Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole

creamy chicken and rice casserole

The casserole is undergoing a resurgence in popularity. After years of being maligned as a tasteless and gloppy suburban dish made with Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, it is finally coming into its own. Blame it on the economy and the rising cost of food, but high-end cuts of meat seared faultlessly and served with the perfect wine are passé in this environment: extravagant and unseemly amidst layoffs and foreclosures. Comfort foods are the new at-home gourmet chic, and there’s nothing more heartening and reassuring than a chicken casserole.

Now if you’re someone who still thinks a casserole is a jumble of congealed leftovers, than think again. This may have been the case a decade or two (or three) ago, back in the day when Campbell’s soup had a best-selling cookbook featuring dishes like Green Bean Bake and Vegetable Beef and Biscuit Casserole. But although they have a new book called Campbell’s Casseroles, One-Dish Meals and more (Plastic Comb) – okay, what the hell is “(Plastic Comb)”? — I’m happy to see that it’s ranked # 416,157 on Amazon. No. Modern casseroles are not your mama’s 1970s dinner.

Casseroles can take many shapes and forms. And while some may use leftovers, this doesn’t mean they should be avoided. After all, chicken enchiladas — which are often made with leftover chicken — is a type of casserole. And don’t forget about ooey gooey macaroni and cheese (which often uses leftover pasta) and cassoulets (which can be made out of leftover duck, sausage and beans with stellar results). Fresh ingredients that are baked together in a sauce are some of the most satisfying and affordable types of dishes you can make for a family dinner.

My Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole is a good example for how this type of dish can really stretch your food dollar. Whether you use leftovers from a previous night’s dinner or start from scratch, you only need to use about half the meat you would normally serve your family because the rice adds substantially to the dish. And, with some local onions and mushrooms added into the mix, it is ample enough to feed a family of 4-6 people while costing less than $15 to make. Truly the perfect savory mid-winter meal.

Following is my recipe. Made with a rich onion and mushroom gravy that undergoes a velvety transformation when sour cream is added, I like to think of it as a type of chicken stroganoff. But no matter how you classify it, when it comes out of the oven all bubbly and creamy and warm, it is the ultimate in comfort food.

creamy chicken and rice casserole

Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole

Makes: 1 large casserole

This is a great dish to make if you have leftover baked chicken (and be sure to use the juices from the baking process). But if you are starting from scratch with uncooked chicken, just poach it in some water. This keeps the meat moist and also provides a nice broth that you will use to help develop the gravy. I’ll provide steps for both methods below.

mixing the mushrooms into the chicken

Ingredients with Pre-Baked Chicken:

2 cups already-cooked chicken plus pan drippings
1 1/2 – 2 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked white or brown rice
1 large onion halved and then sliced thinly
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (I like to just chop up the ends of some sliced bread in a cuisinart).

Preparation with Pre-Baked Chicken:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Shred leftover chicken and set aside in a bowl.
3. Add oil to a hot pan and add the onions. Cook on medium heat for two minutes.
4. Add the shredded chicken along with the pan drippings from the previous night’s baking of said chicken (including about a tablespoon of that glorious chicken fat if you have some).
5. When drippings are incorporated into the chicken and onions, add the butter, flour, thyme, paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until everything is fully incorporated.
6. Add chicken stock and mushrooms and mix thoroughly.
7. Simmer for 5-10 minutes on low heat with the cover on.
8. Incorporate sour cream and then add the rice, mixing fully. If the mixture seems thick, add in another 1/2 cup chicken stock.
9. If baking in a separate dish, this is the time to butter the inside and then set the mixture inside, topping with the breadcrumbs. If baking in the same pan you used to cook the ingredients, (which is my preference) then just top with the bread crumbs and set in the oven.
10. Bake for 20 minutes and then serve with a nice salad or steamed vegetable.

cooking the chicken

Ingredients Using Fresh Chicken:

2 chicken breasts or 4 thighs raw and on the bone
1 cup water
1/2 – 1 cup chicken broth
2 cups cooked white or brown rice
1 large onion halved and then sliced thinly
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (I like to just chop up the ends of some sliced bread in a cuisinart).

Preparation Using Fresh Chicken:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place oil in a hot pan and then lay the chicken inside. Season with a smattering of salt and pepper.
3. When chicken is slightly browned on the outside, add in the water and cover so everything steams. Cook for five minutes on medium heat.
4. Remove chicken and broth from the pan and then add in the onions. Add in a little more oil and then cook on medium heat for two minutes.
5. While the onions cook, strip the chicken from the bone and chop into 1/2-inch pieces. It’s okay if the chicken isn’t fully cooked.
6. Mix the chicken into the onions and add in the butter, flour, thyme, paprika, salt and pepper. Stir until everything is fully incorporated.
7. Add chicken broth you just created while steaming the chicken plus 1/2 cup chicken stock plus the mushrooms and mix thoroughly.
8. Simmer for 5-10 minutes on low heat with the cover on.
9. Incorporate sour cream and then add the rice, mixing fully. If the mixture seems thick, add in another 1/2 cup chicken stock.
10. If baking in a separate dish, this is the time to butter the inside and then set the mixture inside, topping with the breadcrumbs. If baking in the same pan you used to cook the ingredients, (which is my preference) then just top with the bread crumbs and set in the oven.
11. Bake for 20 minutes and then serve with a nice salad or steamed vegetable.

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14 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    tina said,

    very happy with this. i made it with a whole foods rotisserie chicken, which had some juice in the container. important to make sure not to overcook in the oven and that it has enough moisture going in. brown rice cooked with chicken broth added flavor and texture. i actually did make this dish once with campbell’s soup and white rice and it lacked flavor and had a pastey consistency. thanks for saving this yummy, wintery dish!

  2. 2

    dslincoln said,

    Hi Tina — I’m so glad you liked it! I’m happy to hear the rotisserie chicken provided enough juices to make the gravy, which is such an essential part of the dish. I like the idea of using brown rice. I’ll try that next time myself.

  3. 3

    [...] make a soup out of the carcass, chicken pot pie with gravy (which I’ll cover next week), or creamy chicken and rice casserole. If I get an especially large chicken or if I make baked potatoes with the first meal (which fills [...]

    • 4

      Amy said,

      Is there anything I could use to substitute the mushrooms? I was thinking maybe potatoes but not sure how that may work out.

      • 5

        dslincoln said,

        The mushrooms can actually be left out. I add them b/c I think they taste great with the chicken, but if you’re not a mushroom fan they’re not essential. I wouldn’t add potatoes as the extra starch might gum things up.

  4. 6

    Recipe Lover said,

    I made this last night for my family and boy was it good! Thank you so much for the recipe and the photos!

  5. 7

    Edina said,

    I just made this dish after baking your chicken the night before. Fantastic! I think I put a bit too much chicken broth, but then added extra rice and sour cream. Much better than those soup casseroles! and so easy!

  6. 9

    Patty Keyes said,

    OMG…I’ve made your recipe for baked chicken several times now and it’s fantastic. So tonight I made your chicken and rice casserole. I actually made the broth from the chicken I baked and it was so fantastic. My next recipe is the chef salad with chicken. I’ve been baking chickens and then doing the carcas with celery, onion and carrots and putting the broth in ice cube trays and freezing and everytime I need some chicken broth, I pull out a cube or two. Thanks for all these great recipes and love the pictures.

  7. 10

    dslincoln said,

    Hi Patty – I’m so glad you like the recipes. Thank so much for the comment. You’ve made my day! And yes, please do try that salad. I just love it. I hope you do too :-)

  8. 11

    Cara Smith said,

    I add broccoli and cauliflower ( I leave the mushrooms in as well) they go great with this casserole!! Add some fresh shredded colby jack after sour cream and some parmesan to your bread crumb topping and it becomes a creamy cheesy chicken rice casserole with lots of veggies in the mix too!! I make my chicken “Martha Stewart” style- on a bed of onions stuffed with a lemon, whole garlic & thyme with whole cloves of garlic under the skin(cut out after baking) pour butter over season w/ s & p & more thyme- check out this recipe the gravy u make after is amazing i throw it in this casserole ( if there’s any left) and its a flavor explosion- these 2 things are a tradition in my home.

  9. 12

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  10. 13

    Liz Gicquel said,

    What a great recipe! Thanks so much.


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