This easy Homemade Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole is filled with juicy chunks of chicken breast, broccoli, and tender rice all smothered in a luscious homemade cream sauce. Topped with cheese and crushed buttery crackers, enjoy this comforting Chicken Broccoli Casserole for an easy crowd-pleasing dinner.
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.
Chicken: You may also blanch your chicken or use leftover rotisserie chicken. Shredded, chopped, dark meat, light meat, anything goes.Rice: Avoid overcooking your rice 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.Blanching: In the case of the broccoli, we're blanching for only a few minutes in hot boiling water before transferring to an ice water bath to stop 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.Cheese: To avoid any weird separation, I recommend shredded your own cheese rather than store-bought pre-shredded cheese. It only takes a minute or two and you don't have to worry about adding any anti-caking stuff to your recipe.Crackers: 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.Leftovers: Keep leftovers stored in the refrigerator for up 4 days. Can this recipe be frozen? Yes! Simply Prepare as directed, but freeze before baking. Bake within 4 months.Plan ahead: Save time and use leftover cooked chicken and pre-cooked rice. This will save you at least 25 minutes or so. If you're good at multi-tasking, it is possible to cook the chicken, rice, broccoli, and homemade cheese sauce at the same time. Remember to set oven times ;)You may also enjoy these chicken and rice recipes: