Healthy Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole
This healthy, cheesy, and easy Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole is one of the oldest, best-loved recipes on my site. As the comments section will attest, it’s received rave reviews from picky husbands, fussy toddlers, and new moms in search of freezer meals. The flavors are simple and appealing, the recipe prep is easy, and unlike many other recipes, this chicken broccoli rice casserole contains NO SOUP!
Casseroles like Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole were a fixture at our table growing up. My mom was the casserole QUEEN. She wore a crown of Pyrex and carried a scepter of nonstick baking spray.
Those last two things are a fib, but she really did rock the 9×13 pan. Not only could she make a casserole from scratch, but she could transform any (and I mean any) leftover in our home into a creamy, cheesy casserole of sorts.
My mom’s casseroles never had names. If I asked her what was for dinner, she would respond with a frazzled, “Don’t ask me what it’s called—I made it up.” My childhood brain immediately translated the lack of title to “Yuck.” I assumed (unfairly) that, beneath that tantalizing top layer of melty cheese, my mom was hiding all manner of unsavory ingredients. Anchovies? Lima beans? Chicken livers? Anything was possible.
As an adult, it took me a few years to recover from the word casserole. It still makes me a bit uncomfortable, to the extent that I originally titled this recipe “Chicken Broccoli Rice Bake.” It’s unfair to my mom—she’s a good cook—and it’s also rather illogical. After all, “casserole” is basically an abbreviated way of saying “giant pan of cheesy goodness, baked until hot and bubbly.” When put this way, the wrongly maligned casserole belongs on all of our lists of favorite foods, starting with today’s Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole.
I think part of the reason the word casserole can make a girl run and hide her fork is that stereotypical casseroles are used to disguise, rather than celebrate, their ingredients. Tuna Surprise, I am looking at you.
Although casserole condemnations do have some foundation in reality (many of the casserole recipes in the universe are indeed overly heavy, bland, and laden with cream of XYZ soup), when made properly, casseroles can also be an excellent, healthy choices for dinner.
In recent years, I’ve embraced the beauty of the casserole (reference: Sausage and Rice Casserole, Crock Pot Mexican Casserole, Spaghetti Squash Casserole, and SO MANY MORE), and I credit Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole as my gateway. Whether you consider yourself a casserole doubter or casserole devotee, I’m willing to bet this healthy chicken broccoli casserole will convince you too.
A mix of brown rice, quickly sautéed chicken, and fresh broccoli, Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole offers every food group in a single meal. There is no soup to be found (creamed, canned, or otherwise). Instead, the smooth, bubbly cheese sauce is made with Greek yogurt and cheddar. Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole is easy to scale up to feed a crowd, make and freeze ahead, and reheat leftover for lunches and dinners throughout the week.
Could I be dubbed the Queen of Casseroles one day? Aside from the weird premonitions of becoming my mother, I’ll take the casserole-queen title with compliments. Please pass me my Pyrex crown.
Tools I used to make this recipe:
Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole | Easy, Cheesy, and Healthy
This cheesy chicken broccoli rice casserole recipe is a healthy version of the classic with NO cream of anything soup. Comfort food you can feel good about!
Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
- 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 2 cups instant brown rice (if you use white rice or non-instant rice, the cooking time and amount of liquid needed may differ)
- 1 pound broccoli florets, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into bite-size pieces
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk, divided (I used skim)
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 1 1/2 cups reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese, divided (about 6 ounces)
- Place a rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a deep 9-inch-square baking dish or a 3-quart casserole dish.
- Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large pot, then add the rice. Return to a boil, add the broccoli to the top of the rice (no need to stir it together), then cover, reduce the heat to low, and let cook 5 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and let sit, covered, for an additional 5 minutes. Most of the rice liquid should be absorbed.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or other large deep pot over medium-high. Add the chicken, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Sauté until cooked through and no longer pink in the center, about 4 to 6 minutes, then remove to a plate. Being careful not to burn yourself, wipe the pot clean with a paper towel.
- Reduce the heat to medium. In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the flour and 1/2 cup milk. Pour the mixture into the pot, then add the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk. Cook, stirring constantly until thickened, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the Dijon, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Stir in the Greek yogurt and 1 cup of the shredded cheese until smooth.
- Add the rice and broccoli mixture and the reserved chicken to the cheese sauce, stirring gently to coat. Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish and top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake 25 minutes until hot and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes, then serve.
- This dish is easily customizable to your tastes and the season. Feel free to swap the rice for prepared farro, quinoa, or another whole grain (adjust the quantity and cooking time accordingly), the chicken for white beans, or the broccoli for any sautéed vegetable of your choice.
- The entire dish can be prepared up to the point of baking 2 days in advance and refrigerated, tightly covered. Let the dish stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking as directed.
- To freeze: transfer the filling to a freezer-safe dish, then cover tightly and freeze for up to 2 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bake directly from the refrigerator (you will need to add on to the baking time by 10 minutes or so), or let the dish come to room temperature prior to baking, then bake as directed.
Serving Size: 1 (of 6)
- Amount Per Serving:
- Calories: 398 Calories
- Total Fat: 10g
- Saturated Fat: 3g
- Cholesterol: 63mg
- Sodium: 743mg
- Carbohydrates: 47g
- Fiber: 7g
- Sugar: 8g
- Protein: 35g