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Broccoli Cheese Rice Casserole: No Canned Soup

Fresh broccoli, cheese, and rice combine with homemade mushroom-vegetable-cheese sauce to make this Broccoli Cheese Rice Casserole recipe. Instructions included for making the sauce in the microwave or on top of the stove.

Originally published in 2010. Updated April 2019.

BROCCOLI-RICE CASSEROLE, No Canned Soup with a side of sausage

You may be familiar with versions of Broccoli-Rice Casserole that use cream of mushroom, celery, or chicken soup. Some call for Cheese Whiz, too. Yikes! Not my style–although I’m not averse to keeping a few cans of soup in the pantry for emergencies.

Instead of the cans, this recipe calls for a simple, do-it-yourself cream sauce. You control the salt and avoid the preservatives. Your reward is a fresher flavor customized to your needs and tastes.

Recipe Tips

#1 

If you are feeding reluctant broccoli eaters, chop the broccoli finely.

How large or small you chop the broccoli has a pronounced effect on the final product. Larger pieces will keep the broccoli more defined and not as soft. I like bigger pieces for textural interest as seen in the picture above.

You might have more luck pleasing picky eaters or kids if you chop the broccoli finer. The broccoli bits will be softer (less crunchy) and not as well defined. See the picture below.

broccoli and rice casserole using finely chopped broccoli and white cheddar

#2

What to do if the sauce seems too runny or too thick before baking:

The sauce should be somewhat thin when you pour the broccoli-rice mixture into a baking dish. It will thicken as it bakes. If it seems thick enough to hold a shape before baking, stir in another 1/4 cup of milk.

Likewise, if the prepared casserole sits very long before baking, you might consider adding a 1/4 cup of half and half or milk. Rice is a sponge!!!

#3

Any variety of rice will work.

Jasmine is my favorite. However, I frequently use long-grain, basmati, or even brown rice.

Whenever I make plain rice, I freeze the leftovers. They are perfect to use in this recipe.

#4

Evaporated milk or heavy cream + milk keeps the cream sauce from curdling.

Substituting fat-free or low-fat milk is not recommended. If you want to avoid dairy, try using chicken broth and leaving the cheese out.

#5

Don’t overcook the broccoli.

uncooked broccoli vs broccoli cooked in microwave
Left: Fresh broccoli Right: Cooked broccoli should be bright green when added to other casserole ingredients.

#6

Using a microwave:

Besides cleaning and chopping the broccoli, the sauce is the most labor-intensive step. I make sauces in my microwave, so I don’t have to worry about burning or sticking. See the microwave instructions in the notes of the recipe.

In regards to using a microwave oven: I know many chefs and restaurants are negative about them, but I think they are a modern miracle for the home cook WHEN USED CORRECTLY AND CAREFULLY.

Consequently, I have two of them in my kitchen. Microwaves are one of my best kitchen secrets because they help make healthy eating convenient–a priority for me.

How to make Broccoli Cheese Rice Casserole with no canned soup

fresh broccoli..some of it chopped
Chop broccoli in small pieces. Cut the stems in very small pieces.
broccoli steamed in pyrex dish using a microwave
Cover and steam chopped broccoli in the microwave for 2-3 minutes on High. No water needed.
squeezing lemon over cooked broccoli
Squeeze half of a lemon over the cooked broccoli and set aside.
Frying onions, garlic, celery and mushrooms until softened
Sauté onions, garlic, celery, and mushrooms in butter for about 3 minutes until softened.
evaporated milk or cream added to veggies
Add flour and heat for 1 minute stirring to cook the flour. Stir in evaporated milk or cream/milk.
Cheese added to cream mixture
Add all but 1/2 cup of shredded cheese.
Adding broccoli and rice to cheese and cream sauce
Add rice and broccoli. Stir.
cheese sprinkled over top of unbaked casserole
Sprinkle the top with cheese and bake.
Broccoli and Rice Casserole out of the oven

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If you have a question or tip to share, please leave it in the regular comments after the recipe so I can answer back. Or, email me privately: paula at saladinajar.com.

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Paula

Broccoli Cheese Rice Casserole (No Canned Soup)

Broccoli Cheese Rice Casserole (No Canned Soup)

Yield: 10 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Traditional Broccoli-Rice Casserole with mushrooms but no canned soup. See microwave directions in the Notes below.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (10 ounces) fresh broccoli florets and stems, chopped (stems should be VERY finely chopped)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 3/4 cup minced mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 12-ounce can regular evaporated milk (or 3/4 cup heavy cream and 3/4 cup whole milk)
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded mild Cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/4 cup cooked rice

Instructions

  1. Steam or microwave (about 3 minutes on HIGH) chopped broccoli and stems until tender but still bright green. Squeeze lemon over broccoli.
  2. Melt butter in skillet. Add onions, garlic, celery and mushrooms and saute until softened. Stir in flour and cook about one minute to take away the raw flour taste. Whisk in milk and continue whisking until slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1 1/2 cup cheese and stir to melt.
  3. Combine broccoli, rice, and cheese sauce. Turn into 1 1/2 quart greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F until bubbly (around 30 minutes).

Notes

  1. If this is going to be sitting for any length of time before baking, add at least 1/4 cup of milk (maybe more) to make up for all the moisture the rice absorbs.
  2. We like 1-2 tablespoons of chopped jalapeños added to the cream sauce.

Microwave directions:

  1. Steam or microwave (about 3 minutes on HIGH) chopped broccoli and stems until tender but still bright green. Squeeze lemon over broccoli.
  2. Add butter, onions, garlic, celery and mushrooms to 2 quart batter bowl. Cover and microwave on HIGH for 5 minutes. Add flour to vegetables and stir. Whisk in milk and cook uncovered on HIGH for 6-7 minutes. Whisk after 4 minutes and once a minute thereafter to even out the cooking. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1 1/2 cup cheese and stir to melt. Sauce will thicken more as it sits.
  3. Combine broccoli, rice, and cheese sauce. Turn into 1 1/2 quart greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F until bubbly (around 30 minutes).

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 servings Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 278Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 55mgSodium: 333mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 3gSugar: 9gProtein: 10g

Did you make this recipe?

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Camryn

Wednesday 25th of July 2018

I absolutely loved it!! On the plus side, I always have all the ingredients in my pantry/fridge!!

Paula

Wednesday 25th of July 2018

Thanks Camryn! Glad to hear from you.

Amber

Thursday 15th of December 2016

Has anyone tried adding cooked shredded chicken to this before it's cooked?

Val

Monday 14th of December 2015

Oh MY! I made the cheese sauce with one 12 ounce can of evaporated milk, 1 tbsp of gluten free flour, and 8 ounces extra sharp cheddar. Then I added one can of Rotel!!! So yummy! Thank you, thank you! My husband was so happy to have a treat of cheese dip. I was worrying what I could put out as snacks for my family who is traveling half way across country to visit us this Christmas. We are gluten free and follow a particular whole foods way of eating. As a treat, this is so wonderful! Fyi, I made it in the microwave. It came out perfect. I am a new mom to a preemie who was born 2 months early at only 3 pounds. I need easy! Thank you so much again!

sarah

Monday 20th of April 2015

Thank you for the recipe! I substituted white rice flour for the flour and I did the stove top method. It turned out fantastic! Thank you!

Pat

Thursday 1st of January 2015

This casserole was very good. I doubled it for a family Christmas party and they scraped the bottom of the dish. Interesting that you, also, did work with microwave ovens. I used to demonstrate onstage with a mirror. Crazy times..I went on to demonstrate Panasonic, Tappan and Whirlpool. I was asked to interview to be the nationwide consultant for Tappan, but I lived in Illinois, married and prego. I taught American cooking in Beijing for 5 years while my husband worked at Motorola in China. Looking forward to some more tasty recipes.