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Make a cozy chicken and wild rice casserole from scratch with simple, wholesome ingredients. The flavorful rice, vegetables, mushrooms, and chicken come together in a creamy sauce with a buttery Ritz cracker topping.
Table of Contents
If you love chicken and rice casserole recipes as much as we do, be sure to try this classic chicken and rice casserole, an easy chicken broccoli and rice casserole, and this made-from-scratch cheesy chicken and broccoli casserole with rice!
Why You’ll Love this Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
- No Soup. The sauce that binds this casserole together is made from scratch with simple ingredients like butter, flour, chicken broth, and milk, so you don’t need any cans of condensed soup.
- Easy. While the sauce is homemade, the casserole still comes together easily. Use shortcuts like store-bought rotisserie chicken and microwaveable pouches of Uncle Ben’s wild rice to get the meal on the table even faster!
- Flavorful. This casserole is full of delicious, savory flavor and a variety of textures. No boring meals allowed! You’ll layer sauteed veggies with garlic, herbs, and seasoned wild rice. The crunchy, buttery Ritz cracker topping is the perfect finishing touch!
- Comfort food. Few meals are cozier or heartier than a chicken and rice casserole. This dish will warm you from the inside out — even on the chilliest evenings! It’s down-home comfort food at its best!
This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a pan of chicken and wild rice casserole without soup. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.
- Butter: to sauté the vegetables, to create the roux that thickens the sauce, and to butter the cracker crumbs.
- Onion, mushrooms, carrots, celery, and garlic: fresh veggies that add great flavor and texture to the dish.
- Flour: thickens the sauce.
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper: to enhance the flavors of the other ingredients.
- Chicken broth and milk: the liquid that creates the creamy sauce.
- Cooked wild rice: I use Uncle Ben’s wild rice, which is prepared with a seasoning packet for even more flavor in the dish. For a shortcut, use two microwaveable packets of Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice (cooked according to package directions).
- Cooked chicken: I use the meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken for a shortcut, but you can use leftovers from a previous meal, or you can cook your own chicken at home to use in this dish. See my notes below for those instructions.
- Parsley and thyme: fresh herbs add nice earthy, savory flavor.
- Buttered Ritz cracker crumbs: a classic crunchy topping for the casserole.
The Chicken for a Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
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 1½ – 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 (or as little as 3 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 or chop into bite-sized pieces, 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!
Which Wild Rice to Use
I always use Uncle Ben’s Long Grain & Wild Rice in this dish, prepared with the seasoning packet according to the package instructions. One 6-ounce box yields about 3 cups of cooked rice, so you will need 2 boxes for 4 cups of rice (with some rice leftover for another meal or to use in soup).
Alternatively, for a shortcut I have also used Uncle Ben’s “Ready Rice” Long Grain & Wild Rice microwaveable packets. These pouches include the herbs and seasonings as well. If using the microwaveable rice, prepare 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. Either option works!
A Good Substitute for Cream of Mushroom 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 veggies and mushrooms in butter and garlic, make a roux (by adding flour), and then add chicken broth and milk. This process only takes a few minutes, and it creates a rich, creamy, flavorful substitute for cream of mushroom soup.
How to Make Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole from Scratch
This easy chicken and wild rice casserole is a simple combination of creamy sauce, cooked chicken, fresh veggies ,and herb-flavored rice. You’ll need about 30 minutes of prep to bring everything together, finish with a cracker crumb topping, and pop it in the oven. The detailed directions are included in the recipe card below, but here’s the quick version:
- Sauté the veggies in butter.
- Add flour, salt, and pepper; cook for 1 more minute.
- Whisk in the broth.
- Simmer until the sauce thickens.
- Stir in the milk, then add the rice, chicken, parsley, and thyme.
- Cook for 1-2 more minutes.
- Transfer to a baking dish.
- Sprinkle buttered Ritz cracker crumbs on top.
- Bake for about 20 minutes.
This classic chicken casserole goes well with just about any of your favorite sides. Here are a few easy options to try:
- Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits, 3-Ingredient Buttermilk Biscuits, 4-Ingredient Butter Swim Biscuits, 7UP Biscuits, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Cheese Biscuits, Pumpkin Spice Biscuits, Cheddar Biscuits with Chives and Bacon, or Drop Biscuits
- Cast Iron Cornbread, Sour Cream Cornbread, Honey Butter Cornbread, Fluffy Bakery-Style Cornbread Muffins, Broccoli Cornbread, Southern Cornbread, Jiffy Cornbread with Creamed Corn, Sweet Cornbread, Pumpkin Cornbread, Cake Mix Cornbread, or Corn Sticks
- Cranberry Muffins or Apple Muffins
- Pumpkin Bread or Pumpkin Muffins
- No-Knead Dutch Oven Bread, Cranberry Walnut No-Knead Bread, Crusty French Baguette, Soft Dinner Rolls, or Homemade Crescent Rolls
- Green Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette, Southern Caesar Salad, Mixed Greens with Dijon Vinaigrette, Caesar Salad, or our favorite House Salad with Candied Pecans
- Fried Corn
- Southern Fried Apples, Baked Apple Slices, or Applesauce
- Roasted Asparagus or Sauteed Asparagus
- Amish Green Beans with Brown Butter or Southern-Style Green Beans
- Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower or Roasted Broccoli
- Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon or Roasted Root Vegetables
- Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots
- Cranberry Sauce
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, 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: Freeze the chicken casserole before baking. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, cover with foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to enjoy, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, allow the dish to come to room temperature on the counter for at least 30 minutes, and then bake according to recipe instructions. The creamy sauce is less likely to “break” when thawed if you give it time to come to room temperature (don’t put the frozen or cold casserole directly in the oven), and if you use full-fat milk instead of skim milk.
- Storage: The leftover baked casserole will last 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 1 minute.
- To serve a smaller family, cut all of the ingredients in half and bake the casserole in an 8-inch square dish.
- 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).
- Instead of the mushrooms, add frozen peas, corn, steamed green beans, or steamed broccoli to the casserole.
- For even more flavor, add extra seasoning (such as onion powder and garlic powder) or additional herbs like rosemary, chives, basil, or oregano.
- Add cheddar cheese or Parmesan cheese to the casserole.
Tips for the Best Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole Recipe
- Use pre-cooked chicken (not raw meat) in this casserole. Take advantage of leftovers from another meal, a store-bought rotisserie chicken, canned chicken, or boil your own chicken at home.
- If you’d like to include other larger vegetables in the casserole (like broccoli florets), steam them in the microwave so that they’re tender before you add them to the dish.
- While you can substitute with plain wild rice, I prefer the herb-seasoned boxes or packets of Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice (or other similar brands like Rice-a-Roni Long Grain & Wild Rice Blend).
- 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.
Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
- ⅓ cup salted butter plus 1 tablespoon, divided
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
- ½ cup peeled and diced carrots
- ½ cup chopped celery
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth
- 1 cup whole milk
- 4 cups cooked wild rice, prepared with the seasoning packet according to package directions (I use Uncle Ben's brand)
- 3-4 cups cooked, shredded or diced chicken (I use the meat from a rotisserie chicken)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes)
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme)
- 1 cup Ritz cracker crumbs (about 20 whole crackers before crushing)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- Melt ⅓ cup butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add mushrooms, carrot and celery. Cook until vegetables soften, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic; cook for 1 more minute, stirring constantly. Add the flour, salt and pepper; cook, stirring constantly, for 1 more minute. Gradually whisk in the broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly, and let the sauce bubble and simmer until it thickens, about 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to low, stir in the milk; add rice, chicken, parsley and thyme. Cook and stir for 1-2 more minutes. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Remove from heat.
- Transfer chicken and rice mixture to the prepared baking dish.
- In a small bowl, stir together the Ritz cracker crumbs and 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Sprinkle the buttered crumbs on the top of the casserole.
- Bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.