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This chicken and rice casserole is healthier than most–filled with veggies, brown rice, and chicken–but still creamy, cheesy, and comforting!
About This Recipe
Looking for a delicious casserole that DOESN’T include canned soup or other junky ingredients? This is it!
I worked hard (many, many tests and tweaks over the years!) to include lots of veggies and real food ingredients yet make sure this casserole lives up to its traditional reputation as comfort food.
This chicken casserole has the perfect balance of creaminess, comfort, crunch, and healthiness, in my humble opinion.
Ingredients in Chicken and Rice Casserole
Like I mentioned, the old school chicken and rice casserole of yore included canned cream soup filled with additives, preservatives, salt, and sugar that’s pretty terrible for your body. But…this casserole sacrifices none of the flavor you remember while being filled with good-for-you ingredients!
Here’s what you’ll need on hand…
- Veggies: onion, carrots, celery, broccoli, & garlic
- Seasonings: poultry seasoning, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper
- Cooked chicken
- Cooked brown rice
- Sour cream
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Panko breadcrumbs – I like to use whole wheat. You can also make your own breadcrumbs.
Video: How to Make Chicken and Rice Casserole
Before getting started, check out how this delicious meal comes together…
Step-by-Step Overview of the Recipe
Now, let me give you a visual walk-through of this recipe so you’re armed and ready to create this luscious casserole yourself.
Step 1: Saute & Season the Veggies
Chop all the veggies fairly small and uniformly and then saute until soft. You’ll season them with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, and Italian seasoning. Set them aside.
Step 2: Mix Together the Wet Ingredients
Here’s comes the comfort factor! In a large mixing bowl, you’ll stir together broth, sour cream (or plain, full-fat Greek yogurt would work), shredded cheddar cheese, and grated Parmesan cheese.
Step 3: Stir in the Chicken, Veggies, and Brown Rice
Add in the cooked chicken, sautéed veggies, and cooked brown rice to the wet ingredients and stir to combine.
Step 4: Combine Everything in Casserole Dish
Add the mixture to a greased 9×13 inch casserole dish.
Mix Panko Breadcrumbs with Oil
Stir a little bit of olive oil into the Panko. The oil will ensure that they brown up in the oven. You can use whole wheat Panko or gluten-free dry breadcrumbs if you prefer.
Step 6: Top with Panko Breadcrumbs
Top the casserole with an even layer of the breadcrumbs. This will provide a little crunch on top.
Step 6: Bake
Bake at 375°F for about 25-30 minutes or until it’s golden on the top and the sides are bubbly.
Step 7: Serve
Serve warm with a simple side salad for a delightful, family-friendly dinner!
Can You Freeze Chicken and Rice Casserole?
Absolutely! Like all of our freezer meal recipes, we offer freezing instructions for the best result. We’ve learned that it’s ideal to freeze casseroles before baking so they turn out tasting fresh.
How to Freeze For Later: Follows Steps 2-5 in the recipe below. Do not bake the casserole. Tightly wrap the dish in a few layers of plastic wrap or foil, pressing out any air. Freeze.
How to Prepare From Frozen: Thaw the casserole completely (24-48 hours in the fridge is best). Set the casserole on the counter and preheat the oven to 375°F. Follow Step 6 in the recipe.
Be sure to double this recipe while you’re at it and freeze one for later. What a great use of your time in the kitchen!
What to Serve with Chicken and Rice Casserole
From salads to other sides, here are some tasty serving suggestions.
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- 2–3 tablespoons avocado or olive oil, divided
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 2 large carrots, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 2–3 celery ribs, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 2 cups finely chopped broccoli (sub: cauliflower)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground poultry seasoning
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 cups diced or shredded cooked chicken* (great use of leftover Rotisserie chicken)
- 2 cups cooked brown rice (here’s how to make it in the Instant Pot)
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (sub: shredded Asiago cheese)
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (finely shredded melts best)
- 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs (I prefer whole wheat; or use dry gluten-free breadcrumbs)
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Make It Now:
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 9×13 inch casserole dish with cooking spray.
- Heat 1-2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmery, sauté the onion, carrots, celery, and broccoli for about 5 minutes, just until very soft. Add in the garlic during the last 30-60 seconds. Season with poultry seasoning, Italian seasoning, and lightly with salt and pepper while veggies cook. Remove from the heat.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sour cream and chicken stock. Then stir in Parmesan cheese and cheddar cheese. Lastly, add the cooked chicken, cooked brown rice, and sautéed veggies and stir to combine.
- Spoon the rice mixture into the casserole dish and press down to evenly distribute.
- In a separate small bowl, combine bread crumbs and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Evenly distribute on top of the casserole. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
- Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until casserole is slightly bubbling around the edges. Broil for 1-2 minutes at the end, if the top isn’t brown enough. Serve warm.
Freeze For Later: Follows Steps 2-5. Do not bake. Tightly wrap the dish in a few layers of plastic wrap or foil, pressing out any air. Freeze.
Prepare From Frozen: Thaw completely (24-48 hours in the fridge is best). Set the casserole on the counter and preheat the oven to 375°F. Follow Step 6.
*How to Pre-Cook the Chicken: Season 2-3 chicken breasts liberally with salt and pepper. Bake at 400°F for about 20-30 minutes (until no longer pink inside or register 165°F internally). Let rest on wooden cutting board for 5-10 minutes and then shred or dice the chicken.
Gluten-Free Version: Leave off the breadcrumbs or use almond meal or dry gluten-free breadcrumbs.
Can I Make a Dairy-Free Version? I don’t recommend this, as the sour cream and cheese are a vital part of this recipe’s success.
Vegetarian Version: Leave out the chicken and double the amount of veggies.
Tip: To add in some color, add 2-3 tablespoons of minced fresh parsley to the wet mixture.