This Cheesy Broccoli recipe has it all! It’s easy, kid-friendly, and the homemade cheese sauce makes it absolutely delicious. A simple recipe that comes together in minutes, it turns one of the greatest of all combos (broccoli! cheese!) into an easy side you can serve with anything.
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Why You’ll Love This Easy Cheesy Broccoli Recipe
- Broccoli in its Finest Form. Roasted Broccoli is fantastic, as is Air Fryer Broccoli. But broccoli with cheese is the ultimate! The best! The classic old-school broccoli side dish (it’s why everyone loves Broccoli Cheddar Soup!).
- For Real Cheese Sauce. No gloppy jarred cheese sauce here, friends! This recipe uses real cheddar cheese and milk to create a creamy, cheesy sauce that tastes so much better than store-bought. (I promise it’s worth the extra effort.)
- Quick and Easy. Yes, even with the homemade sauce, this cheesy broccoli recipe comes together in just 20 minutes, making it a great option for busy weeknights. Pair it with a simple main dish like Air Fryer Chicken Thighs or Instant Pot Pork Tenderloin for a dinner that’s practically effortless.
- A Side Dish Everyone Will Love. Kids will devour cheesy broccoli because that rich, creamy cheese sauce has a magical way of making even the most objectionable veggies more palatable. Adults will love it for that little hit of nostalgia—the same kind you get when eating a Meatloaf Sandwich or Chili Mac and Cheese.
How to Make Cheesy Broccoli
- Broccoli. Buy a broccoli crown and cut it into florets, or buy a bag of pre-cut broccoli to save some prep time.
- Butter. I recommend unsalted butter, which gives you more control over the flavor.
- Flour. The base of our roux for the cheese sauce. You can make this cheesy broccoli gluten-free by using a measure-for-measure flour substitute.
- Milk. I used 1%, but whatever you have on hand is fine.
- Shredded Cheddar Cheese. A nice, sharp cheddar will add some assertive flavor to the cheese sauce, but avoid anything that’s aged for several years—older cheeses tend to have trouble melting smoothly.
- Grated Parmesan Cheese. Grated off a block for best results.
- Ground Mustard. Optional, but it helps balance the richness of the sauce and adds some depth.
- Cayenne. Don’t go overboard, but a little bit of cayenne brings some nice warmth to the sauce.
- Prepare. Cut the broccoli into florets and set them in a saucepan.
- Steam. The broccoli will be bright green and crisp-tender.
- Drain. Transfer to a bowl and cover.
- Start the Sauce. Make the butter and flour roux.
- Add the Milk. Simmer until the sauce thickens.
- Add the Cheese. Do this slowly.
- Finish the Sauce. Stir in the Parmesan, salt, and mustard and cayenne (if using).
- Add the Broccoli. Spoon the sauce over the broccoli, or add the broccoli to the pot and stir to coat. Season the cheesy broccoli to taste, then ENJOY!
- Use Different Cheese. Swap out cheddar for other types of cheese, such as gouda, fontina, or gruyere, for a twist on the original.
- Start With Frozen Broccoli. The homemade cheese sauce in this recipe is a fantastic way to jazz up frozen broccoli. Simply prepare the broccoli as instructed on the package and combine it with the cheese sauce.
- Try It With Cauliflower. Swap the broccoli for cauliflower, or use a combination of both.
- To Store. Refrigerate cheesy broccoli in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Heat leftovers in a skillet set over medium heat or in the microwave. If you’ve refrigerated the cheese sauce separately, you can warm that in the microwave or in a saucepan set over medium-low heat.
- To Freeze. Freeze cheesy broccoli in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months, then thaw in the refrigerator before heating.
Meal Prep Tip
Shred the cheese and cut the broccoli into florets up to two days in advance. Store them in the refrigerator in airtight containers.
Leftover cheesy broccoli is excellent warmed up and spooned onto baked potatoes or Crock Pot Baked Potatoes!
What to Serve with Cheesy Broccoli
- Chicken. Dishes like Air Fryer Chicken Thighs or Pan Fried Chicken Breast pair well with this cheesy broccoli recipe.
- Beef. Serve this broccoli with beef dishes like Air Fryer Steak or Instant Pot Roast for a well-balanced meal.
- Pork. Crock Pot Pork Chops, Air Fryer Pork Tenderloin, and Stuffed Pork Chops would also be fantastic with cheesy broccoli on the side.
- Classic Sides. If you want to add another side dish to your dinner, I suggest something simple like Roasted Potatoes and Carrots or Homemade Dinner Rolls.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Chef’s Knife. Use a sharp chef’s knife to easily cut the broccoli florets.
- Whisk. A whisk makes it easy to create a smooth and creamy cheese sauce without any lumps.
- Grater. Use a grater to shred the cheddar and Parmesan cheese.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Cut the Broccoli into Uniform Pieces. This will help ensure that it’s all done cooking at the same time.
- Shred Your Own Cheese. Pre-shredded cheese contains additives that keep it from melting super smoothly. For the smoothest, creamiest texture, shred your own cheese from a block.
- Don’t Overcook the Broccoli. To avoid mushy broccoli, take the pan off the heat as soon as it’s fork tender. Mushy broccoli is the easiest way to ruin this cheesy broccoli recipe!
- Add the Milk in Slowly. I like to pour a splash into the flour and butter, whisk until the mixture is entirely smooth, then pour in another splash and whisk until smooth. After that, I’ll slowly stream in the rest of the milk while whisking constantly. This helps keep lumps out of your cheese sauce.
- 1 pound broccoli cut into florets (about 6 cups florets)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk I used 1%
- 2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus additional to taste
- Pinch ground mustard optional
- Pinch cayenne optional
- Place the broccoli in a large saucepan. Cover with enough water to create a thin layer of water across the bottom of the pan (about 1 cup or so should do it; the broccoli itself will not be covered). Bring to a simmer over high heat, then cover the pan and let simmer until the broccoli is bright green and crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain the broccoli, then place in a bowl and cover to keep warm.
- With a towel, carefully wipe the pan dry. Add the butter and melt over medium-low. Once it melts, sprinkle the flour over the top. Whisk constantly until the flour turns golden, about 1 full minute.
- Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Let simmer, whisking the entire time, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low. Working a small handful at a time, whisk in the cheddar cheese, allowing it to melt fully between additions (if you add too much at once, the sauce will clump). Stir in the Parmesan, salt, and mustard and cayenne (if using). Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired (I add a pinch of extra salt). Serve the broccoli warm, with the cheese sauce over the top. Or, stir the broccoli gently into the sauce and serve it mixed.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate cheesy broccoli in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Heat leftovers in a skillet set over medium heat or in the microwave. If you’ve refrigerated the cheese sauce separately, you can warm that in the microwave or in a saucepan set over medium-low heat.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze cheesy broccoli in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months, then thaw in the refrigerator before heating.
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