • More or less cheese.   Use as little or a much cheese as your heart desires.    If you’re trying to save calories, you can use less cheese and it will still taste creamy, just not as cheesy.
  • Adjust to taste. When salting to taste at the end, keep in mind the topping will be a little salty if using Ritz.
serving cheesy broccoli casserole in a plate

How to serve Cheesy Broccoli Casserole

Broccoli Cheese Casserole pairs well with a variety of main dishes, such as roasted chicken, grilled steak, or baked ham. It’s also a crowd pleasing side dish for holiday dinners or potlucks. Here are a few ideas:

showing how to serve broccoli and cheese casserole on a plate garnished by parsley

Broccoli Cheese Casserole Recipe FAQs

Does fresh broccoli need to be cooked before using in a casserole?

Yes, fresh broccoli needs to be cooked before using in a casserole because it will not become more tender in the oven. If you don’t cook it first, it will taste raw and crunchy. The broccoli can be roasted or steamed before adding to the casserole.

Why is my broccoli casserole watery?

A watery broccoli casserole can be attributed to a few factors. Here are some common reasons and solutions:
1. Frozen Broccoli: If you are using frozen broccoli, make sure it is fully thawed and drained before cooking.
2. Excess Moisture in Broccoli: If you steam the broccoli instead of roasting, take care to pat dry or excess moisture can make the casserole watery.
3. Cheese Sauce Consistency: The consistency of the sauce can affect the overall moisture content of the casserole. If the sauce is too thin, it may contribute to a watery casserole. Simmer the sauce until it is thickened.
4. Overcooking: Overcooking the casserole can cause the ingredients to release more moisture. Bake the casserole until it’s set and bubbly, but avoid prolonged baking that may result in excess liquid.
5. Resting Time: Allow the casserole to rest for a few minutes after baking before serving. This gives the ingredients time to settle, and excess moisture may be reabsorbed.

How do you make broccoli not mushy?

The key to not making broccoli mushy is not overcooking – whether steaming or roasting. Cook the broccoli just until tender-crisp.

Can I use frozen broccoli in the casserole?

Yes, you can use frozen broccoli in the casserole. Thaw the broccoli and drain any excess water before incorporating it into the recipe. Alternatively, you can steam or blanch the frozen broccoli briefly before adding it to the casserole.

Can I prepare the casserole in advance?

Absolutely! Assemble the casserole ahead of time, but don’t add the topping. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake. When ready to bake, rest the casserole on the counter while the oven preheats.

Can I use a different cheese?

Yes, you can experiment with different cheeses based on your preferences. Colby, white cheddar, Gruyere, mozzarella, or a blend of cheeses can all work well. Adjust the quantity to achieve your desired level of cheesiness.

Can I add other ingredients for extra flavor?

Absolutely! Feel free to customize the casserole by adding ingredients like cooked bacon, sautéed onions, garlic, or mushrooms for additional flavor and texture. Adjust the seasonings accordingly.

serving cheesy broccoli casserole in a plate

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top view of broccoli cheese casserole in a baking pan with Ritz cracker topping

Best Recipe for Broccoli Casserole

Watch broccoli disappear in a flash for holidays, potlucks or Sunday dinner with this Broccoli Casserole made without any canned soups! It's elevated with seasoned, caramelized, roasted broccoli (no mushy or bland broccoli here!), and a from scratch, creamy, cheesy sauce infused with both sharp cheddar and Parmesan. Top this make-ahead friendly irresistibly creamy casserole with your favorite toppings from Ritz to panko, to stuffing!
Servings: 8 servings
Total Time: 50 minutes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes

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Ingredients

ROASTED BROCCOLI

  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli florets, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp EACH salt, pepper, paprika

CHEESE SAUCE

RITZ TOPPING (OPTIONAL, SEE NOTES FOR PANKO)

  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crumbled
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

Instructions

  • Prep: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Line a large baking sheet (21×15, or 2 half sheets) with foil for easy cleanup and spray with cooking spray.
  • Roast broccoli: Add the broccoli to the baking sheet(s) and drizzle with the olive oil; season with the salt, pepper and paprika. Toss until evenly coated, then spread into an even layer. Roast for 15 minutes (meanwhile make cheese sauce). Remove the roasted broccoli, then lower the heat to 350 degrees F.
  • Make sauce: In a large saucepan (I use this braiser), melt 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour, then cook, while whisking, for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low, then gradually whisk in milk and chicken broth. Add Dijon, chicken bouillon and all spices/seasonings.
  • Add cheese: Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat to a simmer, whisking often until thickened to desired consistency. Reduce heat to low and whisk in cheddar until melted followed by Parmesan cheese until melted.
  • Combine: Add broccoli and stir until evenly coated. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste, realizing the Ritz will add some salt (I add ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper). Transfer to the greased 9×13 baking dish.
  • Topping: Combine Ritz and melted butter in a bowl and stir until combine. Evenly sprinkle over the cheesy broccoli.
  • Bake: Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese sauce is bubbly. Broil for a couple minutes until crackers are golden. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Video

Notes

  • Panko topping: Melt one tablespoon butter with one tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add panko and stir to coat. Continue cooking until crumbs become golden brown.
  • Make Ahead: Assemble the casserole according to instructions but don’t add the topping.  Cover the casserole with foil and refrigerate for up to 2 days.  When ready to bake, let the casserole sit on the counter while the oven preheats. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F or until heated through and bubbly around the edges.
  • Storage: Store leftovers tightly covered or in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • To reheat: Bake, covered, at 350 degrees F for 20, uncover, and bake until hot and bubbly or microwave for 90 seconds, then at 15-second intervals, as needed, until heated through.

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6 Comments

  1. Jen says

    This was DELICIOUS!! I sauteed cubed chicken. And used that same pan for the sauce. This will be making into our rotation for sure.

    • Jen says

      Yay! So happy to hear that it will be a repeat!

  2. Virginia Hernandez says

    Love this recipe and going to make it for sure. Looking forward to more delicious recipes. Thank you!

    • Jen says

      Hope you find so many recipes to love! I’m so glad this one was a hit!

  3. Brenda says

    Awesome dish, next time I might add rice but wanted to make it as written the first time without changing anything to review properly.

    • Jen says

      Thank you for the kind review! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!