Poppy Seed Chicken is an easy chicken casserole recipe made with cooked chicken, a homemade creamy sauce, and an irresistible topping of butter crackers.
Chicken Poppy Seed Casserole is made with tender chicken, a creamy sauce, and an irresistible buttery topping. It is hearty, flavorful, and always a hit with the kids!
Typically, this chicken casserole is made with canned cream of chicken soup, but this recipe for Poppy Seed starts off by preparing homemade cream of chicken soup.
But don't worry, this extra step only takes a few minutes, and will not only make you feel better about serving this chicken casserole to your family but will significantly improve the flavor.
Serve this easy, creamy Poppy Seed Chicken over rice, and watch your family devour dinner!
Notes on Ingredients
Poppy Seed Chicken is made with cooked chicken, sour cream, poppy seeds, butter crackers, and a homemade cream of chicken soup.
- Cooked Chicken: This casserole can be made with any leftover cooked chicken you have on hand. It is best to dice or shred the cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces to make it easier to eat and for the sauce to evenly coat the chicken.
- Butter: Use unsalted butter to control the level of sodium in this casserole. You will use butter both on the topping of the casserole and to make the creamy sauce.
- Chicken Stock: Use low-sodium store-bought or homemade chicken stock.
- Milk: For a creamy base, I add milk in addition to the stock to create a creamy sauce. Use any fat percentage of milk you like.
- Seasoned Salt: Seasoned salt will help to mimic the flavor found in canned cream soups. I use my homemade seasoned salt, but any store-bought brand can be used in its place.
- Garlic: Minced garlic is optional, but I love adding it to this casserole to really amp up the flavor of this chicken casserole.
- Sour Cream: Use full-fat or reduced-fat, not fat-free sour cream, as fat-free sour cream does not have the same flavor and can separate when baked.
- Butter Crackers: Classically this casserole is made with buttery Ritz crackers are standard, but I like to purchase organic butter crackers that are free from hydrogenated oils. Of course, the choice is yours!
- Poppy Seeds: The poppy seeds are obviously classic in a Poppy Seed Chicken. They add a nice texture and nutty flavor.
How to Make Homemade Poppy Seed Chicken
- Start this recipe by preparing the base, which is essentially homemade cream of chicken soup. To do this, melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Once butter is melted, whisk in flour. Cook for 1 minute to get rid of the raw flour taste while whisking the entire time.
- Slowly whisk in chicken stock and milk to incorporate into the roux. Season with the seasoned salt and garlic and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly.
- Once the sauce is boiling, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes, whisking occasionally.
- Once thickened, turn off the heat. That's all there was to making homemade cream of chicken soup, easy peasy.
- Combine this mixture with the diced chicken, sour cream, and poppy seeds, stirring until evenly combined.
- Pour the mixture into a greased baking dish.
- For the topping, place the butter crackers into a storage bag, and using a rolling pin, or meat mallet, crush them into crumbs. This is a great thing for kids to help with!
- Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and add right to the storage bag, tossing to coat the crumbs with the butter.
- Spread the cracker mixture over the casserole and bake until the crackers are golden and the chicken mixture is warmed through and bubbly.
Poppy Seed Chicken is classically served over rice, to soak up the rich, creamy sauce, and to make the dish a bit more substantial. I love pairing it with either Instant Pot Jasmine Rice or Instant Pot Brown Rice and rounding out dinner with a side of green beans almondine or mandarin orange salad, for a kid-friendly dinner.
One of the many benefits of this recipe for poppy seed chicken is that can be assembled in advance.
- Assemble the chicken mixture as directed. Allow it to cool slightly and then transfer it to a greased baking dish. Cover the casserole dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- When ready to bake, remove the baking dish from the refrigerator while the oven is preheating.
- Prepare the butter cracker topping as directed and then sprinkle it over the casserole.
- Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes, or until warmed through.
If you would like to freeze this casserole, I would use a freezer-safe, oven-safe baking dish and prepare and assemble Chicken Poppy Seed as directed. Cover tightly with 2 layers of foil and freeze for up to 1 month. To bake from frozen, remove the casserole from the freezer and remove one layer of foil. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes covered. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, or until warmed through.
- Gluten-Free Chicken Poppy Seed Casserole: Make this Poppy Seed Chicken gluten-free, by using a 1:1 Gluten-Free Flour Mix when making the cream of chicken soup and Gluten-Free Butter Crackers in place of the Ritz crackers. I have done this many times and the results are fabulous.
- Lower-Fat Poppy Seed Chicken: Use skim milk and reduced-fat sour cream OR plain Greek yogurt to prepare the creamy sauce. I would also recommend using diced or shredded chicken breasts, rather than dark meat chicken. You can also reduce the butter from 4 to 2 tablespoons for the cracker topping.
- Add Flavor: Feel free to add in up to ½ teaspoon of celery seed to the creamy filling to replicate the flavor in canned cream of celery.
More Chicken Casserole Recipes
- Easy Chicken Enchilada Casserole
- Cheesy Chicken and Rice
- Creamy Chicken Casserole
- Homemade Chicken Pot Pie
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If you tried this Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole, I would love for you to leave a comment and review below.
Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and brush a 2-quart or 8x8 casserole dish with butter or spray with cooking spray.
- In a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour and continue to cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly. Slowly whisk the milk and chicken broth into the flour mixture. Season with the seasoned salt and garlic and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Add the cooked chicken, poppy seeds, and sour cream to the pan and stir until everything is evenly combined. Pour the mixture into the greased casserole.
- For the topping, crush the butter crackers into crumbs in a large storage bag. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and then add the melted butter cracker crumbs, tossing to coat the crackers evenly with the butter. Spread the cracker mixture evenly over the chicken mixture.
- Bake the casserole for 20-25 minutes or until crackers have browned and the sauce is bubbly.
- Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes and then serve over rice or as desired.