Broccoli with cheese sauce is delicious, with homemade cheese sauce and oven roasted vegetables. Make this easy side dish recipe for dinner!
People sometimes ask me about the best way to prepare vegetables without making them mushy, and I never hesitate with my answer: roast them. There’s nothing wrong with steaming or boiling veggies, but it’s easier to overcook them, and you’re not adding any flavor or texture.
That’s the key. Roasting vegetables adds a crispy texture and a savory, caramelized flavor. Doesn’t that sound good? Now let’s throw cheese into the mix to make it even better.
I am truly in love with this recipe because it combines two of my absolute favorite things: roasted broccoli and homemade cheese sauce. The sauce is very similar to the one I use with homemade macaroni and cheese.
How to Make Broccoli with Cheese Sauce
- Olive oil– I prefer using extra virgin olive oil to roast vegetables. Other good choices are canola, vegetable or grapeseed oil. Don’t use pricy oils; save those for salad dressings and dipping bread. A good baseline is to start with about 2 tablespoons of oil per sheet pan of broccoli (or any vegetable being roasted).
- Unsalted butter– If all you have on hand is salted butter, I recommend that you taste the finished dish before adding any extra salt.
- All-purpose flour– The flour, combined with an equal amount of butter, creates a roux, which thickens the homemade cheese sauce.
- Dry mustard
- Cayenne pepper
- Half-and-half– If you need a substitute for half-and-half, it’s simple to make half & half at home! Just combine 3/4 cup whole milk and 1/4 cup heavy cream, OR 2 tablespoons of melted butter stirred into 1 cup of whole milk.
- Whole milk
- Gruyere cheese
- Sharp cheddar cheese
- Parmesan cheese
Step 1: Roast the Broccoli
I want to focus more on the step-by-step process of making broccoli with cheese sauce, so I’m keeping this straightforward. Here’s what you do:
- Get the oven very hot (425-450 degrees F is standard for roasting) and line a sheet pan with parchment or foil for easy cleanup.
- Toss the broccoli with olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Roast until crispy on the outside and fork tender on the inside, gently stirring and flipping the broccoli after around 10 minutes to ensure even cooking.
Step 2: Make a Roux
The sauce comes together while the broccoli is roasting. Start by whisking together flour and unsalted butter in a saucepan set over medium heat, which creates a thickener known as a roux. Whisk constantly for a minute or two.
Step 3: Add spices
See how the roux thins out as it cooks? Once it thins out like this, you can whisk in the mustard and cayenne pepper.
Step 4: Whisk in Cream
Add the cream and turn the heat up to medium-high or high to bring the sauce to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat a bit to keep it from splattering, and continue whisking constantly (or at least very frequently), until the sauce thickens to the consistency of a cream soup.
Step 5: Whisk in Cheese
Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheese in handfuls, whisking until very smooth. Taste to see if it needs salt and pepper. It might not, since the parmesan is salty and there’s already a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Serve immediately, if possible. Roasted broccoli is best straight out of the oven, and the sauce will develop a skin if it sits for too long without being stirred. It will also thicken as it cools. More on that below.
Tips For Making Homemade Cheese Sauce
I’ve messed up homemade cheese sauce a few times in the past, and have learned a few tips to help you avoid mistakes.
Remove the saucepan from the heat before adding the cheese. Ideally, you shouldn’t whisk in the cheese until after the saucepan has been removed from the heat. Too much heat will cause cheese sauce to break and become grainy. Broken cheese sauce can’t be fixed.
You can often get away with it if the saucepan is set over very low heat, but I still recommend playing it safe and removing the pan altogether.
Don’t add all the cheese at once. Add it in handfuls, whisking constantly and giving it a chance to melt. It doesn’t have to be completely melted before adding the next handful.
Be patient. Give the roux at least one minute or longer to give the flour a chance to cook out (this prevents a starchy taste in the final sauce). Once you add the dairy and bring the sauce to a boil, give it time to thicken to a cream soup consistency. This will create a rich, luxurious cheese sauce.
Recipe Notes and Substitutions
- I used a mix of half-and-half and whole milk for a rich and creamy cheese sauce that isn’t too rich (in my opinion). If you keep the total liquid amount the same (1 1/2 cups), you can play around with the fat content to lighten it up slightly or use what you already have. You can use some heavy cream, all whole milk, a low-fat milk, etc.
- I don’t recommend using all heavy cream or all skim milk. Using only heavy cream might be a bit too rich, and you want to use a dairy product with a reasonable amount of fat. It’s cheese sauce.
- I haven’t tried this recipe with dairy substitutes, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work with many of them, though the sauce might not be as rich. My top choice for a non-dairy substitute is usually unsweetened soy milk. The flavor isn’t overpowering and it has fat, which helps with texture.
- This recipe would work well with cauliflower or a broccoli and cauliflower mix.
- I kept the roasted broccoli simple to put more focus on the cheese sauce, but you could also add sliced garlic cloves while roasting. Garlic, broccoli and cheese are always a winning combo.
Other Broccoli Recipes
If you love this veggie, you can use it to make another easy and flavorful side dish, Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Lemon,
Or, add a bowl of Restaurant-Style Broccoli Cheese Soup to your dinner menu! If you need a meatless meal option, I recommend Crispy Baked Tofu with Broccoli.
I also love this Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry from Simply Recipes, and this Broccoli Salad from Kevin is Cooking.
You can also see my full archive of broccoli recipes here!
Broccoli with Cheese Sauce (Quick Side Dish Recipe)
- 3-4 pounds broccoli, cut into 1 1/2-inch florets
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 cup half-and-half (or 1/2 cup whole milk + 1/2 cup heavy cream)
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup shredded gruyere cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Place an oven rack on the center shelf and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil.
- Combine the broccoli florets with the olive oil, toss to coat evenly, then season with salt and pepper. Spread the broccoli in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 18-23 minutes, using a spatula to turn the pieces over midway through. The broccoli is ready when browned and crispy on the edges and fork tender.
- While the broccoli cooks, make the cheese sauce: melt the butter in medium saucepan set over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until golden and fragrant, about 1 minute. Whisk in mustard and cayenne. Slowly whisk in half-and-half and milk, then turn the heat up to high and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking frequently, until slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat, then whisk in gruyere and cheddar in handfuls until smooth. Once the gruyere and cheddar are completely melted, whisk in the parmesan. Taste for seasoning, adding a pinch of salt and pepper if needed (you might not need any because of the parmesan and cayenne).
- Transfer the broccoli to a serving platter and drizzle with cheese sauce. Serve immediately.
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
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Claudia Lamascolo says
I loved broccoli roasted and use to get a delicious potato with cheese at Wendy’s and they stopped making it so this is perfect over my baked potato love the sauce! WOW
Ashley F says
Loving that you used gruyere and sharp cheddar cheese for the sauce! Goes so well with the broccoli!
Trying to cook healthier. Is there a lighter version to this recipe?
Jennifer Farley says
Hi Penny! If you look at the recipe notes and substitutions section, I’ve included some options for lightening it up.
Best. side. ever. This cheese sauce was absolutely delicious!
This is totally fabulous! I could eat this cheese sauce on everything! Roasting the broccoli really brings out the flavor and the sauce takes to the next level, delicious!