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.
Reasons to Love Chicken and Rice Casserole
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.
It hits every food group in a single pan.
- Veggies, whole grains, and protein. The gang is all here!
- This recipe is made with simple ingredients and lightened-up with everyday swaps like milk and Greek yogurt.
- It skips the “cream of soups” and pre-mixed seasoning packets.
- Change up the veggies — you can use fresh broccoli florets like this Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole,
- Change up the cheese; pepper jack like this Mexican Chicken Casserole is yummy.
- Try a different grain. Instead of brown rice, you can use quinoa like this Broccoli Quinoa Casserole.
- Cook your brown rice in advance and you can stir this together in a snap.
- Frozen veggies make it quick and easy (less chopping!).
- Want to speed it up even more? Use store-bought rotisserie chicken or precooked shredded chicken.
It’s budget friendly.
- Making recipes with rice is an excellent way to stretch your servings and your dollar.
- Frozen vegetables have all the nutrition of fresh, but usually are more affordable and perfectly portioned. This recipe uses frozen mixed vegetables, which typically contain peas, carrots, corn, and green beans.
The Best Chicken and Rice Casserole from Scratch
The key to making the best chicken and rice casserole is to use real-deal ingredients.
Ditch the Campbell’s chicken and rice casserole—you don’t need cream of celery, chicken, or any other soup.
Trust me, homemade is easy and SO much better.
Want a Sunday dinner chicken and rice casserole? It’s all about the from-scratch love!
- 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. To boost this casserole’s nutrition content, I chose to use long grain brown rice (a brown and wild rice mixture will also work) over a white or basmati rice. Brown rice is a good source of fiber and magnesium; I’m all for healthy carbohydrates. 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, binding the casserole and creating 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. Most mixes typically contain corn, peas, carrots, and green beans.
- 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, a little trick to making chicken and rice casserole less boring. You can’t taste it specifically; rather, it helps the dish pop. (This Homemade Hamburger Helper uses it too).
- Dried Thyme. For homey, herby flavor.
- Sauté the onion and garlic in a Dutch oven or large, sturdy-bottomed pot.
- Stir in the flour.
- Pour in the broth and milk, stirring constantly to make the casserole sauce. 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 at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes (no need to cover with aluminum foil). Broil to brown the top. Garnish with herbs, let rest for a few minutes, then ENJOY!
- To Store. Refrigerate leftover chicken and rice casserole in an airtight 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 container or plastic-wrapped bowl 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 Chicken and Rice Casserole
- 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.
You can put uncooked rice in a casserole only if the recipe was designed for it, because you want to make sure the rice has enough liquid and is going to cook through; for this recipe, the rice is cooked first. If you’re looking for a chicken casserole with uncooked rice, check out this Crockpot Chicken and Rice Casserole and this Instant Pot Chicken and Rice.
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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