Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Rice Casserole

IMG_8868 (550x367) Creamy, cheesy rice casserole with broccoli, carrots and chicken is a meal you can happily add to you list of freezer-friendly options. Packed with a plethora of mouthwatering flavors, when you serve this to your family or guests, nobody will believe that you took it out of the freezer.

This is not one of those bland meals where you throw a bunch of raw ingredients in a pot and hope that while it’s cooking, it will end up having a passable flavor. Nope. Every ingredient is cooked to perfection and infused with flavor. You don’t risk part of the ingredients being overcooked while others are under cooked.

I love the flavor that the seared and flavored chicken brings to this dish. I used chicken thighs, since they won’t be dry and rubbery like chicken breasts tend to be. It’s practically impossible to overcook dark meat in poultry. The carrots and broccoli are partly cooked before being added to the casserole. The rice itself is infused with lovely aromatics – onions, garlic, and chicken broths. To add lusciousness, I also add milk and cheese.

To give this casserole a note of freshness, I top it with crisp breadcrumbs right before putting it into the oven. Your busy days no longer have to end with takeout or fast food if you have this casserole in the freezer.

This recipe is adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.

Prep the chicken thighs by cutting out as much fat as possible. Blot the chicken dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper on both sides. I also use Montreal Chicken seasoning.

Prep the rest of the ingredients.

Heat 1/2 a Tablespoon of oil in a skillet on medium high heat.

When the pan is nice and hot, add the chicken and cook until golden brown on both sides. You may need to cook the chicken in two batches. IMG_8689 (550x367) Remove the chicken from the skillet and keep in a bowl until ready to add to the rice. When it’s cool enough to handle, cut it into bite sized pieces. IMG_8724 (550x367) In the same skillet, add another 1/2 Tablespoon of oil and heat until hot. Add the broccoli florets. Season with some salt and pepper. Cook until the broccoli is still firm but the edges are starting to turn brown, about 2 minutes. IMG_8692 (550x367) Add about 1/8 – 1/4 cup chicken broth to the skillet, reduce the heat to medium low, cover the skillet and cook for another 3 minutes. The broccoli should still be a vibrant green with some crispness left to it.

Place the broccoli in the bowl with the chicken. IMG_8698 (550x367)

In a large pot, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until tender and translucent. IMG_8707 (550x367) Add the garlic and the carrots. Cook until the carrots are tender. IMG_8708 (550x361) Add the flour and mix it until it’s incorporated. IMG_8722 (550x367) Pour in the chicken broth, milk and water.

If you want your casserole to be creamier and more luscious, add 6 cups of broth and milk each. If you want it to be firmer, add just 5 cups of broth and milk each.

Add the rice. IMG_8732 (550x367) Cover and bring the rice to a boil. Reduce the heat to low heat, and cook, stirring once in a while, for about 20 minutes. IMG_8736 (550x367) Remove from the heat. Add the chicken, broccoli and the shredded cheese to the rice. Stir it all in until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. IMG_8744 (550x367) IMG_8746 (550x367)

You can also add other ingredients according to your taste buds. Try adding chopped roasted red peppers, frozen peas, different types of cheeses, herbs, mushrooms, corn, green beans, etc.

Divide the rice casserole among 4-5 (8×8 inch) casserole dishes. Cover tightly with a double layer of aluminum foil, remembering to label it. IMG_8749 (550x364) IMG_8791 (550x367) Wrap the casserole dish in several layers of plastic wrap or a sealed ziptop bag. Store in the freezer once  the casserole has cooled to room temperature.

To serve:

Unthaw the casserole in the refrigerator of on the counter. I usually defrost it on the counter overnight, but make sure to store it in the refrigerator while it’s still cold. Bacteria = BAD.

This is what the casserole looks like when it defrosts.

IMG_8817 (550x367) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

While the oven is preheating, pulse one slice of bread per casserole in the food processor until you have crumbs.

IMG_8818 (550x367)

Heat 1/2 a Tablespoon of butter in a skillet. Add the breadcrumbs. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are toasted and golden. IMG_8822 (550x367) IMG_8823 (550x367) Sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs on top of the casserole. IMG_8827 (550x367) Bake in the preheated oven, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, until the casserole is bubbling around the sides of the pan. IMG_8862 (550x367) IMG_8865 (550x367)

Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Rice Casserole
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 16-18
Ingredients
  • 8 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • 3-4 broccoli crowns, cut into florets (4-5 cups cut broccoli)
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups long-grain rice
  • 5-6 cups broth and milk, each (plus ⅛-1/4 cup broth to cook broccoli in)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups shredded cheese, (Cheddar, Colby Jack, Provolone, Mozzarella, etc)
Breadcrumb Topping:
  • 4-5 slices of bread
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
Instructions
  1. Prep the chicken thighs by cutting out as much fat as possible. Blot the chicken dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper on both sides. I also use Montreal Chicken seasoning.
  2. Prep the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Heat ½ a Tablespoon of oil in a skillet on medium high heat. When the pan is nice and hot, add the chicken and cook until golden brown on both sides. You may need to cook the chicken in two batches.
  4. Remove the chicken from the skillet and keep in a bowl until ready to add to the rice. When it's cool enough to handle, cut it into bite sized pieces.
  5. In the same skillet, add another ½ Tablespoon of oil and heat until hot. Add the broccoli florets. Season with some salt and pepper. Cook until the broccoli is still firm but the edges are starting to turn brown, about 2 minutes.
  6. Add about ⅛ - ¼ cup chicken broth to the skillet, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet and cook for another 3 minutes. The broccoli should still be a vibrant green with some crispness left to it.
  7. Place the broccoli in the bowl with the chicken.
  8. In a large pot, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until tender and translucent.
  9. Add the garlic and the carrots. Cook until the carrots are tender.
  10. Add the flour and mix it until it's incorporated.
  11. Pour in the chicken broth, milk and water. If you want your casserole to be creamier and more luscious, add 6 cups of broth and milk each. If you want it to be firmer, add just 5 cups of broth and milk each.
  12. Add the rice. Bring the rice to a boil. Reduce the heat to low heat, and cook, stirring once in a while, for about 20 minutes.
  13. Remove from the heat. Add the chicken, broccoli and the shredded cheese to the rice. Stir it all in until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  14. You can also add other ingredients according to your taste buds. Try adding chopped roasted red peppers, frozen peas, different types of cheeses, herbs, mushrooms, corn, green beans, etc.
  15. Divide the rice casserole among 4-5 (8x8 inch) casserole dishes.
  16. Cover tightly with a double layer of aluminum foil, remembering to label it. Wrap the casserole dish in several layers of plastic wrap or a sealed ziptop bag.
  17. Store in the freezer once the casserole has cooled to room temperature.
To serve:
  1. Unthaw the casserole in the refrigerator of on the counter. I usually defrost it on the counter overnight, but make sure to store it in the refrigerator while it's still cold. Bacteria = BAD. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. While the oven is preheating, pulse a slice of bread per casserole in the food processor until you have crumbs.
  3. Heat ½ a Tablespoon of butter in a skillet. Add the breadcrumbs. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are toasted and golden.
  4. Sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs on top of the casserole.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, until the casserole is bubbling around the sides of the pan.

 
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Comments

  1. Lina says

    Hi Olga, my husband does not like broccoli… with a passion too. If I leave out broccoli and continue on with the recipe, will it be ok? He doesn’t like any vegetables in his meals.. besides salads. Thanks.. This looks great!

  2. Enessa says

    I’m a little confused about how much milk and broth is needed… If I want creamier I use 6 cups broth AND 6 cups milk to 3 cups rice??

  3. Nataliya says

    Olga, if I wanted to just make this right away and not freeze it. What do I do different? Should I do half of what the recipe asks for?

    • says

      Nataliya,
      Simply follow the instructions omitting the freezing time. As soon as you assemble the casserole, bake it in the oven and serve. You can halve the recipe.

  4. KT says

    Finally-a casserole recipe that doens’t require a can of condensed soup! Thank you so much! I tried this recipe yesterday. It was very good, however, I would definitely go for the creamier version nest time. It’s amazing how much the rice absorbs all the liquid.

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