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.
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.
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 (just like this Chicken and Rice Casserole).
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 is the one.
Ingredients for a Healthy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
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.
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.
For other delicious butternut squash recipe ideas, check out my list of Healthy Butternut Squash Recipes.
More Easy and Hearty Casserole Recipes
- Broccoli Rice Casserole
- Healthy Green Bean Casserole
- Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole
- Brussels Sprouts Mac and Cheese
- Spaghetti Squash Casserole
- Brussels Sprouts Gratin
- Healthy Butternut Squash Casserole with Sausage and Sage Breadcrumbs
Tools Used to Make This Recipe
Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole with Butternut Squash and Cranberries
- 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)
- Cook the rice according to package directions. Drain off any excess cooking liquid and set aside.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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