Cheesy broccoli rice casserole is always a crowd favorite. But it's the buttery Ritz cracker topping that keeps everyone coming back for more!
This post was originally published in October 2019 and has been updated.
Broccoli cheese rice casserole is a comfort food classic. It's cheesy and creamy and the addition of a healthy green vegetable is an added bonus. This dish is sure to win over the broccoli naysayers in your life!
Why you will love this
- Broccoli - I prefer fresh for the best texture, but frozen can also be used.
- Cheese - Processed American cheese provides the cheesy creaminess that is wonderful in casseroles. Freshly grated cheese adds more flavor. Try Cheddar, Colby, Pepper Jack, or Monterey Jack.
- White rice - Any long-grain rice, such as Jasmine or Basmati, can be used. This is also a great way to use up leftover rice.
See the recipe card for complete instructions and ingredient amounts.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a casserole dish and set aside.
- Cook the rice according to package directions. I cooked the rice in vegetable stock for added flavor.
While the rice cooks, prepare the broccoli and the cheese sauce. Note: If using frozen broccoli, skip the next 2 steps. Instead, thaw, drain, and pat the broccoli dry.
- To blanch fresh broccoli, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the broccoli florets. Cook for 2 minutes. (Image 1)
- Meanwhile, fill a bowl with ice water. Using a strainer, transfer the broccoli to the ice water to stop the cooking. This also locks in the bright green color. (Image 2) Drain well.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the broccoli, rice, and onion. Toss together. Set aside. (Images 3 and 4)
- In a saucepan, heat the milk over medium-low heat. Add the processed cheese in batches, whisking until melted. Add the shredded cheese in batches, whisking until melted and smooth.
- Stir in the ground mustard, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. (Image 5)
- Pour the cheese sauce over the top and fold to evenly incorporate. (Image 6)
Note: The mixture will look soupy - almost as if there is too much liquid. This is fine because the sauce will thicken and be absorbed as the casserole bakes, resulting in a perfectly creamy consistency.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserole dish.
- In a small bowl, combine melted butter with crushed crackers. Spread over the top of the casserole. (Images 7 and 8)
- Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 20 minutes or until warm and bubbly. Let rest for 15 minutes. Serve.
- Cook the rice in chicken or vegetable broth for extra flavor. I prefer using low-sodium broth so I can control the amount of salt.
- Blanch fresh broccoli before adding it to the casserole. This ensures it will have a tender bite. This dish is only baked long enough to heat through, so blanching ensures the broccoli will be perfectly tender.
- Grate the onion to provide all of the onion flavor without its' sharp, raw bite.
- Add rotisserie chicken or diced ham to turn this casserole into a main dish.
- Don't skip the cracker topping. This is the best part! For extra crunch, double the cracker topping!
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.
To reheat, bring the casserole to room temperature. Cover with foil and heat at 350 degrees until warmed through. For smaller portions, reheat in the microwave.
Absolutely. Prepare according to the recipe, stopping before adding the cracker topping. Cool completely before covering the dish tightly and refrigerating.
When ready to serve, bring the dish to room temperature, add the cracker topping, and bake.
Bring the dish to room temperature, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until heated through.
Smaller portions reheat well in the microwave. The amount of time needed will depend on the wattage of your microwave.
For optimal quality, I don't recommend freezing. Baking, freezing, and thawing will compromise the texture of the broccoli. This casserole reheats beautifully and will keep for up to 5 days if you are lucky enough to have leftovers.
Broccoli Cheese Rice Casserole with Ritz Cracker Topping
- 1 cup uncooked white rice (or 3 cups cooked rice)
- 4 cups broccoli florets (about 2 large stalks, trimmed)
- ⅓ cup grated onion (approx. ½ medium onion)
- 3 cups whole milk
- 6 ounces Velveeta processed cheese (cubed)
- 1½ cups shredded cheese (Cheddar, Pepper Jack, or Colby)
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground mustard
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons butter (melted)
- 1¼ cups crushed Ritz crackers (about 26 crackers or 2 Fresh stacks)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9x13 or 3-quart baking dish. Set aside.
- Cook the rice according to package directions. (Note 1)
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Add the broccoli to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and transfer the broccoli to the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain well.
- Add the rice, broccoli, and onion to a mixing bowl. Toss to combine. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium-low heat. Add the Velveeta and shredded cheese in two batches, whisking while melting to ensure a smooth consistency. When the cheese is fully melted, add the ground mustard, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Stir to incorporate.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the rice and broccoli mixture. Toss to incorporate. (Note 2). Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
- In a bowl, combine the melted butter with the crushed crackers. Top the casserole with the cracker mixture. Cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 20 minutes or until heated through and bubbling around the edges.
- Rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
- Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Reheat in the microwave.
- Cook the rice in chicken or vegetable broth for added flavor.
- The mixture will appear soupy, but the sauce will thicken and be absorbed as the casserole bakes.
Nutritional information is an estimate and will vary depending upon the exact amounts and specific ingredients used.