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.
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 – 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!
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.
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: 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!
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
Cooking with Gluten Free Pasta + Tips
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!
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.
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.
For the best results, reheat leftovers in the oven at 350 degrees until it has heated through.
Sure! Just make sure it is fully thawed and has been steamed before adding it to your dish.
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.
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!
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!