Chicken and Rice Casserole proves that basic can be beautiful. Creamy sauce enveloping nutty brown rice, juicy bites of chicken, and vegetables, this timeless meal is a classic that’s too fantastic to fuss.
While I am all for a fresh twist on an old favorite (the curry spices in this Instant Pot Chicken and Rice and the southwest spin on this Mexican Chicken and Rice make these recipes special), sometimes what we need is a dish at its most old-fashioned self.
This old fashioned chicken and rice casserole isn’t wild.
It won’t blow your mind with never before thought of flavors or tectonic levels of spice.
And that is exactly the point.
This is comfort food at its most pure.
It’s creamy and carby. A warm hug for a cold evening.
Chicken and rice casserole has extreme crowd appeal.
From picky teens to choosy toddlers to exacting adults, it’s hard not to love a tender chicken dish with creamy rice and cheese.
For a hands-free version of this recipe, check out my Crockpot Chicken and Rice.
How to Make the Best Chicken and Rice Casserole
In true Well Plated fashion, I made this easy chicken and rice casserole healthy with a few simple, lightened-up twists.
- Instead of heavy cream, I made the chicken and rice casserole with milk and Greek yogurt. It tastes decadent!
- It’s made entirely from scratch. If you’re looking for chicken and rice casserole with cream of mushroom soup, onion soup mix, cream of chicken soup, or cream of celery soup I’m afraid this isn’t it. Trust me, homemade is easy and SO much better.
- It lays on the veggies. A bag of frozen mixed vegetables (which typically contains green beans, corn, peas, and carrots) makes quick work of adding healthy servings.
- Chicken Breast. As far as lean protein goes, chicken is the ultimate crowd-pleaser. It works famously in casserole recipes like this one and is easy to prepare. I make a shredded chicken and rice casserole (see FAQ for cooking suggestions), but diced chicken, shredded store bought rotisserie chicken, boneless skinless chicken thighs, or even cooked ground chicken would work too.
- Cooked Rice. While you can put uncooked rice in a casserole, you do cook rice before putting it in this casserole. To boost this casserole’s nutrition content, I chose to use long grain brown rice (a brown and wild rice mixture will also work). Brown rice is a good source of fiber and magnesium. It’s slightly chewy texture and slightly nutty flavor make it extra tasty in this recipe too.
- White Whole Wheat Flour. Helps thicken the sauce to create the ideal casserole consistency.
- Chicken Broth. Adds savoriness and forms part of the casserole sauce.
- Milk. I used nonfat milk, but you can use any you have on hand.
- Frozen Mixed Vegetables. An ultra easy and quick way to bulk the veggie content in this casserole. Typically contains corn, peas, and carrots.
- Greek Yogurt. For creaminess and a healthy boost of protein. You can use either 2% or full-fat Greek yogurt. I don’t recommend using fat free, as it curdles more easily.
- Cheeses. A blend of sharp cheddar and Mozzarella is the move. Both melt to gooey, cheesy perfection.
- Dijon Mustard. Elevates the cheesiness and adds zip. You can’t taste it specifically; rather, it helps the dish pop.
- Dried Thyme. For homey, herby flavor.
- Sautéing the onion and garlic in a Dutch oven or similar large, sturdy-bottomed pot.
- Stir in the flour.
- Pour in the broth and milk, stirring constantly. Let simmer until thickened.
- Remove from the heat. Stir in the vegetables, yogurt, half of the cheddar, mozzarella, Dijon, and thyme.
- Add the chicken and rice.
- Transfer everything to a casserole dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Top with the remaining cheese.
- Bake chicken and rice casserole for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F (no need to cover with aluminum foil). Broil to brown the top. Garnish with herbs, let rest for a few minutes, then DIG IN!
- To Store. Refrigerate leftover casserole in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm casserole in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, cook and shred the chicken and cook the rice. Refrigerate both in separate airtight storage containers until you’re ready to finish the recipe.
You can also fully assemble the unbaked casserole up to 1 day in advance. Cover tightly and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake.
Turn a Sunday chicken and rice casserole into leftovers for the entire week! Give leftovers new life by stuffing the filling into bell peppers. Follow the instructions for prepping the peppers in my Stuffed Peppers recipe, bake the peppers without any filling at 375 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes, then stuff each pepper with warmed-up leftovers.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Baking Dish. A classic, high-quality baking dish that you’ll have forever.
- Dutch Oven. Can be used for so many different recipes.
- Spatula. This heat-resistant spatula is incredibly versatile.
Cheesy, creamy, carby, chicken-y. I wouldn’t have my healthy chicken and rice casserole any other way!
Frequently Asked Questions
To make this recipe gluten free, swap the white whole wheat flour for a 1:1 gluten free flour substitute.
While you can cook raw chicken with rice in a casserole, you’ll need to use pre-cooked chicken for this recipe. I recommend using one of the following simple recipes to make this shredded chicken and rice casserole: Instant Pot Chicken, Crock Pot Shredded Chicken, Baked Bone In Chicken Breast, How to Cook Shredded Chicken (stovetop edition). You can also swap diced Air Fryer Chicken Breast, Baked Chicken Breast, or Grilled Chicken Breast.
While I prefer to use brown rice for the grains in this dish, its added health benefits and texture, you can swap cooked white rice if you prefer.
Yes! Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Chicken and Rice Casserole
- 3 cups shredded, cooked chicken breast* (about 3 medium breasts)
- 3 cups cooked brown rice or wild and brown rice blend
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 small yellow onion diced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic about 2 cloves
- 2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour
- 1 (14-ounce) can reduced sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup nonfat milk or milk of choice
- 16 ounces frozen mixed vegetables
- 1 cup 2% Greek yogurt or full-fat do not use fat free as it is prone to curdling
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese divided
- 1/2 Cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- Chopped fresh parsley or thyme for serving
- Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9×13 or similar casserole dish with nonstick spray.
- In a Dutch oven or similar large, sturdy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Once the butter melts, add the onion, salt, and pepper. Cook until the onion is softened and translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir occasionally and adjust the heat as needed so that the onion softens but does not brown. Stir in the garlic and let cook 30 seconds.
- Sprinkle the flour over the top. Cook and stir constantly for at least 1 full minute, until the flour is turning brown and no white bits remain.
- Slowly pour in the broth and milk, stirring constantly to prevent any lumps. Pause as needed to break up any lumps. Increase the heat to bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce the heat and let gently bubble until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Adjust the heat as needed so that the liquid retains a rapid simmer.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the vegetables, Greek yogurt, half of the cheddar cheese, mozzarella, Dijon, and thyme until smooth.
- Stir in the shredded chicken and cooked rice.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.
- Bake the chicken and rice casserole until the cheese is melted and the casserole is hot, about 15 minutes. Turn the oven to broil, then continue cooking until the cheese is lightly browned, about 3 additional minutes, watching carefully so that the cheese does not burn. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with parsley or thyme. Let rest 5 minutes, then serve hot.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm casserole in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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