Looking for a new twist on classic comfort food? Look no further than this Broccoli Rice Casserole! Start by making a homemade mushroom soup base for the rice to cook in. Then add slightly steamed broccoli and top with a crispy panko topping for a side dish that will be the star of the meal.
When you need a vegetable casserole but hate mushy veggies, give this broccoli rice casserole a try. The broccoli is steamed and then added at the very end of the cooking process so that it doesn’t get overcooked.
It’s always a challenge for me to find a way to make vegetables interesting. While I love them just steamed or roasted, my family is a little pickier. Hide them in the most flavorful rice and your family will love them!
With just a few steps, you’ll build so much flavor in this casserole, this is not the bland broccoli rice casserole you typically find at potlucks. The rice is baked in a flavor rich sauce and once cooked, broccoli is added along with a a panko cheese mixture that will form a crispy topping under the broiler.
A hearty vegetable casserole that’s substantial enough to serve as a meal for meatless Mondays and impressive enough that you’ll want to bring it to your next potluck or holiday meal.
It has the perfect mixture of textures and ingredients that will compliment almost any main dish. Not to mention, the homemade cheese sauce adds so much more flavor than you typically see in broccoli rice casserole recipes that use canned soup.
It’s a nice alternative to a classic broccoli and cheese casserole that I make for most holidays when I want a vegetable that everyone will love that’s not quite as filling as a broccoli and rice casserole.
What to serve with broccoli and rice
The classic broccoli and cheddar combo goes with just about any main dish. Serve with ham or turkey or alongside chicken with olives or perfectly smoked brisket for a complete and satisfying meal.
Why you’ll love this easy broccoli rice casserole
- It goes well with almost any main dish
- Cooks in one pot
- Everyone loves the broccoli cheddar combo
- Crispy topping
- Comfort food
Ingredients you’ll need to have
- Chicken broth – For the best flavor, I like bone broth, but you can also use chicken stock.
- Bayleaf and fresh thyme – This is used to flavor the milk before adding to the sauce. It adds a subtle flavor that infuses the rice while it cooks.
- Veggies – Fresh broccoli is a must but you also need mushrooms, celery, onion and garlic for extra flavor.
- Sour cream and mayo – Sour cream and mayo gives this casserole a creamy and flavorful base.
- Cheese – Cheddar cheese is the best! Nothing beats the broccoli cheddar combo.
- Rice – Any type of rice will work for this recipe except for instant rice. I usually use a long grain rice.
- Panko bread crumbs – Panko breadcrumbs combined with melty cheese give this casserole a nice crunch.
- Pantry staples – milk, butter, red pepper flakes and nutmeg
How to make a broccoli rice casserole without canned soup
Step 1: Prepare
Combine milk and chicken broth in a large bowl and warm it in the microwave. Add a bay leaf and fresh thyme and let it sit.
Step 2: Sauté the veggies
Cook onions and celery in a shallow dutch oven or an ovenproof skillet with a lid until they start to brown. Then add the mushrooms and red pepper flakes and when they are almost browned, add some garlic.
Step 3: Create a sauce
Add flour to the veggies then slowly add the milk mixture and let it thicken slightly. Fold in some of the cheese. Remove from the heat and add in sour cream, mayo, and uncooked rice.
Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
Step 4: Final touches
Steam the broccoli in the microwave and once the rice has cooked add it to the rice mixture.
Top with panko crumbs and cheese, then broil for just a few minutes.
Pro tip: You can use frozen broccoli florets, but you will not need to steam it as long as fresh broccoli. You want it to be just slightly cooked.
- Switch up the crunchy topping by swapping panko breadcrumbs for corn flakes, ritz crackers, or seasoned breadcrumbs.
- Throw in some cauliflower along with the broccoli for extra veggies and a different texture.
- Make this cheesy broccoli rice casserole a complete meal by adding rotisserie chicken or chicken breasts.
- If sharp cheddar cheese isn’t your thing, feel free to add/swap for pepper jack, some parmesan cheese, or Colby jack. Extra cheese never hurt anyone!
How to store this casserole
Let cool to room temperature then wrap in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat leftovers in the microwave or in the oven.
If you want to freeze this casserole, let it cool completely then freeze in a freezer safe container for up to 2 months. Let thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat in the oven or microwave.
Broccoli rice FAQs
Why is my broccoli casserole watery?
This can happen if you don’t drain the water from your vegetables before adding to the rice. If you have used frozen broccoli, make sure you just barely steam it.
Can I substitute frozen broccoli for fresh in a casserole?
Yes, you can use frozen broccoli, but use the florets and not chopped broccoli fo rthis recipe. It will not take as long to steam as fresh broccoli.
How do you that frozen broccoli for a casserole?
Thaw frozen broccoli in the refrigerator overnight. If you add frozen broccoli to a casserole it will make it watery.
More vegetable casseroles to try
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Creamy Broccoli Rice Casserole without Canned Soup
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups milk
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion 2 cups chopped
- ½ cup celery chopped
- 8 ounces mushrooms sliced
- ½ teapsoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 gloves garlic minced
- ¼ cup flour
- 8 ounces cheddar cheese 2 cups, divided
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 ½ cups long grain rice
- 3 cups broccoli florets
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 350º
- Combine milk and chicken broth in a large microwavable bowl. Add bay leaf and thyme and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Set aside.
- In a shallow dutch oven or oven proof skillet with a lid, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Add diced onions and celery and cook over medium heat until onions start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and ½ teaspoon of salt, red pepper flakes and a pinch of pepper. Cook an additional 5 minutes until they start to brown. Add garlic and cook an additional minute.
- Add flour and cook about 2 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and thyme from the milk mixture and gradually add to the onion mixture, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes until it is slightly thickened. (It will not be thick). Add 1 cup of cheese and stir until melted.
- Remove from heat and stir in sour cream and mayonnaise. Add nutmeg and additional salt and pepper if needed. Add uncooked rice and stir until combined. Cover and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the rice is tender. Most of the liquid should be absorbed.
- Add broccoli cut into bite sized florets to a microwave safe bowl with a ¼ cup of water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 2 minutes or until broccoli is just tender. Drain and mix into the rice mixture.
- In a separate bowl, combine melted butter with panko and stir in 1 cup of cheddar cheese.
- Turn the oven to broil. Top the rice mixture with the panko mixture and boil for about 2 minutes until it is golden brown.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- You can use frozen broccoli, it will not take as long to steam as fresh.
- Make sure you do not use instant rice, any long grain rice will work.
- You will need some type of oven proof pan with a lid.
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