Broccoli Cheddar Brown Rice Casserole

Broccoli Cheddar Brown Rice Casserole
I am serving up comfort food realness today. Comfort food because: hello, cheesy casserole! And realness because there are no cans of soup or blocks of faux cheese involved. It takes a little more time to make your own cheese sauce, but trust me, it’s completely worth it.

This Broccoli Cheddar Brown Rice Casserole was not inspired by a casserole at all, but by Rice-A-Roni. Or maybe Uncle Ben’s. I don’t know! But growing up, my mom would always make broccoli cheese rice from a box. That was one of my favorite side dishes, even if the cheese was powdered and the broccoli was microscopic. I didn’t care! I was making a cheese sauce for mac & cheese several weeks ago and started thinking about that rice and wondering if I could make my own version of that rice using a homemade cheese sauce. Although I took the extra step of baking it, you could also just serve it right out of the pot—that works too!

Broccoli Cheddar Brown Rice Casserole
I hadn’t really intended this to be a Thanksgiving post because I think most people have their menus planned by now, but if you’re looking for an extra side dish, this one is definitely a crowd-pleaser. (And if you have French-fried onions left over from your green bean casserole you can use those on top instead of panko!) Because cheese sauce has a tendency to be temperamental, particularly when it’s made with cheddar, I wouldn’t risk making the whole casserole in advance—just cook the rice and broccoli, then make the cheese sauce and assemble the casserole on Thanksgiving day.

This post was originally published on November 25, 2013.

Broccoli Cheddar Brown Rice Casserole

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

Broccoli Cheddar Brown Rice Casserole

A comfort food classic made without faux cheese or canned soup!


  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk (whole is best, but reduced fat will do)
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup brown rice, cooked according to package instructions (when cooked, it should be between 3 and 4 cups)
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs


  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Bring an inch of water to a boil in a medium saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Place the broccoli and carrots in the basket, cover, and steam for 3-5 minutes, or until tender. Transfer the veggies to a large bowl, then drain and dry the saucepan.
  3. Return the saucepan to medium-low heat. Once the saucepan is warm, add the butter and let it melt, then stir in the onions and garlic. Cook for about 7 minutes, or until the onions are softened and translucent. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and cook 2-3 minutes more, stirring constantly, until flour is golden brown. Slowly pour the milk into the saucepan, whisking to incorporate it into the flour as you pour. Take your time with this step! Once all the milk is in the saucepan, bring the mixture to a simmer, continuing to whisk constantly. Continue to cook, whisking often, until the sauce is thickened and coats the back of a wooden spoon (about 5 minutes more). Remove from heat and whisk in 1 cup of the cheddar cheese, the parmesan cheese, mustard powder, and paprika. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Transfer the cooked rice to the bowl with the broccoli and carrots and pour the cheese sauce on top. Stir to incorporate; taste and add additional salt and pepper, if needed. Grease a square baking dish with butter or spray it with an oil mister (or cooking spray, if you don't have an oil mister); transfer the rice mixture to the baking dish and top with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese and the panko. Spray the top of the casserole with additional oil and bake for 25 minutes, then broil for about 3 minutes more, until the panko is lightly browned. Remove from oven and let the casserole sit for about 5 minutes before serving.


Cheese sauce can be temperamental, so while I usually encourage substitutions and experimentation with recipes, it's best to follow this one to the letter so your sauce doesn't separate. Whole milk makes a more stable sauce, but I have successfully made cheese sauces with reduced-fat milk too. If at all possible, use cheese that you've shredded yourself—bagged shredded cheese contains anti-caking agents that can affect the texture of cheese sauces.


About Kiersten

Kiersten is the founder and editor of Oh My Veggies. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband, daughter, and 4 (yes 4!) cats.   Read more from Kiersten →

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  1. Michelle says

    Hi! Do you think this could be adapted to a crock pot easily? Or is difficult to do so due to the cheese sauce? I’m doing a “Football Friday” lunch thing at work and we really only have crockpots and such at our disposal since we do not have a full kitchen at work– and nothing I bring from my oven at home will stay warm enough. Just curious as to your opinion on this recipe’s adaptability. It sounds yummy!

  2. Lily says

    I made this for dinner last night. It was absolutely delicious and boyfriend approved! He claims he doesn’t like things with “cooked broccoli” and even went back for seconds. Adding this to my rotation :)

    • Bailey says

      My boyfriend claimed that exact thing… “I don’t like things with cooked broccoli”. Haha, I think he would approve, very delicious.

      Thanks for the yummy recipe, perfect quickish vegetarian dinner/second day lunch. :)

  3. Russell says

    I wonder if you could make with with yellow squash. I have some that I put up from the garden this past summer. Some is frozen and is raw, the rest is canned so it is already cooked.

    • Kiersten says

      I think that should work. I’d sauté it in a skillet first and try to cook off as much moisture as possible; I’d be a little worried that without doing that, the squash would release too much liquid into the casserole.

  4. Russell says

    Thanks, I think I will try it. My mother used to make a squash casserole That was wonderful. It sounded so similar to this one. I do not know how she prepared the squash. I will saute’ it and let you know my results.

  5. Emily says

    I love the idea of this recipe, but i need something I can make a day ahead….how do you think this would handle being reheated in the oven and if so how would you do it? Thanks!!

    • Kiersten says

      It holds up really well as leftovers, but I haven’t tried assembling it, refrigerating it, then baking. So I think if I were to make it in advance, I’d bake it first too. I believe I reheated it, covered, at 350º–I think it took about 45 minutes to an hour.

  6. Jennifer King says

    Hi Kiersten – I don’t have brown rice in my pantry right now, but I do have a bag of pearled barley…do you think I can use this instead of brown rice…? Not sure if all grains cook to the same consistency and are interchangeable like that…..Thanks! Jennifer

    • Kiersten says

      It’s hard to say 100% whether substitutes will work without having tried them myself, but I think that would probably be okay. If you happen to have quinoa on hand, I think that would work too!

  7. Liz Holland says

    Great recipe. I made it tonight in the hopes that my broccoli hating kid would come around. It was a huge success! He ate 3 servings, and my husband and the baby enjoyed it as well. I chopped up the broccoli and carrots in the food processor so there were no big pieces to balk at. We had it with a nice salad.

  8. Heather says

    This turned out so well!!!! It’s so comforting and delicious.the cheese sauce is awesome and not grainy at all. Thank you!

  9. Aaron says

    I made this tonight and I can’t believe how amazingly it turned out! Thank you for posting such a fantastic recipe! :)

  10. Holly says

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious. I used half rice/half quinoa because I ran out of rice and did add the optional carrots. Everything still came out great. I wasn’t in the mood for parmesan so I added gruyere instead along with the cheddar. Thanks for the great recipe!

  11. Kristi Barker says

    WOW, this is exactly what I needed to stay on track for eating healthy……..even though it taste sinful. My kids even liked it…..but I had to finely chopped the onions so they disappeared. Also I used whole wheat flour.

    • Bailey says

      I used whole wheat flour as well, and also used a little almond milk with the whole milk to make it a little lighter and to add a nutty flavor as well.


  12. Abby K says

    Great recipe! I’ve made this before and I love it! (So does my husband!) This time though I only had 1 c. milk on hand so I reluctantly used the 1 c. milk + 1/2 c. almond milk and I didn’t drain my veggies- it turned out awesome! I was very happy that my substitution actually worked because I was worried with the temperament of the cheese sauce

  13. Denise Lozier says

    I love this recipe. The cheddar cheese and smoked paprika make it have a faint smoky flavor that is rich. Could add a protein to this or on the side for the omnivores in your life. Definitely a keeper!! Thank you.

  14. kathie says

    wonderful. The only thing I changed was I used white cheddar. . . something about orange cheese just makes me cringe.

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