What Is a Broccoli Rice Casserole?

Megan Shoop

Broccoli rice casserole is a baked dish usually featuring a mixture of broccoli, rice, cheese, and sometimes other vegetables and spices. These casseroles are not only generally nutritious, they’re also often versatile. Inexperienced cooks may make a very simple broccoli rice casserole, while more experienced cooks may prefer to dress it up. With a wide variety of rices, cheeses, and veggies available, the possibilities for this dish are wide open to many different tastes.

Black truffles are sometimes used to make this casserole.
Black truffles are sometimes used to make this casserole.

A typical broccoli rice casserole starts with cooked rice mixed with broccoli florets and a soft cheese. The casserole is then baked in a glass or ceramic baking dish until the cheese is bubbly and the casserole is hot all the way through. This is the simplest way to make this entrée, though most cooks include a variety of other ingredients to enhance and improve its flavor. Some cooks even add meat, though it can also be a vegetarian or vegan dish if one uses tofu-based cheese.

Broccoli rice casserole often includes shallots.
Broccoli rice casserole often includes shallots.

Cheese-Whiz®, instant rice, and frozen broccoli are generally the keys to making a retro, 1970s style casserole. It features many time-saving ingredients that were new in the 70s and often used in place of more naturally-derived ingredients during that time. This kind of casserole may also feature cheddar cheese soup instead of Cheese-Whiz®, cubed ham, mushroom soup, and seasoned bread crumbs. Those that love retro recipes, or people low on time, may enjoy this style of broccoli rice casserole.

Thick slice of Gruyere cheese, which is often included in fancy broccoli rice casseroles.
Thick slice of Gruyere cheese, which is often included in fancy broccoli rice casseroles.

Classic, sharp cheddar cheese with brown or basmati rice and fresh broccoli florets often come together as a very homey and rustic-style casserole. The ingredients are all relatively unprocessed and chemical-free, typically making this style of casserole healthier than the retro variety. The rice in this recipe may take longer to cook than instant rice, so cooks looking for shortcuts may want to make the rice ahead of time. Other additions to this style of broccoli rice casserole may be fresh Portobello mushrooms, fresh diced tomatoes, and smoked ham or turkey.

Single stalk of broccolini, which can be used in broccoli rice casserole.
Single stalk of broccolini, which can be used in broccoli rice casserole.

More exotic cheeses, like Gruyere, goat cheese, and smoky provolone may make an appearance in a fancy version of broccoli rice casserole. Other ingredients may include a mix of wild and basmati rices — or even wild rice by itself — and fresh broccoli florets, or even chopped broccolini. Broccolini is a hybrid of broccoli and asparagus, giving it a very tender texture and a slightly sweet flavor. Other ingredients that would go well with this fancier-style casserole include a sprinkling of bacon, shallots, truffles, and even smoked salmon. Cooks making this version of casserole for guests may want to present it in individual ramekins for an added touch of elegance.

Cheddar is classically used in broccoli rice casseroles.
Cheddar is classically used in broccoli rice casseroles.
Smoked salmon can be added to a broccoli rice casserole.
Smoked salmon can be added to a broccoli rice casserole.
Broccoli florets are most commonly used to make broccoli rice casseroles.
Broccoli florets are most commonly used to make broccoli rice casseroles.
To begin with, purchase fresh broccoli that is bright green with small, unopened florets.
To begin with, purchase fresh broccoli that is bright green with small, unopened florets.
Broccoli rice casseroles often feature wild rice.
Broccoli rice casseroles often feature wild rice.

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