This easy broccoli casserole au gratin topped with crispy onions could challenge even the best green bean casserole at the Thanksgiving table, and definitely win.
This recipe brought to you by Vermont Creamery
Broccoli is that vegetable that most everyone likes, and knows is good for them, but just hasn’t yet gained the it-girl/vegetable status that kale salads, roasted Brussels sprouts, or even mashed cauliflower are enjoying now.
No more! The time is now to don your hipster wide-brim wool fedora and jump ahead of the curve to make room for this amazing broccoli at the Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving table. Ah, who am I kidding? It’s tasty all season long.
This easy broccoli casserole dresses fresh or frozen broccoli in a simple-to-make, prep-ahead-if-you-like, butter and cheese homemade white béchamel sauce topped with crispy onions for a side dish everyone will love.
What’s in This Broccoli Casserole
I’ve been known to veer off the traditional path when it comes to classic Thanksgiving side dishes like with my green bean casserole topped with onion rings or my heavenly funeral potatoes recipe. I believe you’ve gotta have a little fun with dinner, even when it’s the biggest one of the year.
This recipe uses whole and simple ingredients, including:
- Vermont Creamery cultured butter
- yellow onion
- all-purpose flour
- bay leaves
- whole milk or half and half
- grated Parmesan cheese
- kosher salt
- crispy fried onions
Broccoli is probably my favorite cruciferous vegetable. It’s full of health benefits, and is so simple to cook. It tastes amazing dressed simply with kosher salt and a drizzle of vinegar or made decadently dressed up with this butter and Parmesan cheesy sauce. It’s a chameleon of a side dish that easily has enough substance to strut as the main dish.
Fresh or Frozen? What’s Best for Broccoli Casserole
Like many baked broccoli casserole dishes, this broccoli au gratin can be made with either fresh broccoli or frozen. Both are readily available at the grocery store, and with the efficiencies of flash freezing, both are equally as nutritious.
Because they’re readily available any time of the year, I typically use fresh broccoli florets in this dish. But if you’re looking for the convenience of frozen, be sure to choose broccoli florets rather than the broccoli cuts which are usually more stalk than flower.
How to Cook the Broccoli
Cook the broccoli until tender, and drain before adding to the sauce. I prefer to cook mine in the microwave with ¼ cup of water in the bottom, but feel free to steam them in a steamer basket on the stove if you prefer.
How to Make the Creamy Butter and Cheese Béchamel Sauce
Some cheese sauces tend to be gloppy and heavy and drown the veg they’re dressing. Not this one. The name of this game is not to masquerade the vegetable but to give your veg a creamy hug party, and it all starts with the easy, white-sauced roux.
The béchamel sauce (that’s French for a gravy made of butter, flour, and milk) starts with creamy cultured butter from Vermont Creamery. What sets their cultured butter apart from the rest is the process. Making cultured butter is like making fine wine, where fermenting the cream as you would grapes for wine—slowly—produces the best flavors. The longer the culture, the better, where after fermenting, wonderful notes of buttermilk and hazelnuts develop in the butter cream for a creamy, delicious flavor.
Chopped onion and garlic lend depth and flavor to the creamy butter before the flour is whisked in for body. Be sure to cook the flour for a few minutes to brown and cook out the raw flour taste.
To create the creamy roux, add cold whole milk or half and half to the butter and flour mixture.
TIP: Make sure your milk is really cold to help eliminate any lumps in the roux. If you do find a few lumps, use a flat wooden spoon to smash the flour bits and incorporate as the cream cooks.
Add the grated Parmesan cheese and kosher salt just before folding in the warm broccoli. As always, taste and season more to your liking.
For the best success, add the HOT broccoli to the HOT cheese sauce in the skillet so the sauce doesn’t seize or clump.
I use a non-stick skillet for making the sauce so it doesn’t brown and stays silkily soft.
Fold the broccoli in the cheese sauce until coated then transfer to a 2-quart, shallow baking dish. A shallow baking dish ensures lots of surface area to broil and bubble and add those crispy onion bites, too. Top with more cheese if desired.
TIP: I use a few swipes of the butter wrapper to butter my baking dishes. There’s usually enough residual butter on the wrapper to do the trick.
The crispy fried onions will naturally brown as they bake thanks to their crispy fried nature, so be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t literally burn to a crisp.
Serve This Broccoli Casserole Hot
Its intention is to be the star of the side dish show, but I discovered it also makes an awesome vegetarian meal when served with pasta or rice.
Make It Ahead Or Freeze for Later
To make this dish ahead, prepare the broccoli casserole as directed but save the baking for later. Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 4 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Bake straight from the freezer (do not thaw) at 375°F for 60 minutes or until bubbly and cooked through.
3 Tips for Hosting a Great Friendsgiving
Hosting Friendsgiving isn’t meant to be spent hustling the whole time in the kitchen, it’s about relaxing and being with those you enjoy! These 3 tips will help you easily tackle the day.
- Do the turkey and gravy, then assign out everything else. Dinner guests know what a big deal this dinner is and will be especially eager to help out. Logistically it just makes sense for the hostess to cook the turkey, and in turn, the gravy, because hello—drippings! The rest of the meal can be a potluck. Just be sure to assign dishes to bring or you could end up with four kinds of stuffing but no mashed potatoes.
- Be server prepared. Guests will be rolling in all at the same time, likely showing up with rolls to be baked, carrots to be warmed, or in need of platters or silverware to serve. Be prepared with a free oven, extra serving ware, and an open bottle of wine to cheers their arrival.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Being together is what this holiday is all about. Good conversation and fellowship count a whole lot more than matching plates or the perfect outfit. Just be sure each guest has a chair, that there’s plenty of food, that the toilet is clean, and that you’re good to go.
More Friendsgiving / Thanksgiving Vegetable Side Dish Recipe Ideas
- How to Make the Best Mashed Potatoes
- Easy Green Beans with Browned Butter Almondine
- 5 Ingredient Slow Cooker Creamed Corn
- Green Bean Casserole with Onion Rings
- The Best Easy Stuffing Recipe
- Easy Creamed Swiss Chard with Garlic Breadcrumbs
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Broccoli Casserole with Crispy Onions
- 3 pounds broccoli , cut into florets *see notes if using frozen broccoli*
- 6 tablespoons Vermont Creamery Unsalted Cultured Butter , divided
- ½ yellow onion , chopped
- 2 cloves garlic , minced or pressed
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups cold whole milk
- 6 ounces Parmesan cheese , grated
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ cup crispy fried onions
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Steam the broccoli until tender in the microwave with ¼ cup water for 5-7 minutes, or in a steamer basket on the stove for 12-15 minutes. Drain.
- While the broccoli is cooking, melt 1 tablespoon of the cultured butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion softens and the garlic is fragrant, for 3-4 minutes. Add the remaining cultured butter to the pan, melt, and sprinkle with the flour. Cook stirring for 2 minutes. Add the bay leaves and slowly add the milk while stirring, whisking away the floury lumps. Cook until the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally, about 7-8 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, kosher salt to taste, and nutmeg, and keep warm.
- Fold in the cooked hot broccoli to the bubbly cheese sauce, tossing to coat. Transfer to a buttered 2-quart baking dish and top with the crispy fried onions. Bake for 15 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the crispy onions are golden. Serve warm.
More Broccoli Recipe Ideas
- Beef with Broccoli Recipe
- Broccoli Cheese and Potato Soup
- Easy Broccoli with Feta Cheese
- How To Make The Best Broccoli Salad
- Orange Chicken And Broccoli Rice Bowls
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This post was sponsored by Vermont Creamery. As always, thank you for reading and supporting companies I partner with, which allows me to create more unique content and recipes for you. There are affiliate links in this post of which I receive a small commission. All opinions are always my own.