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The ultimate comfort food supper! This cheesy chicken and rice casserole is made from scratch with simple, wholesome ingredients. Top the dish with buttery Ritz crackers, and add a salad, corn muffins, or biscuits on the side for a hearty, family-friendly dinner.

Overhead shot of chicken and rice casserole from scratch with a side salad and biscuits.
Table of Contents
  1. Why You’ll Love This Chicken Rice Casserole
  2. The Best Casserole Dish to Use
  3. Ingredients
  4. How to Make Chicken and Rice Casserole from Scratch
  5. Serving Suggestions
  6. Preparation and Storage Tips
  7. Recipe Variations
  8. Tips for the Best Chicken and Rice Casserole From Scratch
  9. Chicken and Rice Casserole from Scratch Recipe

If you love chicken and rice casseroles as much as we do, be sure to try this dump-and-bake chicken broccoli rice casserole, a zesty jalapeno popper chicken casserole, this easy chicken and rice casserole with cream of chicken soup, and this broccoli cheese chicken and rice casserole, too!

It might require a few extra minutes of prep time, but baking this chicken and rice casserole from scratch without canned soup yields a cozy, down-home comfort food supper that is worth every bit of effort!

Why You’ll Love This Chicken Rice Casserole

  • No Canned Soup. It’s the best of both worlds — you get the delicious flavor of a made-from-scratch casserole with the ease of a simple weeknight dinner. While it might be homemade, it’s not difficult or time-consuming to prepare. The sauce is rich and flavorful (thanks to the cream cheese), but doesn’t require the preservatives or other ingredients that you might not desire in a can of condensed cream of chicken soup, cream of celery soup, or cream of mushroom soup.
  • Versatile. Tweak the dish in a variety of ways to suit your family’s taste preferences and schedule. Use leftover chicken, rotisserie chicken, or boiled chicken; or stir in broccoli florets, peas, carrots, or your other favorite veggies.
  • Make Ahead. The convenient recipe can be prepared in advance, making it ideal for hosting dinner guests and busy weeknights. It’s also the perfect cozy dinner to take to friends or neighbors in need.
Front shot of two plates of chicken and rice casserole on a wooden table.

The Best Casserole Dish to Use

We rounded up the best casserole dishes you can buy, including 2 that I personally own and love! While I use different-sized casserole dishes for different meals, the Staub Ceramic Rectangular Baking Dish earned the top spot. You can buy it on Amazon for $78.95 or at Target for $79.95. That said, I also love the beautiful, Scandinavian style of the Dansk Kobenstyle Baker, available for $135.

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a delicious chicken rice casserole from scratch. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Butter: for sautéing the vegetables, making the roux, and preparing the Ritz cracker topping.
  • Onion and garlic: add savory flavor to the casserole.
  • All-purpose flour: to make the roux that thickens the cream sauce.
  • Chicken broth: the liquid that thins the sauce.
  • Cream cheese: gives the casserole its creamy, cheesy flavor.
  • Thyme and rosemary: I prefer fresh herbs, but you can substitute with dried herbs in a pinch.
  • Dijon mustard: adds a slightly acidic, bright, zippy touch to the creamy base.
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper: to enhance the flavors in the dish.
  • Chicken: you’ll need cooked, shredded chicken, so pickup a store-bought rotisserie chicken for a shortcut, or cook your own chicken at home.
  • Rice: I prefer long-grain white rice in this casserole, but any variety of cooked rice will work.
  • Cheese: this is optional, since the creamy casserole filling is already cheesy (thanks to the cream cheese). If you’d like a cheesy topping on your casserole, try grated cheddar cheese, Colby Jack cheese, mozzarella, Pepper Jack, Monterey Jack, or just about any other good melting cheese that you enjoy.
  • Ritz crackers: coarsely crushed for that crunchy, buttery topping! You can substitute with other types of crackers, breadcrumbs, or Corn Flakes, too.
Horizontal side shot of a chicken and rice casserole in a blue baking dish.

How to Cook Chicken for a Casserole

While it’s possible to cook a casserole with raw chicken, you’ll need cooked chicken for this recipe, and a variety of options will work. Pick the most convenient method for you:

  • Boiled and Pulled Chicken: Boil about 2 lbs. of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs until cooked through (about 15 minutes). When cool enough to handle, chop or pull the chicken. You’ll need a total of about 4 cups shredded. I find that 2 lbs. of chicken breasts yields about 4 cups of pulled chicken, but there’s some flexibility here — it doesn’t need to be exact.
  • Rotisserie Chicken: This is a great shortcut! Purchase a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, shred the meat, and use in the recipe as instructed. One large rotisserie chicken should yield about 4 cups of meat, which is exactly what you need here.
  • Leftover Chicken: If you have leftover grilled or baked chicken from a previous meal, put those extras to good use in this casserole.
  • Canned Chicken: Yep, you can even use canned chicken in this casserole.
Process shot showing how to make chicken and rice casserole without cream soup.

The Best Rice to Use in a Casserole

This recipe calls for 4 cups of cooked long-grain white rice. You can boil your own rice on the stovetop, use leftovers from a previous meal, or cook parboiled rice (such as Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice) in the microwave for a shortcut.

If you’re using microwaveable rice, prepare it according to the package instructions before using in this casserole. Each packet yields 2 cups of cooked rice, so you’ll need exactly two packets for this recipe.

A Good Substitute for Cream of Chicken Soup

I’ve got nothing against a creamy casserole that comes together in minutes with help from cans of condensed cream of chicken soup. That said, sometimes it’s worth spending a few extra minutes in the kitchen to make a dish from scratch — just like Grandma’s!

Here, you’ll sauté onion and garlic in butter, make a roux (by adding flour), and then add chicken broth and cream cheese. This process only takes a few minutes, and it creates a rich, creamy, flavorful substitute for store-bought cream of chicken soup.

Process shot showing how to make chicken and rice casserole from scratch.

How to Make Chicken and Rice Casserole from Scratch

This easy chicken and rice casserole is a simple combination of creamy sauce, cooked chicken, and tender rice. It was inspired by a Chicken Poppy Seed Casserole recipe that I originally saw on Taste of the South’s website, and I just love the idea of using cream cheese to give the dish a cheesy flavor and a rich, creamy texture. It’s truly something special! You’ll need about 30 minutes of prep to bring everything together, finish with a cracker crumb topping, and pop it in the oven!

I’ve included the detailed directions in the recipe card below, but here’s the quick version:

  • Cook the creamy sauce in a large Dutch oven or big, deep skillet on the stovetop.
  • Stir in the chicken and rice.
  • Transfer the mixture to a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
  • Top with buttered cracker crumbs.
  • Bake until golden brown on top, and hot and bubbly on the inside.
Square overhead shot of a serving spoon in a chicken rice casserole.

Serving Suggestions

This classic chicken casserole goes well with just about any of your favorite sides. Here are a few easy options to try:

Close up side shot of a serving spoon in a homemade chicken and rice casserole.

Preparation and Storage Tips

  • Make Ahead: This is the ultimate prep-ahead meal to get dinner on the table quickly and easily — even on busy nights. Assemble the casserole, wrap tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before baking. When ready to bake, allow the dish to sit on the counter and come to room temperature for at least 30-60 minutes before putting it in the oven.
  • How to Freeze: Store the chicken casserole in the freezer before before baking. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, cover with foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to enjoy, thaw in the fridge overnight, allow the dish to come to room temperature on the counter for at least 30-60 minutes, and then bake according to recipe instructions.
  • Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat the casserole in a 350°F oven, covered, just until warmed through (about 20-30 minutes). You can also reheat individual portions in the microwave for about 30-60 seconds.
Overhead image of chicken and rice casserole on a wooden table with a side salad.

Recipe Variations

  • To serve a smaller family, cut all of the ingredients in half and bake the casserole in an 8-inch or 9-inch square dish.
  • For an even cheesier casserole, sprinkle grated cheddar cheese on top before adding the Ritz crackers.
  • Don’t have Ritz crackers? Substitute with crushed potato chips, crushed Corn Flakes cereal mixed with melted butter, or other buttery crackers (like Keebler Club crackers). You can also use buttered bread crumbs for a crispy topping.
  • Stir in veggies, such as parboiled broccoli florets, frozen peas, corn, steamed green beans or asparagus, or sautéed mushrooms.
  • Any variety of cooked rice will work. I like white long-grain rice, but basmati rice, wild rice, or brown rice are fine, too. Just make sure that your rice is cooked before adding it to the casserole.
Side shot of chicken rice casserole made from scratch with ritz crackers on top.

Tips for the Best Chicken and Rice Casserole From Scratch

  • Quick prep: to help this casserole come together quickly and easily, use store-bought rotisserie chicken and microwaveable packets of rice.
  • Use a full-fat block of cream cheese (not a tub of cream cheese spread).
  • Make sure that the cream cheese is softened at room temperature before adding it to the sauce. This will ensure that the cream cheese melts smoothly in the pan.
  • Use low-sodium chicken broth, or make your own chicken broth at home. This allows you to control the sodium in the casserole.
  • Bake the casserole just until it’s heated through. All of the ingredients are already cooked, so you just want to warm it in the oven until bubbly. Don’t bake it for too long or it will dry out and the rice will get mushy. You know a casserole is done when the filling is hot and bubbly and the topping is toasted and golden brown.
  • Garnish with fresh parsley, chives, or other herbs for a bright, colorful touch at the end.
Chicken and rice casserole from scratch on a dinner table with salad in the background.

More Chicken and Rice Casserole Recipes to Try

Square overhead shot of a serving spoon in a chicken rice casserole.

Chicken and Rice Casserole from Scratch

Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Resting Time 10 minutes
Total: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 8 people
Calories 596 kcal
An easy, cheesy chicken and rice casserole from scratch is the ultimate comfort food dinner!

Ingredients
  

  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) salted butter
  • 1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, cubed and softened at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (or ½ teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves (or ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 4 cups cooked long-grain white rice
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (optional)
  • 2 cups coarsely crushed Ritz crackers (about 1 sleeve of crackers) mixed with 2 tablespoons melted butter

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish or spray with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
  • In a large Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add flour, whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; whisk constantly until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; whisk in the cream cheese, thyme, rosemary, mustard, salt, and pepper until smooth. Stir in chicken and rice. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.
    Process shot showing how to make chicken and rice casserole without cream soup.
  • Top with shredded cheese (if using) and the buttered Ritz cracker crumbs.
    Process shot showing how to make chicken and rice casserole from scratch.
  • Bake until hot and bubbly, about 25-30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
    Overhead shot of chicken and rice casserole from scratch with a side salad and biscuits.

Notes

  • Quick prep: to help this casserole come together quickly and easily, use store-bought rotisserie chicken and microwaveable packets of rice.
  • Use a full-fat block of cream cheese (not a tub of cream cheese spread).
  • Make sure that the cream cheese is softened at room temperature before adding it to the sauce. This will ensure that the cream cheese melts smoothly in the pan.
  • Use low-sodium chicken broth, or make your own chicken broth at home. This allows you to control the sodium in the casserole.
  • Bake the casserole just until it’s heated through. All of the ingredients are already cooked, so you just want to warm it in the oven until bubbly. Don’t bake it for too long or it will dry out and the rice will get mushy. You know a casserole is done when the filling is hot and bubbly and the topping is toasted and golden brown.
  • Garnish with fresh parsley, chives, or other herbs for a bright, colorful touch at the end.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8 of the casseroleCalories: 596kcalCarbohydrates: 43gProtein: 30gFat: 34gSaturated Fat: 18gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 134mgSodium: 874mgPotassium: 387mgFiber: 1gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 928IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 86mgIron: 2mg
Keyword: cheesy chicken and rice casserole, chicken and rice casserole from scratch, chicken and rice casserole recipe, Chicken Rice Casserole
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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