Creamy Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole From Scratch
I’m not going to tell you that you’ll like this from-scratch (NO CANNED SOUP) Chicken and Rice Casserole. No, I am not. Instead I am going to tell you that you are going to fall head over heels, like tell everyone that you know, sing from the rooftops, in love with it.
I shared this recipe on december 10, 2018. I have updated the text and added step by step photos to share it with you again today.
Why This Recipe Works
If you are looking for a comfort food dinner that really satisfies then this is your winner winner chicken dinner. The whole family will fall in love with the creamy cheesy chicken and rice casserole. And the best part of all is that it is made from scratch without any canned soup!
The layers of this casserole are made up of sauteed fresh veggies, chicken breast and brown rice with cheese on top! It is held together with an easy sauce made from broth and cream cheese.
It is a great meal to make for a Sunday supper and can be reheated for lunches. You can feel great about serving it as a one dish dinner or along with a salad because it is filled with veggies, whole grain brown rice and lean chicken breast.
Ingredients For This Recipe
Instant Brown Rice or Minute Brown Rice
The rice is Brown Minute Rice, which is par-cooked and dehydrated brown rice. So it is whole-grain, but cooks quickly. Look for “minute” “quick” or “instant” on the packaging. I also used it in this recipe for One Pot Chicken and Rice with Spring Veggies.
- I used a combo of onion, carrots, celery and garlic cooked in a little bit of butter. If you prefer red bell peppers or broccoli they would work instead.
- I would use the onion no matter what for the best flavor.
- To top the casserole, use frozen thawed peas.
- Why butter instead of oil? I used butter because I wanted the casserole to taste classic and buttery!
- I used two tablespoons, and it does add a subtle butter flavor.
- If you prefer to use extra-virgin olive oil it will work fine.
To give the sauce a bit of body, without the cream of mushroom soup some recipes call for, I used whipped cream cheese. Just whisk it right into the broth and it will melt in. Regular cream cheese also works, but may be a bit trickier to whisk in.
I used pre-shredded sharp cheddar cheese. I love using stronger flavored cheeses in healthier comfort food recipes because you can get away with using a little less, but they still add lots of cheesy flavors!
How to Make Chicken and Rice Casserole
Step 1: Preheat the oven, coat the baking dish with cooking spray and layer the dry minute rice in the bottom of the casserole dish.
Step 2: Saute the veggies in oil to soften them. Add in the seasonings.
Step 3: Top the rice with the sauteed veggies, spreading out in an even layer.
Step 4: Top with the chunks of chicken and then peas on top.
Step 5: Heat the sauce up in the skillet, and whisk any browned bits from cooking the veggies. When it simmers, whisk in the cream cheese. If using regular cream cheese, it may appear a little lumpy but it will melt into the casserole as it bakes.
Step 6: Pour the sauce over the casserole taking care not to dislodge the chicken and peas too much.
Step 7: Cover the casserole dish with foil and carefully transfer it to the oven to bake. Bake it until the liquid is absorbed or about 45 minutes.
Step 8: Remove the foil and top with cheese. Bake again until the cheese is melted.
Let the casserole sit for about 10 minutes to cool down a bit before digging in. If you like you can also add on some fresh parsley on top to make it prettier.
Expert Tips and FAQ’s For This Recipe
This recipe calls for raw chicken. It cooks through as the casserole bakes. If you want to use up leftover cooked chicken, you can use it, but it may be a bit dry. Using dark meat would be preferable as it doesn’t dry out as much.
Yes. To do so, use two cups of regular brown rice and four cups broth. The rice will take longer to become tender and absorb the liquid, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. You’ll want to consider swapping in chicken thighs for the breast because they would dry out an hour of baking. The thigh meat will be fine.
You do not need to pre-cook the rice before making this casserole. I have accounted for the amount of moisture the veggies will let off and the amount of broth needed to perfectly cook the rice through.
More Information About Traditional Casseroles
Hotdish: A hotdish is a casserole from the Midwest that is usually made with canned cream soup, veggies (usually frozen or canned) and some sort of starch. One of the most famous kinds of hot dish involves tater tots on top! Check out this Tater Tot Hot Dish Recipe from Amanda’s site. Drool! I do not think I can go through life without trying it. It sounds too strange to not be good. And everything in moderation, right?
Furthermore, I learned that whereas a Hotdish always includes sauce, veggie, starch and almost always a protein, Casseroles do not have to have all of those components.
Covered Dish: I also learned that a “covered dish” is not a covered dish at all. It’s actually a party where everyone brings a dish to share. Like a potluck. You could definitely bring a casserole to a covered dish party!
For example, Chicken Divan does not have the starch part of the meal in it. It would be served over noodles or rice.
This Chicken and Rice casserole, while not a traditional hot dish, does contain the requisite components of one: creamy sauce, starch, protein and veggies. Though without the canned soup nor tater tots, I can’t really see that it would be considered one.
More Casseroles To Try
- Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli Made with fresh or frozen chopped broccoli, with crunchy breadcrumb topping.
- These Stuffed Shells with Spinach have a secret healthy ingredient mixed in!
- Macaroni and Cheese with Butternut Squash A grown-up mac and cheese if ever there were one, made with rosemary and Gruyere Cheese
- Chicken and Biscuits Casserole On the best-of list- not to be missed!
- Easy Chicken Enchiladas come together super fast, or this Layered Chicken Enchilada Casserole with homemade enchilada sauce is also a popular recipe.
- My Mexican Chicken Casserole is made with leftover chicken.
- If you’re looking for an alternative to canned cream of chicken soup, try this from scratch condensed Gluten-free Cream of Chicken Soup.
If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a review and star rating! I appreciate it so much! And if you’re new here you may want to sign up for my email newsletter and join the conversation over on instagram.
Thanks for reading and Happy Cooking!
Chicken and Rice Casserole- a healthy from-scratch version made without canned soup! Whole-grain quick cooking brown rice, lean chicken breast, creamy sauce and fresh veggies bakes up to make a complete meal! 441 cal, 31 g protein! Naturally gluten-free and kid friendly.
3 cups instant brown rice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry thyme
½ teaspoon pepper
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 ounces cream cheese, whipped or regular cut into chunks
1 pound chicken breast, cut into cubes
3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish, optional
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9 by 12 baking dish with cooking spray. Spread rice on top.
- Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic, salt, thyme and pepper, and cook stirring often until the vegetables are just starting to brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Scrape vegetable mixture out onto the rice, covering evenly.
- Top rice and vegetables with chicken and peas.
- Add broth to the skillet, increase heat to high and bring to a simmer. Whisk in cream cheese until melted.
- Pour in broth mixture, gently so as not to disturb the chicken and rice too much.
- Cover with foil and transfer to the oven. Bake until the chicken is cooked through and the rice has absorbed the liquid, about 45 minutes.
- Remove foil, top with cheese and return to the oven until melted, about 10 minutes. Let rest uncovered for 10 minutes and serve hot garnished with parsley if desired.
To Make This Ahead: I would prepare it through step 3. Then, let the broth mixture cool. Then continue building the casserole as directed. Cover with foil and refrigerate for a day. Then continue on as directed, adding 20 minutes of extra time before removing the foil and adding cheese.
To Freeze It: Bake as directed, then freeze. Thaw and then rewarm, covered with foil in the oven at 350 degrees F until steaming hot all the way through, 25 to 35 minutes.
- Serving Size: 1/6 casserole
- Calories: 441
- Fat: 19 g
- Saturated Fat: 10 g
- Carbohydrates: 41 g
- Fiber: 5 g
- Protein: 31 g