Nothing is better (or easier) than this Broccoli Cheddar Chicken and Rice Casserole. Kind of like broccoli cheddar soup meets cozy weeknight casserole. It’s healthy…ish, so darn easy, and so darn delicious. The best part…it’s made entirely in one pot and in under an hour. Grab some chicken, rice, orzo pasta, plenty of herbs, and all the broccoli you can snag. Cook everything together on the stove, add sharp cheddar cheese, and finish off in the oven to melt the cheese. Simple, but SO GOOD. The perfect weeknight casserole!
It’s not even September yet and I am already throwing the casseroles at you guys. Yes, it’s true. I’m ready to switch things up. I’m ready for a bit of cozy, and well, I really just hope you all are ready too.
In all seriousness, this really is a perfect recipe for this time of year. The kids are all heading back to school, everyone is slowly coming back from summer vacations, and life is getting busy. Sure, it’s still hot out, but I’m feeling the autumn shift slowly creeping its way in. And with that comes dinner inspiration from my childhood. End of summer and back to school signals the part of my brain that has me thinking easy family dinners, midwest style.
Growing up, broccoli cheddar anything was my favorite, but especially the broccoli cheddar soup from Panera bread. My other favorite? My dad’s rice bakes, which he’d make simple with so much broccoli and so much cheddar cheese. They were simple and delicious and I was so into them.
I got to thinking about combining the two together, and just like that, this recipe was formed. It’s not anything crazy creative, but I can assure you, it’s crazy delicious.
Like I said above, kind of like broccoli cheddar soup meets cozy rice casserole. And it’s is GOOD. Not nearly as soupy as soup, but not as heavy as a casserole. It’s got the perfect balance.
It all starts and ends in ONE pot. Or two if you’re like me and decide you want to bake this in a real casserole dish for the “real deal” midwest style casserole situation. I really love setting the mood.
Anyway, start with the basics. Cook your onion, add the chicken, give the chicken some time sear. Then add a touch of butter, some rice, orzo, and fresh thyme. Cook until you’ve got a nice toasty smell going, now add the broth, broccoli, and a few more seasonings. Cover and cook just like you would a normal pot of rice. Once this is finished cooking, stir in just a touch of milk for creaminess (swap in non-dairy milk, if needed), and lemon zest for a pop of freshness.
Top with cheddar cheese and bake until the cheese is melty and the broccoli on top has a little char. Finish with fresh thyme and basil from the garden and dinner is served. Easy, right?
But yet so very good. The rice underneath stays soft and creamy while the cheese on top browns. The corners of the dish will form an insanely delicious, cheesy crust. Every bite is flavor and roll your eyes back good.
If you prefer to go the vegetarian route, simply omit the chicken from the dish. It’s truly just as delicious without or without, so do what works best for you and your family.
This dish brings back all the best memories from when I was a kid, huddled around the kitchen counter, eating chicken noodle casserole with my brothers. Of course, this is a much healthier dinner option, with so much more color than mom’s (super old school) chicken noodle casserole. But all the nostalgia is still there.
And no offense to my mom or dad, but personally I love my vegetable-filled casserole a bit more than their old school version. Sometimes you have to upgrade the classics a bit, you know?
Make this one for family and friends, I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t love it.
If you make this broccoli cheddar chicken and rice casserole, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!
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Broccoli Cheddar Chicken and Rice Casserole.
Calories Per Serving: 542 kcal
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
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- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 1 pound boneless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 1/2 cups basmati or jasmine rice
- 1/2 cup dry orzo pasta (use gluten free, if needed)
- 2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus more for topping
- 3 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 3 cups broccoli florets, roughly chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more or less to taste
- zest of 1/2 a lemon
- 1/2 cup whole milk or canned coconut milk
- 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. 2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrot and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the chicken is seared, 2-3 minutes. Add the butter, rice, orzo, and thyme, and cook until golden and toasted, 2-3 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli, bay leaves, garlic powder, cayenne, and a large pinch each of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook, covered for 20-25 minutes, until the rice is mostly cooked.3. Once the rice is cooked, stir in the lemon zest, milk, and 1/2 cup of cheese. If needed, transfer the rice to an oven-safe casserole dish. Scatter the remaining cheese over top the casserole. 4. Transfer to the oven and bake 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and just beginning to brown. Serve warm with additional thyme and fresh basil.
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To Make Ahead: Prepare the casserole through step 3. Let cool, then cover and keep in the fridge for up to 2 days. To bake, remove from the fridge and let sit at room temp while the oven preheats. Bake as directed. To Freeze: Prepare the casserole through step 3. Let cool, then cover tightly. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge or on the counter for 2-3 hours. Bake as directed. Gluten Free Orzo: I love DeLallo brand gluten free orzo.