Cheesy Chicken Asparagus Casserole

I spend the first few weeks of every March waiting for spring like it’s a tardy prom date. I sit impatiently on our porch, nails painted an optimistic pink, wondering exactly how long I can stand the chilly breeze before I need throw a coat over my dress. Surely spring hasn’t stood me up and will be here any moment—maybe it’s just being extra cautious driving over in the car it borrowed from its dad for the night.

Cheesy Chicken Asparagus Casserole

Spring and I play this little game every year—or rather, spring plays, and I sit stubbornly outside in my flip flops, wrapped in a blanket and ignoring the wind that still carries a nip of winter. As soon as we have our first day above 65 degrees (last Friday), I decide that every subsequent day must also be warm, thus I must post margaritas on Instagram, wear sundresses, and behave in an otherwise springtime manner, even when we slip back into the 40s or (heaven forbid) it snows in April. This is spring in Wisconsin: a total tease.

Although I’m still waiting for the arrival of a spring I can bring home to mom—the spring that shows up on time, doesn’t use brief bouts of sunshine to toy with my emotions, and drives a convertible—at this point, I’ll happily to climb into the cab with any old spring, even one who’s unreliable and drives a dirty pick up truck, provided it’s brought me a bouquet of asparagus.

Cheesy Chicken Asparagus Casserole. Healthy and freezer friendly!

Healthy Asparagus Casserole with Chicken

Asparagus is my favorite vegetable (shhhhhh, don’t tell Brussels sprouts), and its season is cruelly short, thus I’ve been serving it almost every night since the first batch of non-sickly-looking stalks showed up in our grocery store last week. While I love it simply roasted with salt and pepper as a side dish, most nights I prefer to cook all-in-one meals, like this Cheesy Chicken Asparagus Casserole.

Healthy Cheesy Chicken Asparagus Casserole

Lean protein? Check. Dairy? Yep. Whole grains? Got it. Veggies? This casserole is a spring garden!

In addition to the asparagus, I included a bushel of spring carrots, which are particularly tender (if you can’t find carrots with their green tops still on, regular carrots are just fine), and any other favorite veggies like broccoli, peas, and spinach can be added or swapped.

Cheesy Chicken Carrot Asparagus Casserole

Chunks of meaty chicken make this casserole hearty and filling, as does the addition of freekeh (an ancient grain that is similar to brown rice, but higher in protein and fiber). If you can’t find freekeh or want the casserole to be gluten free, quinoa is a perfect substitute.

Although I love every ingredient in this Chicken Asparagus Casserole, I recognize that not everyone shares my passion for vegetables. Enter: The Sauce. What makes this Cheesy Chicken Asparagus Casserole a hit even with veggie skeptics is an ultra-gooey cheese sauce that oozes into every single bite. It’s lightened up but still tastes so gloriously cozy and creamy (thank you Gouda), you’ll never suspect.

Cheesy Chicken Asparagus Casserole is light enough for the warm spring days that treat us, but comforting enough for the chilly spring days that tease us.

Cheesy Chicken Asparagus Casserole. A healthy all-in-one meal!

If you need me, I’ll be on my back porch, digging my fork into a second helping of Chicken Asparagus Casserole. Who needs a prom date?

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Cheesy Chicken Asparagus Casserole

A healthy chicken and asparagus casserole with a creamy cheese sauce. Your entire family will love this dish!

Yield: Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used skim)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup uncooked freekeh or uncooked quinoa
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 bunch (8 to 10 ounces) spring carrots, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch coins
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese, any kind that melts well, such as Gouda, Fontina Gruyere, or cheddar (I used Gouda)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for topping

Directions:

  1. Place rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9×13-inch deep baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high in a Dutch oven or large, deep skillet. Add the chicken and cook until the edges are brown, but the center is still slightly pink. Remove to a plate and set aside.
  3. In the same skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and add the onion. Cook until beginning to brown and soften, about 3 minutes, then whisk in the flour. Cook until the flour is lightly brown, about 1 minute, then add the chicken broth. Increase heat to high, then continue whisking until the flour is smooth. Add the milk, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and thyme. Cook and stir until the mixture bubbles and thickens, 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from heat, then stir in the reserved chicken, frekkeh or quinoa, asparagus, carrots and 1/2 cup melty cheese (Gouda, Fontina, etc.). Transfer to the prepared baking dish and cover with aluminum foil.
  5. Bake, covered, for 35 minutes, then uncover and stir the filling. Continue baking, uncovered, until the the freekeh is soft (or the quinoa is sprouted) and the chicken is cooked through, about 10 additional minutes. Some liquid may be bubbling at the top. Stir once more, then top with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Return to the oven until the cheese melts, about 3 minutes. Serve warm.
All images and text ©/Well Plated.

About Erin Clarke

I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, lover of bourbon, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN...

40 comments

  1. This dish screams spring!! I love chicken paired with asparagus and quinoa, so adding the cheese and putting it in a casserole is a winner in my book!

  2. I love how springs speaks to me. And asparagus is definitely one that speaks spring!

    This looks tasty and perfect even for Easter meal.

    Pinned. Have a fabulous Wednesday!

  3. I’m such an impatient spring lady, too. It’s currently 25 degrees in Connecticut and I’m not having it. I’m looking forward to the warm up in the upcoming months! This spring dish is such a lovely way to kick off spring. :)

  4. It’s officially spring in my book now that you made this delicious casserole!! Looks off the charts!

  5. You are indeed right – that “ultra-gooey cheese sauce ” makes this casserole EPIC! 

  6. You just described my yearly spring routine. I have been known to go tanning on my roof once it hits 70°. And My flip flops are sitting my my door just waiting to be worn! 

  7. This looks delicious, I’ll definitely be trying it. I love asparagus and need more of it in my life! And I’m the same way. I live in Indiana & our weather is all over the place. We have actually had a week where we had 80 degree temps and then snow in the same week. But once we get to at least 45 degrees, I break out my flip flops and refuse to accept that Spring hasn’t arrived!

  8. Hi Erin! This dish looks amazing! I am excited to try.  Can you tell us how much flour you use? Thank you! 

  9. i love all things spring to…grilled asparagus is one of my favorites. 

  10. Spring in Wisconsin sounds like spring in Colorado, it’s such a tease! I’ll be glad when the warm temps stick around and I can put the coat away for good. Until then I’ll cozy up with this almost spring casserole!

  11. I totally feel your pain…the weekend before Valentine’s Day was 60+ degrees and had me convinced spring was actually coming early. Then the temps plummeted and are just now rising again. I’m super grateful for the return of spring/summer produce, though!

  12. This looks fantastic! I cannot wait to get the ingredients and make it in the next couples of days. I love asparagus myself and this is a great way to use it!

  13. Yup, totally with you. It was 75+ for the last week so I put all of the winter sweater in the back closet, pulled out the jean shorts and tank tops and was convinced it was summer already. Now, it’s 50, rainy and miserable. You’d think I’d learn my lesson after almost 30 years of the same pattern, but nope.

    This casserole is sounding PRETTY fabulous as I watch the rain come down just outside the window….

  14. I love the idea of asparagus in this…& that sauce!!!

  15. Monday 76, Tuesday 54 (wind gust up to 26 miles), and today 46–ugh!
    I thought about getting  a posse together and going after that darn groundhog–If not staying home and making this wonderful casserole is a good idea.

  16. The recipe looks and sounds delicious, as usual, but I have to admit I was more enchanted with your lovely writing- comparing waiting for spring to that for a prom date, the subtle metaphors and the seemingly effortless way you string the sentences together made for a wonderful read with my morning coffee. Thanks to a nice start to today!

  17. Wisconsin weather can be tricky. One summer we visited our relatives there and they were all shocked that we didn’t bring a sweatshirt back with us for the fourth of July! It’s July!!

  18. I’m with you – the second I saw asparagus again in the store I bought it right away. We’ve been having it like mad the last few weeks! This casserole looks so so good!

  19. Oh yum! That looks delish!  We are always looking for new dinner ideas!

  20. I was so excited as soon as I saw asparagus in the store too! Love all the veggies in this casserole, it looks fantastic!

  21. Seeing this post reminded me that I have a whole bunch of asparagus in my refrigerator waiting to be devoured!! I’ve been loving the whole “hit all the food groups” kind of meals lately, especially in the good ‘ol casserole form! Spring’s so close, I can almost feel it!

  22. Ahhh, yes.  The cruely of spring in the midwest!  It’s hard to get too excited when last year it snowed here in May.  JUST. WRONG.  But a bunch of bright and springy asparagus will brighten my moods with the sunshine any day!  Love this casserole, Erin!  

  23. This casserole looks delicious! You might kill me but I actually don’t want spring to come. Now you see I live in California and we didn’t have a winter at all. The temp yesterday was 95. 95, can you believe it?? Summer is going to be brutal here, but I will take this casserole winter, spring, fall or summer. It just looks amazing!! ;) 

  24. Definitely a great dish for Spring time! Looks like such a yummy and savory casserole! :)

  25. Erin – Tony and I were sitting around last night trying to figure out what to do with the 4 pounds of chicken breasts we bought on sale this week, and then I saw your post…it was delicious! We subbed broccoli for asparagus because it’s what we had, but soooo good can’t wait to try it again!

  26. Your opener had me laughing as I swear that’s me! I can’t wait for warmer temperatures and a change in produce. Thanks for a great recipe!

  27. This was on my menu for dinner last night. I have to thank you because it tasted amazing. Even my husband, who usually just puts hot sauce on everything, said it didn’t need any additions because it was so flavorful. Loved it!!

  28. I assume the thyme goes in with the other spices…. It’s not listed 

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