Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole with Butternut Squash and Cranberries

In the event you are in need of a bit of reprieve from the sugar-dusted holiday baking action, I bring you Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole with Butternut Squash and Cranberries.

An easy and healthy chicken dinner: Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole with Butternut Squash and Cranberries. Crowd pleasing and gluten free!

Not that I would begrudge you for turning Candy Cane Snowball Cookies and 2 Ingredient Homemade Hot Chocolate into dinner by any means, but I find that priming my cookie intake with a hearty, healthy meal like this seasonal spin on chicken and wild rice casserole helps the sweets settle more pleasantly.

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole from scratch without the creamy of anything soup! Butternut squash and cranberries make this a healthy all-in-one-meal. (gluten free)

Further, this chicken and wild rice casserole is wildly delicious—as in, I can’t promise you leftovers, even though you are definitely going to want them for lunch the next day and the day after that and next week too. I brought a big pan of this Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole with Butternut Squash and Cranberries to dinner at a friend’s, and between the four of us, we ate every last scrap, minus the proverbial final few bites that every native Midwesterner is too polite to claim for his or her own.

Thus, I ate those last three bites on our drive home. No shame. Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole with Butternut Squash and Cranberries is irresistible healthy comfort food at its finest.

Cheesy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole made from scratch with butternut squash and cranberries. An easy and healthy chicken dinner recipe that's gluten free and perfect for freezer meals too!

Perfect fall and winter meal: Cheesy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole with Butternut Squash. Easy and gluten free

If you are looking for an ultra gooey, cream-of-no-one-knows-what chicken and wild rice casserole, I am afraid this isn’t it.

If you are looking for a dinner recipe that’s cozy, wholly satisfying, and healthy enough to leave you wiggle room for that Frosted Cream Cheese Sugar Cookie afterwards, Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole with Butternut Squash is the one.

Butternut squash takes this easy chicken and wild rice casserole over the top! (gluten free)

Let’s examine the exciting happenings inside our casserole dish:

  • Chewy, nutty wild rice brings the whole grain goodness and fill-you-up prowess.
  • Sweet chunks of butternut squash add creaminess and earthly sweetness.
  • Chicken is diggin’ the hang out time with it’s wintertime BFF, wild rice. Plus, lean protein = extra healthy satisfaction.
  • Cranberries get all sassy with their sweet tang.
  • Parmesan cheese melts over all, making the casserole gooey and nutty and just plain wonderful.

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole with Butternut Squash. Great freezer meal to bring to friends and a healthy dinner too! Gluten free.

A sprinkle of savory thyme, and we have just about every cold-weather ingredient I adore coming together into a dynamite healthy dinner that I plan to serve again and again. It doesn’t always work out this well to throw all of your favorite seasonal foods together in a single dish and watch what happens, but this golden time, it did, and I couldn’t be happier.

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Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole with Butternut Squash and Cranberries

A cozy and filling chicken and wild rice casserole made with butternut squash and cranberries. This easy and healthy chicken dinner is a winner every time!

Yield: Serves 4-6

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked wild rice blend (3 cups cooked)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small butternut squash, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 5 cups cubes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, plus additional for garnish
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries (I prefer the ones with reduced sugar)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided (about 2 ounces)

Directions:

  1. Cook the rice according to package directions. Drain off any excess cooking liquid and set aside.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  3. In a large, deep skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced chicken and sauté until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink on the inside, about 6 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
  4. With a paper towel, carefully wipe the skillet clean. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium. Add the diced squash, onions, salt, and pepper. Sauté until the onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender but still retains some chew, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the thyme, cranberries, reserved chicken, rice, and 1/4 cup Parmesan.
  5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake 5 additional minutes, until the cheese melts. Sprinkle with additional chopped fresh thyme and serve warm.
  • To freeze: Bake the casserole completely, then let cool to room temperature. Cover it tightly, then freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat, covered, in a 350 degree oven until warmed through.
  • You could also try freezing the casserole unbaked. Again, let thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bake as directed.
All images and text ©/Well Plated.

I’m sharing this Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole with Butternut Squash and Cranberries as a part of December’s Eat Seasonal blogger collaboration. Each month, we post a collection of recipes that highlight and celebrate the fruits and veggies that are in season and thus at their peak of freshness and flavor.

What's in season in December- Product guide

I especially love being a part of this group in the winter, because it reminds me of how much bounty we still have to celebrate, even when the air turns cold. I hope this month’s collection of seasonal recipes inspires you too!

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...

76 comments

  1. Wild rice is such a wonderful winter starch. And with chicken and butternut squash? Droolzies. 

  2. hey girl this looks really good!

  3. I would choose this over Christmas cookies any day!  I love wild rice salads, so I’m loving this comforting casserole!

  4. I have a Christmas potluck with friends coming up.  This sounds perfect for that.  

  5. This looks so pretty and colorful! I am also always a fan of a one dish meal.

  6. This looks like it belongs in the dictionary as an illustration for comfort food.  Really, really amazing! 

  7. I did not grow up with casseroles… at all. Some of the ones I see on Pinterest frighten me. This looks really delicious!! 

  8. This looks delicious! I love anything involving rice :)

  9. Yeah, I don’t see myself having any leftovers. I could gobble up this whole pan by myself! It has all my favorite ingredients!

  10. I love how simple this is but full of the seasons flavors – I can’t seem to get enough fresh thyme, the smell is invigorating!!

  11. This is a much needed departure from all the sweets floating around! 

  12. Butternut squash and wild rice are 2 of my fave foods–so fave I bet this casserole will be just as delish without the chicken!

  13. I love having you as a part of this group!!  This dinner sounds perfect for December to pair with all of the christmas cookies and hot cocoa we’ve been enjoying! Hope you’re having lovely holiday season.

  14. The chicken , wild rice, squash, cranberry dinner was scrumptious !!! There’s only two of us but it was perfect for a few lunches (reheated) after we enjoyed it at dinner time ! Thanks again, Laura

  15. I made this for our bunco group (12 ladies!) so doubled the recipe and made it two 9×13 dishes. I prepped everything the evening before (lots of chopping and cooking!) and just reheated for 30 mininutes before serving. It was a HUGE hit. Everyone asked for the recipe. I’ll be making it for book club next month :)

    I think for leftovers I’ll serve it in a tortilla wrap with spinach and maybe some feta or goat cheese :) Thanks for the recipe!

  16. Brenda Berkowitz Reply

    Can I replace the fresh thyme with dried and how much?  Thanks.

    • Great question Brenda! I recommend using fresh herbs whenever possible—unfortunately dried ones don’t have the same good flavor. If you need to use dried thyme in a pinch, I’d do 1/3 the amount called for in the recipe (so 1 tsp. dried).

  17. Erin, I love this recipe! I’m doing a round up of super-easy wild rice recipes, and this one *almost* fits the bill. Peeling and cubing a butternut squash would easily take me 15 minutes all by itself! Any tips for my readers? Thanks!

    • Susannah, I’m afraid peeling and cubing butternut squash is one of those things that is a labor of love. I find a vegetable peeler to be the fastest and easiest way to do it. Some grocery stores also sell it pre-peeled and cubed, so that is a time-saving option too, though it is more expensive.

  18. Im out of wild rice 😕 would quinoa be a good substitute???

  19. This recipe was delicious! I’ve just made it this evening for my family and my husband suggested we save the recipe for Thanksgiving as a side or to use as turkey stuffing. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Jamie, I am SO happy you enjoyed it so much! Thanks so much for taking time to leave this kind review too. I really appreciate it. This would be great at Thanksgiving too!

  20. This looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it!!  Do you happen to know if it freezes?  I’d like to make a few at a time and freeze the extras if possible. 

  21. This looks so delicious. I am making it tomorrow night for company. Question… can you substitute breast meat for the thighs? My crew does not like dark meat.

  22. This was SO delicious! I made it exactly as the recipe was, and everyone in the family went back for seconds. Yum!

  23. I just made this last night for my family and they LOVED it. I love that it’s comfort food that’s actually healthy!! I’m thinking of adding brussel sprouts next time to get a little green in the mix. Do you think cooking them with the onions and squash would work? I also think this would be an excellent way to use leftover Thanksgiving turkey. I bet it would taste delicious with turkey in it!

    • Kristi, I am SO happy to hear this! I love the idea of Brussels sprouts and think that would be delicious. The idea of leftover turkey is super yummy too. I’m going to have to try both of those twists myself next time :) Thanks for the suggestions and this kind review!

  24. This was delicious, thank you! I didn’t have any thyme so used Rosemary instead but still a wonderful comfort meal on a chill autumn Sunday. 

  25. I never comment on recipes but I LOVE THIS ONE!! I made it last week and am going to make it again this week for lunches. OMG so good.

  26. I made this last night & the 3 of us are the whole pan! It was delicious!! 

  27. This was shared on a SAHM group that I’m a part of on FB. It was a HUGE hit with my family (the 3 & 1 year olds loved it, too)! I added some chopped walnuts to the top when I put it in the oven and used tarragon because I didn’t realize I was out of thyme. It was still amazing! The walnuts added so much! Thank you so much for this recipe!

    • Karen YAY!!! I’m so happy that you found this recipe and that your whole family enjoyed it. The walnuts and tarragon sound like lovely additions. Thanks for taking time to share this review. It really means a lot!

  28. I made this and my boyfriend and I both loved it! 
    I used a rotisserie chicken to save time and added chopped pecans because I had some open.
    I ate the leftovers for FOUR meals! It was that good! I even topped my other meals with extra Parmesan or fresh pomegranate seeds to mix it up! Yum!

    My parents are coming for Thanksgiving next week, and we are going out to lunch somewhere where we won’t get leftovers. I’m planning on chopping everything up and keeping it in the fridge to bake for a quick dinner if we get hungry in the evening.

    Thank you for this awesome recipe! I know it’s going to become a regular for me :-)

    • YAY Alli! I’m glad you loved it. Thank you for leaving this nice review. All of your topping additions sound delicious!

  29. Could I use fresh cranberries instead of dried?

  30. I cant stop making ( and eating!) this dish!! I personally omit the Parmesan (and have even made it without the chicken but its much better with it) this has become my new favorite side dish! thank you so much for sharing!! Happy Holidays to all!

    • Thanks so much, Rachel! I’m so glad you love the dish. I really appreciate your taking the time to leave such a nice review!

  31. Exceptional meal. We loved everything about it.  Thank you 

    • Thank you so much, Laureen! I’m so glad you enjoyed the meal. And I really appreciate that you took the time to leave this wonderful review!

  32. I made it! It came out bomb! Thank you for this recipe. I had butternut squash, a wee bit of left over wild rice, and onions and didn’t know what to make (I wasn’t in the mood for a squash soup) so I googled/Pinterest’ed’ and found your guideline, thankfully. Peeling the raw squash was bloody brutal, haha, like scraping rocks with tweezers (-a little over-dramatic haha). I did do a few tweaks to the recipe just to adjust to with what my pantry had (couldn’t go to the store, low on some money, it’s all A-Okay), like I used mozzarella cheese on top instead of parm’, I added 1 chopped apple because my sweet husband ate all the raisins, I added a can of blackbeans for more protein + for extra filling (my husband eats as if he’s going through a growth spurt, bless him). The thyme was a good herb choice. Anyways, I followed your instructions with the sautéing firstly then combining and baking. VERY pleased, thank you! Happy days.

    • Sarah, I’m so glad you found this recipe to be just what you were looking for! It sounds like you made some great adaptations. Thanks for leaving this kind review!

  33. This was delightful. I ate it everyday for work this week. It was filling but not heavy and was a wonderful winter treat.

  34. This is absolutely de-lish! I didn’t find the prep work cumbersome at all. I replaced the parmesan with gruyere (I love gruyere) and added brussel sprouts in with the squash. Easy to make & plenty of leftovers. Thank you for sharing this yummy goodness!

  35. Anyway I can turn this into a freezer meal that would be good? I searched freezer meals to make today and now I want to make this but didn’t realize it wasn’t until I got to the end

    • Kendra, casseroles like this one make great freezer meals! I would suggest making it all the way through, letting it cool, then covering it tightly and putting it in the freezer. You can also freeze it unbaked. In either case, just be sure that you let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating, covered, in the oven.

  36. Made this for dinner last night. The hubby & I loved it! All the flavors coming together were delicious. Now it’s probably something I did but I felt like it needed more rice. There were so many pieces of chicken & squash. I used about 2 breast & a box of wild rice. Next time I’ll make more rice to stretch the meal a little further but great recipe! Don’t skip on the cranberries! I even added a few pecans in it…

    Rating: 3.5
    • Hi Marlene, I’m so glad to hear you and your husband enjoyed the recipe! Adding pecans is a fantastic idea. Thanks so much for leaving this wonderful review!

  37. This looks amazing! We are doing a gluten-free casserole exchange with some ladies and this looks like a winner! My question is, would this freeze well? And do you have any cooking instructions for a frozen version?

  38. So delicious! This recipe will be a regular for my family!

  39. Yummm!!!  I cooked the wild rice in chicken stock to give it added flavor. We’re trying to start eating healthier and with more Whole Foods this year and this was a great find. My whole family loved it, and I crave it now!!

    Rating: 5
    • Hi Valerie, cooking the rice in chicken stock is an excellent idea. I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thanks for leaving this wonderful review!

  40. I roasted the squash and thighs then diced the thighs. Gave it an extra depth of favor. Thx. Love it.   

    Rating: 5
  41. Absolutely divine!!! …Just bajed and had this dish, it was amazingly good….

    Rating: 5
  42. Soooo tasty! Thank you! Husband asked if this can become a regular in the winter rotation. I made a couple changes- used a small sweet potato & 1 chicken breast to stretch our meat a little more. I’m so excited I stumbled upon your website. Can’t wait to try some of your spring recipes! 

    Rating: 4.5
    • Cindy, I’m so glad you stumbled on my website too! Thanks for giving the recipe a try and reporting back with the tweaks you made! I’m so happy to hear it was a winner.

  43. This sounded interesting, but I altered it some, just because, I guess. Instead of using a wild rice mix (not a big fan and it seemed to be in everything a few years ago, I guess I just got tired of it), I substituted Farro cooked in chicken stock. I used about double the squash, and substituted breast for thigh (my wife doesn’t like thigh meat), and increased that to about double. I used a parmesan/romano blend for the cheese and added about double the amount. All other quantities I kept the same. I also added 2 cloves of garlic, which I cooked with the chicken and left the garlic bits in the pan when cooked the remaining ingredients. It turned out well, made more than enough to eat, and to freeze, and to have a couple lunches too. Its easy, economical, and turns out very well. I will add this recipe to our rotation, for sure. Great winter vegetable treat. May try to work in Parsnips in the next time, and roast them with the squash. I may finely chop some candied ginger and add a few chopped apricots as well next time too.

  44. Turned out perfect! This was my first time doing anything with butternut squash and wild rice. I enjoyed this and will def be revisiting it in the future!

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