Chicken and Rice Casserole
I’m not going to tell you that you’ll like this from-scratch Chicken and Rice Casserole without canned soup. 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 improved the recipe to share it with you again today.
Table of contents
Why We Love This Chicken and Rice Casserole Recipe
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.
This recipe has been updated and improved! We have listened to your feedback and reduced the amount of rice, and increased the veggies (yay) and chicken too! We love the way it came out. If you want the original formula, follow the measurements in the note section of the recipe card.
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. Find it in the rice aisle in the grocery store. If you have extra make this recipe for One Pot Chicken and Rice with Spring Veggies recipe next!
- Chicken: We have used 1 1/2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast. But you can also use boneless skinless chicken thigh meat instead. Follow the instructions in our FAQ section if you want to use rotisserie chicken or leftover cooked chicken.
- Veggies: I used a combo of onion, carrots and celery. If you prefer red bell peppers or broccoli they would work instead. To top the casserole, use frozen thawed peas.
- 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.
- Cream Cheese: To give the sauce a bit of body, without the cream of mushroom soup or cream of celery 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. Sour cream is a good alternative if you have that on hand. Either will work well to give it a creamy, tangy old-fashioned chicken casserole vibe, without the additives found in most onion soup mix or cream soup.
- Cheddar Cheese: 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!
- Broth: You can use store bought or homemade chicken broth.
- Seasonings: I used dried thyme, salt and pepper as well as fresh garlic to season our chicken rice casserole. Feel free to jazz this up more to your liking. Add in fresh thyme, a little garlic powder, onion powder or dill weed if you like.
Tip: If you are short on time, feel free to sub in bagged frozen mixed vegetables. Give them a quick sautee to reduce the excess liquid. If you are looking for a way to use up leftover veggies in your crisper or have another combo of vegetables that you like use that instead. Aim for 6 cups total in place of our recommended veggies. Some to try are broccoli, mushrooms and zucchini.
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 skinless chicken breasts 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 38 to 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.
If you’re looking for something to serve with this family favorite, try it with green beans, our sauteed green beans are super popular or my Garlic Mashed Broccoli would be good too. Another option is this classic Garden Salad.
Expert Tips and FAQ’s For This Healthy Chicken And Rice Casserole Recipe
This recipe calls for raw chicken. It cooks through as the casserole bakes. If you want to use up leftover cooked chicken, that works well too! Follow the instructions as directed and omit the chicken. Cover and bake. Then add the cooked chicken on top of the peas in the last 10 minutes of baking. Then top with cheese to finish and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes.
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.
Cover the creamy chicken rice bake with foil and refrigerate up to four days. You can also store individual servings in an airtight container. Keep refrigerated.
Reheat each portion on a microwave-safe plate for 4 minutes or until steaming hot all the way through. Alternatively, the casserole can be reheated in the oven set at 350 degrees F. Keep it covered. Cook until it is hot all the way through. For best results, pour a little broth into the casserole (let it sink to the bottom) to prevent it from browning too much and letting the rice dry out.
More Casseroles To Try
- Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli Made with fresh or frozen chopped broccoli, with crunchy breadcrumb topping.
- Our Chicken Divan is a healthier version of the original classic broccoli chicken casserole.
- 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.
- 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 or this Tater Tot Casserole from Chandice.
Thanks so much for reading! If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my email newsletter to get a free weekly menu plan and the latest recipes right to your inbox. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you thought!
Happy Cooking! ~KatiePrint
Chicken and Rice Casserole Recipe
- Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
IMPROVED RECIPE!! 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! Naturally gluten-free and kid friendly.
- 2 cups instant brown rice
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large sweet onion, diced
- 2 cup finely chopped carrots
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 4 ounces cream cheese, whipped or regular cut into chunks
- 1 1/2 pound chicken breast, cut into cubes
- 1 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, 38 to 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.
Used 3 cups brown instant rice, 4 cups broth, 3/4 cup peas, 1 cup carrots and 1 pound chicken.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 55 minutes
- Category: entree
- Method: oven
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 1/8 casserole
- Calories: 456
- Fat: 22 g
- Saturated Fat: 11 g
- Carbohydrates: 26 g
- Fiber: 3 g
- Protein: 38 g
Keywords: chicken and rice casserole,healthy chicken and rice casserole,chicken and rice casserole without soup,brown rice and chicken casserole
I want to try this, but my husband is on a restricted diet after surgery- no brown rice only white. Could this work with white rice?
I think 2 cups of uncooked white rice would work. I have never tried it, but that’s how I would do it.
Made this tonight. I used uncooked brown rice (not instant) and it took a total of 1hr 25 min for the rice to cook. I used 2 cups of rice and 4 cups of broth (like the recipes calls for) it was delicious! Very moist and flavorful! I’d love to know how to make it with precooked rice!
That is good to know that it worked with regular brown rice. I have to try experimenting to use cooked rice. There would be too much broth (because it would already have absorbed it’s capacity.) My guess is we would want some sort of creamy sauce to bind it. I’ll get back to you if I come up with anything.
Always looking for casserole type recipes without canned soup. I really try to cut back on salt.
So glad you like this one. Simply skip the added salt in this if you like and look for low salt broth.
Pretty darn good! Even though I overbaked about 10 minutes. I added about 1 C sliced mushrooms sautéed a few days ago. Next time I’ll try a full cup of peas. How about cutting the chicken breast in small fillets to save time?
Hi Susan! So glad you liked this. The chicken chunks cook pretty fast as is, it is more a factor of the rice absorbing the liquid in time. (Love the addition of mushrooms! I have to try that!)
Could I make this with precooked rice from a rice cooker and how would you modify? Thanks!
I think that should work. I would use much less broth. Maybe just a cup. Let me know if you try it.
Does it have to be instant rice?
I have to test it out but my guess is that it would work fine. You could start by trying it with two cups of regular brown rice, and if you have it use boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of breast. The rice will take longer/ My guess is close to an hour. Breast would dry out in that time, but thigh meat will be fine. Let me know if you try it!
How many people does this chicken rice recipe serve?
It serves 6 people. Let me know how it comes out!
Can I use basmati or jasmine rice? Is so, would I need to change the liquid amount and/or cooking time? Thanks in advance! (This recipe sounds just plain yummy).
HI Gail. I have not tried that. I should! My thought is that you can. I would say use 2 cups of white basmaiti or white jasmine and 4 cups broth and cook an additional 10 minutes. Just make sure in step 5 that the liquid is absorbed before removing the foil and topping with cheese.
My picky eater kids (Ages 4-11) loved it. Said it was awesome. Thank you! I will be trying more of your meals!!
I am thrilled to hear it! Let me know what else you try Charissa!
I absolutely LOVE this recipe. Very flavorful. I was looking for recipes that would make a couple meals and now this is my “pandemic pantry” favorite as well as new family favorite! Also- I am from VT and recognize you from CVCF, small world . Thank you and look forward to trying more of your recipes!
Welcome to my corner of the internet Robyn. So glad you discovered my website and that you love this recipe too. Let me know if you try any other recipes! I’m totally missing the gym right now, as I am sure you are too! Stay safe and hope to see you IRL soon.
I love this recipe.
Do you have any suggestions on using regular brown rice instead of instant?
I haven’t tried it before. You could start by trying it with two cups of regular brown rice, and if you have it use boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of breast. The rice will take longer/ My guess is close to an hour. Breast would dry out in that time, but thigh meat will be fine. Let me know if you try it!
I had about 3 cups leftover brown and white rice so I combined the two and parboiled 3/4 cup of white rice to add to the mix. Because most of my rice was already cooked, I ended up not adding all the broth to the pan as I was afraid it would be soupy. I should have added it! My parboiled rice wasn’t fully cooked, but that’s okay, gave the dish a little crunch. LOL. Everyone said dinner was excellent regardless. Thanks for an easy to prepare one-dish dinner that didn’t require canned soup. Oh, two of the girls did say it needed more salt. I liked it as-is. Oh, for added flavor, we put a dollop of low fat sour cream to our dishes. YUMMY!
Good to know about the parboiled rice. Thanks so much for coming back to let me know how it went Vicki!
Could I use whole grain rotini noodles instead of rice?
I have not tried that Jamie. My guess is that you would have to play around with the amount of liquid. I am not sure if the noodles will absorb as much broth as the rice does.
Tried this recipe today. I had leftover rotisserie chicken. It was delicious. Happy that it didn’t need canned soup. Happy to use brown rice. Happy with this recipe. Thank you.
That is so great to hear. Thank you for coming back to review it!
Is this a freezer friendly recipe? If so pre or post bake? Thank you
Hi Laura. Yes, you can bake it first, then freeze.