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.

Chicken and Rice Casserole with Cheese on top

I originally 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.

Okay maybe I am laying it on a bit strong, but this Chicken and Rice Casserole recipe… it’s good. Like really, really good. And it is made entirely from scratch with fresh veggies, chicken breast and brown rice with cheese on top!


How to Make Healthy Chicken and Rice Casserole Without Canned Soup

Soften the Vegetables

  • First start with softening the fresh veggies in a skillet.
  • I used a combo of onion, carrots, celery and garlic 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.

Cook with Butter

  • 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.

Make Sauce

  • After the veggies are softened, make the sauce which is a combo of broth and cream cheese. The heat melts the cream cheese right into the broth and it takes on a tangy creamy flavor – IMO –>  totally casserole appropriate!
  • If you happen to find it, whipped cream cheese melts into the sauce more easily.

Layer The Casserole

  • Layer the ingredients into a casserole dish.
  • Start with the rice. Note: the rice is Brown Minute Rice, which is par-cooked and dehydrated brown rice. So it is whole-grain, but cooks quickly.
  • On top of the rice, add on the veggies, the cubed chicken, then pour on the broth mixture.
  • Last add on thawed peas, cover with foil and transfer to the oven.

Add Cheese After Foil is Removed. 

  • After the rice is cooked and has soaked up all the sauce, remove the cover and add on shredded cheese.
  • I like to grate my cheese by hand for a recipe like this. Bagged shredded cheese is awesome and convenient, but it is coated in starch to keep it from clumping together in the package. That inhibits it from melting together too unfortunately. So if you want maximum cheesiness (who doesn’t) then shred your cheese by hand.
  • Today I used orange NY Sharp cheddar cheese but white cheddar would work great too.
  • Add that on top of the casserole, and pop it back in the oven to melt.

Let it Sit

  • I let the casserole sit for about 10 minutes to cool down a bit before we dug into it. I also added on some fresh parsley on top to make it prettier.
  • If you’re looking for something to serve with this recipe, try my Garlic Mashed Broccoli or my classic Garden Salad

Do I Cook Rice Before Adding It In A Casserole?

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. Note that this recipe used uncooked instant brown rice which is a partially cooked rice. Which means it will absorb less broth than regular brown rice. 

How To Sub Regular Brown Rice:

A lot of folks have asked if they can make this recipe with regular brown rice. To do so, use two cups of regular brown rice. The rice will take longer to become tender and absorb the liquid, close to an hour. 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. 

Do You Cook Chicken Before Putting It In A Casserole

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. 

close-up of chicken and rice casserole

Step By Step Photos To Make This Recipe

Before I go, and you head off to print the recipe, I feel I should confess I sat down to write this post eleven billion hours ago but have ended up on an internet Odyssey of inadvertently delighting in learning about all sorts of casserole related lexicon.

Facts About Traditional Casseroles

For example, do you know what a Hotdish is? 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?

A gray table with Chicken and Rice Casserole

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.

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. For example, Chicken Divan does not have the starch part of the meal in it. It would be served over noodles or rice.

Chicken and Rice casserole on two white plates on a gray table

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

A gray table with Chicken and Rice Casserole


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!



close-up of chicken and rice casserole

chicken and rice casserole

  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: entree
  • Method: baking
  • Cuisine: American


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


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9 by 12 baking dish with cooking spray. Spread rice on top.
  2. 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.
  3. Add broth to the skillet, increase heat to high and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, and whisk in cream cheese until melted.
  4. Top rice and vegetables with chicken and peas. Pour in broth mixture, gently so as not to disturb the chicken and rice too much.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

A close-up overhead of chicken and rice casserole with text overlay