Southern Baked Broccoli Rice and Cheese Casserole is a hearty dish perfect for serving as a side at any dinner party, holiday, or weeknight night at home! Made with a creamy roux sauce, you can use fresh or frozen broccoli - whatever you prefer! Baked for 30 minutes with a delicious cheesy top!
What makes a Southern casserole stand out from the rest? It's all about a deep-rooted southern cooking tradition of comfort, warmth, and rich flavors melded together. This broccoli, cheese, and rice casserole epitomizes this concept, offering a warming blend that's distinctly different from your run-of-the-mill casserole with the use of a homemade roux and no-processed cheeses like Velveeta.
While there is one time and place for Velveeta - my family's FAVORITE Thanksgiving side dish, Easy Broccoli Casserole, that is the only time I use it. For any other casserole or cooking, I don't like to use any processed cheese or condensed can of soup anything.
While those things can make things "easier", the added ingredients and processed chemicals are not worth it IMO. So we are taking a couple extra minutes to make a homemade roux and the results are SO WORTH IT!
Crafting this southern broccoli cheese rice casserole is straightforward and easy to do. Start with a savory homemade roux, blend in cheddar cheese, then toss in some broccoli and rice. Mix, bake, and in just a few steps, you've got a dish that sings comfort and Southern charm!
Whether you're looking to wow at a potluck, serve up a Sunday family dinner, or just need a satisfying meal after a long day, this dish delivers. It can be made with fresh or frozen broccoli too! Plus, with its easy make-ahead and freeze options, it's ready to grace your table for countless occasions!
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Butter & Flour - this is the base of the roux (aka sauce for the casserole).
- Whole Milk - I recommended using whole milk for the best flavor. Low fat can be used but won't result in as "flavorful" of a result. I do not recommend using any plant-based milk as it will significantly change the taste and results.
- Spices - salt, pepper, white pepper, and ground mustard.
- Shredded Cheddar - I always like to grate a block of cheese myself instead of using pre-shredded cheese.
- Broccoli - you can use fresh or frozen in this recipe (directions below for both). I prefer fresh usually but frozen can be a quick alternative if needed.
- Rice - I just use long-grain white rice that I always have stocked in my pantry.
What is a Roux? Roux is the base of a thick sauce that is equal parts fat and flour. The fat can vary depending on the recipe. Milk, broth, or some sort of liquid is then added to the fat and flour that has been cooked for a couple of minutes - to remove the raw flour taste - and it will start to thicken as it is whisked and cooked. Spices and cheese can be added to flavor based on what recipe it is needed for. Recipes like mac and cheese, gumbo, fettuccine alfredo, sausage gravy, and other casseroles like chicken pot pie casserole or Oven Baked Cheesy Potato and Hamburger Casserole will use a roux as a base for the sauce.
How To Make Southern Baked Broccoli Rice and Cheese Casserole
Make the cheese sauce: Preheat the oven to 350F to start. Make the rough by adding butter and flour to a large pot over medium heat. Whisk together until the raw flour taste is cooked out. Then add the milk ½ cup at a time, continuing to whisk until a smooth sauce is formed. Add in ½ of the cheese and stir until melted. Add spices and mix to combine.
Cook the rice: cook the rice according to the package instructions. Set aside once finished. This can be done at the same time as making the roux to utilize your time well.
Prepare the broccoli: Chop the broccoli into small bite-sized pieces, then blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes. Place in ice water to stop the cooking process, then strain off as much water as possible before mixing into the cheese mixture.
Assemble and bake: Add both the broccoli to the cheese mixture in the pot and stir to combine fully. Spread the rice evenly across the bottom of a greased 9x9" baking dish. Pour the broccoli mixture on top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and serve hot. Enjoy!
- Ensure your butter and flour mixture is smooth and free of lumps before adding milk for a seamless sauce. Using a whisk will help with this.
- When making the cheese sauce, maintain a constant stir to prevent the bottom from burning and to ensure the even melting of the cheese.
- Freshly grated cheddar from a block often melts better than pre-shredded varieties, which can contain anti-caking agents and can make your sauce curdle.
- If using fresh broccoli, ensure it's washed thoroughly and dried to avoid introducing excess water into the casserole.
- For best results, use rice that's slightly undercooked, as it will absorb some of the cheese sauce and continue cooking in the oven.
- Grease your baking dish before adding the mixture; this ensures easy serving and clean-up afterward
Storing & Freezing
Storing: Once the casserole has cooled down to room temperature, transfer any leftovers into an airtight container. Store this in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. When ready to eat, reheat gently in a microwave or in the oven until it's warmed through, ensuring it retains its creamy consistency.
Freezing: To freeze the casserole for later use, assemble everything up until the point of baking. Wrap the dish tightly in several layers of plastic wrap, followed by a layer of foil to seal in freshness and prevent freezer burn. Store in the freezer for up to 6 months. When you're ready to enjoy it, you can bake from frozen (covered with foil initially and removed for the last 15 minutes to brown the top) or thaw in the refrigerator 24 hours before baking as per the original instructions.
While cheddar offers a distinct sharpness, you can experiment with cheeses like Monterey Jack, Gouda, or even a mix of a few to create a unique flavor blend. Just ensure your chosen cheese melts well for a creamy consistency.
Skim milk can be used as a lighter alternative. However, keep in mind that the resulting cheese sauce may be slightly less rich and creamy compared to using whole milk.
If your sauce is too thick, you can gently whisk in a bit more milk until you reach the desired consistency. On the other hand, if it's too thin, allow it to simmer on low heat for a few more minutes, or consider adding a bit more grated cheese to thicken it up