This easy Broccoli Bake is creamy, cheesy, and the perfect vegetarian main dish or crowd-approved side dish for your next holiday gathering or weeknight family dinner.
In the first year of my marriage, I had two dinner-oriented goals.
- Convince my husband to like vegetables (without necessarily adding bacon like in this Cauliflower Casserole).
- Find a staple holiday side dish to bring to family gatherings that would be i) enjoyed by all, and ii) a little different than the standard spread.
Thanks to this broccoli bake recipe, I was able to accomplish both goals simultaneously.
5 Star Review
“Thank you for the recipe. I made it per the directions and it was a big hit at Thanksgiving dinner.”— Melanie —
About This Cheesy Broccoli Bake
To anyone who struggles to convince family members to eat their veggies, this cheesy broccoli casserole recipe (or this Broccoli Quinoa Casserole) will be your hero.
Here’s why you and even the most ardent veggie avoiders at your table will LOVE this easy broccoli bake.
- It’s cheesy. Even the usual veggie nay-sayer won’t be able to deny broccoli when coated in ooey-gooey cheese sauce.
- It’s healthy. A reduced amount of butter, non-fat milk, and white whole wheat flour keep the recipe on the healthier end, while a full-flavored extra sharp cheddar cheese ensures that this cheesy broccoli bake still has plenty of flavor.
- It’s easy. Intended as a Thanksgiving side dish, I wanted to streamline the classic Broccoli Rice Casserole into a no-fuss, simple broccoli bake that doesn’t add extra work to a day of hectic holiday cooking.
Bakes, Gratins, and Casseroles
The terms “bake,” “gratin,” and “casserole” are often used interchangeably. While all typically involve a creamy sauce, yummy topping, and oven baking, there are a few differences between them.
- Gratins are the most specific of the three. French by origin, the “gratin” refers to the browned crust, which is made of some mixture of cheese and breadcrumbs, then finished under the broiler. Gratins are typically vegetable based and served as a side dish.
- Casseroles are more anything goes. The “casserole” refers to the baking dish, and it can be a main or a side (meat, pasta, rice, and veggies all are fair game).
- Bake is the most general term of them all, as it simply means a dish that is “baked” in the oven. The ingredients are often similar to a gratin or casserole, but the dish can be any shape you like.
How to Make Broccoli Bake
This broccoli bake represents everything undeniably magical about the combination of broccoli and cheese (as does this Slow Cooker Broccoli Cheese Soup).
- Broccoli. Loaded with vitamin K, fiber, vitamin C, iron, and potassium, it’s no wonder your mother always told you to finish your Roasted Broccoli.
- Panko Breadcrumbs. For the crispiest, crunchiest, broccoli bake topping you’ll ever scarf down.
- Butter. Helps the topping crisp and become perfectly golden in the oven.
- Parmesan Cheese. Adds a little sharpness to the crispy breadcrumb topping.
- Cheddar Cheese. Using an extra-sharp cheddar ensures this cheesy broccoli bake is packed with optimal flavor. (Extra-sharp cheddar is also the secret to my favorite Broccoli Cauliflower Soup.)
- Whole Wheat White Flour. Sneaks in a little whole grain goodness and thickens the creamy cheese sauce.
- Milk. I went for non-fat milk to lighten this typically indulgent baked broccoli side dish. Though feel free to use any milk you like.
- Spices. A blend of garlic powder, mustard powder, and cayenne adds just the right amount of interest.
- Stir together the topping.
- Blanch and drain the broccoli.
- Prepare the cheese sauce.
- Add the broccoli and toss in the sauce to coat. Spread it into a single layer (yes, we are using the same pan).
- Top with the reserved breadcrumbs and bake until hot and the topping is crisp. ENJOY!
For an even crisper topping, place the skillet under your broiler for a few minutes at the end, watching carefully so that it doesn’t burn.
- To Store. Leftover broccoli bake may be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Warm in a 350 degree F oven or in the microwave until heated through and steaming.
Recommended Tools to Broccoli Bake
- Deep Skillet. This deep cast iron skillet is perfect for cooking this recipe.
- Pot with Steaming Basket. Makes steaming and draining the broccoli a breeze!
- Saucepan. For whisking together a creamy, velvety smooth cheese sauce.
No fussing over veggies, combined with no-fuss holiday comfort food = goals attained.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. Boiling the broccoli helps to tenderize the broccoli and sets the color so it remains a nice vibrant green after baking. If you skip this step, your broccoli will be too crunchy.
This recipe yields tender-crisp broccoli that still has a little bite. If you prefer a softer, more tender broccoli, you may boil the broccoli and/or bake it for longer until it reaches your desired level of doneness.
I have not tried preparing this as a frozen broccoli bake so it would be an experiment if you attempt. I would suggest thawing your broccoli overnight in the fridge prior to boiling it for best results. Then finish the recipe as directed. Note that your broccoli will be much softer.
If you’d like to try experimenting with this broccoli casserole recipe to make it vegan, you could try swapping the butter, milk, and cheese for your favorite vegan dairy alternatives and preparing as directed. I have not personally tested that, however. If you attempt, I would love to hear your results!
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
- 3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 5 cups coarsely chopped broccoli florets (about 1 1/4 pounds)
- 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1 3/4 cups non-fat milk
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper optional
- 1/2 cup freshly grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a wide, deep cast iron (or other ovenproof) skillet. Once melted, pour the butter into a small mixing bowl, then combine with the Panko breadcrumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the broccoli and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the same skillet. Sprinkle the white whole wheat flour over the top, then whisk constantly for 1 minute, until the butter smells fragrant and the flour turns slightly golden. Very slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly, adding a little at a time so that you break up the clumps of flour as you go. Continue whisking until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes, allowing the mixture to bubble. Stir in the garlic powder, salt, mustard, black pepper, and cayenne (if using). Remove the skillet from the heat, then stir in the cheddar until smooth.
- Add the reserved broccoli, stir to coat, then pat the broccoli into an even layer in the skillet. (Alternatively, if you feel your skillet is not large enough to easily stir in the broccoli without it spilling out, you can combine the two in a separate bowl, then transfer the mixture back into the skillet.)
- Sprinkle the Panko mixture evenly over the top of the broccoli. Bake until hot and the topping is crisp and light golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. (Tip: For an even crisper topping, place the skillet under your broiler for a few minutes at the end, watching carefully so that it doesn’t burn.) Let stand 5 minutes, then serve.
- TO STORE: Leftover broccoli bake may be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Warm in a 350 degree F oven or in the microwave until heated through and steaming.
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