Easy Broccoli and Cheese Casserole (Dairy Free Option)

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Made with gluten free orzo pasta, steamed broccoli, and a homemade cheese sauce, this Healthy Broccoli and Cheese Casserole is a wholesome comfort food recipe that will have your kids excited to eat vegetables. Prepare it ahead of time for easy weeknight dinners! Gluten Free and Vegan Options. 

healthy broccoli and cheese casserole in a pan being scooped with a spoon

This allergy-friendly broccoli cheese casserole is brought to you thanks to our partnership with DeLallo and the use of their Gluten Free Orzo pasta! Thank you for supporting the brands that help me to create delicious gluten-free recipes like this one for you! Full disclosure and privacy terms here.

Better for you Broccoli Cheese Casserole

Did you grow up eating casseroles? I know I did, and now that I’m older I can see why! Not only are they delicious, but they’re also super easy to make and great for meal prep.  Even better than one-pot recipes, they’re basically a busy mom’s dream. After all, all you have to do is place all of the ingredients in a single baking dish, toss it in the oven, and wam, bam, done, you’ve got yourself a complete meal! The best part? Your kids won’t even realize they’re eating vegetables! That’s a huge win in my book. 

While I don’t have kids, I do love the convenience and ease of casseroles, and as the weather begins to cool, I find myself craving more comfort food recipes like Easy Beef Stew, Instant Pot Lasagna Soup , and Risotto Style Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole. However, I had forgotten all about my childhood favorite broccoli and cheese casserole completely! That is until a craving hit, and I’m so glad it did! Wanting to recreate an old favorite, I decided to take this classic recipe and lighten it up with allergy-friendly options for a comfort food recipe everyone can enjoy! 

In fact, my family (who don’t have food allergies themselves) helped me test this recipe, and unknowingly to them, they actually loved the dairy free version the most! Gasp! 

Simple Ingredients Are All You Need to Make This Broccoli Cheese Casserole

Unlike boxed varieties, this homemade broccoli cheese casserole is made with simple items for an easy dinner that is wholesome and gluten free. Of course, you can get creative with different flavors and add-ins. However, you probably already have everything you need for a super tasty meal waiting for you in your kitchen! 

Gluten Free Pasta/Orzo – For those with gluten intolerances, DeLallo’s Gluten Free Orzo pasta is the perfect alternative to regular pasta. 

broccoli, spicy hummus, cooked orzo, onion, and vegan cheese sauce for broccoli cheese casserole

Broccoli – Whether you buy a whole head of broccoli or opt for already prepared varieties, you’ll want to make sure all of the pieces are chopped fairly small to ensure they cook all the way through. 

Better For You Cheese Sauce – We’ve made an easy cheese sauce recipe for both the dairy-lover and dairy-intolerant! It’s just a matter of swapping out one ingredient! Super quick and easy. You’ll need nutritional yeast or your favorite real cheese (like mozzarella!), gluten free flour, non-dairy milk, and veggie broth! 

New To the Gluten Free Pasta Family – ORZO! 

Unlike traditional orzo pasta made with semolina flour, DeLallo’s certified Gluten Free Orzo comes in two varieties made out of either a corn and rice blend or whole grain rice. It’s also great for those with food allergies because it’s nut free, dairy free, gluten free, and egg free! 

broccoli, orzo, arrowroot flour, and nutritional yeast in a baking dish for broccoli and cheese casserole
Pro Tip

Gluten Free Fact: DeLallo’s Gluten Free Orzo pasta is certified gluten free. That means that it is produced in a gluten-free dedicated facility, and there’s no chance of cross-contamination with other gluten-containing grains.

Similar in texture to Basmati rice, orzo actually means barley in Italian and comes in rice or barley-like shapes and can easily be included in a wide variety of recipes like soups, casseroles, and Gluten Free Orzo with Lemon Cream Sauce. Even better, this gluten free pasta cooks the same as regular pasta, and tastes nearly identical! Especially when added to recipes like broccoli and cheese casserole. 

How to Make Healthy Broccoli and Cheese Casserole

You’re not going to believe how easy this recipe is to make! With just a few quick steps, you’ll be out of the kitchen and ready to eat. 

Start by boiling the pasta according to the package instructions. 

Pro Tip

Note: For al dente pasta, cook the orzo for 9 minutes.

In the meantime, steam the broccoli in the microwave or on the stovetop. Once cooked, drain the pasta, and place it back in the pot without rinsing. Reserve ¼ cup of the pasta water, and add 2-3 Tablespoons of it back to the pasta along with olive oil. 

Add the prepared cheese sauce to the broccoli and orzo mixture, and stir until everything is evenly coated. Both the dairy free and regular cheese sauce options work. Just be sure to add it to the pasta quickly so it doesn’t dry out, especially if you’re using the roux

Pro Tip

Pro-Tip: Make sure the cheese sauce is still HOT when adding it to the pasta and broccoli. If it cools, the sauce will thicken, and you may need to add more broth to thin it out again. 

To finish, add your seasonings and additional shredded cheese to top before baking. Then, place the casserole in the oven to bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and begins to brown.

Diet Variations and Easy Swaps

I love this casserole all on its own. However, sometimes I like to switch things up by including a few extra add-ins for even more flavor. Take a look at my favorite variations below! 

Healthy broccoli and cheese casserole topped with shredded cheese in a baking dish

Swap the cheese. If you’re following a dairy free diet, feel free to omit the cheese topping altogether or include a dairy-free option. Or, if you can tolerate dairy, try adding a little extra flavor by incorporating a few extra spices into the cheese sauce such as garlic powder or chili powder. You can also use a different shredded cheese on top! For example, mozzarella adds a nice contrast. Or, a spicy cheese like pepper jack can be used to add an element of heat. 

Spice it up. Personally, I like my food a little extra spicy. So, to up the ante, I like to add a bit of salsa, spicy hummus, pepper sauce, or even a few jalapenos! 

Add veggies. Increase the nutrient profile, add extra fiber, and use up any lingering veggies by including cauliflower, bell peppers, or anything else you have on hand. 

Add protein. For a full meal, try including a protein source such as chicken, steak, ground beef, chickpeas, or tempeh

What Do You Serve with This Type of Casserole?

This broccoli cheese casserole is a great entree for a vegetarian diet or meatless Monday. However, it also makes a tasty side dish for protein sources like Pork Chops or Almond Crusted Chicken . You can even add side dishes such as a salad or soup for a well-rounded dinner.  

Common Questions About Broccoli Cheese Casserole (2 Parts!)

Gluten Free Pasta

What if I don’t have Orzo?

If you don’t have orzo, you can use long grain rice or risotto for a similar taste and texture. Or give any other gluten free pasta a go! Such brown rice fusilli, which adds extra nutrients and fiber. Just keep in mind that the texture will vary based on the pasta you use!

How do I add more protein but still use pasta? 

You can easily replace half of the cooked pasta or orzo with shredded or diced chicken or even chickpeas if you want to keep this recipe vegetarian. 

Pro Tip

Meal Prep Pro-Tip: Get two for the price of one, and keep the unused ½ of the cooked gluten free pasta or orzo to make a second casserole to freeze for meal prep! 

Cooking Tips

How should I store this recipe? 

To store your casserole, place it in an airtight container, and keep it in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Or, store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

How should I reheat this casserole? 

For the best results, reheat leftovers in the oven at 350 degrees until it has heated through. 

Can I use frozen broccoli instead of fresh? 

Sure! Just make sure it is fully thawed and has been steamed before adding it to your dish. 

What if I don’t have time to make the sauce?

I’ll share my secret with you! When I’m in a pinch for time, I opt for garlic hummus, olive oil, and optional melted cheese as seen in this Tuna Noodle Casserole! It’s my super quick sauce sub.

Print

Healthy Broccoli and Cheese Casserole (Vegan Option)



  • Author:
    Lindsay

  • Prep Time:
    10 minutes

  • Cook Time:
    25-30 minutes

  • Total Time:
    35-40 minutes

  • Yield:
    5 servings

  • Diet:
    Gluten Free

Description

This Healthy Broccoli and Cheese Casserole is a lightened-up version of a childhood classic. An easy gluten free recipe perfect for meal prep and easy weeknight dinners! 


Ingredients


Units

Broccoli Casserole Base

  • 33 1/2 cups cooked gluten free orzo pasta (see notes for substitutes)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil.
  • 1416 ounces broccoli florets (3-4 cups) (chopped, steamed)
For the cheese sauce: * see notes tips
  • 3 Tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoon gluten free all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup non dairy milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast or 3/4 cup shredded cheese or plant based shredded cheese (1/2 cup extra for topping if desired)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

Optional Mix ins:

    • For extra spice – 2 Tablespoon of preferred salsa, spicy sauce, sun dried tomatoes, etc. roasted bell peppers, or pesto
    • For extra protein – 1 cup cooked chicken or rinsed chickpeas.

Instructions

  1. Prepare orzo per the package directions. For al dente pasta, cook the orzo for 9 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Drain the orzo (do not rinse), and place it back in the pot. Add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and 2-3 Tablespoons of reserved pasta water to the orzo, and stir to combine.
  2. While the orzo is cooking, steam the broccoli, and prepare the cheese sauce.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the lightly steamed broccoli with the cooked orzo. Stir, and add another Tablespoon of olive oil, making sure to mix all of the ingredients together. Mix in any optional additional spice (i.e 2 Tablespoon red pepper sauce, hummus, salsa, etc.)  and chicken, if desired. Set the bowl aside, and prepare the baking dish.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil or lightly grease an 8×11 or 9×12 casserole dish and set it aside.
  5. To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter or oil into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in gluten free all-purpose flour, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes on medium-low until the color of the roux gets slightly nuttier in color. The texture might be very viscous at first, but keep stirring with a spatula or spoon to cook out the starchy flavor. 
  6. Gradually whisk in the milk. Make sure to whisk constantly as it will be very thick. Keep adding a little bit of milk at a time until it smooths out and all of the milk has been added. 
  7. Next, whisk in the vegetable broth.  Once it reaches a soft boil, reduce the heat to medium low or low, and whisk for 30 seconds.  Add 3/4 cup shredded cheese (or 1/4 cup nutritional yeast as cheese substitute) and a pinch of paprika, stirring over low heat or removed from the heat. 
  8. Add the cheese sauce to the broccoli and orzo mixture, and stir to combine.*
  9. Spread the broccoli cheese orzo mixture into the prepared casserole dish, and top it with the remaining optional shredded cheese.
  10. Bake the casserole in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until it is bubbly and the cheese is melted.
  11. Remove the casserole dish from the oven, and season it to your liking. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Notes

If you don’t have orzo, see notes! Cooked gluten free pasta (like penne or fusilli) may be substituted. 

*Make sure cheese sauce is still HOT when adding into broccoli/orzo mixture. If the sauce cools, it thickens and then you will need to reheat it and add more broth if it becomes too thick. 

See common questions section on the blog post for cheese sauce substitute. 

  • Category: main meal
  • Method: oven
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 serving with cheese on top. Cheese on top is optional
  • Calories: 338
  • Sugar: 2.5 g
  • Sodium: 125.4 mg
  • Fat: 14.1 g
  • Saturated Fat: 5.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 41.7 g
  • Fiber: 3.6 g
  • Protein: 10.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 19.1 mg

Keywords: gluten free, casserole, meal prep, dinner, vegetarian, broccoli cheese casserole, dairy free

That’s it, ya’ll! I told you it was easy. Personally, I recommend keeping this recipe in the freezer for super easy meals for those nights when life gets crazy.

Do you have any go-to comfort food recipes you keep on hand? Let me know in the comments below! 

Cheers, 

LC

 

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