Make this easy 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. Add a salad and corn muffins or biscuits for an easy dinner any night of the week!
Wild Rice Chicken Casserole
It might require a few extra minutes of prep time, but making this Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole from scratch without canned soup yields a cozy, down-home comfort food supper that is worth every bit of effort! It's a basic dish that can be tweaked in a variety of ways to suit your family’s taste preferences and schedule. Use leftover chicken, rotisserie chicken or baked chicken — anything goes. The kids will go crazy for the creamy dish that's finished with a buttery, crunchy Ritz cracker topping!
Here's a quick peek at the simple ingredients you'll need for this recipe. As always, the exact measurements and full instructions are included in the recipe box at the end of this post:
- Salt and pepper
- Chicken broth
- Whole milk
- Cooked wild rice
- Cooked chicken
- Parsley and thyme
- Ritz crackers
What Chicken to Use 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 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 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!
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 packets 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!
What's 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 saute 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!
- Sauté onion, mushrooms, carrots, celery and garlic in butter.
- Add flour, salt and pepper; cook for 1 more minute.
- Whisk in the broth and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in the milk, then add the rice, chicken, parsley and thyme.
- Cook and stir for 1-2 more minutes.
- Transfer to a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
- Sprinkle buttered Ritz cracker crumbs on top.
- Bake (uncovered) in a 350° F oven just until warmed through, about 20 minutes.
What to Serve with Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
This classic chicken casserole goes well with just about any of your favorite sides. Here are a few easy options to try:
- A simple green salad dressed with Buttermilk Dressing or Green Goddess Dressing
- Arkansas Green Beans with Bacon
- Roasted Broccoli
- Roasted Asparagus
- Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
- Creamed Peas
- Three Bean Salad
- Wedge Salad
- Caesar Salad
- Southern Buttermilk Biscuits or Drop Biscuits
- Fluffy bakery-style Corn Muffins or Skillet Cornbread
- Pumpkin Bread or Pumpkin Muffins
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.
Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole Freezer Meal
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.
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.
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).
- 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.
More Chicken Casserole Recipes to Try
- Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole with Cream of Mushroom Soup and Lipton Onion Soup Mix
- Farmhouse Chicken Cornbread Casserole
- Chicken and Rice Casserole
- Chicken Noodle Casserole
- Amish Chicken and Corn Casserole
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 carrot
- ½ cup chopped celery
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon 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 instructions)
- 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.