This easy Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole Recipe is a family favorite recipe! Fluffy rice and fresh vegetables are cooked in a homemade cheese sauce (using no canned soup) and topped with a buttery Ritz cracker topping.
Chicken and rice casseroles are one of the best comfort foods and are sure to satisfy the whole family. Loved by kids and adults, this easy casserole is the perfect way to serve up a dinner that everyone will eat…without complaints.
My Easy Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole Recipe is my favorite way to make this classic comfort food. It is super easy to do, uses simple ingredients, and is always satisfying. It can also be made gluten-free with some substitutions (see post below).
It’s also a great recipe to use up leftover rotisserie chicken! It’s right up there with my Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup and Chicken Pot Pie as a favorite way to use up cooked chicken.
A Simple Made from Scratch Chicken and Rice Casserole
Not only is this chicken and rice casserole super delicious, but no canned cream soup is used in this recipe! Yup, no cream of mushroom soup or cream of chicken soup is in this recipe. That’s perfect for those, like me, who aim to cut out processed foods or have food sensitivities that prevent them from eating them.
Wherever possible, I strive to make our meals using simple ingredients that we can feel good about. We aim to do better with the ingredients we eat but we are definitely not perfect. I mean, I went ahead and topped the whole made-from-scratch casserole with buttery Ritz crackers. I mean, this is comfort food, is it not?
While you can forgo the Ritz topping, I highly recommend you add it to your casserole. Not only does it add more buttery flavor, but the crackers add a nice crunch. That crunchy topping is the perfect contrast to the creamy rice beneath it.
A Versatile Chicken and Rice Casserole Recipe
I love this easy casserole recipe as it is written but this is one you can definitely have some fun with. There are so many easy substitutions and swaps you can make to tailor this dish to your tastes or what you have on hand.
I made sure to include some of my favorite substitutions in this post to help give you some ideas. Be sure to check out my Tips and Substitutions for this Recipe section for more ideas.
Ingredients in this Easy Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole Recipe
- Rice: rinsed, uncooked rice. Long grain rice is my go to for this recipe. I used regular white rice but basmati is another favorite rice variety to use. I don’t recommend using brown rice because it requires a longer cook time and never gets creamy enough for my liking.
- Cooked chicken: chopped. This is a great way to use up leftover rotisserie chicken but any leftover chicken will do. I often use skinless chicken breasts but chicken thighs are a more tender chicken cut.
- Olive oil and Butter
- Veggies: carrot, onion and bell pepper.
- Flour: used to thicken the sauce for this casserole. If you are gluten free, you can make a cornstarch slurry instead and add it to the sauce.
- Water: You can also use chicken broth but I opted for water since I use a chicken bouillon cube.
- Milk: whole milk, 2% milk or even skim milk can be used.
- Chicken bouillon cube: Adds flavor.
- Seasoning: Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper.
- Cheese: I like to use sharp cheddar cheese and Parmesan.
- Ritz crackers
Note: Ingredient quantities and full instructions are in the recipe card at the end of this post.
How to make this Easy Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole Recipe
1. Begin with the rice and chicken: Lightly grease a 8×13 baking dish and add the rinsed rice and the cooked chicken pieces.
2. Saute the vegetables: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and saute for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add the bell pepper and onion and continue to saute until they are softened.
3. Create a roux: Add the butter to the saucepan and once it is melted, add the flour. Mix to coat the vegetables and cook for a minute.
4. Make the sauce: Add the water, milk, bouillon cube, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper. Stir until it begins to thicken and it simmers. Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and cheddar cheese until melted. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
5. Combine everything and bake: Add the creamy sauce to the baking dish and stir everything together. Cover the chicken and rice mixture with foil tightly to prevent steam from escaping and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest with foil on for 5 minutes. Remove the foil and fluff the rice and chicken mixture with a fork before serving.
Adding the Ritz Cracker Topping
While the rice is resting for 5 minutes in the step above, begin making the ritz cracker topping.
- Crush the crackers: Place the ritz crackers in a ziploc bag and crush them using a rolling pin to turn them to crumbs. Alternatively you can pulse them in a food processor (just be careful not to turn them completely into a powder).
- Mix with melted butter: Add the melted butter to the ziploc bag and then massage it into the crackers so they are evenly coated.
- Sprinkle on top of the casserole and bake: After removing the foil from the rice and fluffing the rice with a fork as described in the step above. sprinkle on the ritz cracker topping. Return the casserole in the oven for 10 minutes.
Tips and Substitutions for this Recipe
- Cheese: I used cheddar and Parmesan cheese for my cheesy sauce but you can certainly swap in your favorite, melty cheese. Other good options include gruyere, gouda, Monterey Jack, and havarti.
- Vegetables: My favorite version of this recipe is using the carrots, onion, and bell pepper that I included in the recipe. That said, I have swapped in many other veggies over the years, depending on what I have on hand. Broccoli and peas are some of my favorite swaps. Frozen mixed vegetables work well too. You can use pretty much any vegetable you like.
- Chicken. This is a chicken and rice casserole but that doesn’t mean you can’t turn it into something different. I have used turkey, sausage, meatballs and ham with this same recipe. It’s delicious every time! Just make sure your protein is cooked before adding it to the casserole dish.
- Seasoning: I kept it simple with flavor from the bouillon cube and Italian seasoning, but you can definitely use your own favorites to switch things up. Dried or fresh herbs and spices like paprika and cayenne (for a bit of heat) are great options. You can add garlic powder, onion powder, or even onion soup mix if you like.
Can you make Chicken and Rice Casserole Gluten-Free?
Yes, this chicken and rice recipe can be made gluten free with a few swaps.
First, to make the cheese sauce, you will need to omit the flour. Instead, mix 1/4 cup of the milk in the recipe with 2 tablespoons corn starch in a small bowl. Once the slurry is mixed, add it to the sauce and heat until the sauce thickens.
The second swap you will need to make is to remove the Ritz cracker topping. You can use a gluten-free cracker in its place or leave it off completely. If you leave it off, you may want to add some shredded cheese on top of the creamy chicken rice casserole and heat it until melted instead.
Once cooled, leftover casserole can be transferred to an airtight container or simply covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated.
To heat up leftovers, you can reheat the casserole in the oven or heat it up stove top. If you are heating it stove top, its okay if you stir the cracker topping into the casserole. It will lose its crunch anyway after storing it in the fridge but its still delicious.
This casserole also makes great leftovers for work lunches. Simple scoop portions into a microwavable container and then heat it up in the microwave at work.
What to serve with this Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole
I love to serve this creamy casserole with a fresh vegetable side dish. Crisp salads like Green Bean Salad with Lemon Herb Vinaigrette, Radish Cucumber Salad, or Healthy Caesar Salad are great with this dish. As are vegetables sides like Green Beans Almondine, Roasted Asparagus, Sesame Broccoli, and Baked Green Bean Fries.
I hope you enjoy this easy dinner as much as we do! It’s the ultimate comfort food and this delicious recipe is loved by kids and adults, making meal time a bit easier!
If you are looking for more kid-friendly meal ideas, check out:
Homemade Corn Dogs Recipe
Oven Baked Chicken Strips
Easy Chicken Noodle Soup
You may also like these one pan meals:
Sheet Pan Sausage Dinner
Pork Tenderloin Sheet Pan Dinner
Baked Pesto Salmon Recipe
Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole Recipe
- 1 1/4 cup long grain rice rinsed (I use basmati rice)
- 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small carrot diced
- 1 small onion diced
- 1/2 bell pepper diced (any colour)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour (omit and see post above for a gluten-free substitution)
- 2 cups water
- 1 3/4 cups milk
- 1 chicken bouillon cube
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
- 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese shredded
Ritz Cracker Topping
- 3 dozen ritz crackers (replace with gluten free crackers to make this a gf dish)
- 6 tablespoons butter melted
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Lightly grease a 8×13 baking dish and add the rinsed rice and the cooked chicken.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and saute for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add the bell pepper and onion and continue to saute until they are softened.
- Add the butter to the saucepan and once it is melted, add the flour. Mix to coat the vegetables and cook for a minute.
- Add the water, milk, bouillon cube, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper. Stir until it begins to thicken and it simmers. Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and cheddar cheese until melted. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Add the creamy sauce* to the baking dish and stir everything together. Cover it with foil tightly to prevent steam from escaping and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let rest with foil on for 5 minutes. Remove the foil and fluff the rice with a fork before serving.
Ritz Cracker Topping
- While the rice is resting for 5 minutes in the step above, begin making the ritz cracker topping.
- Place the ritz crackers in a ziploc bag and crush them using a rolling pin to turn them to crumbs. Alternatively you can pulse them in a food processor (just be careful not to turn them completely into a powder).
- Add the melted butter to the ziploc bag and then massage it into the crackers so they are evenly coated.
- After removing the foil from the rice and fluffing the rice with a fork as described in the step above. sprinkle on the ritz cracker topping.
- Return the casserole in the oven for 10 minutes.