Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole

My family LOVE’S this Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole!

It’s one of those dishes that is so perfect in its pure, wholesome, simplicity that they just can’t get enough of it!

Chicken, rice, broccoli, all baked in a super, super, creamy, easy sauce, then topped off with lots of gooey cheese and buttery bread crumbs….. Now that’s what I call comfort food!  Seriously, the crunchy, cheesy topping is absolutely to die for.

Doesn’t that sound yummy?  Well, let me tell you, it’s a snap to put together as well.  Easy Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole…….Who doesn’t love an easy and delicious dinner recipe to make  for a weeknight meal? Use a flavorful and convenient rotisserie chicken or maybe leftover chicken you already have on hand and dinners almost done! A few more ingredients tossed in a you’ve got a winner, winner chicken dinner!  Done right!!!

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Are you looking for a recipe for your pickiest eaters? Want a recipe that includes a nice amount of veggies, even picky eaters will like? Well, friend, here it is.  You can use fresh  or frozen broccoli.  See the notes below to choose which broccoli is right for you 🙂

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This recipe is similar to, but differs slightly from, Chicken Divan in that the sauce is ultimately a bit lighter tasting.  The Chicken Divan recipe that I first learned to make decades ago had a lot of mayonnaise in the sauce with a bit of fresh lemon juice in its base. No mayonnaise in this sauce. It also is different in that this dish has rice included in it and Chicken Divan doesn’t.

-Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole 16 You can mix all of the filling ingredients in one large mixing bowl. I mixed the sauce ingredients in a separate small bowl just for the photo. I wanted you to see the ratio of sauce to the ratio of other ingredients. This recipe makes a really moist and creamy casserole without being too soupy. Don’t you just a hate dry casserole!

Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole

Recipe Notes:

General:

Honestly, this couldn’t be easier to fix.  It really should be called Easy Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole!
First, mix together your ingredients in a bowl, top the mixture with cheddar cheese then some buttery panko bread crumbs, bake et viola! You have deliciousness all warm and bubbly in a 9X13 inch baking dish. Pop under the broiler to give this dish, it’s perfect golden~brown delicious color. Easy comfort food at its finest!

This casserole can be made ahead of time, just wait to make and apply the toppings until ready to bake.

I hope this Chicken Broccoli Cheese Rice Casserole  becomes a favorite in your house too!

Chicken

Let’s talk about the chicken in the casserole. Just about any cooked chicken you have on hand will work in this recipe.

This recipe works great using rotisserie chicken. You just can’t beat them. They’re beautifully cooked and all of the meat is deliciously seasoned, not just the skin! Every time I’m at Costco, I always pick up an extra rotisserie chicken to use in recipes like this. In fact, whenever my family sees  me come home with a Costco chicken, THIS is the recipe everyone begs me to make!!!

Another type of chicken that I occasionally use in this recipe is leftover grilled chicken. It works great. It seems like, after I have a big family barbecue, I always have a few leftover pieces of chicken. I’ll whip this casserole the next day using the extra chicken and the whole family is happy.

If you want to start with uncooked chicken, simply simmer it, chop or shred it, then it’s all ready to use in the casserole.

Broccoli:

How about some broccoli.  If you use fresh broccoli, chop it fairly small, into about 1/2 an inch pieces. It will cook up, in about 30 minutes, to the texture of ‘al dente’.  The pieces will be slightly soft with a good amount of chew left in them. If you want the fresh broccoli, cooked very soft, you may need to  increase your overall cook time a bit to get the broccoli to the tenderness you desire.

If you want a broccoli that’s cooked until it’s really soft, I suggest starting with frozen, very well thawed broccoli, and chopping it into 1/2 inch pieces. Make sense?

I don’t like using already cooked (like leftover) broccoli in this casserole. I find that it breaks up too much for my tastes.  Instead of getting a piece of broccoli in the finished casserole you get tiny flecks of it throughout the whole thing.

Variations:

This recipe is really versatile and can be customized to your tastes. Sometimes, when I have extra time on my hands, I make the casserole with half of a chopped onion, slowly sauteed and cooled, then added to the casserole at step 2 making it 9 ingredients.

Another variation that is super popular in my house is to add 1 cup of cooked and crumbled bacon to the casserole.

Then, occasionally, I switch up the topping, substituting the Panko crumbs with the same amount of crushed corn flakes.

Another topping variation we really like is simply using crushed Ritz crackers or Chicken In The Basket Crackers as a topping instead of the panko.

My family absolutely loves this casserole and I serve it often, so, I like to have all the variations to keep everyone happy and wanting more.  It seems that each family member has their own favorite variation! LOL!

Cheese:

Now, about the cheese.  I always use extra sharp cheddar cheese. The extra sharp cheddar brings a stronger cheese flavor to the overall dish, in my opinion. You can use whatever you have on hand or whichever you prefer. Extra sharp is the best way to go in my book! Orange cheddar cheese as opposed to white cheddar gives your casserole a better overall  look, but you can’t beat white cheddar for flavor.  I think this would also be delicious with Monterey Jack cheese, Pepper Jack, Swiss or even Mozzarella.  You choose 🙂

Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole

How about a healthy chicken broccoli rice casserole?

Use 2 cups of precooked brown rice instead of the standard white rice. Et, Viola you have Chicken Broccoli Brown Rice casserole! Use Campbell’s Healthy Request Condensed soup to reduce fat and sodium. They have a heart healthy 0 grams of transfat in them. Cut down the amount of cheese to 1/2 cup sprinkled on top. Use reduced fat cheese. Use reduced fat Ritz crackers. Cut down the amount of cracker to half the amount.