This Lightened Up Broccoli Casserole is a fresh take on an old favorite. It’s easy to make and bursting with strong flavors, but it’s also a food that you’ll feel good about putting in your body.
Love broccoli? You might like this post about how to cook broccoli in the microwave!
Casseroles are one of my go-to dishes. They’re hearty and comforting, and they’re a great way to get a good serving of vegetables. Plus, casseroles can be eaten as an entire meal, or be a side dish to an entree.
Some casseroles can be pretty heavy though. A lot of recipes are full of cream and other forms of fat, and leave you feeling not great after you eat them. So I came up with this lightened up broccoli casserole. It still has all the components of a delicious broccoli cheese casserole, but it’s lighter and fresher tasting. I feel quite energized after eating it!
Nutritional yeast, chili flakes, and garlic really bring out the broccoli flavor in this dish. It’s one of my favorite broccoli recipes, right up there with my creamy vegan broccoli soup and my cheezy broccoli quinoa burgers. Plus, you can easily make it vegan if you'd like.
What You’ll Need
Make sure you scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of the page to see the exact quantities of each ingredient.
- Brown or white rice – Brown rice will make this dish healthier, while white rice will make it a little bit fluffier.
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Garlic powder
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Gluten-free panko breadcrumbs – I prefer gluten-free, but if you eat gluten you can substitute these for regular panko breadcrumbs.
- Freshly-ground black pepper
- Grated mozzarella cheese – You can either use part-skim mozzarella cheese, or dairy-free mozzarella cheese.
- Grated parmesan cheese – Same as with the mozzarella, you can use dairy-free parmesan cheese
- Nutritional yeast
- Garlic – Using both fresh garlic and garlic powder gives a more complex garlic flavor to the broccoli rice casserole.
- Low-fat milk or plant-based milk – If you use plant-based milk, make sure that it’s unsweetened and unflavored.
Can I Substitute Other Grains?
Yes! You absolutely can! While I usually make this recipe with brown or white rice, you can also make it with quinoa, or any other grain that you prefer.
How to Make Lightened Up Broccoli Casserole
This is a remarkably easy casserole to make, and you don’t have to dirty many dishes, either!
- Prepare. Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Cook the rice. Follow the instructions on the package to cook the rice, or whatever grains you’re using. Make sure that you season your grains with salt.
- Season the broccoli. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the broccoli with olive oil, salt, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes.
- Roast. Put the broccoli in the oven for 12-15 minutes.
- Season the breadcrumbs. Put the breadcrumbs in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Prep the cheese. Combine the two cheeses in a bowl.
- Put the casserole together. Combine the rice, broccoli, milk, nutritional yeast, fresh garlic, and most of the cheese. Mix together until everything is combined.
- Top the casserole. Place the mixture in a baking dish, then add the breadcrumbs and remaining cheese on top.
- Bake. Put the casserole in the oven, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes. It will get golden along the edges.
- Cool. Remove the casserole from the oven and let it cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Tips for Success
Here are a few simple tips to make sure that this casserole is perfect every time.
- Don’t be afraid to brown. When you’re roasting the broccoli, make sure that you get a little bit of char on the vegetables before taking them out of the oven. That will give it a stronger and more complex flavor. And when you’re baking the casserole, let it begin to brown on the edges before taking it out. This will get you a stronger flavor from the cheese.
- Use a microplane. Grate the fresh garlic on a microplane rather than chopping it. This turns the garlic into a paste, which makes it easier to distribute with the other ingredients. It also breaks the garlic down, which eliminates some of the strong raw garlic flavor.
- Let it cool. This casserole is going to smell amazing when you take it out of the oven, and you’ll want to dive right in. A little patience goes a long way though. Letting it cool for 5-10 minutes will allow the cheese to set and the casserole to firm up, making it a much nicer texture for when you dig in.
What Goes With Lightened Up Broccoli Casserole?
This casserole is delicious on its own. However, you can easily make it into a larger meal if you want, by adding the uncooked protein of your choice to the mixture before baking it. This could be a meat, a meat substitute, tofu, or almost any other protein.
How to Store Leftovers
This tasty broccoli casserole can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can reheat it in the microwave or in the oven, and it also tastes good cold!
Can This Casserole Be Frozen?
Yes! You can store this delicious broccoli rice casserole in the freezer for up to 3 months. It’s best to freeze it in an airtight bag, so that you can limit freezer burn. When you want to eat the casserole, let it thaw in the fridge, then reheat in the microwave or in the oven.
Lightened Up Broccoli Casserole
- 3 cups cooked brown or white rice (from about 1 cup dry)
- 1 pound broccoli , cut into bite-sized florets
- 2 tablespoons olive oil , divided
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt , divided, plus more for rice
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ cup gluten-free panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup grated part-skim mozzarella or dairy-free mozzarella , divided
- 1 cup grated parmesan or dairy-free parmesan , divided
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 2 garlic cloves , grated on a microplane
- 1½ cups low-fat milk or unsweetened plant-based milk
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- In a large pot, cook the rice with a pinch of salt according to package instructions.
- On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the broccoli with 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. Roast for 12-15 minutes, until lightly charred around the edges.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, toss the breadcrumbs with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper.
- Combine the cheeses in a separate small bowl.
- Add the nutritional yeast, garlic, 1½ cups of the cheese, milk, and broccoli to the rice. Stir well.
- Transfer the rice and broccoli mixture to a 9×9-inch baking dish. Top with the breadcrumbs and remaining ½ cup cheese.
- Bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are golden. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.