Broccoli Cheese Casserole is one of the best side dishes ever created. It’s a comforting, cheesy, and easily made with broccoli, cheese sauce, and buttery Panko topping. This side is perfect for holiday dinners and any time of the year.
Amazing Cheesy Broccoli Side Dish
Broccoli Cheese Casserole is a wonderful holiday dinner side dish. You know everyone will love it because it’s basically broccoli smothered in cheese and topped with buttery bread crumb topping. This side dish is really good any time of the year, not just during the holidays.
I like to mix together different cheese flavors but always make sure to add some sharp tasting cheeses. Since cheese can add a lot of flavor to a simple vegetable like broccoli, I recommend using sharp of extra sharp cheddar cheese and combine it with an Italian cheese mix. If you want to add some spicy flavors, feel free to use pepper jack cheese instead of Italian cheese mix. (To add even more spice, you can use red pepper flakes or a pinch of cayenne pepper.)
There are usually two options for topping: Ritz crackers or bread crumbs. Instead of crackers, I like to use buttery Panko crumb topping with Parmesan cheese mixed in. It doesn’t overpower the broccoli like Ritz but it adds a nice buttery crunch.
First step, and highly recommended one, is to blanch the broccoli. Blanching broccoli will start cooking it and make sure that less liquid is released into the cheese sauce when broccoli casserole is cooking in the oven. (If you choose to skip this step, you casserole will be more watery from extra broccoli juices.) After broccoli is blanched, drain the water off immediately and set it aside.
In a small sauce pot, saute diced onion in butter and when onion is transparent, add garlic. Saute garlic until it’s fragrant and sprinkle in flour. Stir in flour until paste starts to form and slowly pour in milk, while constantly stirring. Keep stirring slowly until the mixture is smooth and stir in Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and cheeses.
Combine blanched broccoli with cheese sauce and spread it in a greased casserole dish. To make the topping, combine Panko crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese together and mix it well with melted butter. Spread Panko topping evenly over the broccoli mixture and bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes.
Make It Gluten Free!
Yes, you will be happy to find out that this comforting broccoli cheese casserole can easily be made gluten free.
First, substitute flour in the cheese sauce for gluten free all-purpose flour. (You may need to use 1 extra tablespoon of gluten free flour. I’ve noticed that some types of gluten free flour require adding a little extra to get sauce thicker.)
For the topping, use gluten free Panko bread crumbs instead of regular Panko. Many gluten free bread crumbs, like 4C brand, actually closely resemble Panko.
Make Ahead Tips:
Much like with Cauliflower Casserole and Green Beans Casserole, you can do the blanching step first. Blanch the broccoli ahead of time and store it in an air-tight food storage container, in the refrigerator for a day or two. When ready, follow the recipe to make the casserole.
Another way to make broccoli cheese casserole ahead of time is to prepare most of it and store it instead of baking. So prepare the casserole up to the step of adding the topping, spread the casserole in the baking dish you plan to use. Don’t add the Panko topping yet. Make sure the casserole mixture is cooled, cover it, and refrigerate until the next day.
When ready to bake, take the casserole out and prepare the topping. Spread the topping over the casserole and bake as directed in the recipe.
Broccoli casserole is a wonderful side dish to serve at traditional holiday dinners because it compliments turkey, chicken, and ham very well. It’s great served along other traditional holiday side dishes as well.
Every other time of the year, I like to serve this casserole with chicken. Whether it’s rotisserie chicken, baked chicken, or simple pan-seared chicken, this comforting side will make a special dinner.
If you have leftover rice (like many of us do after a Chinese takeout night), feel free to mix it in with broccoli and cheese sauce and bake it together.
For a simple and easy casserole dinner, add rotisserie chicken meat and cooked rice into the broccoli and cheese mixture, and bake it all together. Super simple and amazingly delicious!
Broccoli Cheese Casserole
- 2.5-3 lbs broccoli
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 small yellow onion diced
- 3 garlic cloves pressed
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 8 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 8 oz shredded Italian cheese mix
- fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 cup Panko
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp salted butter melted
- Preheat the oven to 375° Lightly grease a 9×9 casserole dish (or 9×13 casserole dish)
- In a large pot, bring water to boil and blanch broccoli florets for about 2-3 minutes. Drain well and set aside.
- In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat and add diced onion. Cook until onion is transparent. Add pressed garlic and saute just until garlic is fragrant.
- Sprinkle flour over onions, stir, and cook until paste is formed. SLOWLY, start pouring in milk, whisking constantly. Keep slowly whisking until sauce thickens.
- Stir in Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.
- Gradually add your cheeses, while stirring slowly, until all melted and smooth.
- Take off heat and stir in broccoli florets. Mix it well and transfer into the casserole dish.
- In a small bowl, combine Panko and grated Parmesan. Mix and pour melted butter over it. Mix well and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the casserole.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes.