Go Ahead and Caesar Your Roasted Broccoli

Dress up sweet and nutty roasted broccoli with savory, crisp Caesar-flavored breadcrumbs. The broccoli can be roasted in the oven or an air fryer, and the breadcrumbs taste great on pretty much any other vegetable, so feel free to mix things up.

Side view of Caesar breadcrumb broccoli
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

My family has a motto we frequently apply to our weeknight dinner routine: “When in doubt, roast some broccoli.” It’s the one vegetable side dish that all four of us are sure to eat—even my picky five year old. And it’s fairly easy to understand why: Roasted broccoli ticks all the boxes for a great vegetable side dish: It’s simple to prepare, delicious, and nutritious. But as my family’s resident home chef (and a former professional chef), what I like best about roasted broccoli is how easy it is to dress it up with a variety of ingredients and flavor profiles, avoiding the same boring side dish night after night. 

One of my favorite ways to liven up broccoli is by incorporating the salty, briny, umami-rich flavor profile of a classic Caesar dressing. But instead of just glopping on the actual dressing, I incorporate the classic Caesar dressing ingredients—anchovies, garlic, and lemon—into a crunchy savory breadcrumb topping. It’s fairly simple to make: It takes just a couple minutes to toast the breadcrumbs with a generous amount of butter, anchovy paste, and garlic. I then stir in a touch of lemon zest off heat to retain its fresh flavor, and season it to taste with salt. If you’re forward thinking (which admittedly, I am not) you can even make the breadcrumbs a few days in advance. 

Overhead view of toasting breadcrumbs
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Preparing the broccoli is pretty straight forward. Whether you roast it in the oven or in your air fryer, the results are similar: the super-high heat quickly caramelizes the exterior florets, producing sweet, nutty flavors and a crisp exterior that contrasts nicely with the tender interior. I’ve included directions for both oven roasted broccoli and air-fryer broccoli in the full recipe below, so choose whichever method works best for you.

To finish building the Caesar flavor profile, once the broccoli is roasted, toss it with additional lemon zest for a final boost of bright citrus flavor, and top it with the prepared crunchy, savory breadcrumbs. Finish Caesaring (yes, I embrace “Caesar” as a verb now) the broccoli with a generous sprinkle of nutty Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

For the Caesar breadcrumbs: In a small nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat. Stir in anchovy paste and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add breadcrumbs and, using a flexible spatula, toss to coat. Cook, stirring constantly until breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in the lemon zest and season with salt to taste. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.

Overhead view of cooking breadcrumbs
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

For cooking broccoli in the oven: Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Adjust oven rack to upper position and preheat oven to 500°F (260°C). Place baking sheet on oven rack to preheat.

In a large bowl, toss broccoli florets with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Carefully add broccoli to preheated baking sheet in a single layer. Roast until broccoli is tender and deeply browned in spots, about 20 minutes (for the deepest browning on only one side, do not flip the broccoli during cooking; for more even browning all over, toss and flip broccoli about halfway through roasting).

For cooking broccoli in the air fryer: Preheat a 6-quart air fryer to 400°F (205ºC) for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss broccoli with oil, salt, and pepper to evenly coat. Working in batches if necessary, pour broccoli into the air fryer basket in an even layer and cook until broccoli is still bright green but starting to char around edges, about 5 minutes. Remove basket from air fryer and shake to toss broccoli florets. Return to air fryer and decrease temperature to 340°F (170ºC). Cook until broccoli is crisp-tender, about 3 more minutes. 

Air frying broccoli.
Serious Eats / Morgan Hunt Glaze

For serving: In the now empty bowl, toss broccoli with lemon zest then transfer broccoli to a serving platter. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.

Overhead view of broccoli with caesar bread crumbs
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Special Equipment

Rimmed baking sheet if oven roasting, 6-quart capacity air fryer if air frying

Make-Ahead and Storage

Once completely cooled, the breadcrumbs can be transferred to an airtight container and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.