Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

By Ann Fulton

Jump to recipe
A modern remake of my mom's classic casserole, this rendition of my childhood favorite is lighter but still delivers the memorable flavor. There's even a crunchy topping, an option for extra veggies, and excellent alternatives for some dietary restrictions.

A modern remake of my mom’s classic casserole, this rendition of a childhood favorite is lighter but still delivers the memorable flavor. There’s even a crunchy topping, an option for extra veggies, and excellent alternatives for some dietary restrictions. (And Mom approves!)

 

 

 

Who doesn’t love a comforting chicken and rice casserole? If there’s a recipe that takes me right back to my family dinner table as a girl, this is it.

I adored my mom’s chicken and rice, which was a regular on the weekly meal rotation. Looking back on the ingredients, however, we all agreed that my readers might prefer a modern remake!

To truly deliver, I needed to balance the classic casserole’s creamy texture and decadent flavor with a lighter touch. The following recipe does just that, maintaining the comfort and nostalgia with a fraction of the calories and sodium of the original.

To enhance the textural appeal, I even adding a crunchy topping. For those who like to squeeze in extra vegetables, there are several options in that department, too.

My friend and neighbor, Alissa, inspired me to get to work on this recipe. She’s a great cook, and food is often a topic of conversation on our weekly, early morning walks. Her family enjoys a good chicken and rice casserole, and she was also looking for an update to her decades-old rendition.

The ultimate comfort food layered with flavorful rice, protein-rich chicken, a creamy sauce, and crispy topping-and there are easy options for adding vegetables. Plus the casserole is quick to assemble, and you may prepare it ahead of time and even freeze it.

Above all, casseroles are meant to be convenient. As such, a good recipe should have minimal steps and built-in flexibility, right?

Many chicken and rice casseroles call for adding cooked chicken, but this is supposed to be easy. No need to cook this chicken first. While you do need to prepare the rice in advance, you could do this earlier in the day if desired.

My mom used to make this casserole with whole chicken breasts, initially with bone-in, skin-on chicken and later with boneless breasts. I’ve used the latter and have also made the dish with chicken tenders, but we now prefer bite-size pieces. Smaller pieces mean no knife is needed to enjoy the meal and there’s more flavor in every bite!

Because several of the ingredients that go into the casserole contain wheat, I tested gluten-free alternatives to the popular brands and have included my favorites (which are widely available) in the recipe card.

I often serve the casserole with a roasted green vegetable like Brussels sprouts, green beans, or broccoli, or a salad like Easiest Arugula Salad. To ramp up the veggies within the casserole, however, cooked broccoli may also be added with the chicken. Leftover roasted or steamed broccoli is fair game, and frozen may be used if it is first thawed and squeezed of its excess liquid. Two cups is about the right amount. 

Depending on personal preference, I think roasted red peppers, roasted cauliflower, peas, or even cooked zucchini would be nice additions as well.

Mushrooms happen to be my husband’s and my favorite upgrade, although I list them as an option as I know not everyone is a fan. To avoid the added step of having to sauté them first, I simply mix them with the topping ingredients.

That way, the mushrooms become lightly coated with olive oil and then rest on the surface or the casserole, where they roast in the heat of the oven. In families where some are on Team Mushroom, so to speak, and others are not, it’s also easy for that latter group to avoid them. This is the case in our house, and I consider it a treat to receive my younger son’s castoffs…and he is equally thrilled!

And how about all those times when you’d like to take dinner to a friend or relative who’s recovering from surgery, had a new baby, or could simply use a helping hand? It can be challenging to think of a dish that offers wide appeal, can be prepared in advance, and travels well. This recipe offers a great option.

If a full 9×13 casserole seems like too much (although leftovers are delicious!), you could divide the ingredients between two 8-inch square baking pans or two 9-inch pie plates. That way, you can keep one and share one, or freeze one for future use.

 

The ultimate comfort food layered with flavorful rice, protein-rich chicken, a creamy sauce, and crispy topping-and there are easy options for adding vegetables. Plus the casserole is quick to assemble, and you may prepare it ahead of time and even freeze it.

Rice and chicken are spread evenly over the casserole dish, and then the remaining ingredients are layered on top.

The ultimate comfort food layered with flavorful rice, protein-rich chicken, a creamy sauce, and crispy topping-and there are easy options for adding vegetables. Plus the casserole is quick to assemble, and you may prepare it ahead of time and even freeze it.

Options including a crispy topping, cheese, and a variety of vegetables allow the casserole to be customized according to taste. For added flexibility, the dish may be covered and refrigerated until ready to bake or frozen for later use.

The ultimate comfort food layered with flavorful rice, protein-rich chicken, a creamy sauce, and crispy topping-and there are easy options for adding vegetables. Plus the casserole is quick to assemble, and you may prepare it ahead of time and even freeze it.

A classic dish from the 1970s and 80s transformed for today. 

This lighter remake of a childhood favorite delivers all the memorable flavor while adding a crunchy topping, extra veggies, and gluten-free alternatives. 

A few more thoughts…

The crunchy topping adds something special, but you may omit it. In its place, a hearty sprinkle of slivered almonds would likely be quite nice and would add a hint of compensatory crunch. Adding the almonds in the last five minutes or so would allow them to toast without burning. Mushroom fans who wish to forego the stuffing mix may also enjoy doubling the mushrooms.  In this case, I’d toss the mushrooms with a tablespoon or so of olive oil (just enough to lightly coat) and a sprinkle of salt and pepper before adding them to the casserole.

 

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
Yield: 8 servings
The ultimate comfort food layered with flavorful rice, protein-rich chicken, a creamy sauce, and crispy topping-and there are easy options for adding vegetables. Plus the casserole is quick to assemble, and you may prepare it ahead of time and even freeze it.
Ingredients
  • 1 (6-ounce) package of Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice (see notes for options including gluten-free brand*)
  • 1½ pounds uncooked chicken, cut into bite-size pieces (about 3 boneless, skinless breasts; could substitute an equal weight of tenders)
  • 1 (10.5-ounce) can or box cream of mushroom soup (may substitute cream of chicken)*
  • ¼ cup chicken broth or water
  • 2 tablespoons each melted butter and olive oil
  • 2 lightly rounded cups (120g) Pepperidge Farm dry herb seasoned stuffing*
  • Optional add-ins and toppings: 1-2 cups cooked broccoli (or frozen, thawed, and squeezed of excess liquid); 4-6 ounces fresh mushrooms, halved or quartered if large; ¾-1 cup shredded cheese (I love gruyere; could use cheddar, fontina, or another favorite); 2-3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Instructions
  1. Cook the rice according to package directions.
  2. Grease or coat a 9”x13” baking dish with cooking spray and place the cooked rice evenly over the bottom of the dish. Evenly distribute the uncooked chicken pieces over the rice. (Do the same with the optional broccoli but not the mushrooms, if using.).
  3. In a small bowl, stir the broth (or water) into the soup. (Tip: I use the broth or water to squish out the soup can and get every last bit.) Pour evenly over the chicken and rice.
  4. Stir together the melted butter and olive oil, and then add the seasoned stuffing and toss to coat. If using mushrooms, toss them in, too. (Tip: I melt the butter in my quart-size Pyrex measure, which is large enough to then add the stuffing mix and toss.) Evenly distribute over the top of the casserole.
  5. At this point, you may cover and refrigerate up to overnight or cook immediately. The uncooked casserole may also be frozen. Thaw before baking. 
  6. Bake, uncovered, in an oven preheated to 325℉ for 35 to 40 minutes, give or take a few minutes depending on oven, or until the chicken is just cooked through. If desired, sprinkle with the optional cheese, and broil for a minute, watching carefully, to melt the cheese. Sprinkle with optional parsley and enjoy!
Notes

Need a gluten-free casserole?
*Uncle Ben’s rice mix contains wheat, but Near East has a similar 6-ounce box that works equally well. Just make sure you purchase the box that says long grain and wild rice. Zatarain’s also sells a comparable product, but I have not seen it in the stores I shop locally.
*Similarly, Campbell’s cream soups contain gluten, but Pacific sells a spot-on, gluten-free replacement that comes in 10.5-ounce box. (I believe some stores sell the Pacific soup in a similar size can.)
*Finally, Pepperidge Farm’s dry herb seasoned stuffing is not GF, but Three Bakers carries a comparable product that works beautifully and doesn’t taste at all “gluten-free.”

 

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments

  1. Joyce Post author

    Ann, I have made a similar recipe to your chicken and wild rice casserole with left over turkey! I think I also added sour cream. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful recipes with us.

    Reply
  2. Ed snukos

    This is excellent ! Made it last night and my wife loved it. I used two 4oz boxes of reese minnesota wild rice instead of the uncle bens. Also added the mushrooms. This was just down right delicious! Thank you for the recipe

    Reply
  3. Molly

    I forgot to precook the broccoli, but the florets were small, so it turned out okay. The mushrooms came out dark and crispy. I appreciate the tip about melting the butter in the Pyrex and tossing the mushrooms in the stuffing. My first experience with a precooked rice packet.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Molly, I actually haven’t used the precooked rice for this, but as long as the amounts align, that would be a helpful shortcut. The mushrooms do darken, but they have never become crispy for me. Perhaps they were a little older and drier? I hope that didn’t detract too much from the end result.

      Reply
      1. Molly

        I didn’t realize that I had used the wrong rice package until after I had sent the comment. I was halving the recipe anyway so the amount of rice was still too much. I didn’t pay attention to how long I baked the casserole. I wanted to cook it as long as possible so that the broccoli would be okay, so I took it out when the stuffing looked ready. The mushrooms were perfect.

        Reply
        1. Ann Post author

          Thank you for the follow up, Molly. More than anything I wanted to make sure I didn’t steer you wrong somehow. Coincidently, I just received a comment via email where someone mentioned using the precooked rice with good results. I will have to look for the quantities to see how to best recommend the substitution.

          Reply
  4. Wendy Post author

    Made this last Sunday and had it for dinner on Monday night. Doubled the roasted broccoli and skipped the mushrooms. Yum!

    Reply