american/ Dinner/ meat/ rice

Chicken broccoli rice casserole (from scratch!)

26 August 2020

Amazing chicken broccoli rice casserole made simply from scratch. This is the most amazing version of this popular casserole that I’ve ever eaten! There’s juicy and tender chicken, broccoli, rice, flavorful homemade mushroom sauce (quick and easy!), all covered with sharp cheddar cheese and crunchy breadcrumb parmesan topping. This amazing dish is loved by our whole family, is easy to reheat and freeze. Try my take on this casserole!

Chicken broccoli rice casserole in a white baking dish
one serving of Chicken broccoli rice casserole on a white plate, silver fork on the side

Ingredients:

This is what you’ll need to make this delicious casserole:

  • Chicken – I used chicken breast and combined it with Italian seasoning and garlic powder. You can also use other spices or spice mixes that you like. Also, if you have time, I recommend marinating the chicken, to make it even more flavorful and juicy. You can also use boneless and skinless chicken thighs and chop them into smaller pieces.
  • Broccoli – instead of broccoli you can use cauliflower, zucchini, or green beans but I think the broccoli works here best. You can also use frozen broccoli – you just have to thaw it and drain from the excess water. There is no need to cook it as it was already blanched before being frozen.
  • Rice – I used regular long-grain rice. You can also use Jasmin rice, which has a similar cooking time, or brown rice – which you have to cook for a longer period of time. I haven’t tested this recipe with other rice varieties or minute/instant rice.
  • Cheese – the best is sharp cheddar cheese.
ingredients needed to prepare chicken broccoli rice casserole - part 1

Additionally, we’re making quick and easy mushroom sauce and breadcrumb parmesan topping.

For the mushroom sauce I used:

  • cremini mushroom – you can use button mushrooms instead (cremini mushrooms are just a little bit more delicious than button mushrooms, in my opinion)
  • broth – use chicken broth or vegetable broth or water + crushed good-quality broth cubes, if you don’t have any of these ingredients on hand, use milk or just water
  • cream – if you want to reduce calories, use milk instead
  • milk – I added it to make the sauce a little more light, you can use cream instead, or just water
  • amazing seasonings – lemon juice, Dijon mustard
  • flour – makes the sauce instantly thick

For the breadcrumb topping you only need:

  • butter
  • breadcrumbs – you can use regular breadcrumbs or Panko breadcrumbs which are more crunchy
  • grated Parmesan cheese – can be omitted if you don’t have it on hand, but use more breadcrumbs insteads
ingredients needed to prepare chicken broccoli rice casserole - part 2

Change it up a bit:

  • use a different protein – for example, salmon would be great here! Treat it like the chicken – chop into smaller pieces, stir with spices and add raw to the other ingredients
  • use pasta instead of rice – you should also undercook the pasta – cook it about 2 minutes shorter than it says on the package
  • use a different kind of cheese – the best is sharp cheddar cheese but alternatively, you can use other cheese that you like, like Swiss cheese or mozzarella, but since their flavor is much milder I would add additional grated Parmesan cheese to the casserole
  • use different veggies – cauliflower or zucchini would also be great
  • make it vegetarian – omit the chicken and just add more broccoli or other veggies!

Step by step instructions:

cooked rice in a pot, marinated chicken on a plate, cooked broccoli in a pot

STEP 1: Start with cooking the rice. It’s important that the rice is a little undercooked since it will be baked later in the oven. I’m usually cooking the rice for about 15 minutes, but for this recipe. I’m only cooking it for 10 minutes. You don’t have to drain the rice.

STEP 2: Dice the chicken and mix it with the spices. Don’t cook the chicken!! This is one of the things that makes this recipe amazing. Diced chicken breasts don’t need much time to be cooked through – adding raw meat to the casserole makes the meat tender and perfectly juicy as it also soaks up the mushroom sauce. I’ve tried browning the chicken first (but not cooking it through) and then adding it to the other casserole ingredients but it came out much drier.

STEP 3: Cook the broccoli – broccoli should also be undercooked as it will continue to cook in the oven. Instead of cooking the broccoli in a pot of boiling water, you can also steam it if you have a steamer. I usually steam the broccoli in a sieve hung over a pot filled with boiling water, then cover the sieve with a lid. In this case, there’s just too much broccoli to steam it this way – you would have to stir the broccoli all the time to ensure that all the florets are evenly cooked – it takes too much time for me. The broccoli stem is also edible – just peel it and chop into cubes.

a collage of three photos showing preparation steps of mushroom sauce

STEP 4 (photos 4,5,6): Next, we’re making the mushroom sauce: Quickly brown the mushrooms with butter in a pan for more flavor. Try to not stir it at first, letting them brown a little, then add all the other ingredients for the sauce, stir and cook for about 1 minute. That’s it!

a collage of two photos showing preparation steps of breadcrumb topping

STEP 5 (photos 7,8): we’re making the crunchy topping: Melt the butter in a pot, then stir in the breadcrumbs, then stir in the Parmesan cheese. You need to add them in that order – if you add the cheese directly to the hot melted butter it will clump! So first we’re stirring the butter with the breadcrumbs and then with the cheese.

assembling steps of chicken broccoli rice casserole

STEP 6: Now it’s time to assemble the casserole (photos 9,10,11,12): Add all the prepared ingredients into a large casserole dish (cooked rice, broccoli, mushroom sauce, raw chicken, a little bit of grated cheddar) and stir together.

assembling steps of chicken broccoli rice casserole

Next, layer the remaining cheddar cheese on top and cover with the breadcrumb topping.

STEP 7: Bake the casserole: in an oven preheated to 375°F / 190°C for about 25-30 minutes. Try to not cook it longer to not overcook the chicken. The casserole is ready when the breadcrumb topping is golden brown and the chicken cooked through. If after this time the topping is not golden yet, you can turn on the fan or move the baking dish under the broiler to quickly brown the topping. Leave the casserole for 5-10 minutes to rest then dive in !!

ENJOY!

chicken broccoli rice casserole in a white baking dish with one serving missing

Top tips for making the perfect chicken broccoli and rice casserole:

  1. The rice and broccoli should be undercooked – they will continue to cook in the oven. This ensure that the rice is not mushy and the broccoli still a little crispy.
  2. Add raw chicken to the casserole – the chicken will not be overcooked and super juicy as it soaks up the mushroom sauce.
  3. For extra flavor use sharp cheddar cheese and not a mild variety.
  4. Don’t omit the topping – it makes this casserole so amazing!

Storing and freezing options:

How to make ahead: theoretically, you can prepare all the ingredients for the casserole, assemble them and bake it later but I don’t recommend it. Rice absorbs the sauce and it becomes super mushy. The topping will be also less crunchy. Alternatively, you can prepare all the ingredients and store them separately from the sauce and the topping. Then assemble it right before the baking.

How to store this casserole: Store baked casserole in the fridge for up to 4 days. Wrap the dish in plastic foil. Reheat whole or just some of the servings. I like to reheat it in the oven. I place the dish in a cold oven and turn it to 375°F/190°C and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the casserole is warm and the topping crunchy (if the topping is rather soggy and not crunchy, you can turn on the fan or move the dish under the broiler).

How to freeze it: I like to portion the casserole into servings and freeze it this way rather than whole as it just takes much quicker to thaw it but both are possible. I like to thaw it in the fridge overnight and then just warm up like described above. You can also place it in the oven straight from the freezer and bake at 320°F/160°C (starting with a cold oven) until thawed and warm – this, unfortunately, won’t be quick – you’ll need about an hour (just for 1 serving). If the topping is not crunchy increase the temperature and bake it longer or turn on the fan/move the baking dish under the broiler. The casserole that has been frozen tastes the same as freshly made, the topping can also be very crunchy but the rice is super mushy which can not be avoided.

one serving of chicken broccoli rice casserole on a white plate, blue kitchen towel in the background

Other casserole recipes you may like:

Chicken broccoli rice casserole (from scratch)

Amazing chicken broccoli rice casserole made simply from scratch. There's juicy and tender chicken, broccoli, rice, flavorful homemade mushroom sauce (quick and easy!), all covered with sharp cheddar cheese and crunchy breadcrumb parmesan topping.
chicken broccoli rice casserole
Print Recipe
0 from 0 votes
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 720kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

Casserole:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 medium chicken breasts 1 1/2 lb / 675g
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1.5 cups rice 300g/10.5-oz
  • 1 lb 450g broccoli, 1 large broccoli or 2 small
  • 7 oz 200g sharp cheddar cheese, about 2 cups shredded cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mushroom sauce:

  • 1/2 lb 225g mushrooms, I used cremini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • salt and pepper to taste

Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons butter 45g
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs 55g
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan 45g

Instructions

  • Cook the rice: rinse 1.5 cups rice under cold water, drain. Add to a medium pot, salt to taste, and add 3 cups of boiling water. Bring the water to the boil then cook over very low heat, covered, for 10 minutes (I would normally cook it for 15 minutes). The rice should be a little undercooked. You don't have to drain the rice.
  • Cook the broccoli: cut 1 lb (450g) broccoli into small florets, add to a large pot filled with salted water, cook for about 2-3 minutes, until partially soft and partially crunchy. Drain the broccoli and rinse with cold water.
  • Prepare the chicken: cut 4 medium chicken breasts into 1-inch (2-3 cm) cubes, season with salt, pepper, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning, and 1 Tbsp garlic powder. Set aside.
  • Make the mushroom sauce: Cut 1/2 lb (225g) mushrooms into 1/4-inch (5mm) half-slices. Heat 2 Tbsp butter in a big frying pan. Add the mushrooms in an even layer. Cook them over high heat for about 2 minutes, letting the mushrooms brown. Stir the mushrooms, then add all the other ingredients for the sauce (1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup cream, 1/2 cup broth, 1 ts lemon juice, 1 ts Dijon mustard, 2 Tbsp flour), bring the sauce to the boil and cook, stirring for about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Make the breadcrumb topping: Melt the butter in a small pot, take the pot off the heat. Stir in 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs until combined, then 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C / Gas Mark 5 (no fan, if you have a convection oven reduce the temperature by about 20° or follow the manufacturer's instructions).
  • Assemble the casserole: Add the cooked rice, broccoli, uncooked chicken, 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese, and mushroom sauce into a 9×13 inch (23×33 cm) casserole dish and mix together. Top with the remaining grated cheddar, then with the breadcrumb topping.
  • Bake (uncovered) for about 25-30 minutes or until the breadcrumb topping is golden and the chicken is cooked through. Try to not cook it longer to not overcook the chicken. If after this time the topping is not golden yet, you can turn on the fan or move the baking dish under the broiler to quickly brown the topping.
  • Set aside for 5-10 minutes before cutting into servings to allow the casserole to set a little.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • Ingredient notes:
    • Chicken – You can also use boneless and skinless chicken thighs and chop them into smaller pieces. Instead of chicken you can use salmon, treat it like chicken and add raw to the casserole. You can also make this vegetarian – omit the chicken and add more veggies instead.
    • Broccoli – instead of broccoli you can use cauliflower, zucchini, or green. You can also use frozen broccoli – you just have to thaw it and drain from the excess water. There is no need to cook it.
    • Rice – I used regular long-grain rice. You can also use Jasmin rice, which has a similar cooking time, or brown rice – which you have to cook for a longer period of time. I haven’t tested this recipe with other rice varieties or minute/instant rice.
    • Use can use pasta instead of rice – cook it about 2 minutes shorter than it says on the package.
    • Cheese – the best is sharp cheddar cheese. You can use other cheese that you like, like Swiss cheese or mozzarella, but since their flavor is much milder I would add additional grated Parmesan cheese to the casserole.
    • Cremini mushroom – you can use button mushrooms instead.
    • Broth – use chicken broth or vegetable broth or water + crushed good-quality broth cubes, if you don’t have any of these ingredients on hand, use milk or just water.
    • Cream – if you want to reduce calories, use milk instead.
    • Milk – I added it to make the sauce a little more light, you can use cream instead, or just water.
    • Breadcrumbs – you can use regular breadcrumbs or Panko breadcrumbs which are more crunchy.
    • Grated Parmesan cheese – can be omitted if you don’t have it on hand, but use more breadcrumbs instead.
  • Storing and freezing options:
    • How to make ahead: theoretically, you can prepare all the ingredients for the casserole, assemble them and bake it later but I don’t recommend it. Rice absorbs the sauce and it becomes super mushy. The topping will be also less crunchy. Alternatively, you can prepare all the ingredients and store them separately from the sauce and the topping. Then assemble it right before the baking.
    • How to store this casserole: Store baked casserole in the fridge for up to 4 days. Wrap the dish in plastic foil. Reheat whole or just some of the servings. I like to reheat it in the oven. I place the dish in a cold oven and turn it to 375°F/190°C and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the casserole is warm and the topping crunchy (if the topping is rather soggy and not crunchy, you can turn on the fan or move the dish under the broiler).
    • How to freeze it: I like to portion the casserole into servings and freeze it this way rather than whole as it just takes much quicker to thaw it but both are possible. I like to thaw it in the fridge overnight and then just warm up like described above. You can also place it in the oven straight from the freezer and bake at 320°F/160°C (starting with a cold oven) until thawed and warm – this, unfortunately, won’t be quick – you’ll need about an hour (just for 1 serving). If the topping is not crunchy increase the temperature and bake it longer or turn on the fan/move the baking dish under the broiler. The casserole that has been frozen tastes the same as freshly made, the topping can also be very crunchy but the rice is super mushy which can not be avoided.
  • Calories = 1/6 of the recipe = 1 serving. This is only an estimate!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword chicken broccoli rice casserole, chicken broccoli rice casserole from scratch, chicken rice broccoli casserole

Did you make this recipe? Let me know how you liked it and give it a star rating in the comments below! You can also add a photo of your creation!

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