Broccoli Cheese Casserole is a comfort food classic side dish, featuring frozen broccoli, an easy homemade cheese sauce, and topped with a mixture of buttery cracker crumbs!
Today I'm sharing a classic side dish that's as comforting as it is delicious. It's the kind of veggie recipe that even your resident 'vegetable haters' will eat and enjoy. Raise your hand if you looove Broccoli Cheese Casserole as much as I do!
Broccoli Cheese Casserole is a quintessential American side dish. The version of my childhood featured that infamous processed cheese loaf and canned condensed soup. And it was, admittedly, delicious.
But y'all know how I enjoy reinventing beloved "processed" recipes using real ingredients. So today I'm sharing my version of this classic! And there's not a speck of processed cheese nor smidge of canned soup in sight. 😉
That's not to call this recipe healthy, per se. It's definitely cheesy and rich and decadent and all of the things that a good Broccoli Cheese Casserole should be!
But seeing as how I typically serve my family their broccoli either steamed or roasted, this casserole is an occasional indulgence to make a regular ol' dinner or a holiday meal a bit more special.
- Broccoli. I developed this recipe using frozen broccoli, because I always keep a couple bags in my freezer. However, if you have fresh broccoli, it will work just dandy. (For further details, see the section at the bottom of this post, just above the recipe card: "Helpful Tips, Tricks, and Equipment".)
- Butter + garlic + flour. These form the base of your homemade cheese sauce. You may substitute GF baking flour if you need to make this recipe gluten-free.
- Milk. Any type of milk is fine -- whole milk, 2%, skim milk, unsweetened almond milk, etc. -- but it needs to be at room temperature.
- Cream cheese. Softened. For an extra creamy sauce.
- Shredded cheddar cheese. I recommend sharp cheddar since it lends more cheesy flavor than mild cheddar when melted into a sauce like this.
- Prepared mustard. A teeny-tiny bit of mustard stirred into cheese sauce adds a boost of flavor without tasting "mustard-y." Just don't overdo it.
- Smoked paprika. You may have noticed that this ingredient was initially missing from my photo above. Luckily, I was able to call upon my excellent Photoshop skills to add it in after the fact. You see, in the midst of recipe-testing, I decided that the cheese sauce needed a little extra flavor, and a dash of smoked paprika did the trick! If you don't already have smoked paprika in your spice cabinet, I highly recommend you pick up a bottle. It's such a great ingredient to add subtle smokiness and flavor to so many recipes. Just keep in mind that a little bit goes a long way! If you have regular paprika, it will work, too...but I have a special place in my heart for the smoky stuff. 😉
- Salt + pepper. Taste your sauce once it's done and add extra, if necessary. Salt helps the cheesy flavor pop.
- Crushed cracker crumbs. For the topping! I love using butter crackers (and yes, I do check the label for decent ingredients), but keep scrolling if you're interested in alternative topping options.
- Grated Parmesan + melted butter. To mix with the cracker crumbs for the topping.
How to Make Broccoli Cheese Casserole
(The below photos are intended to be helpful, but please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for FULL DIRECTIONS.)
I tried to keep the extra dishes to a minimum when devising this recipe. So all you'll need is a pot (to make the cheese sauce) and then a baking dish (to transfer everything to the oven).
- Preheat the oven and grease your baking dish.
- Choose a saucepan or a pot that's not too big to make the cheese sauce, but big enough to stir in all of the broccoli later (I use my favorite 3.5-quart Dutch oven). Set it over medium heat, melt the butter, and stir around the minced garlic until fragrant. Sprinkle the flour on top and whisk for 1 minute to cook off any raw flavor.
- Slowly whisk in the milk and continue whisking vigorously while it cooks and thickens for a minute or two. Reduce the heat and stir in the cream cheese until melted and smooth.
- Remove the pot from the heat and gradually whisk in 1 cup of the shredded cheddar (a bit at a time) until fully incorporated and smooth.
- Stir in the mustard, smoked paprika (*missing from the pic...sorry), salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust any seasonings. Fold the drained broccoli into the cheese sauce.
- Transfer the broccoli cheese mixture to the prepared baking dish and smooth the top. Sprinkle with the remaining shredded cheddar.
- In a small bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, Parmesan, and melted butter, and then sprinkle this mixture on top of the cheddar.
- Bake until the broccoli and cheese are bubbly and the topping is golden brown. Serve hot!
Prepping Ahead of Time
To make this Broccoli Cheese Casserole ahead of time, prepare as directed through Step 4 (sprinkling the casserole with the extra shredded cheddar). Cover the dish tightly with foil and refrigerate for up to one week.
When you’re ready to bake it off, preheat the oven. While the oven is preheating, remove the dish from the fridge to let it start coming to room temperature, uncover, and proceed with Step 5.
Doubling the Recipe
This recipe can be easily doubled and baked in a 9- by 13-inch (or 3- to 4-quart) baking dish.
Freezing the Recipe
You can also double this recipe, divide it between two 8- by 8-inch (or 2-quart) baking dishes, bake one now, and freeze one for later.
Omit the cracker/Parmesan/butter topping from the second dish, tightly wrap in freezer-thickness aluminum foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. The night before you’re ready to bake it, pop it in the fridge to thaw. Once thawed, add the cracker mixture to the top and bake as directed.
As mentioned above in the "Ingredients" section, this recipe can easily be made gluten-free by using a GF flour to make the cheese sauce and using your favorite gluten-free option for the topping, such as gluten-free crackers or one of the toppings below (if it's GF).
While I love the combo of butter cracker crumbs + grated Parmesan, this Broccoli Cheese Casserole would also be tasty with other toppings:
- Another type of cracker crumbs. Saltines...cheese crackers...the possibilities are endless!
- Crushed potato chips.
- Breadcrumbs. Regular, Panko, or gluten-free.
- French fried onions.
Helpful Tips, Tricks, & Equipment
- This recipe will fit in any 2-quart baking dish, though an 8- by 8-inch square baking dish is a pretty common iteration of that capacity.
- I make this recipe using 20 ounces of broccoli. But since frozen broccoli is sold in different sizes of bags, the amount of broccoli called for by the recipe allows for a bit of flexibility. Obviously, less broccoli is going to make for a cheesier, more decadent casserole.
- Fresh broccoli works great in this casserole but does require one extra step. You’ll need to blanch or lightly steam about 8 cups of fresh florets before proceeding with the recipe. Your florets shouldn't be too large, and they should be of roughly equivalent sizes.
So whether you want a treat of a veggie to liven up a weeknight dinner, for a special Sunday supper, or for indulging on a holiday, I think you'll find that this from-scratch-yet-EASY Broccoli Cheese Casserole perfectly fits the bill. 🙂
More Decadent Veggies
Broccoli Cheese Casserole
- 20 to 24 ounces frozen broccoli florets, thawed & drained
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cup milk, at room temperature
- 4 ounces (½ block) cream cheese, softened & cut into cubes
- 1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar, DIVIDED
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon prepared mustard
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the Topping:
- ½ cup crushed butter crackers
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- With rack in center position, preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8- by 8-inch square baking dish (or any 2-quart baking dish) or spray with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
- In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about one minute. Stir in the flour and whisk continuously for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk. Increase the heat to a simmer and whisk continuously for 1 to 2 minutes, until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Reduce the heat, stir in the softened cream cheese, and cook, stirring frequently, until completely melted.
- Remove pot from the heat and whisk in 1 cup of the shredded cheddar – ½ cup at a time – until fully incorporated. Stir in paprika, mustard, salt, and pepper, adjusting to taste and adding more, if necessary.
- Fold the drained broccoli into the cheese sauce and stir until evenly coated. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and smooth the the top. Sprinkle with the remaining (½-cup) shredded cheddar.
- In a small bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, Parmesan, and butter. Sprinkle over the broccoli cheese mixture in the baking dish.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the broccoli and cheese are bubbly and the top is golden brown.
- Nutrition info was calculated using 24 ounces of broccoli divided between 6 servings.
- This recipe can be made with fresh broccoli, requiring one extra step. Simply blanch or lightly steam about 8 cups of broccoli florets before proceeding with the recipe, ensuring that your florets aren't too large and are of roughly equivalent sizes.
- Choose a saucepan/pot/Dutch oven that's not too big to make the cheese sauce but that's big enough to stir in all of the broccoli. I used a 3.5-quart Dutch oven.