The Unsung Hero Of Your Next Broccoli Dish Is... Cheetos?

Broccoli and cheese are a delicious food duo. The iconic combination has inspired casserolessoups, and even simply, as the name implies, cooked broccoli with melted cheese. However, there's one surprising accompaniment to broccoli that might sound like it was added during a night of one too many drinks — but just might be the unsung hero of your broccoli side dish: the crunchy cheese snack Cheetos.

While the pairing between Cheetos and broccoli may seem out of left field, the cheesy flavor profile of the snack food compliments the vegetal bite of a piece of broccoli. Cheetos are crispy corn puffs that are dusted in cheese powder, so the pairing between broccoli and this snack isn't too far off from the classic combination of cheese and broccoli. Whether your broccoli is roasted, sautéed, or blanched, garnish your cooked broccoli with some crushed-up Cheetos for textural contrast and a burst of tangy cheddar in every bite.

Beyond the crunch

Cheetos can be used beyond a crunchy garnish. While making a cheese sauce for a broccoli and cheese dish, per Saveur, heat ingredients like shallots, bay leaf, and peppercorn, until reduced to make a sauce with a consistency that coats the back of a spoon. Then, shred gouda and parmesan — or whatever cheese you like — and steep Cheetos dust in the cream sauce. When the sauce is cooked to your liking and the Cheetos flavor comes through, pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer for a velvety texture. Spoon the cheese sauce over your broccoli and top with even more of the pièce de résistance, crushed-up Cheetos. 

This style of broccoli and Cheetos concoctions was the brainchild of chef Craig Koketsu during his time at the now-closed, seasonal restaurant, New York City's Park Avenue. The chef loved Cheetos and found that this snack food had a place in his elevated dining room. While the chef's inspiration may seem out there, the combination was popular among his diners and was an example of how familiar snack foods can function as both a seasoning and textural component. 

From the crunch of the Cheetos to the savory spice of the broccoli to the smooth cheesy finish, adding the artificial cheese-flavored snack to a broccoli dish is an elevated spin on a classic.