This cheesy chicken and rice casserole is comfort food at its best! Loaded with veggies and a tasty buttery cracker topping, it is fantastic.

Casseroles may have fallen out of food fashion, but they definitely have their time, place, and purpose. Especially when they are as delicious (and as kid-friendly!) as this one!

Scoop of broccoli rice casserole on metal serving spoon.

Easy From-Scratch Cheese Sauce

This delectably cheesy casserole starts with a quick saute of carrots, onions and garlic in butter. I mean, that is not an entirely bad way to start things off, am I right?

Flour is added and cooked into the mixture to make a roux which will thicken the sauce once the broth is added.

After the cream sauce has thickened, a couple other key ingredients are added:

  • cream cheese
  • shredded cheddar cheese (grate your own for optimal cheesiness!)
  • salt + pepper + pinch of thyme

The cream cheese helps thicken the sauce and adds creaminess without screaming: I AM CREAM CHEESE, HEAR ME ROAR. I promise you’ll hardly know it’s there…but also, don’t leave it out. (This special note included for all my cream cheese haters out there). 😉

Casserole Add-Ins

Beyond the cheese sauce, the main ingredients for this casserole are simple:

  • cooked, chopped chicken (a rotisserie chicken works fabulously well here)
  • cooked rice (you can use white or brown rice…see the note in the recipe for how to measure)
  • steamed broccoli (I do this the easy way in the microwave – details in the recipe)

I suppose if you are using a super deep skillet that also happens to be oven-safe, once everything is mixed in, you can keep it all in this cozy spot without transferring to another baking dish.

I like to transfer everything to a baking dish since my skillet is too maxed out to also include the buttery cracker topping.

Ritz Cracker Topping

Speaking of buttery cracker topping, this delightful element to the cheesy broccoli casserole is as simple as it sounds: crushed crackers + butter!

The crackers don’t need to be pummeled to smithereens. Coarsely crushed is what you want.

And while the cracker topping is very delicious, you can leave it off if you’d like and bake the casserole without it.

Make-Ahead Tips

This chicken and rice casserole – with the creamy, cheesy sauce and hearty veggies – is spectacular.

It can be made ahead quite easily! To do so:

  1. Make the sauce and let it cool until lukewarm.
  2. Add the chicken, broccoli and rice.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
  4. Mix the cracker topping and refrigerate separately in a bag or container.
  5. Add the topping when ready to bake. Add 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time to account for the chilled casserole.

I haven’t tried freezing this casserole, but think it *might* work just fine! Again, I’d freeze the casserole and topping separately.

Scoop taken out of white casserole pan of broccoli chicken and rice casserole.

Comfort Food at its Best

Not only is this casserole wonderful for family dinner night, but it also makes a really great family-friendly take-in meal for friends or family.

Serve it with a light side dish, like a green salad or fresh fruit, and you have a really tasty meal.

While it does require a bit of prep and a few more dishes to wash than your easy, 30-minute meal routine, this cheesy chicken and rice casserole is very much worth it!

The leftovers are incredibly tasty, too (i.e. tasty enough I had to hide them in the back of the fridge behind the buttermilk so I had a lunch to look forward to).

Fork taking bite of casserole with rice, broccoli and carrots.

What to Serve With This

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Fork scooping bite of casserole on white plate with rice, broccoli and carrots.

Cheesy Broccoli Chicken and Rice Casserole

4.97 stars (33 ratings)

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cut into cubes and softened
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of dried thyme
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 cups broccoli florets, chopped small
  • 3 cups cooked, chopped chicken
  • 2 cups cooked white or brown rice (see note)
  • 1 ½ cups coarsely crushed Ritz crackers (about 1 sleeve, 32 crackers)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking pan and set aside.
  • In a 12-inch deep skillet (if you don't have a deep skillet, use a 4- or 5-quart pot or saucepan), melt the butter over medium heat and add the carrots, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the veggies soften a bit, 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the flour and stir to combine. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk in the broth until smooth, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until thickened.
  • Add cream cheese, salt, thyme and pepper. Continue cooking, whisking until mostly smooth (it's ok for there to be a few small lumps of cream cheese – you won't even notice them at the end).
  • Off the heat, add the cheddar cheese and stir until combined. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed (this is important for flavor)! Set aside.
  • Combine broccoli florets and 1/2 cup water in microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave for 3 to 4 minutes until broccoli is tender. (Alternately, you can steam the broccoli on the stovetop.) Drain excess water.
  • To the cheese sauce, add the steamed broccoli, chicken and rice. Mix until evenly combined. Spread evenly in the prepared baking dish.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the cracker crumbs and melted butter. Spread this mixture evenly over the top of the casserole.
  • Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until hot and bubbling and the cracker topping is lightly golden (if it browns too quickly on top, lightly cover with foil and continue baking until the casserole is hot throughout). Serve immediately.

Notes

Rice: the rice should be lightly packed into a cup – don’t cram it in there or the casserole will be dry. If you’re the weighing type, you’ll want about about 12 ounces of cooked rice, give or take a bit.
Serving: 1 serving, Calories: 364kcal, Carbohydrates: 27g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 24g, Saturated Fat: 13g, Cholesterol: 58mg, Sodium: 776mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 3g
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Recipe Source: inspired by a recipe in Cuisine at Home (changed almost everything about it – added cheddar cheese, reduced cream cheese, used broccoli and more of it instead of broccolini, and more)