Casseroles are a household staple. You can feed a complete meal in a casserole to any size family and know that you have fed them to capacity. Quite often there’s enough casserole left over to eat for lunch the next day, or any night of the week where leftovers are consumed in place of making a whole new meal. When you want to make a casserole that is both healthy and delicious, try this recipe for Cheesy Chicken Rice Casserole.
Cook Prep Difficulty: Medium
- 1 lb. chicken breasts, cut up
- 1 can cream of chicken soup, about 8oz.
- 2 1/2 c. White, brown, or wild grain rice
- 1 lb. shredded Cheddar cheese, or cubed cheddar if you can’t find shredded
- 1 1/2 tsp of onion powder to season
- 2/3 c. of skim milk (in place of water to liquefy soup)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
This recipe generally takes about thirty minutes to prepare, and about twenty minutes to cook. You will need a glass casserole dish in which to cook the mixed casserole ingredients after you have prepared them.
1. Cut up and Cook the Chicken
Under no circumstances should you ever place raw chicken in a dish, even if that dish will spend a twenty or so minutes in the oven. Chicken should always be cooked until it isn’t visibly pink anymore before you add it to the rest of your ingredients. Be sure the chicken is diced into bite-size pieces and cooked in a skillet or pan on the stove. You can also make it more flavorful by smoking it.
Put a tablespoon of butter substitute or vegetable oil in the frying/sauteing pan and coat the bottom of the pan. When the liquid begins to sizzle, add your chicken. Saute on medium heat until the chicken is not pink anymore. Drain any excess liquid before continuing to the next steps.
2. Cook the Rice
Wild rice or brown rice is healthier than white rice for this dish, but you can use any kind of rice you want. Cook the rice by either steaming it in a rice cooker, or on the stove. If you want, you can use “minute rice” that cooks up quickly in a saucepan so that you can save time on prep. Do not attempt to use rice of any kind without cooking it first! It will still be hard and crunchy if you put raw rice in your casserole and expect the soup and milk to make the rice soft.
3. Add the Soup, Onion Powder, and Milk to the Chicken
Next, open a can of cream of chicken soup. This adds just enough flavor to the rice and chicken to enhance the dish, while simultaneously adding a creamy sauce. Using a spatula, scrape any remaining traces of the condensed soup out of the can over your chicken. Swish 2/3 cup of skim milk around inside the can and add to the soup and chicken. (If you prefer an even creamier, thicker sauce, use whole milk or two percent milk.) Add the onion powder to this mix. Stir the chicken, soup, onion powder, and milk over medium heat until fully blended and bubbling slightly. Remove the chicken and soup mix from the stove and pour this mixture into a casserole dish.
4. Add the Rice
Next, add the rice to the chicken and soup sauce. Stir until thoroughly mixed. It should look very much like a casserole now, but you don’t want to forget your cheese!
5. Add Your Cheese
Here is where shredded cheese reigns. Stir your pound of shredded cheddar into the casserole mix in the casserole dish. Stir thoroughly so that there is obviously cheese throughout. If you are using cubed cheddar instead of shredded cheddar, you will need to stir the casserole completely after you remove it from the oven later. The shredded cheese helps you skip that extra step.
6. Smooth, Cover, and Bake
Smooth the casserole down into an even and level mixture. Cover the dish with either a casserole dish cover or with tin foil, whichever is easier and most handy. Bake the whole dish in your oven for twenty minutes at three-hundred-fifty degrees. You will notice that the cheese in the casserole is all melty and gooey when you remove the dish from the oven. Salt and pepper to taste according to individual tastes. (If the casserole seems a tad bland when it comes out of the oven, which it shouldn’t, but if it does, a little salt and/or pepper go a long way.)
Serving Instructions and Serving Suggestions
Serve warm so that everyone can enjoy the melted cheesy goodness. One casserole serves 4-6 portions to the average size family. Usually about a cup of the casserole is a standard serving size. You may serve more or less according to the number of people eating. You may also double the recipe if you have a big enough casserole dish and more mouths to feed. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator right away because of the meat and dairy involved in making this particular recipe.
Variations and Add-Ins:
There are a couple of variations for this dish if you would like to try making it a different way. Each variation changes the number of steps, which may increase or decrease your prep time and difficulty rating accordingly.
1. Add broccoli or peas for a little extra color and to add a vegetable to the dish.
2. Cook the chicken (I like to make it more smoky with charcoal) as whole breasts ahead of making the rice and sauce and then lay them over the top of the soup, rice, and cheese mixture. Everyone is served a whole breast with the rice on the side or underneath the chicken breast.
3. Instead of adding cheese, use a condensed cheese soup. Add another third of a cup of milk to liquefy the cheese soup along with the cream of chicken soup. It will not be as gooey as you might like, but it will still have a very nice cheesy taste.
4. Go “au gratin” with it by adding powdered cheddar cheese croutons on the top of the casserole before baking. If you love cheesy au gratin potatoes, you like this addition.
5. Use a cheesy rice ready-mix in place of making your own melted cheese and rice. Cheesy rice is a quick rice packet you can buy in the noodles and rice aisle at the store.