Indulge in a classic with a healthy twist – Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole. This crowd-pleasing side dish is quick and easy to prepare, healthy, and rustically elegant, making it the ideal choice for virtually any occasion – from a weeknight family dinner to a Thanksgiving gathering or other holiday dinner.
Table of Contents
- Family Favorite Broccoli Cheese Casserole with Rice
- History of This Broccoli Rice Casserole
- Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole Ingredients
- How to Make Broccoli Rice and Cheese Casserole
- Variations and Additions to Customize Your Broccoli Cheese Casserole with Rice
- Can You Make Broccoli Rice Casserole Ahead of Time?
- Serving Cheesy Rice and Broccoli Casserole
- How to Store Broccoli Rice and Cheese Casserole
- Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole
Family Favorite Broccoli Cheese Casserole with Rice
This easy recipe is one of my go-to side dishes, especially when I don’t have much time. Cheese, broccoli, and rice is a classic flavor combination, and our recipe modifies the traditional recipe, making it lighter and healthier, with more complexity. What sets our recipe apart is:
- Unique, healthier ingredients. No canned soup or Velveeta cheese here. We use high-fiber brown rice for a nutty earthiness and Gruyere (Swiss) cheese for a savory, smooth texture with subtle sweet notes. A small amount of sour cream adds moisture, creaminess, and a subtle tang, while chopped cilantro brings freshness and peanuts contribute an earthy, nutty crunch.
- Layering of flavors. Peanuts and cilantro are incorporated into both the broccoli-rice mixture and the breadcrumb topping, providing a delightful combination of crunch and freshness throughout the dish.
- Quick and easy. Calling for quick-cooking brown rice pouches and chopped frozen broccoli, this recipe can be prepped in less than 15 minutes, then either baked right away or covered and refrigerated to be finished later.
- Flexible. This recipe is highly adaptable. You can leave out the broccoli, swap sharp Cheddar cheese for Gruyere, or even add chopped cooked chicken or ham to make it a main dish. In fact, it’s a great way to use up leftovers!
History of This Broccoli Rice Casserole
Broccoli rice casserole has roots in the 1960s, a time when convenience foods and casseroles dominated the culinary scene. It quickly became a staple in households across the country, thanks to its simplicity and comforting flavors.
The combination of broccoli, rice, and cheese proved to be a winning formula, appealing to both kids and adults alike. The casserole’s versatility allowed for variations and additions, making it a popular recipe for potlucks, family gatherings, and weeknight dinners. Over the years, broccoli rice casserole has evolved, with chefs and home cooks adding their own unique twists.
Recently I was looking for a few ingredients to add to my version of this delectable dish that would provide a bit of crunch and a pop of color. I pulled out my favorite reference book, The Flavor Matrix by James Briscione, which provides food pairings created by IBM’s Watson computer. Two ingredients that Watson paired with broccoli are cilantro and peanuts, which sounded like perfect additions. So, into this casserole, they went.
Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole Ingredients
To create the perfect Cheesy Broccoli Rice Bake, you will need the following ingredients:
- Cooked brown rice. I recommend using “Seeds of Change” organic brown basmati rice pouches. They cook up in 90 seconds, delivering perfect tender rice that isn’t overcooked.
- Chicken stock or broth. For maximum flavor, I recommend stirring Better than Bouillon concentrate into boiling water, then cooling.
- Chopped cooked broccoli. Frozen chopped broccoli (or broccoli florets) works well – and cooks quickly. I use Organic broccoli cuts, and after cooking, I chop the broccoli into smaller (1/2-inch) pieces, especially the stalk pieces. You can also use chopped cooked fresh broccoli.
- Shredded Gruyere (Swiss) cheese. I love the nutty, creamy, smooth taste and texture this cheese adds to this casserole.
- Chopped green onion. Milder than yellow or red onion, these onions don’t require precooking, while still adding a subtle onion essence.
- Dry roasted peanuts. As mentioned above, peanuts pair well with broccoli, and dry-roasted ones add a nice crunchy texture and more pronounced toastiness than other peanuts.
- Fresh cilantro. I love the citrusy (think lemon or lime), grassy, earthy taste that cilantro adds to this dish. And, as mentioned above, it pairs well with broccoli.
- Sour cream. Regular or light will work in this recipe.
- Dijon mustard. This ingredient adds complexity and subtly enhances all the other flavors.
- Kosher salt. Can also use regular, just be careful not to oversalt!
- Fresh ground black pepper. Enhances all the other flavors.
- Homemade or Panko breadcrumbs. Buttery breadcrumbs add a finishing touch to the top of the dish. Using the larger profile crumbs of homemade or Panko adds a bit more crunch and also keeps the bread from overwhelming the dish.
- Salted butter. Melted butter ensures the breadcrumb topping has a nice golden brown color. Can also use unsalted butter.
How to Make Broccoli Rice and Cheese Casserole
Here’s all you have to do to make this easy Broccoli, Rice, Cheese Casserole:
- Prep oven and casserole dish.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 7 by 11-inch baking dish.
- Cook rice pouches.
Place pouches in the microwave for 90 seconds; remove, carefully open, and set aside to cool. After 1 to 2 minutes, stir with a fork.
- Cook broccoli.
Cook broccoli in the microwave according to package instructions. Cool, open, remove broccoli, and chop as needed.
- Mix dry ingredients and broth.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the rice and stock or broth. Stir in broccoli, grated cheese, green onion, 1/4 cup chopped peanuts, and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro.
- Mix remaining wet ingredients; add to dry.
In a small mixing bowl, stir together the sour cream and mustard; stir into the rice mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon evenly into the prepared baking dish.
- Prepare and add breadcrumb topping.
Melt butter in the microwave. In a small mixing bowl, using your hands mix the breadcrumbs, the remaining 2 tablespoons peanuts, and the remaining 1 tablespoon cilantro. Add melted butter and mix until all the breadcrumbs are well coated with the butter. Sprinkle over top of the rice mixture.
- Bake, then let rest.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until bubbly hot and crumbs are golden brown. Remove from oven and let the casserole rest at room temperature for 4 to 5 minutes before serving.
Variations and Additions to Customize Your Broccoli Cheese Casserole with Rice
While this easy casserole is delicious, there are several ways to make it your own. Here are a few variations and additions you can try:
- Tex-Mex. Add a can of diced tomatoes, chopped green chilies, chili powder, and onion powder; substitute sharp Cheddar cheese for the gruyere.
- Smoky. Chopped cooked bacon is a perfect addition, either stirred into the rice mixture or to the breadcrumb topping.
- Cheesier. Stir a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese into the breadcrumbs, to layer in even more cheesy flavor.
- Mediterranean. Add chopped Kalamata olives, fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes, and crumbled feta cheese (in place of the gruyere).
- Main dish. Stir some chopped cooked chicken breasts, rotisserie chicken, or ham into the broccoli-rice mixture to turn this casserole into a quick and easy main dish.
Can You Make Broccoli Rice Casserole Ahead of Time?
Yes, you can! Earlier in the day, prepare the casserole but don’t cook it, cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before baking.
Serving Cheesy Rice and Broccoli Casserole
This casserole is the perfect side dish to serve with numerous main dishes; here are some ideas:
- Braised Baby Back Ribs
- Spicy Dry Rubbed Pork Tenderloin
- Chimichurri Pork Chops
- Grilled Lemon Chicken
- Rosemary Dijon Grilled Chicken
- Slow Cooker Beef Short Ribs
How to Store Broccoli Rice and Cheese Casserole
If you have any leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Tips for reheating Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole
To reheat, place a portion of the casserole in the microwave or oven until warmed through. Add a splash of water or broth to prevent the casserole from drying out during reheating.Print
- 3 cups cooked brown rice (2 packets “Seeds of Change” brand brown basmati rice)
- 3/4 cup chicken stock or broth (3/4 cup water + 3/4 teaspoon Better than Bouillon)
- 2 cups chopped cooked broccoli (a 12-ounce frozen package)
- 1 cup shredded Gruyere (Swiss) cheese
- 2/3 cup chopped green onion (around 1 bunch of 5 to 6)
- 6 tablespoons chopped dry roasted peanuts, divided use
- 5 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, divided use
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1/2 cup homemade or Panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 7 by 11-inch baking dish.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the rice and stock. Stir in broccoli, grated cheese, green onion, 1/4 cup chopped peanuts, and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro.
- In a small mixing bowl, stir together the sour cream and mustard; stir into the rice mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon evenly into the prepared baking dish.
- Melt butter in the microwave. Set aside.
- In a small mixing bowl, using your hands mix the breadcrumbs, the remaining 2 tablespoons peanuts, and the remaining 1 tablespoon cilantro. Add melted butter and mix until all the breadcrumbs are well coated with the butter. Sprinkle over top of the rice mixture.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until bubbly hot and crumbs are golden brown.
- Remove from oven and let the casserole rest at room temperature for 4 to 5 minutes before serving.
Make ahead: Casserole can be assembled but not baked earlier in the day, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before baking.
- Category: quick and easy
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: brown rice, broccoli, peanuts, cilantro