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)

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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 ©Erin Clarke/Well Plated.

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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!