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Healthy Broccoli Rice Casserole

Healthy Broccoli Rice Casserole is the from-scratch version of a holiday fave, lightened up so you can feel a little less guilty. It’s good anytime, though. No holidays required!

A wooden spoon heaped with brown rice, broccoli, and cheese from this Healthy Broccoli Rice Casserole Recipe

This casserole is a holiday staple in my family.

I know it doesn’t really look all that impressive because it’s a casserole, and let’s be honest– when served, casseroles are kind of more sloppy than impressive– but this stuff is hearty and rich while still being light and full of veggies. Trust.

You’ve probably had a version of the broccoli rice goodness somewhere along the way.

My mom’s recipe HAS to be on the table at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It’s like an unwritten rule or something. It gets spooned onto my plate alongside the green bean casserole and in my mind it feels like a healthy choice because um… broccoli.

But actually my mom’s recipe calls for Minute rice and a whole jar of Cheez-Whiz so … it’s basically the vegetable equivalent of brownies.

The Story

I lost my dad when I was 24, which is young, but my youngest brother was only 8. So it shaped our lives in all sorts of ways and really made us all even closer than we already were. 

It’s not clear in my head whether or not it was our first holiday season without my dad or the one right after, but I do remember my mom being really determined to make the holiday dinner happen despite being sick. Suuuuper sick.

Like that head-floating-off-your-body-borderline-pneumonia kind of sick. My mom gets sick like once every 10 years, so she was trying to pretend that everything was cool while she cooked and wandered around in a Dayquil stupor.

She took the broccoli casserole out of the oven and set it on the stove. My sister was admiring her thrice-yearly splurge, and thankfully she turned her back to the stove because less than a minute later, that casserole exploded all over the kitchen throwing cheese and glass shrapnel everywhere.

My sister hit the deck.

Turns out, the burner was on and glass dishes don’t fare well on the hot stove. 

Anyway. We had our holiday minus that casserole, but I don’t think we’ve missed out on it since! You can find the Classic Broccoli Rice Casserole Recipe, Cheez Whiz and all, here <<—. 

What makes this casserole healthy?

 

This version of broccoli rice casserole is full of good things like fresh broccoli and brown rice, because my theory is that the more good things you eat at your meal the more Easter candy it cancels out.

Things you need for a Healthy Broccoli and Rice Casserole include:

  • brown rice
  • homemade cream of mushroom soup
  • fresh broccoli!
  • low fat cheese

My recipe starts with homemade cream of mushroom soup which actually deserved a post of it’s own – someday I’ll get to that. Please don’t think I’m crazy for making my own cream of mushroom soup. It’s so easy and calls for only the most basic of things like flour and milk. Plus it only takes 15 minutes.

You could buy the canned condensed soup too if that’s more your speed. But the homemade was so fresh and creamy and I want to eat it for lunch every day this week.

Does Broccoli Rice Casserole require cream soup? 

In short? Yes. The cream soup and the  cheese work together like glue. They are what keep the rice and the broccoli from being boring on your plate. So YES. Make the cream soup! 

If you are looking for a great light cheese to use, I swear by Cabot’s Lite50 Sharp Cheddar Cheese. They also make Lite75, but Lite50 is my jam for cutting calories and keeping the same texture and flavor. 

Can I make broccoli casserole with rice ahead? 

Yes, absolutely! 

This is one of those kitchen projects I love to make up to two days ahead. Cook the rice, make the cream of mushroom soup, chop the broccoli, and stir it all up to be baked the day of. All the ingredients are cooked (except the fresh broccoli), so on the day of you are just melting all the cheese and cooking the broccoli until tender. 

Let’s do broccoli and rice casserole for the holiday table. And let’s do our best to not explode it all over the kitchen.

If you love casseroles you should also try…

Easy Chicken Broccoli Bake is a comfort food casserole at it’s best. It’s a great way to use up leftover chicken and calls for fresh broccoli bringing a pretty green twist to an old fashioned favorite. 

EasyCheesy Tamale Casserole has layers of corn tortillas, spicy shredded pork, caramelized onions, and loads of cheese

Lightened Up Broccoli Rice Casserole

Lightened Up Broccoli Rice Casserole

Yield: serves 8-10
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

Lightened Up Broccoli Rice Casserole has all the cheese and fresh broccoli but none of the Cheez Whiz. It's TERRIFIC.

Ingredients

Rice:

  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice

Homemade Mushroom Soup:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped mushrooms
  • 2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups 2% or skim milk, divided
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon parsley

Casserole:

  • 1/2 cup onions, chopped
  • 3 cups fresh broccoli florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat shredded cheese (I used a cheddar blend)

Instructions

  1. Step 1

    Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 3 or 4 qt casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.

  2. Step 2

    Bring 2 cups of the broth to a boil. Add the rice, cover, and reduce the heat. Simmer on low until all the liquid is soaked up-- about 30 minutes. Remove the rice from the heat and set aside.

  3. Step 3

    While the rice cooks, heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the chopped mushrooms and saute until golden, about 3 minutes. Pour in 2 1/2 cups of broth and 1/2 cup of the milk. Stir and bring to a slow boil (careful-- milk will bubble over if it gets too hot!). Reduce the heat to medium.

  4. Step 4

    Whisk together (I just mixed it all together in my liquid measuring cup) the last cup of milk, the 3/4 cup flour, the onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and parsley. Pour this into the broth mixture that is simmering on the stove and cook over medium high heat for 10-15 minutes, whisking occasionally. The soup will thicken as it cooks and more as it cools.

  5. Step 5

    In a large bowl mix together the cooked rice, 3 cups of the soup (this will be most of it-- add more as you see fit or save it for later), the onions, broccoli, and 1 cup of the cheese.

  6. Step 6

    Spread the mixture into the prepared dish and then sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over the top.

  7. Step 7

    Bake for 15-20 minutes, just until the cheese melts and the soup is bubbly.

Notes

SHORTCUTS!!!
1. Skip cooking the rice ahead of time and just use instant brown rice. No broth required. just mix the uncooked instant rice in before baking.
2. You can use canned cream of mushroom soup, but it's totally not as good.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 258 Total Fat: 12g Saturated Fat: 5g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 5g Cholesterol: 25mg Sodium: 379mg Carbohydrates: 27g Fiber: 4g Sugar: 5g Protein: 14g
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HelloMyNameIs

Friday 29th of March 2013

OH MY GOD I love broccoli casserole!!! It's my Thanksgiving favorite!!! NOM NOM NOM!!!

Choc Chip Uru

Tuesday 26th of March 2013

I would love to eat this delicious casserole :D

Cheers Choc Chip Uru

Heather

Wednesday 27th of March 2013

Thanks, Uru!

The Foodie Affair

Tuesday 26th of March 2013

Love hearing about favorite family recipes and the great stories that go side by side with them. I'm sure if your mom wanted to kill your sister, it wouldn't be with broccoli casserole -haha! Totally digging the homemade cream of mushroom too. Love this recipe, Heather!

Heather

Wednesday 27th of March 2013

The reason the story is so funny for us is because #1-my mom has not a cross bone in her body- like I can't think of one single time my whole life that she ever raised her voice at us, and #2- she notoriously leaves burners on and melts things. Try the soup, Sandra! I've been eating it for days. I just keep making more. So So good.