I have a pan of comfort food for you today in the form of this healthy Broccoli Rice Casserole.
It’s fully loaded with all the best parts of the original broccoli rice casserole recipe—the creamy, cheesy inside, the scrumptious mix of veggies and rice, and the irresistibly buttery, crispy topping—and exactly none of the worst parts.
- This easy broccoli rice casserole is made from scratch with healthy ingredients you can feel good about.
- Its family-friendly flavor will be a hit with kiddos and grown-ups alike.
Courtesy of a midwestern upbringing peppered with a large family collection of what I can only describe as “church lady” cookbooks, I consider myself a steady casserole connoisseur (Chicken and Rice Casserole agrees).
Dishes like southern broccoli cheese rice casserole were a staple at our childhood dinners, but when I started cooking for myself, I avoided them at first.
I associated casseroles with processed ingredients.
When you step away from the stereotypes, however, recipes like this broccoli rice casserole and Broccoli Bake have incredible meal potential.
- Casseroles offer multiple food groups in one pan.
- You can scale casserole to feed a crowd.
- Casseroles are freezer friendly, whether you are meal prepping or bringing dinner to a friend.
This wholesome spin on a classic casserole tastes just like mom’s or grandma’s cheesy broccoli rice casserole, but it’s so much better for you (like my homemade Hash Brown Casserole).
5 Star Review
“No one could believe it was so creamy and cheesy tasting yet so healthy and light! This is my trusted site for eating right without sacrificing flavor!”— Mer —
How to Make Broccoli Rice Casserole from Scratch
This simple broccoli rice casserole may share a name with the classic dish, but it’s much better for you (like this Healthy Green Bean Casserole).
My modern take is made with fresh vegetables like broccoli and carrots and offers whole grains thanks to brown rice.
It’s also easy to make—Sunday nostalgia meets weeknight practical.
- Instant Brown Rice. Saves time (and dishes). Instant rice cuts nearly 40 minutes out of the cook time and steams together with the broccoli right in the same pot. I opt for instant brown rice since it is higher in nutrients and fiber than its white rice counterpart. I especially love its chewy texture in casseroles too.
- Broccoli. The star veggie in this casserole (and Broccoli Cheddar Soup). It’s packed with fiber and vitamin C. Plus, it’s begging to be coated in the cheesy flavors.
- Carrots. In addition to broccoli, I supplemented the casserole with carrots. Another kid-friendly favorite, carrots provide color and texture, and they are a natural pairing with broccoli.
- Flour. A little all-purpose flour helps make a thick, velvety sauce (as seen on this healthy Asparagus Casserole).
- Butter. This healthy broccoli casserole with rice does need some richness, so I added just enough butter to do the job without weighing it down with excess fat.
- Milk. I used skim milk as the liquid base for our creamy sauce, but you can use any milk you have on hand.
- Dijon Mustard. A subtle addition that makes the cheesy flavors pop.
- Greek Yogurt. Skip the canned soup. This fantastic ingredient is perfect for making creamy casserole sauces (ahem, Turkey Tetrazzini) that typically call for cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup. It’s high in protein, low-calorie, and contains zero mystery ingredients.
- Cheddar Cheese. Once you try this recipe (or Instant Pot Mac and Cheese) with freshly grated cheese, you’ll swear off Velveeta broccoli rice casserole. I prefer sharp cheddar cheese. Not only does it melt like a dream, it is more fully flavored than mild cheddar too. That means a lesser amount goes a long way. Same great taste, fewer calories.
- Panko + Parmesan Cheese. Is it actually a casserole without the topping? I think not. I like the larger-sized Panko breadcrumbs here because they make the topping especially crunchy (just like on my favorite Pineapple Casserole).
- Boil the brown rice.
- Add the broccoli, cover the pot, and cook for 5 minutes.
- Saute the onion and carrots in a big pot.
- Sprinkle flour over the vegetables, stir in the milk, and cook until thickened.
- Whisk in the yogurt and shredded cheddar cheese.
- Stir the cooked rice and broccoli. Pile the mixture into a greased baking dish.
- Scatter on the breadcrumb topping.
- Cover and bake broccoli rice casserole for 25 to 35 minutes at 375 degrees F, uncovering it part way through. ENJOY!
- To Store. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Reheat gently in the microwave or in a casserole dish in the oven at 350 degrees F. If using the oven, loosely tent the casserole pan with foil and place the pan on the center rack for 15 to 25 minutes, until warmed through (the larger the serving, the longer you will need).
- To Freeze. Place leftovers in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
For make-ahead broccoli rice casserole, prepare the casserole as directed through Step 6 of the instructions. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. When ready to bake, remove the casserole from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Finish as directed, adding the panko topping to the casserole just before baking.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Baking Dish. This one is beautiful!
- Dutch Oven. Perfect for preparing the casserole ingredients.
- Cheese Grater. You can use a microplane grater or a box grater for this recipe.
This easy broccoli rice casserole with fresh broccoli bridges the divide between the food we “want” to eat with the food we “should” eat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Frozen broccoli florets will have a mushier texture, but if you’d like to use it for convenience, you can thaw it and chop it into bite-sized pieces, then stir it into the casserole along with the rice just prior to baking. If you do try it this way, I’d love to hear how it goes!
Whether or not rice should be cooked before adding it to a casserole will vary between recipes. In this easy broccoli rice casserole recipe, the rice is cooked with broccoli in vegetable broth before being combined with the other ingredients and baked in the oven.
I have not tried making this casserole recipe vegan, so it would be an experiment. In addition to using vegetable broth rather than chicken broth, vegan swaps would need to be made for the milk, butter, cheese, and Greek yogurt. If you decide to play around with the recipe to make a vegan broccoli rice casserole, I’d love to hear your results.
Broccoli Rice Casserole
- 1 can low-sodium chicken broth or low-sodium vegetable broth (14.5-ounces)
- 2 cups instant brown rice if you use white rice or non-instant rice, the cooking time and amount of liquid needed will differ
- 1 pound broccoli florets chopped into bite-sized pieces (about 8 cups)
- 4 tablespoons butter divided
- 1 small yellow onion diced
- 4 medium carrots peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1/2 pound)
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt divided
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper divided
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups milk (I used skim)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 3/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
- Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a deep 9-inch-square baking dish or similar 2 1/2-quart casserole dish.
- Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot, then add the rice.
- Return to a boil, add the broccoli to the top of the rice (no need to stir it together), then cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let sit, covered, for an additional 5 minutes. Most of the rice liquid should be absorbed.
- Meanwhile, in a dutch oven or other large deep pot over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of butter. As soon as it melts, add the onion, carrot, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Sauté until the onion is soft and starting to brown, about 4 to 6 minutes.
- Grab a whisk and keep it handy. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until all of the white parts of the flour disappear. Splash the milk into the pot a little at a time, whisking to keep the sauce smooth. Once all the milk is added, stir constantly and cook until thickened, about 7 to 10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the Dijon and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Let cool slightly, then stir in the Greek yogurt and cheddar cheese until smooth.
- With a large spoon, scoop the rice and broccoli into the pot with the cheese mixture. Stir to combine the rice and broccoli with the creamy sauce. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish and spread it into an even layer.
- In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the panko and Parmesan and stir to combine. Sprinkle the topping over the casserole.
- Cover the casserole (with the lid or foil if it doesn’t have an oven-safe lid) and bake for 15 minutes, then uncover and continue baking until hot and bubbly and the panko is toasted, about 15 to 20 additional minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes, then serve.
- TO STORE: Store leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Reheat gently in the microwave or in a casserole dish in the oven at 350 degrees F. If using the oven, loosely tent the casserole pan with foil and place the pan on the center rack for 15 to 25 minutes, until warmed through (the larger the serving, the longer you will need).
- TO FREEZE: Place leftovers in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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