Comfort food season is here, and I can’t think of anything more comforting that a hearty cheesy casserole. This casserole is made with brown rice and broccoli and it just might be my favorite cold weather meal.
Broccoli is probably my favorite vegetable. I came to love it because of the cheese sauce my mom would make it with when I was little. It was frozen broccoli drowning in a sauce made from a packet of powdered mix, but I loved it.
I still love broccoli and cheese, only now as an adult, I’ve ditched the dairy. Often, I’ll add broccoli to my mac and cheese, and I make my own cheese sauce with hidden veggies. There’s just something really magical that happens when cheese sauce combines with those little florets.
If this recipe looks familiar, it’s because it’s based on my own Broccoli with Cheese Sauce recipe. I had created it a few years ago in order to curb my childhood comfort food cravings. Instead of pouring cheese sauce over cooked broccoli and serving it as a side dish, I’ve combined the two with cooked rice and baked it to serve as a main.
The “cheese” in this Vegan Broccoli and Rice Casserole is actually made with vegetables. Here, I’ve used carrots, potatoes, and onion. In my original cheese sauce recipe, I had used cauliflower and sweet potatoes. I had to change it because Dennis can no longer eat cauliflower. (He has gout and sadly, cauliflower causes it to flare up.) If you’d rather use cauliflower instead of potatoes, go for it.
Although I did include approximate amounts of carrots and potatoes, you don’t need to worry about being precise. The recipe will work if you use a little more or a little less than what I’ve listed.
Having leftover rice in the fridge helps this casserole to come together pretty quickly. I like to make a big batch and then freeze it in small containers. The cheese sauce can be made in advance, if you know you’re going to be pressed for time. You can make the whole casserole in advance, cover it and place it in the fridge, and then pop it in the oven when you’re ready for dinner.
A big bowl of Vegan Broccoli and Rice Casserole is all I need for dinner on a chilly weeknight. If you want to add a little protein, you can add a can of cooked chickpeas in when you’re mixing the rice, broccoli, and cheese sauce together. You also serve this as a side dish with grilled seitan or a Gardein patty.
Vegan Broccoli and Rice Casserole
- 1 large carrot, chopped (about a cup)
- 2 medium potatoes peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
- ¼ cup chopped onion
- ½ cup raw cashews
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 bunches broccoli cut to bite-sized florets (about 6 cups)
- 2 cups cooked brown rice
- ½ teaspoon paprika
Preheat your oven to 350°.
Place the carrots, onion, potato and cashews in a large pot. Fill it with enough water to cover the vegetables plus about two inches.
Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork tender.
Drain the vegetables and save the water. Allow the vegetables to cool slightly and then place them in a high-speed blender or food processor along with the nutritional yeast, lemon juice, garlic, mustard powder, and salt. Add 2 cups of the reserved cooking water and blend until smooth and creamy. Add a little more water if the mixture is too thick. Keep in mind that it will thicken when it’s heated.
While the vegetables are cooking, steam the broccoli. Add about an inch of water to a large pot. Place a steamer basket inside and fill it with the broccoli florets. Bring the water to a boil, cover the pot, and let cook for about 3 minutes.
If you don’t have a steamer basket, you can blanch the broccoli. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and have a bowl of ice water standing by. Cook the broccoli in the water for a minute or two. Remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon and plunge into immediately in the ice water.
In a large bowl, mix together the cooked brown rice, steamed broccoli and cheese sauce. Pour the mixture into a large casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with paprika. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the top has turned golden brown.