So, tender broccoli, smothered in a creamy cheese sauce and topped with crunchy cheesy breadcrumbs – that is this broccoli cheese bake. We’ve been eating this weekly and only loving it more and more.
Why you’ll love it
Whether you’re looking for a way to round out your Thanksgiving table or just want an easy weeknight side dish, this broccoli cheese bake will have you hooked.
This is completely made from scratch using real ingredients but it’s easy, I promise.
Very lightly blanched broccoli is topped with a simple cheese sauce and then there’s that crunchy cheesy breadcrumb topping. Once baked, this broccoli casserole is bubbling, golden and delicious. This really is the best way to serve broccoli.
I serve this regularly now, most often with our weekly roast chicken, but it’s so good with these chicken schnitzels too because the super crunchy schnitzel coating is lovely with the tender broccoli. If you’re wanting it for a holiday feast, serve it alongside this slow cooked turkey breast.
Tools you’ll need
- A good saucepan. I like to use a heavy based saucepan as they distribute the heat best.
- A glass or ceramic baking dish of about 6 cup capacity – I use my 9 inch pie dish.
Ingredients for broccoli cheese bake
You just need a few basic ingredients for this recipe and I must say straight up, don’t skip the mustard – it absolutely takes this dish to another level.
Detailed quantities and instructions in the recipe card below.
- Broccoli: Use a large head of broccoli – roughly 500g and don’t throw away the stalk.
- Milk: Rather than using cream, this recipe is kept a little lighter using just whole milk. Whole will work better than hilo or 2% milk.
- Stock: Use a good chicken stock. It’s worth trying out different brands – the two most well known brands where I am, are worlds apart in flavour. A good stock will add more flavour to anything. You can also swap this for a vegetable stock to keep it vegetarian.
- Butter: It’s best to use a real butter than margarine.
- Flour: Use just plain (all-purpose) flour. This will thicken up your sauce.
- Dijon mustard: Please don’t skip this. It isn’t a strong flavour but it definitely adds something really special to the cheese sauce.
- Cheese: Use a good full fat cheddar for this. You can use a light version, though I find they don’t melt so smoothly. Gruyere is also lovely.
- Panko breadcrumbs: I often make my breadcrumbs from scratch but sometimes panko have the perfect crunch and convenience all at once. This is definitely one of those times.
- Oil: Use just a little olive oil in the topping which helps it to get golden and crunchy.
- Salt and pepper: Just regular table salt and freshly cracked black pepper for seasoning.
How to make this cheesy broccoli casserole
Broccoli cheese bake is simple to make, entirely from scratch (no condensed soups here).
Detailed instructions in the recipe card below.
- Prepare the broccoli: Pull apart the top part into florets into approximately 2-bite sized pieces. Trim the very base, dry part of the stalk, then chop the rest of the stalk up into thin pieces (photo 1). It’s all edible and all delicious so don’t waste a thing.
- Blanch the broccoli: Bring about 2 litres (~2 quarts) of water to a boil in a large saucepan, then add the broccoli. Let it cook for 2 minutes only, then drain the water away and add the broccoli directly to a baking dish.
How to make the cheese sauce
If you’ve never made cheese sauce from scratch, you’re going to love how simple it is and how customisable it is too.
- Make a roux: Start by melting the butter in the same saucepan, then add the flour (photo 2) and mix well so it’s not lumpy. Keep stirring it for about a minute to cook off the raw flour flavour (photo 3).
- Add the liquids: Now swap to a whisk and add half the milk (photo 4), quickly whisking it until it’s completely smooth. Now slowly pour in the rest of the milk followed by the stock and dijon, whisking all the while.
- Add the cheese: Turn the heat off and add the cheese (photo 5), salt and pepper, stirring until it’s fully combined. Now pour it all over the broccoli in the baking dish (photo 7).
For the crunchy topping
- Combine the breadcrumbs, oil and a little cheese in a dish and press together with your fingers to combine (photo 6). Sprinkle it over the top of the broccoli (photo 8) then bake until turning golden brown on top.
Want to get ahead, well this is a great dish for that. Prep it up to 3 days ahead, though keep the topping separate until you’re about to bake. Make sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking as some casserole dishes may crack if they go straight from the fridge to the oven.
You can use frozen broccoli, though it doesn’t tend to be quite as good. It will be much softer.
While not as good as eating it fresh, broccoli cheese bake can be frozen quite successfully for up to 2 months in an airtight container. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before baking.
Yes, this recipe can be easily doubled or even tripled if you’re catering for a larger crowd.
You can add cauliflower and even Romanesco to this broccoli cheese bake. Just prep them the same way you prep the broccoli. Feel free to use a combination, especially if you’re making up a big dish of it.
Even a non-broccoli lover will love it when it’s served like this and when you’re finding it tricky to get the kids to eat veggies, a cheesy sauce will definitely seal the deal for them.
If you try this broccoli cheese bake recipe, please take a moment to leave a rating and comment below. I love hearing from you and it helps other readers too! You can also take a photo and tag @sugarsaltmagic on Instagram.
More great vegetable side dishes
- Hasselback Butternut Squash
- Simple Potato Salad
- Garlic Butter Potatoes with Crispy Prosciutto
- Warm Potato and Asparagus Salad
- Roasted Beetroot and Feta Salad
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Broccoli Cheese Bake
- 500 g head of broccoli, medium to large size
- 2 tablespoons butter (notes 1)
- 2 tablespoons flour (notes 1)
- 1 cup whole milk
- ⅔ cup chicken stock
- 1 ½ teaspoons dijon mustard
- 1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese (150g / 5.3oz)
- ¾ teaspoon table salt (or to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- ⅓ cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 ½ teaspoons olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / 160C (fan forced).
- Break the broccoli into two-bite sized florets. Cut away the dry part of the bottom of the stem, then cut the remaining stem into small pieces about 5mm thick.
- In a large saucepan bring 2 litres (2 qt) of water to a boil. Add the broccoli and cook for 2 minutes – no longer. Drain immediately and tip into a 6 cup capacity casserole dish.
- In the same saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Add the flour and cook, stirring often for about 1 minute to cook the flour.
- Swap to a balloon whisk. While whisking pour in half the milk, making sure it’s smooth (it will get thick quickly). Add the remaining milk and whisk until smooth. Add chicken stock and dijon, whisk to combine and bring the mix to a simmer for 2 minutes, whisking often.
- Take the saucepan off the heat. Add all but one small handful of the cheddar, plus all the salt and pepper. Stir well to melt the cheese, then taste and add more seasoning if required.
- Pour over the broccoli in your casserole dish evenly.
- In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, oil and remaining handful of cheese. Mix until all well combined and coated then scatter over the broccoli, focusing mostly on where the broccoli is sticking up.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is crisp and turning golden.
- I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (equal to 4 teaspoons).
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