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Broccoli Cheese Casserole With Ritz Crackers

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The holiday season is upon us and I can’t wait to share with you my absolute favorite casserole for this time of year: Cheesy Broccoli Casserole with Ritz Crackers!

I make this every year at Thanksgiving and it’s always a hit with the family!

Cheesy Broccoli Casserole With Ritz Crackers

Lightly steamed broccoli is smothered in a rich and creamy cheddar cheese sauce and then topped with buttery Ritz crackers and even more cheddar cheese. No mayonnaise and no soup are needed!

The best part is you can make this easy broccoli cheese casserole ahead of time, saving you time and stress in the kitchen.

How to make cheesy broccoli casserole with Ritz crackers:

Serves 6

Broccoli Casserole made with homemade cheese sauce and topped with Ritz Crackers

Ingredients You Will Need:

  • 2 lbs fresh broccoli florets (about 3 large broccoli crowns)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 12 oz extra sharp shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 sleeve of Ritz crackers (about 30 crackers)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Prep the broccoli (this can be done several days ahead)

Sprinkle the broccoli florets with a pinch of salt.

Working in batches, add the broccoli florets to a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave the broccoli for 4-5 minutes until bright green and gives a little resistance when pierced with a fork. Try not to overcook your veggies at this stage, the broccoli will finish cooking during baking. Pour out any excess water that may be in the bowl after steaming. Transfer the steamed broccoli to an 8″ x 8″ baking dish.

Make The Cheese sauce:

In a 2 quart or larger saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the flour.

Whisk the butter and flour until combined and cook until the mixture smells nutty (about 1 minute).

Making the roux for the cheddar cheese sauce

Slowly add the milk. Add a little bit at a time, and whisk continuously making sure the sauce is smooth after each addition of milk.

At first, once the milk hits the roux, it will ball up like dough, that’s what you want. As you add more milk, the mixture will turn into a paste, and then with the last addition of milk, turn into a smooth and silky sauce.

Turn the burner up to medium-high heat and add the garlic powder and a few cracks of pepper. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Gently simmer for 45-60 seconds until slightly thickened, whisking continuously to prevent scorching.

Remove the white sauce from heat. Working in two batches, add in 8 oz of the cheddar cheese.

Whisking shredded cheese into the white sauce.

Whisk the cheese in slowly until just melted between each addition. 

Once the 8 oz of cheese has been added, give a final whisk to make sure the sauce is completely smooth. The sauce will have thickened quite a bit, but will still be pourable (you can add a little more milk if the cheese sauce is too thick to pour).

A stream of cheese sauce dripping off the spoon. Shredded cheese and broccoli in the background.

Give the cheese sauce a taste and season with more salt, pepper, and garlic powder if needed.

Assembling and baking the casserole:

Preheat the oven to 400º.

Pour the cheese sauce evenly over the broccoli.

Pouring the cheese sauce over the steamed broccoli for an easy casserole. Will be topped with Ritz crackers.

Coarsely crush the Ritz crackers and sprinkle over the top of the broccoli and cheese mixture. Top with the remaining 4 oz of shredded cheddar cheese.

Topping the broccoli and cheese with Ritz crackers

Bake the casserole in a 400º oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese on top has melted, browned and the edges are bubbling.

Remove the casserole from the oven and allow it to sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Can I use frozen broccoli in this casserole?

Yes! Just make sure to thaw and drain the broccoli prior to use. You’ll want to microwave (or steam) it tender just like the fresh broccoli. Start out slow and steam for just 3-4 minutes and then check the broccoli to see if it’s tender. Let it steam for another minute if it’s still tough. When pierced with a fork, the broccoli should give a little resistance. Remember, it’ll bake for another 15-20 minutes in the oven, so we don’t want the broccoli getting mushy.

How to serve your broccoli and cheese casserole

I typically make this casserole for Thanksgiving as a hearty side dish. But don’t feel like you have to save it just for the holidays! This broccoli casserole with Ritz makes an excellent side to roasted fish, seared scallops, roast chicken, or even pork chops.

Sometimes I’ll even dish out a larger portion to make it the main course for a vegetarian family dinner.

Final served casserole

Make Ahead

Because I typically make this cheesy casserole for Thanksgiving, prepping ahead is a must!

The cheese sauce and the broccoli can be made ahead and poured into the baking dish 1-2 days in advance. Just keep it covered in plastic wrap in the fridge!

Wait until you’re ready to bake before adding your crackers and remaining cheese to the top. By adding the topping to the broccoli casserole last minute, you will ensure that the Ritz crackers stay crisp and delicious at serving time.

Reheating your broccoli cheese casserole

The best broccoli casserole with cheddar cheese and ritz crackers

Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave easily.

But my favorite way to reheat this casserole is by baking! Place the leftovers in an oven-safe dish and pop them in a cold oven. Set the oven to 350º and let the oven and the casserole heat up together. This way the broccoli cheese filling will start to warm before the Ritz crackers over brown. Bake until warmed through and enjoy!

For 13″x 9″ pans

If you have a big crowd, this easy broccoli casserole can be doubled–make sure to double the Ritz crackers and shredded cheddar for the topping too.

Baking time may take a few minutes longer.

Variations:

  • Add cauliflower to the broccoli mixture. Make sure to steam the cauliflower until tender first.
  • If you have a favorite mac and cheese recipe, use that cheese sauce in place of the one in this recipe
  • Sprinkle on a little cayenne or red pepper flakes to make it spicy
  • Stiring in some roasted or grilled chicken would be a nice addition
  • Sausage would be delicious in this casserole as well
  • Serve the casserole on top of some brown rice or pasta for a little extra heartiness
  • Go Italian and use your favoirite blend of Italian cheeses in place of the cheddar!
  • Replace the Ritz crackers with a little panko toasted in butter or olive oil.
  • Use a premade cheese sauce or alfredo sauce if you’re short on time!
Cheesy broccoli casserole with Ritz Crackers

Tips:

Here are a couple of tips that I’ve picked up over the years that will help give you a perfectly cooked casserole, with tender broccoli, a creamy cheese sauce, and a perfect Ritz cracker and cheddar topping:

  • When making the cheese sauce, whisk the milk in SLOWLY. I find that by whisking the milk into the roux in small additions helps to prevent lumps. If you add the milk all at once to the butter/flour mixture, clumps will form and they’re impossible to whisk out. Adding the milk slowly also gives you more control over the sauce’s consistency
  • Grate the cheddar yourself. The stuff that comes preshredded doesn’t melt as nicely as the cheese you grate yourself. I also find that when I use the bagged shredded cheese, I need to add more than 4 oz of cheese to the top of the casserole to get good, cheesy coverage.
  • Add the cheese off heat. This will help keep the sauce from breaking and getting grainy.
  • Pour the cheese mixture over the broccoli evenly. The cheese sauce can get pretty thick, so by evenly distributing the sauce over the broccoli, you are ensuring every bite is equally cheesy and delicious.
  • Use the original Ritz cracker flavor (store brand is fine too). I don’t recommend using the whole wheat or “hint of salt” varieties. They just don’t taste as great for the topping. You can use the Keebler club crackers as an alternative if your store is out of Ritz.
  • Don’t overcook the broccoli. Steam the broccoli until it’s tender enough to pierce with a fork, but still has some resistence. Keep in mind the broccoli will finish cooking in the oven, so we don’t want oversteam it and turn it to mush.

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Cheesy Broccoli Tortellini Bake

Roasted Frozen Cauliflower

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Easy Broccoli Cheese Casserole

Broccoli Cheese Casserole With Ritz Crackers

Yield: 6 Servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

An easy broccoli casserole made with a rich cheddar cheese sauce and topped with buttery Ritz crackers. The perfect side dish for family dinners and holiday celebrations!

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs fresh broccoli florets (about 3 large broccoli crowns)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 12 oz extra sharp shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 sleeve of Ritz crackers (about 30 crackers)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Prep the broccoli (this can be done several days ahead)

  1. Sprinkle the broccoli florets with a pinch of salt.
  2. Working in batches, add the broccoli florets to a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave the broccoli for 4-5 minutes until bright green and still gives a little resistance when pierced with a fork. Try not to overcook your veggies at this stage, the broccoli will finish cooking during baking.
  3. Pour out any excess water that may be in the bowl after steaming. Transfer the steamed broccoli to an 8" x 8" baking dish.

Make The Cheese sauce:

  1. In a 2 quart or larger saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the flour.
  2. Whisk the butter and flour until combined and cook until the mixture smells nutty (about 1 minute).
  3. Slowly add the milk. Add a little bit at a time, and whisk continuously making sure the sauce is smooth after each addition of milk. 
  4. At first, when the milk hits the roux, it will ball up like dough, that's what you want. As you add more milk, the mixture will turn into a paste, and then with the last addition of milk, turn into a smooth and silky sauce.
  5. Turn the burner up to medium-high heat and add the garlic powder and a few cracks of pepper.
  6. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Gently simmer for 45-60 seconds until slightly thickened, whisking continuously to prevent scorching.
  7. Remove the white sauce from heat. Working in two batches, add in 8 oz of the cheddar cheese. 
  8. Whisk the cheese in slowly until just melted between each addition.  
  9. Once 8 oz of cheese has been added, give a final whisk to make sure the sauce is completely smooth. The sauce will have thickened quite a bit, but will still be pourable (you can add a little more milk if the cheese sauce is too thick to pour).
  10. Give the cheese sauce a taste and season with more salt, pepper, and garlic powder if needed.

Assembling and baking the casserole:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400º.
  2. Pour the cheese sauce evenly over the broccoli. 
  3. Coarsely crush the Ritz crackers and sprinkle over the top of the broccoli and cheese mixture. Top with the remaining 4 oz of shredded cheddar cheese.
  4. Bake the casserole in a 400º oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese on top has melted, browned and the edges are bubbling.
  5. Remove the casserole from the oven and allow it to sit for 15 minutes before serving.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 380Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 74mgSodium: 522mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 5gSugar: 7gProtein: 20g

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