These vegan broccoli melts are delightfully cozy and satisfying, while also being wholesome. The melts are made with homemade vegan mozzarella cheese and tender, garlicky broccoli. They’re perfect for lunch or as part of a casual dinner.
There aren’t too many things that I love more than a recipe involving toasted bread and melted cheese.
Vegan grilled cheese is always an option, of course. So are my vegan tempeh meatball subs, which to this day are a recipe creation that I’m proud of.
Variety, though, is important. I’ve been craving some fun new recipe inspiration to offset gray skies and chilly damp outside.
Vegan broccoli melts have come to the rescue.
I expected to like these crispy, cheesy toasts when I first made them; after all, broccoli might be my favorite vegetable, and bread is probably my favorite food.
But the finished product was even better than I thought it would be. I love the contrast of tender broccoli, stretchy, melted cheese, and crisp toast.
Are the broccoli melts a neat lunch to eat?
No, not exactly. There will be crumbs, and a stray floret or two of broccoli might go tumbling while you dig in. I wouldn’t recommend the melts when you need a lunch that’s quick, portable, or good for meal prep.
These are, however, a wonderful combination of vegetable-forward and super comforting, and I’m happy to be sharing them with you.
What is a broccoli melt?
I’ve seen recipes for broccoli melts that resemble grilled cheese sandwiches and some that resemble open-faced toasts.
The vegan broccoli melts that I’m sharing with you today are the open-faced kind, though I may try a sandwich version next.
I think all that’s really required for a “melt” is that there be melted cheese and bread involved.
Both are present here. The bread can be any type of bread that you like. I’ve now made the melts on a round boule of peasant bread, on slices of ciabatta, and on loaf-shaped sandwich bread slices. I enjoyed all three versions.
For the cheese component, I use my melty vegan cashew mozzarella cheese.
If you don’t want to make a vegan cheese from scratch, then you could try using your favorite brand of store-bought vegan mozzarella. I really love the mozzarella shreds from GOOD PLANeT.
Cozy and nutritious
I was recently on a podcast to chat about The Vegan Week, and I found myself trying to articulate my food philosophy (or something like that).
I said that my aim is always to create recipes that strike a sweet spot between being wholesome and hearty, nutritious and comforting.
This is such a recipe. Broccoli is packed with health benefits: it’s a great source of fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and folate, not to mention phytonutrients that may help to protect our bodies against chronic illness and inflammation.
I love broccoli, so much so that I usually steam it. I like its unadulterated flavor.
But these broccoli melts present me—and anyone who makes the recipe—with a comfort food approach to eating this ultra-nutritious crucifer.
The melts offer the goodness of green vegetables and the delight of melted cheese on crispy bread at the same time. They’re easy to love for many reasons.
How to make vegan broccoli melts
Assembling the broccoli melts is a pretty straightforward process.
Prepare the broccoli
To begin, you’ll cook and season your broccoli. I start by simmering them in water until they’re fork tender, yet still bright green.
Next, I sauté the broccoli with some garlic, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and salt. Nothing fancy here—the goal is simply to give the broccoli flavor before it gets smothered in vegan cheese.
Prepare vegan mozzarella cheese
When the broccoli is ready, you’ll prepare the vegan cashew mozzarella.
It’s a fairly easy vegan cheese to make; you’ll start by blending cashews, water, salt, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and cornstarch together till smooth in a blender.
Next, you’ll transfer the mixture to a saucepan. Bring it to a simmer, and it’ll start to thicken. You’ll simmer the cheese over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes, or until it has a “stretchy” consistency.
Assemble the broccoli melts
Finally, it’ll be time to assemble your melts. To do this, you need to arrange slices of bread on a lined baking sheet.
Top each slice with cooked broccoli, then spoon the melty vegan cheese over the tops.
Finally, you’ll transfer the broccoli melts to an oven that’s on the high broiler setting. Broil them for 3-8 minutes—this will vary significantly with the type of oven that you have—or until the cheese is just starting to brown.
And now, it’ll be time to dig in and enjoy.
I always serve grilled cheese with a vegan soup, so that’s where my mind goes for broccoli melt pairings.
The first time I made the broccoli melts, I had them with my Tuscan white bean kale soup. It was a wintery, hearty, filling meal.
I’d also like to try them with roasted garlic chickpea soup and pantry tomato soup. If you’d like to double up on broccoli, the melts would be great with my cream of broccoli and quinoa soup.
Also nice with the melts: a salad! Something fresh and crispy.
You could try them alongside my perfect winter chopped salad, winter panzanella, or Brussels sprout kale salad, for starters.
If those ideas aren’t calling to you, but you have some leftover roasted veggies in the fridge, or maybe some sort of vegan protein that needs using (tofu, tempeh, seitan—whatever), then of course you can mix and match as you like. The broccoli melts are nicely versatile.
Can the melts be prepared gluten-free?
Yes, they can.
Simply choose your favorite vegan and gluten-free bread to make them with. There are more and more options that fit both categories these days.
Do I have to use broccoli?
Much as I love broccoli in this recipe, no, you don’t!
The melts will work well with cauliflower florets, zucchini, asparagus, or sautéed kale. I could even imagine preparing it with sautéed cabbage, a vegetable I’ve been having a love affair with this winter.
Make ahead options
There are a few ways that you could get a head start on the broccoli melts.
One is to simmer the broccoli ahead of time, then cool it and store it until you’re ready to sauté it with the garlic and lemon. You can do this up to two days ahead of time.
You can also prepare the broccoli entirely—meaning, you can simmer it, then also season and sauté it—and store it for up to two days before making the melts.
The cashew mozzarella cheese can also be prepared in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days. Reheat the cheese on the stovetop over low heat, stirring frequently, before you assemble the melts.
Even without any advance prep, however, the melts are easy and fun to make. Here’s how you can whip them up in your own home.
- 1 pound broccoli florets and pieces, about 1 1/2-inch/4cm in size, or broccolini, cut into 1 1/2-inch/4cm pieces (455g)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Dash crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 batch melty vegan cashew mozzarella (substitute 1 1/2 cups vegan mozzarella style shreds)
- 6 slices bread (I recommend a round, sliced peasant or sourdough boule, halved slices of ciabatta, sliced Italian bread, or a sturdy sliced sandwich bread)
- Bring a few inches of water to simmer in a large, wide skillet or frying pan. Add the broccoli. Simmer the broccoli for 3-4 minutes, or until it's tender when pierced with a fork or knife, yet still a nice, vibrant green. Drain the broccoli and wipe the skillet clean. This step can be done up to 2 days in advance of making the melts.
- Preheat your broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil. Arrange your bread slices on the sheet.
- Heat the olive oil in the same skillet over medium low heat. Add the garlic. Cook the garlic for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the broccoli, lemon juice, salt, and a dash of crushed red pepper flakes, if desired. Stir everything and cook for a minute or two, or until the broccoli is heated through. Distribute the broccoli over the bread slices on the prepared baking sheet.
- Prepare the melty vegan cashew mozzarella cheese as instructed in the recipe. Spoon the cheese evenly over the tops of the 6 bread slices with broccoli.
- Transfer the broccoli melts to the oven. Broil for 3-8 minutes, or until the bread is fully toasted and the cashew mozzarella is just bubbling and browning slightly. The broiling time will depend greatly on your oven (mine takes a little longer than most—a full 8 or 9 minutes), so be sure to keep peeking at the melts in order to ensure that they toast, rather than burn.
- Remove the melts from the oven and serve right away.
Enjoy these lovely, nutritious, delicious little toasts, and let me know if you come up with any fun variations!
I’ll be back for the usual links and musings this weekend.