Nothing is better (or easier) than this Cheesy Zucchini Chicken and Rice Bake…with crispy, crunchy cheddar on top. Made using healthy vegetables and herbs, this bake is so darn easy, and so darn delicious. And 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 that summer zucchini you can find. Just cook everything together on the stove. Add creamy Havarti and sharp cheddar cheese, a sprinkle of everything spice. Then finish it off under the broiler to melt the cheese and get it crispy and crunchy. Simple, but SO GOOD. The perfect weeknight family-style dinner.
When summer life gives you a lot of zucchini you make some cheesy rice…with crispy cheddar on top. And you make it casserole-style because it’s August and back to school season is on my brain.
First things first no matter what’s going on in life, or how old I am, August and September with be back to school “season” for me. I know things are looking different this year in regards to heading back to school, but we can still enjoy “back to school recipes”. Whether you or your kids are actually heading into a classroom or not.
Speaking of which, are you heading back to school? Or are your kids? I know many schools have gone completely online this year, while others are doing only two to three days of in-classroom classes. I don’t have any kids yet, but I know my parents are still on the fence about what they’ll be doing for my little sister, Asher. Her school is heading back for two days each week and my mom is debating about sending her. She’s just not sure it’s worth it to be in the classroom for only two days. She could just elect the online option and use the year to travel some…Grand Canyon, National Parks, etc…which could be more educational anyway.
Curious what you guys are doing…heading back, or is it homeschooling this year?
Either way, with summer slowly ebbing away, it’s about to get busier. Meaning dinner can get hectic. This is where these back to school recipes come in. They’re easy, served casserole-style (aka family-style), and always so nice to come home to a delicious comforting meal.
This one is a mix between extra summery and cozy comfort food. The perfect transitional recipe for mid-August through early October.
Side note, it’s crazy I just wrote out the words October. I can’t believe it’s mud August. Where has this year gone?uld
The inspiration for this one came from so many different ideas running through my head, but mainly, I had both my parents in mind when creating this recipe. We all know my mom loves rice, I’ve talked about it many times. But what I haven’t chatted about are the rice bakes my dad would make for my brothers and me when we were younger. He’d throw leftover rice in a casserole dish, add some kind of vegetable, usually broccoli, and then top it with cheddar cheese. Lots of cheddar cheese. He’d then throw the dish in the oven and let the cheese get extra crisp and crunchy over the rice and broccoli.
It was really simple, but one of mom’s favorites…mine too!
This is my summer, one-pot version of dad’s cheesy rice dish. It has a little more going on, but it’s easy and it is delicious!
Cheesy Zucchini Chicken and Rice Bake…the quick and simple details.
It all starts and ends in one pot. Maybe two if you’re like me and decide you want to bake this in a real casserole dish.
Anyway, start with the zucchini. You want to caramelize the zucchini first before you add anything else. Then add a little onion, some chicken, a touch of butter, some rice, orzo, and fresh thyme. Cook until you’ve got a nice toasty smell going. Then add the broth and a few more seasonings. Cover and cook just like you would a normal pot of rice. Once this is finished cooking, simply top with cheese. I like using a mix of creamy Havarti and sharp cheddar.
And for that extra special touch? A sprinkle of everything bagel spice and fresh chives. It might sound odd, but I promise it’s delicious.
Oh and a quick note on that chicken. If you prefer to go the vegetarian route, just omit the chicken from the dish. Do what works best for you and your family. This bake is good with or without.
Bake then broil.
This is key. Bake the rice for ten or so minutes to melt that cheese, then switch the oven broil and let the cheese start to bubble up. Just be sure to watch closely, the broiler works quick.
As soon as you pull this out from under the broiler, add a bit of basil, serve, and ENJOY.
Super easy, right?
But yet so very good. The rice underneath stays soft and creamy while the cheese on top turns crispy and crunchy. The corners of the dish will form an insanely delicious, cheesy crust. The creamy, cheesy rice underneath? And that crunchy cheddar on top…with the everything spice and chives too?
Just. So. Darn. Good.
And guys, that’s pretty much it. Dinner all in one pan, and something I feel like the whole family can really enjoy. A little tip? if you have picky eaters at home, try shredding the zucchini instead of chopping it. They’ll never know they’re eating their chicken, rice, and vegetables too!
Looking for other easy back to school recipes? Here are a few ideas:
Lastly, if you make this Cheesy Zucchini Chicken and Rice Bake 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!
Cheesy Zucchini Chicken and Rice Bake
Calories Per Serving: 581 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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- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 small/medium zucchini, chopped
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 pound boneless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
- 1 1/2 cups basmati or jasmine rice
- 1/2 cup dry orzo pasta (use gluten free if needed)
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper more or less to taste
- 3/4 cup shredded Havarti cheese
- 3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 2-4 tablespoons everything bagel spice (optional)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
- fresh basil, for serving
- 1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. 2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the zucchini and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the zucchini is golden, 5-8 minutes. Remove the zucchini from the skillet and set aside.3. To the skillet, add the remaining oil and the onion. 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, garlic, 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 zucchini back to the skillet. Add the cayenne and a large pinch each of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook, covered for 15-20 minutes, until the rice is mostly cooked.4. Once the rice is cooked, stir in 1/2 cup of the Havarti and 1/2 cup of the cheddar. If needed, transfer the rice to an oven-safe casserole dish. Scatter the remaining 1/4 cup of each cheese overtop the casserole. Sprinkle on the everything spice and chives.5. Transfer to the oven and bake 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Switch the oven to broil and broil 1-2 minutes, until the cheese on top is becoming crispy. Serve warm with fresh basil.
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To Make Ahead: Prepare the casserole through step 4. 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 4. 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.