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Broccoli Cheese Casserole has tender cooked broccoli in a cheesy cream sauce, all topped with a buttery cracker and cheese topping. Bake until hot and bubbly and golden on top.
Fresh Broccoli and Cheese Casserole with a Butter Cracker Topping
Move over green bean casserole, our easy fresh Broccoli Cheese Casserole is going to steal the show at Thanksgiving dinner this year.
This delicious side dish is a crowd favorite that both kids and adults will love.
Fresh broccoli is baked in a creamy cheese sauce with onions, mushrooms, and garlic, plus a little mayonnaise and Dijon mustard adds a nice zesty note of flavor. It’s all topped with seasoned and crushed butter crackers (aka Ritz crackers) and Parmesan cheese.
Why you’ll love Broccoli Cheese Casserole
- The combination of tender broccoli in a cheesy sauce under a salty buttered cracker topping is simply delicious.
- You can prepare and refrigerate this dish ahead of time – then heat through for serving. (So convenient for holiday meals.)
- Even picky kids will love eating broccoli when it’s prepared and served this way!
Key Ingredients & Substitutions
- Broccoli – Buy fresh broccoli for this recipe – not frozen. You’ll need a total of two pounds after trimming from the stems, so buy a little more than two pounds at the supermarket. (Weigh it at the store so you’ll know how much to buy.)
- Yellow Onions – This onion varietal will lend a nice sweet, mellow flavor to the broccoli cheese casserole.
- White Button Mushrooms – Or any other common variety of mushroom.
- Fresh Garlic
- Unsalted Butter
- All-Purpose Flour
- Whole Milk
- Cheese – You’ll add Monterey Jack cheese and a sharp white Cheddar to the cheese sauce. Plus, Parmesan is added to the cracker crumb topping.
- Dijon Mustard
- Seasonings – For the cream sauce, you’ll need kosher or sea salt, ground black pepper, dry mustard, and freshly ground nutmeg. You’ll also add paprika to the topping.
- Butter Crackers – Such as Ritz crackers.
- Fresh Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley
- Non-Stick Cooking Spray
Special Tools Needed
- Medium Pot with Lid – To steam the broccoli and to make the cheese sauce.
- Large Bowl – To chill the cooked broccoli in an ice bath.
- Cutting Board and Sharp Knife
- Kitchen Scale – Only needed if you didn’t weigh your broccoli at the store.
- Small Pan – To heat the milk and later melt the butter for the topping.
- Medium Bowl – To mix the topping.
- Box Grater – To shred the Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses, and to grate the Parmesan cheese.
- 9×13-inch Oven-Safe Casserole Dish
- Large Wooden Spoon
- Rubber Spatula/Scraper
- Various Measuring Cups and Spoons
How do I make Broccoli Cheese Casserole?
- Steam the broccoli florets until partially cooked (only about three to five minutes). Drain and plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again and set aside.
- Saute onions, mushrooms, garlic, salt, and pepper in butter. Add flour to make a roux then add hot milk to make the sauce.
- Stir in both shredded cheeses along with mayonnaise and Dijon mustard.
- Add cooked, cooled broccoli and gently stir, then pour into casserole dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
- Mix crushed crackers, melted butter, paprika, Parmesan, and parsley to make a topping.
- Sprinkle topping over casserole and bake uncovered until slightly browned and hot and bubbly.
- Serve immediately.
Use the Ice Bath Technique to Avoid Overcooked Broccoli and Other Vegetables
Cooking the broccoli just right is the key to success with this recipe – you want broccoli that is tender and perfectly cooked, not overcooked and mushy.
In this recipe, steam the broccoli for only three to five minutes – then immediately drain and plunge it into a bowl of ice water (also known as an “ice bath”) to stop the cooking process.
An “ice bath” is a technique that is used when cooking some vegetables – such as broccoli, green beans, or asparagus. It stops vegetables from overcooking due to residual heat from the cooking liquid.
In addition, this cold water “shock” turns vegetables a bright green color. At that point you can drain the vegetables and set them aside for a step later in the recipe, or add them to a cold salad.
Note that in this recipe, the broccoli will still be a little undercooked after the water bath process. It will cook further in the oven in the hot and bubbly cream sauce.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I make Broccoli Cheese Casserole ahead of time? Yes, you could assemble the entire dish ahead of time and refrigerate it. Bring to room temperature before baking.
- How do I store leftovers? Store covered and refrigerated for up to three days.
- How do I reheat leftovers? Reheat individual portions in the microwave or reheat the casserole in oven.
- Can I freeze? No – this will not freeze and thaw well. The broccoli will get mushy once it is frozen.
- Can I use frozen broccoli instead of fresh? For the best results, we recommend that you only use fresh broccoli in this recipe.
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2 pounds fresh broccoli florets (2 pounds after trimming so buy more to start)
4 tablespoons butter (another 3 tablespoons will be used in the topping)
1 1/2 cups yellow onion, diced
4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced thin
1 tablespoon fresh garlic
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk, heated
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Few grinds nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 1/2 sleeves Ritz or other butter crackers slightly crushed by hand (45 crackers)
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spray a 9X13 casserole dish with kitchen pan spray.
- Put a medium pot on to boil with one inch of water. Once boiling, add a little salt and plunge the broccoli florets in and close the lid. Steam on full boil for three to five minutes. They should still be dark green and still be mostly crunchy but slightly softened. Have a large bowl of ice water standing by.
- After steaming for three to five minutes, pour into a colander and then into the ice water. Then drain the cooled broccoli and hold in the colander.
- In the same pot, melt the butter over medium heat and add the onions and mushrooms and cook for three minutes.
- While cooking, place garlic, salt and pepper on your cutting board and chop and crush to a fine mash.
- Add to the pot and cook for one minute.
- Add the flour and stir and cook for two minutes.
- Stir in the hot milk in three pours, stirring it in between pours.
- Add the Jack cheese, cheddar cheese, and stir in to melt.
- Add the mayonnaise, Dijon, nutmeg, and dry mustard and stir to combine.
- Add the drained broccoli and gently stir to combine then pour into the prepared casserole dish.
- In a medium bowl crush the crackers by hand to a large coarse crumb (not too fine).
- Stir and mix in melted butter, paprika, Parmesan and parsley.
- Spread over the casserole and bake for 30 minutes uncovered.
- Serve immediately.
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