The BEST Broccoli Cheese Casserole with leeks, white cheddar, and a golden panko topping. Impressive enough for the holidays, yet easy enough for weeknight cooking, this cheesy broccoli casserole will be a family favorite.
Why You'll Love this Broccoli Cheese Casserole
The holidays are quickly approaching and I can't think of a better crowd-pleasing casserole to add to your menu. Especially for those that aren't green bean casserole fans, yet still desire something green on the table.
This recipe adds a touch of elegance to a comfort food favorite. Crisp-tender florets of broccoli are the ultimate match for a creamy, cheesy sauce. A splash of white wine combined with an aromatic duo of shallots and leeks add flavor complexity.
This cheesy broccoli casserole is perfect for serving at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or truly any other holiday or celebration. Both kids and adults will love its rich flavor, crisp-tender texture, and of course, that crispy panko coating. Plus, it's make-ahead friendly, and only takes 40 minutes start to finsih.
Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions
- Broccoli: You need roughly 7 to 8 cups of broccoli florets for this recipe. Depending on the size of the broccoli crown, this could amount to 2 or 3 total. You can purchase the bags of pre-chopped broccoli florets for convenience.
- Onions: This recipe calls for an aromatic onion duo of shallots and leeks. If you're unfamiliar with leeks, they have a sweeter, more delicate flavor than, say, white or yellow onions. However you only want to use white and pale green parts--the brighter stems are quite tough.
- White Wine: The bright acidity of dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc) adds elegance to this casserole. Alternatively, you can use a mix of vegetable (or chicken) broth with a splash of sherry (or white wine) vinegar. Just be sure to cook the wine/broth mixture down until it's mostly evaporated.
- Milk: The recipe calls for whole milk, however you can also use plain, unsweetened cashew milk for less calories/saturated fat. They're both lusciously thick, which helps create a super creamy sauce.
- Flour: A little all-purpose flour helps make a thick, velvety sauce.
- White Cheddar: I love the sharp flavor of sharp white cheddar for this recipe. However if you prefer something nuttier and more assertive, Gruyere cheese is an excellent alternative.
- Panko: A golden panko topping adds much-needed crunchy bits to this casserole. If you're making it gluten free, use Ian’s gluten-free panko.
Step 1: Steam the Broccoli
There are two options for steaming the broccoli florets. Both options only take about 5 minutes.
- Option 1- In the Microwave: Combine broccoli and ¼ cup water in a large microwavable glass bowl; cover loosely with plastic wrap. Microwave at high until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Option 2- Stovetop: Place broccoli florets in a steamer basket. Add enough water to a pot to come up to about 1 inch, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, place the steamer basket with broccoli into the pot. Steam for 5 minutes.
Step 2: Sauté the Shallots and Leeks
Heat 2 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Once hot, add the shallots and leeks, and cook until softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Next, add the garlic, and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, until aromatic.
Step 3: Deglaze the Pan
Add the white wine (or both and vinegar mixture) to the pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often until the liquid is almost evaporated.
Step 4: Stir in Flour
Sprinkle flour into pan and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes, until onion pieces are coated. The flour should cook long enough to get rid of the raw flour taste.
Step 5: Add Milk and Cheese
Whisk in milk, and bring to a simmer over medium-high. Cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture starts to thicken, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper.
Stir in cheese and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the cheese melted and sauce is smooth, about 1 minute.
Step 6: Add Broccoli to Cheesy Sauce
Remove pan from heat and stir in broccoli florets. Make sure every floret is well-coated in cheese sauce.
Transfer mixture to a greased 11x7-inch baking pan.
Step 7: Add Panko Topping and Bake
Next, combine panko breadcrumbs and olive oil in a small bowl. Use your hands to stir the mixture, making sure all breadcrumbs are well-coated. Scatter panko mixture over broccoli cheese casserole, and transfer to the oven. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, until the panko is golden and casserole is bubbly.
How to Make-Ahead, Store, and Reheat Broccoli Cheese Casserole:
- Make Ahead Options: Steam broccoli up to 2 days ahead and keep refrigerated in an airtight storage container. Prep casserole 4 to 6 hours in advance, however wait to add panko until right before baking.
- To Store: Store leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Reheat individual portions in the microwave, or reheat entire casserole in an oven-safe pan at 350ºF. If using the oven, loosely tent the pan with foil and place the pan on the center rack for 15 to 25 minutes, until warmed through (the larger the serving, the longer you will need). If needed, add another splash of broth to rehydrate the cream sauce before reheating.
- To Freeze. Place leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
More Easy Casserole Recipes to Try:
If you give this cheesy broccoli casserole a try, I’d love for you to leave a rating and review. Also, be sure snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth so I can see your beautiful creations.
The Best Broccoli Cheese Casserole
- Large skillet
- 11x7-inch Baking Dish
- 8 cups broccoli florets (from 2 to 3 crowns)
- 3 ½ Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced into half moons (about 1 cup total)
- 1 cup chopped shallots (sub yellow onion)
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- ⅓ cup dry white wine (sub 5 Tbsp. vegetable or chicken broth mixed with 1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar)
- 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 ¾ cups whole milk (sub unsweetened plain cashewmilk)
- ½ tsp. each kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 cup freshly grated sharp white cheddar cheese
- ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
- Steam the broccoli one of two ways:Option 1- In the Microwave: Combine broccoli and ¼ cup water in a large microwavable glass bowl; cover loosely with plastic wrap. Microwave until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.Option 2- Stovetop: Place broccoli florets in a steamer basket. Add enough water to a pot to come up to about 1 inch, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, place the steamer basket with broccoli into the pot. Steam for 5 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 425ºF and grease an 11x7-inch baking pan.Heat 2 Tbsp. of oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Once hot, add the leeks and shallots; cook until softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic; cook 1 to 2 minutes, until aromatic.
- Add the white wine (or both + vinegar mixture) to the pan. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often, until the liquid is mostly evaporated.
- Sprinkle flour into pan and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes, until onion pieces are coated. Whisk in milk, and bring to a simmer. Cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture starts to thicken, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper.
- Stir in cheese and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the cheese melts and sauce is smooth, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in broccoli florets. Transfer mixture to prepared baking pan.
- Combine panko breadcrumbs and remaining 1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil in a small bowl. Use your hands to stir the mixture, making sure all breadcrumbs are well-coated. Scatter panko over broccoli cheese casserole, and transfer to the oven. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, until the panko is golden and casserole is bubbly.