Home » Broccoli » Broccoli Rice Casserole {said with a southern accent}

Broccoli Rice Casserole {said with a southern accent}

Broccoli Rice Casserole (Cheddars

Broccoli Rice Casserole (Cheddars

A few years ago I spent a week in Lexington, Kentucky visiting a friend.  One night we had dinner at a place called Cheddar’s, which is a restaurant chain. Cheddar’s was started in Irving, Texas and is now spread all over the south. It hasn’t spread far up in the Midwest enough to have one in a Big City anywhere near my home town, but there was one in Lexington.

We have similar chains up here that I would describe as more upscale than a fast food restaurant, but not at the high-end in pricing by any means. Good family dining is what I’d call them. I really can’t remember what I had for dinner that evening but I do remember the side dish I ordered, broccoli rice casserole. It was the most wonderful way I’d ever eaten broccoli!

I wasn’t a huge broccoli fan until I left home and had it in college drenched in a melted cheese sauce almost every evening in my dorm cafeteria.  I also learned to love cauliflower in the same way. We were in college, we watched our calories, but cheese sauce apparently didn’t count if it was eaten over a heaping pile of vegetables! Once I had a child of my own I taught him to eat both broccoli and cauliflower raw, cut up in smaller pieces, dipped in the popular Hidden Valley Buttermilk Ranch Dressing we all lived on in the 80s. Both of my kids easily learned to like most vegetables by first eating them raw, dipped in Ranch.

Broccoli Rice Casserole

Broccoli Rice Casserole

But I digress. I was enchanted with that small dish of broccoli rice casserole in Cheddar’s in Lexington. It would never have occurred to me to add rice and cheese sauce to broccoli and bake it until it was brown, bubbly and oh so good.  I returned home and dreamt of that dish for weeks before finally doing an internet search for the ingredients to see if I could ever possibly hope to produce such a heavenly dish. And darned if I didn’t find a lot of recipes for that casserole online! Apparently it was popular down south. We northerners were definitely missing the boat on this tasty dish.

2# Broccoli

2# Broccoli

I tried 2 or 3 recipes before I hit on the right one that took me back to those wonderful bites in Kentucky. The recipes that had mayonnaise in the dish were odd; the idea of heated mayo is just kind of icky to me. I couldn’t get past that feeling as I tasted the first two recipes. They weren’t bad, just not good enough The solution to that was to try a recipe without mayonnaise.

2# Broccoli Florets

2# Broccoli Florets

I also wanted to use fresh broccoli, so that I could control the quality. Most recipes used frozen broccoli. With those preferences in mind I finally hit on a recipe that was so close I could almost hear the waitress with the southern accent asking me “Do you want another iced tea, sweetie?” They call you “sweetie” and “darlin” in Kentucky with an accent and in such a natural way you want to put them on your Christmas card list. That was one of the most charming parts of my visit. It made me feel like I was part of a southern family or something! 

As an aside, there is a drive-thru attendant at one of our local burger places that always calls me “sweetie” and I always wonder if she’s southern. That’s just too friendly for up north here. She can’t be one of us originally. We don’t do “sweetie” unless it’s someone we’ve give birth to.

Rice

Rice

So my broccoli rice casserole adventure ended up with a successful outcome and it became one of our family standard side dishes on holidays for quite a few years. Green bean casserole was firmly behind us and broccoli casserole took its place. I have hauled it all over and made it at home and always receive many compliments. Frankly it’s a nice quick lunch by itself, having a good serving of veg and rice and crackers all mixed together. I think it’s the Ritz crackers that add that special touch to it all. Well that and all the cheese! Maybe it will become one of your holiday go to dishes as well.

Blanching Broccoli

Blanching Broccoli

This isn’t a quick, throw-together recipe. I’ll confess it is a little labor intensive. But it is totally worth the time it takes to prepare. I buy fresh broccoli and blanch it so that it will stay nice and bright green. You could use that frozen stuff to save time but you will sacrifice the freshness. I also cut up the stems into matchsticks and they are great in the dish.

Cheese sauce

Cheese sauce

I modified the recipe I started with by melting the second stick of butter, cubing the Velveeta, and stirring it in a pan until it is melted. Originally you just cubed the cheese and stirred it into the casserole. I ended up stirring it several times as it baked so that I didn’t end up with cheesy pockets. I liked a more uniform blend of cheese, rice, crackers, and broccoli. Melting the cheese before mixing seemed a wise move.

Stir well

Stir well

Originally the crackers were mixed with that second stick of melted butter and sprinkled over the top of the pan before baking. I like to stir them into the dish so they end up in every bite. Or rather, I enlist my P.S. (Plenty Strong hubby) to stir it for me as I did in the picture below.

Broccoli Rice Casserole

Broccoli Rice Casserole

Broccoli Rice Casserole

1 1/2 cups cooked rice (1 cup long grain rice cooked in 2 cups water)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks margarine; divided
1/2 cup onion; chopped
1 lb broccoli; cut into florets
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1 lb velveeta; cubed
1 package ritz crackers; crushed (one sleeve or stack or whatever you call it, not the whole box!)

Put 2 cups of cold water, 1 cup of long grain rice (not Minute rice) and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a small pan and bring to a boil. Turn heat to lowest setting, cover and set your timer for 15 minutes. When done, fluff with fork and pour into a large bowl.  If you have more than 1 1 /2 cups rice, put it all in anyway.  The recipe is very forgiving.

Cut broccoli into smaller florets and blanch in boiling water, then into cold water. Drain and add to large bowl.

Saute onion in 1 stick of margarine until translucent and tender. Add to bowl and return pan to heat.

Cube Velveeta into large chunks. Melt 1 stick of butter in pan and add Velveeta chunks, stirring often. It will stick and burn to the bottom of the pan if not closely watched!

Pour melted cheese mixture over ingredients in large bowl. Add canned soup to the bowl.

Break apart Ritz crackers into larger pieces, about 3-4 pieces per cracker. Add them to the large bowl of ingredients and mix well, spreading the cheese throughout the mixture.

Pour into a greased 13″ x 9″ dish. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour, stirring halfway through baking. I bake it 1 1/2 hours because I double the recipe and like it browned more.

Serves 8-10

I usually double the recipe and use:

2 cups rice cooked in 4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup onion
2 sticks butter (I don’t double the butter)
2 lbs broccoli
2 cans cheddar cheese soup
1 box Velveeta (2 lbs)
3 packages (sleeves) Ritz Crackers.

We like it leftover and the kids often take containers of it home after the holidays.

Tip:  this can be made ahead of time and warmed in a crockpot later.  You’d want to bake it about 15 minutes less in the oven and reheat at low for an hour or two.  Any longer and it can get mushy.  I’ve never totally cooked it in a crockpot but if anyone tries it, I’d appreciate a report back on timing!Tiara Logo

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59 thoughts on “Broccoli Rice Casserole {said with a southern accent}

  1. I wanted a copycat recipe for Cheddars broccoli cheese casserole to make for Christmas and came across yours. It was delicious! I found it very similar to Cheddars version. I think next time I will add more crackers but only as a personal preference. Thanks so much.

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  2. Thank you for this awesome recipe! I appreciate how detailed you are in your directions! I can already tell that making this dish will probably not cause me too much anxiety, lol. Thank you!

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  3. I am planning on making this for our work Thanksgiving luncheon… just a question, want to make sure I read it correctly, sauté the onions in an entire stick of butter?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes this is a very rich tasting dish. The rice and crackers help absorb all of the butter. I never feel it’s over buttered, and I’m not a huge butter fan myself. I hope you like it, we’re such huge fans here we can make it in our sleep!

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    • Your post on grappa was so very interesting! It was fun to learn the background, I have always wanted to try it.

      The crackers hide in the broccoli rice dish, they’re not very obvious. You could use an even milder cracker such as a butter cracker. I hope you try the dish!

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  4. Thanks! I have a vague memory of Broccoli Rice Casserole from my childhood in Missouri. Pretty sure it was made with frozen broccoli and minute rice and almost certainly a cheaper version of Velveeta and it was still tasty. I’m planning to make your’s but will probably tweak it so I can avoid the canned soup-two processed foods in one dish is more than enough for me 😉

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    • Using “real” cheese is probably the best for flavor too. I was doing a copycat version and I’m sure they open a big can labeled “cheese sauce” and pour it over the rice and broccoli. Making an actual cheese sauce wouldn’t be too complicated, I’m sure. Good luck! I’d like to hear what you ended up using!

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      • I lwas born and raised in Texas. I absolutely LOVE the Cheddar’s dish! Once my grandma passed, we usually end up making it my way as I didn’t have her recipe. I have always made it using Cheez Whiz and I usually use half a can of cream of celery soup and half a can of cream of mushroom soup instead of a can of cheese soup. I sautee chopped celery and onion, (or dried shopped onion) in a pan with butter and then add the cheese to that and melt it then add in the cooked rice and cooked broccoli mixing it in the pot. Then put it in a dish to brown in the oven. I think many of us in the south use either velveeta of cheez whiz (at least from what I have experienced) Hope this gives you other options to try!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Have you ever cooked it in a crock pot instead of the oven? I need to travel with it and would like to cook in the crockpot but afraid it won’t cook the same. Thank you!

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    • I often bake it ahead and put it in a crockpot to keep warm. You want to bake it a little less, maybe 45 minutes then set the crockpot on low so it doesn’t totally turn to mush. Good luck!

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  6. I noticed as I was reading the ingredients and directions, you list a can of cheddar soup in the ingredients…. However after reading and rereading your directions, you fail to mention when/where you use the soup. I can assume I use it at the point when I’m supposed to be melting down the Velveeta, but I don’t like guessing when it comes to recipes. I’d also suggest adding how long “blanching” broccoli takes. Again, I can google or wing it, but I’d much prefer having a recipe that details each step.

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  7. Just a little confused… The original recipe calls for 2 sticks of butter. Then it says when you double the recipe it still calls for 2 sticks of butter. Am I reading something wrong?

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  8. Awesome recipe! I have it in the oven right now, however I cut up a rotisserie chicken and make it more of a meal…it is FABULOUS! THANKS FOR THIS WONDERFUL RECIPE!

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  9. Awesome! I too love Cheddars Broccoli Casserole and yours was great! This will now be my new Broccoli casserole recipe! I love it!!!

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  10. Thank you for liking a recipe. I like this one that I see Rice and what I call little Trees are good together.. Have a nice Evening

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  11. I’m so excited to find your recipe! I’ve made a traditional broccoli, rice and cheese casserole for over 20 years and my family loves it. But last year I ate at a Cheddars restaurant in Little Rock, AR. and fell in love with there version. Thank you so much for figuring out how they did it. I’m looking forward to trying your version. 🙂

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  12. I love cheddars broccoli casserole! I was wondering if there is a substitute or if you can actually just omit the two sicks of butter? You use one stick to saute onions , can I use a bit of olive oil? And another stick to add to Velveeta, can I use milk? Thanks

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    • I’ve not tried substitutions but those sound sensible. The richness of the casserole may suffer since butter is a large part of the flavor. But if you don’t care about that, go for it! I’d like to hear how it turns out, if you try it! Thanks for stopping by!

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  13. Aw, this was a very nice post. Finding the time and actual effort to
    create a great article… but what can I say… I hesitate a lot
    and never seem to get nearly anything done.

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  14. I am going to make this for Christmas Eve. Can I mix everything together and then bake it the next day? Also, if using minute rice do I need to cook it or will it cook when it bakes in the oven. I have another recipe for broccoli rice and cheese where I use minute rice and I just stir it in. It cooks in the oven. Any thoughts? Thanks!

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    • I’ve never used Minute Rice but I’d think you could make it as usual, then stir it in. There wouldn’t be enough liquid in the recipe for the rice to absorb it while it cooks. The rice needs to be made ahead then put in.
      I have often made the casserole the day or night before, then put it in the oven or a crockpot to reheat the next day. If you mix it to cook the next day you might want to leave the crackers out and stir them in just before baking so they don’t fall apart and disappear. Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

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  15. I am wanting to try out your Broccoli Casserole for Thanks Giving dinner. I have everything I need but I only have Boil in Bag long grain rice and it is an hour and a half drive into town and back. So what do I need to do to make this work out with the rice that I have in hand?

    This Kentucky boy needs help.

    Thanks, from Bee Spring Ky.

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    • Hi, Kentucky! I’ve never used that kind of rice but all you need is rice that is precooked. Follow the directions and let it get done, then add it to the rest of the recipe. You want it a little dry and firm, rather than wet and mushy, if possible. Good luck on that and have a great holiday!

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  16. Do you think I could make this the day before? Just wondering if the crackers will be mushy if it sits in the fridge all day….. Can’t wait to try it this week!

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    • I often bake it a day ahead and reheat in the oven for about 25 minutes, straight from the fridge. Or I’ve thrown the cold casserole into a crockpot and heated it for 2 hours on low. It’s a pretty dry casserole, since the rice soaks up what little moisture there is from the cheeses. It’s still chewy with a nice texture, reheated. Have a great week!

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  17. Yummmmm…..soooo good made this today..super yummy! Thanks so much for sharing! I was only planning to do this for my work luncheon but this is definetly going to be be done again this Thxsgiving……soooo nice of u to share not a lot of people like to share their recipes. ..me,my family n our tummies thank u!!!!

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  18. We recently moved to TN and Cheddars is one of our favorite places. This dish is my favorite thing there! I’m so excited to make this for our family in CA this Thanksgiving! Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

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  19. We have a Cheddars so I am well aware of the famous Broccoli Rice Casserole… yum. My question is: you mix up the crackers rather than put just on top, do they still stay crispy and not get mushy being mixed in? thanks for your recipe! I am going to make it next week for thanksgiving!

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    • There isn’t much moisture to the casserole so the crackers don’t get mushy, but stay fairly chewy. The rice absorbs what little moisture is provided by the melted cheese and soup. The top is more chewy of course, kind of like a stuffing that has less moisture. If you really want crunch, you could put the crackers only on top. Good question, though!

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  20. For someone allergic to wheat who can’t tolerate the Ritz crackers, could we substitute something else like corn flakes? Any suggestions?

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    • I’ve not tried any substitutions but a co-worker who has to avoid gluten says she uses corn flakes in recipes and they work well. I suggested corn chex and she agreed they would work too if you wanted a little more texture to the dish. In this casserole, you want some larger chunks so corn chex seem to be a better idea. But I’m guessing. Let me know if you try something, please? And thanks for stopping by!

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    • Thanks, hon. I just finished off the last bit tonight as a midnight snack. That’s kinda healthy isn’t it? At least I wasn’t reaching for the big bag of pretzel M & Ms!

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