This easy Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole is filled with juicy chunks of chicken breast, broccoli, and tender rice all smothered in a cheesy, luscious, homemade cream sauce. Topped with cheese and crushed buttery crackers, enjoy this kid-friendly Broccoli Rice Casserole Recipe for your next easy weeknight meal.
Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole – A complete meal
I am on a mission to amass a stockpile of easy and approachable dinners that my whole family (translation- the 6-year-old) will eat. This Chicken Broccoli Casserole definitely isn’t the only family-friendly recipe loved by my family – I get frequent requests for this easy tuna noodle casserole (also from scratch) and this whole roast chicken, but, this family-style casserole is one of our favorites.
A complete one-pan meal, the whole family will love the juicy chunks of chicken, tender rice, and cream-sauce soaked broccoli florets. Parents will especially love that it is made entirely from scratch.
That’s right, no jiggly canned soup (aka no cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, or cream of cheese soup).
In the recipe card at the bottom of the page, you’ll see instructions for how to make each part of this recipe (the chicken, the broccoli, the rice, and assembly). I encourage you to read the notes both in the recipe card and in the text below for tips and tricks on how to save time, prep ahead, or freeze leftovers.
Ingredients in Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole
- Olive oil
- Italian seasoning
- Salt + Pepper
- Long-grain white rice
- Fresh broccoli
- All-purpose flour
- Dijon mustard
- Cream cheese
- Cheddar cheese
- Buttery crackers
Do I have to add baked chicken breasts?
You may add any type of chicken that you’d like to this recipe. I chose to bake chicken breasts, but feel free to poach your chicken or use leftover rotisserie chicken if easier.
What is the best type of rice to use in this recipe?
For best results, use any type of long-grain white rice. This includes regular long-grain rice, jasmine rice, or even basmati rice. Medium-grain white rice, like Calrose rice, will also work, but plan on stickier, somewhat clumpier rice. Brown rice is a fantastic option if you’re looking to add a whole grain.
Can I use frozen broccoli?
Yes. Frozen broccoli is a great alternative if you don’t have any fresh broccoli in the house. And though frozen broccoli does cook faster and is more convenient than the fresh stuff, I find that the taste (especially with leftovers) is a million times better when fresh broccoli is added versus frozen.
If you choose to use frozen broccoli, allow the broccoli to thaw at room temperature (no need to blanch) and add to the homemade sauce with the cooked chicken and rice as instructed.
Can this be made gluten-free?
Yes! It’s possible. Simply substitute regular, all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour blend and skip the crackers.
How to make Chicken Broccoli and Rice Casserole Recipe
To make this easy chicken and rice casserole without any shortcuts (aka, no leftover chicken or precooked rice), follow these instructions:
Step 1: Cook the Chicken, Rice, and Broccoli (at the same time)
You may choose to bake, poach, or pan-fry your chicken. The chicken you see in the images below was baked, but I encourage you to use the method that you’re most comfortable with. The benefit of baking or poaching chicken is that it is completely hands-off.
RELATED: How to Cook Chicken Breasts
Once your chicken is in the oven, set a large pot filled with salted water over high heat (this will be for the broccoli) and start the rice.
Now, you guys, this is how I cook plain rice. In this method, there’s no need to measure liquid amounts and I never need to worry about overcooked, mushy rice. You may cook your rice according to this method or your own preferred method.
- Before cooking any rice, you always want to wash the rice. Place the rice in a fine-mesh strainer or in a bowl and wash with clean water several times.
- Add the rice to a medium saucepot. Add a pinch of salt and fill with water so that the rice is covered by approximately 2 inches of water. There’s no need to measure the total water amount
- Bring to a boil. Then cover and reduce to a low simmer.
- After your rice comes to a simmer, check the progress of the rice every 3-4 minutes. If you can squish a few grains between your fingers, that’s how you know it’s done.
- Drain any remaining liquid from the rice and rinse with cool water. Drain again. Transfer back to the pot and set aside.
After the rice is cooked and drained, transfer the broccoli florets to the pot of salted boiling water. Blanch your broccoli for 2-3 minutes max, then drain and transfer to an ice water bath to stop the broccoli from cooking any further.
Step 2: Make your Homemade Sauce
- Sauté the onion in butter and olive oil for approximately 6 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, salt, and black pepper and cook for an additional minute, stirring continuously.
- Add the remaining two tablespoons of butter to your onions and sprinkle with flour. Mix well and gradually add the milk, whisking continuously to prevent clumping. Continue to whisk until slightly thickened and bubbly.
- Remove from heat and add the dijon mustard, cream cheese, and 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Stir until melted.
Step 3: Assemble and bake (or freeze)
At this stage, we’re ready to assemble our cheesy broccoli rice casserole (yayyyy!).
Transfer the cooked chicken, rice, and broccoli to the homemade cheese mixture and mix well to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste, and transfer to your prepared baking dish.
If you plan to bake right away:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Top with the remaining shredded cheddar cheese and sprinkle with crushed butter crackers. Transfer to the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until hot and bubbly and cheese is lightly browned.
If you plan to freeze and bake later:
To freeze, allow it to cool slightly before covering with foil or a tight-fitting lid. Transfer to the freezer for up to 3-4 months. To reheat from frozen, preheat oven to 350. Transfer casserole dish to the oven and bake, covered, for 60 minutes. After 60 minutes, uncover, and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until hot and bubbly and cheese is lightly browned.
Tips, Tricks, and Variations
Easy tips & tricks for the best ever broccoli, chicken, and rice casserole,
- Avoid overcooking your rice. I recommend draining your rice when it is al dente, as opposed to fully cooked as it will be “twice-cooked” when mixed in the homemade cream sauce. The above method is my favorite, go-to method for cooking white rice as it guarantees perfectly cooked rice every time. Feel free to use pre-cooked, microwavable, or leftover rice, if desired.
- Why blanch the broccoli? In this recipe, you’re going to blanch fresh broccoli in boiling water for 2-3 minutes before transferring the broccoli to an ice water bath to prevent further cooking. This helps make your broccoli nice and bright and starts the cooking process, keeping it from being too hard (or too soft) after it’s been baked.
- To avoid any weird separation, I recommend shredding your own cheese rather than purchasing store-bought pre-shredded cheese. It only takes an extra minute.
- The addition of crushed buttery crackers (like Ritz) is completely optional. You can skip the crackers if preferred, but they make for a nice, buttery, comforting, crunchy top. No buttery crackers? Panko breadcrumbs will also work.
- Add some additional veggies like mushrooms (added at the same time as the onions) or cauliflower (cooked in the same way as the broccoli).
- Give your casserole a little kick with curry powder, cayenne powder (spicy), and paprika. Add directly to the cheese sauce or sprinkle over the chicken before baking.
More chicken recipes,
If you try making this Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole Recipe (without Soup), please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
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Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole without Soup
For the Chicken
For the Rice
- 1.5 cups white rice
- water or chicken broth
- pinch of salt
For the Broccoli
- 5 cups fresh broccoli - cut into small florets
For the Sauce and Topping
- 4 tbsp butter - divided
- 1 large onion - finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 tsp salt - plus more to taste
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk - I used 2%
- 2 tbsp dijon mustard
- 4 tbsp cream cheese
- 2 cups cheddar cheese - shredded
- 1 cup butter crackers - (such as Ritz) crushed
For the Chicken
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Transfer chicken to a large mixing bowl and add the olive oil, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Rub the olive oil and seasoning all over the chicken breasts.
- Transfer the chicken to your prepared baking sheet. Cook chicken for approximately 20-22 minutes, or until internal temperature reads 160-165 degrees F with a digital thermometer. Time will vary depending on the thickness of your chicken breast.
- Remove your cooked chicken from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before chopping into bite-size cubes. Set aside.
For the Rice
- Wash your rice. Before cooking any rice, you always want to wash the rice. Place the rice in a fine-mesh strainer or in a bowl and wash with clean water several times.
- Add the rice to a medium saucepot. Add a pinch of salt and fill with water so that the rice is covered by approximately 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil.
- Once the water comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover.
- Check the progress of the rice every 5 minutes. If you can squish it between your fingers, it’s done. Drain any remaining liquid from the rice and rinse with cold water. Drain again. Transfer back to the pot and set aside.
For the Broccoli
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli florets and cook for 2-3 minutes. Avoid over cooking. Drain broccoli and transfer to an ice water bath to stop cooking. Set aside.
For the Homemade Sauce
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and spray a large baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Add 2 tablespoons of butter to a large skillet (with high sides) over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until soft and translucent (approximately 6 minutes). Add the garlic, salt, and black pepper and cook for an additional, stirring continuously.
- Add the remaining two tablespoons of butter to your onions and sprinkle with flour. Mix well to combine. Gradually add the milk, whisking continuously to prevent clumping. Continue to whisk your onion and milk mixture until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and add the dijon mustard, cream cheese, and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Stir until melted.
- Transfer the chicken, rice, and broccoli to the pan and mix well to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste, and transfer to your prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining shredded cheddar cheese and crushed butter crackers.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until hot and bubbly and cheese is lightly browned. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)