Creamy and Cheesy Chicken and Rice: The Ultimate Comfort Food Recipe

This Creamy Cheesy Chicken and Rice casserole is the ULTIMATE comfort food recipe. A from-scratch, rich, cheesy sauce coats rice and tender chicken to create one irresistible, creamy chicken and rice casserole.

Craving the ultimate comfort food? Look no further than the Creamy and Cheesy Chicken and Rice casserole. This recipe is a true crowd-pleaser, with its rich, from-scratch cheesy sauce enveloping tender chicken and rice. It’s the kind of dish that warms your soul and brings a smile to everyone’s face.

Our Favorite Chicken Casserole

Back in 2014, we shared the very first recipe on our blog: Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole. It has since become a beloved family favorite, and we’re thrilled to see it has also captured the hearts and taste buds of our readers. This simple yet indulgent casserole is easy to make and appeals to even the pickiest eaters.

Made with leftover chicken, cooked rice, a creamy from-scratch sauce, and cheddar cheese, this dish is a delicious combination of flavors. The tender chicken and rice swim in a rich, cheesy sauce that’s pure comfort food bliss. Whether you’re craving a cozy meal, need to bring a dish to a friend, or simply want to put a smile on your family’s faces, this casserole is a winner.

Notes on Ingredients

Before we dive into the recipe, let’s talk about the ingredients. This recipe calls for pre-cooked chicken, making it a perfect opportunity to use any leftover cooked chicken you have on hand. You can use store-bought rotisserie chicken, homemade roasted chicken breasts, or even Instant Pot shredded chicken.

To control the level of sodium, you can use either low-sodium store-bought chicken broth or make your own at home. We also recommend adding white wine to elevate the sauce, but it’s entirely optional. If you choose to use wine, go for a dry white wine like Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio.

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For added depth of flavor, we love incorporating fresh thyme and garlic. However, feel free to omit them if you prefer a more basic chicken and rice casserole. When it comes to cheese, opt for sharp or mild cheddar or Colby cheese. Grating the cheese yourself will ensure a smooth, creamy sauce, as pre-grated cheese often contains anti-caking agents.

As for the rice, you can use cooked white or brown rice. You’ll need about 4 cups of cooked rice, which is roughly equivalent to 1 cup of uncooked rice.

Recipe Modifications

If you have dietary restrictions or simply want to switch things up, here are a few modifications you can make to the recipe:

  • Gluten-Free Chicken and Rice Casserole: Use an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend instead of all-purpose flour.
  • Cheesy Chicken and Rice with Broccoli: Add 2 cups of chopped steamed broccoli to the casserole before baking.
  • Buffalo Chicken and Rice Casserole: Omit the thyme, white wine, and minced garlic. Instead, stir in ½ cup of bleu cheese or ranch dressing, ⅓ cup of hot sauce, 1 teaspoon of paprika, and ½ teaspoon of garlic powder into the cheese sauce along with the rice and chicken. Bake as directed.
  • Lower Fat: To reduce the calorie content, halve the amount of cheese in the recipe.

Feel free to get creative and make this casserole your own!

How to Make Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole

Saucepan with butter and flour mixed together to form a thick roux.

Preparation for this casserole is a breeze, especially when using leftover chicken and precooked rice. Here’s how to make it:

  1. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat.
  2. Whisk in an equal amount of flour to form a thick paste called a roux.
  3. Cook the roux, whisking constantly, for 1 minute to remove the raw flour taste and develop a delicious sauce.
  4. Slowly whisk in the wine and minced garlic, simmering until thickened.
  5. Gradually add the chicken broth, ¼ cup at a time, whisking to incorporate and avoid lumps.
  6. Season the sauce with fresh thyme, salt, and pepper, and bring it to a simmer. Continue simmering, whisking often, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and stir in half of the cheese. Cook until the cheese melts into the sauce, then turn off the heat.
  8. Add the diced or shredded chicken and cooked rice directly to the sauce and toss to coat evenly.
  9. Pour the mixture into a greased casserole dish and top with additional shredded cheese.
  10. Bake until the cheese is melted, golden, and the casserole is warmed through.
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Now, sit back and enjoy the irresistible aroma wafting from your kitchen.

Serving Suggestions

While this Chicken and Rice Casserole is a hearty meal on its own, it pairs well with a side salad or steamed/roasted vegetables like Instant Pot Green Beans or Roasted Broccoli. The fresh, crisp flavors of a salad or veggies provide a nice contrast to the creamy, cheesy casserole.

Storing Leftovers and Preparing in Advance

Leftover Chicken and Rice can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If you want to freeze it, use an airtight freezer-safe container, and it will stay good for up to 1 month. To reheat, defrost in the refrigerator overnight if necessary, then place the casserole in a shallow heat-safe dish. Cover it with a moistened paper towel and microwave for 1-2 minutes, until warmed through. The paper towel helps retain moisture.

If you prefer to prepare this casserole in advance, you can refrigerate it or freeze it before baking. Refrigerated casseroles can be baked within 3 days. Frozen casseroles can be baked straight from the freezer, making them perfect for busy nights or when you need to bring a meal to someone in need.

Experience the Bliss of Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole

If you’re looking for more cozy chicken recipes, consider trying our Buffalo Chicken Casserole, Homemade Chicken Pot Pie, Creamy Chicken Casserole, Instant Pot Chicken and Rice, or Slow Cooker Chicken and Rice.

For more inspiration in planning family meals, sign up for our FREE Meal Plans, and receive weekly meal plans complete with shopping lists.

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If you give this creamy, cheesy chicken and rice casserole a try, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment and review below, and let us know how it turned out for you. This recipe has been a staple on our blog since 2014, and while we’ve updated it with tips, variations, and new photos, it remains a timeless classic.