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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.

overhead photo of Cheesy Zucchini Chicken and Rice Bake with spoon in baking dish

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?

photo of raw zucchini

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!

process photo of Zucchini Chicken and Rice in skillet while cooking

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.

overhead close up photo of Cheesy Zucchini Chicken and Rice Bake

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.

overhead close up photo of Cheesy Zucchini Chicken and Rice Bake

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!

overhead photo of Cheesy Zucchini Chicken and Rice Bake on plate with spoon

Looking for other easy back to school recipes? Here are a few ideas: 

Broccoli Cheddar Chicken and Rice Casserole

Homemade Cinnamon Toast Crunch

Browned Garlic Butter Creamed Corn Cheese Ravioli

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

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories Per Serving: 763 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.



  • 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. 


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
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  1. 4 stars
    I made this for the first time and pretty well followed the recipe. Added some miniature tomatoes that were getting soft in the fridge. We enjoyed it. I think the amount of rice/orzo is a bit too much in terms of how much chicken and veggies were in there.
    I will definitely make this again. Tasty and healthy. I will just cut the rice/orzo down some…. maybe by a third as well as the liquids to make that work. Or… make the recipe as it is, and save the extra cooked rice to serve with something else another day…? it was delicious on its own. I might add some crushed red peppers next time to kick the spice up a bit.
    I also had a few small pieces of various cheeses in my deli drawer, so I used those up to make the cups called for…. brie, de Guyere… etc…. They all worked very well…delish.
    Bottom line…. Half Baked Harvest is one of my favourite websites for delicious meals.
    Cheers Tieghan!

    1. Hey Paula,
      Happy Friday!! I am so glad to hear this recipe was a hit, thanks a lot for trying it and your comment:) Thanks so much for your kind message and handy notes! xT

  2. 5 stars
    definitely was a family favorite. cooked for my family, would maybe adjust it to a little less cayanne pepper as my family found it a little too peppery. we all went for second and thrids and had enough for lunch tomorrow as well. Thank you for sharing this recipe! it’s delicious

    1. Hey Tee,
      Amazing!! Love to hear that this dish turned out well for you, thanks a lot for making it! xT

  3. Hi there,
    I’m enjoying your recipes – thank you for sharing them. I was wondering what three small/medium zucchini are in cups, chopped? I have some here but my idea of zucchini size may not be the same as yours. Thanks so much for your response.

  4. 5 stars
    I added more zucchini and a lot less cheese inside (just Havarti) and topped with sprinkle of cheese so as not so rich. Felt fresh, warm, and cozy and not too rich. I skipped the rice and just did the orzo like HBH does in a lot recipes and it was just great. Simplified where I could.

  5. 5 stars
    another incredible meal! i used thighs and added some corn, too. my family of five all loved it. i will definitely be adding this to the permanent rotation.