Poppy Seed Chicken is a casserole made with shredded chicken, poppy seeds, a creamy sauce, and buttery crackers. This simple dish is typically served over rice, but in this version, the rice is combined with a creamy sauce for a hearty, comforting casserole that the whole family will love.
I will never forget the first time I had Poppy Seed Chicken. A friend brought this classic southern meal over after I had my daughter and my family devoured it.
It was pure comfort food–shredded chicken enveloped in a creamy sauce and topped with buttery Ritz crackers. Served up over fluffy white rice, it was a delicious chicken casserole I would never forget.
I set out to recreate this casserole with a few swaps for a more wholesome casserole. And I have to say I have succeeded in creating a delicious homemade version that not only is lower in fat and calories, it too, but also tastes like pure comfort.
Ingredients for Poppy Seed Chicken
Classic Poppy Seed Chicken is made with cream of chicken soup, sour cream, LOTS of butter and Ritz crackers and is served over rice. This version starts by making homemade cream of chicken–don’t worry it only takes a few minutes to make and the difference in quality is tremendous! And instead of the plain rice on the side, I chose to mix the rice right into the creamy sauce–that way this casserole is more hearty and the rice has so much more flavor!
To make this casserole you will need:
- Leftover Chicken–Use Rotisserie Chicken, Instant Pot Rotisserie Chicken, Instant Pot Chicken Breasts, or Oven Roasted Chicken Breasts
- Cooked Rice–Both brown rice or white rice work for this recipe. You can even use cooked quinoa if desired. I keep both Instant Pot Rice and Instant Pot Quinoa on hand in my freezer to use for quick meals like this.
- Cream of Chicken Soup–I use Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup, but do not let that intimidate you! It only requires butter, flour, chicken stock, and a few seasonings.
- Butter Crackers–Ritz crackers are standard, but I like to purchase organic butter crackers that are free from hydrogenated oils.
- Poppy Seeds/Chia Seeds–I mix in chia seeds with the poppy seeds for nutritional benefits, but feel free to use all poppy seeds. Use leftover poppy seeds to make a delicious Poppy Seed Dressing.
- Sour Cream–or plain Greek yogurt for a lower calorie casserole.
How to Make Poppy Seed Chicken
Step One: Prepare Cream of Chicken Soup
- In a large saucepan or dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat.
- Once butter is melted, whisk in flour. Cook for 1 minute to get rid of raw flour taste while whisking the entire time.
- Whisk in chicken stock, milk salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic, and turmeric (if using).
- Bring to a boil and whisk until just thickened about 2-5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
Pro Tip: Use an oven-safe dish dutch oven to prepare your cream of chicken soup in and you can just pop the dish right into the oven versus using a casserole dish–one less dish to wash!
Step Two: Prepare Poppy Seed Chicken
- Add diced chicken, poppy seeds, chia seeds (if using), sour cream, and rice to the sauce.
- Mix to combine.
- Pour the mixture into a greased 2-quart casserole dish (or leave in a dutch oven).
Step Three: Prepare Cracker Topping
- In a heavy-duty Ziploc bag, crush butter crackers.
- Add in melted butter and toss to combine.
- Sprinkle evenly over casserole.
Step Four: Bake Chicken Poppy Seed
- Bake casserole until warm and bubbly and crackers become browned.
- Alternatively, if you are in a hurry, you can broil the casserole to brown the crackers–just watch closely!
While this creamy, poppy seed chicken casserole is one of our favorite Leftover Rotisserie Chicken Recipes, you may also enjoy using leftover chicken in Waldorf Chicken Salad, Chicken Enchiladas, or to make a Buffalo Chicken Pizza. I would love to hear how much you enjoyed this recipe in the comments!
Chicken Poppy Seed Casserole
- 4 tablespoons butter divided
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 cup milk
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon tumeric (adds color and nutrition--you can omit)
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 cup plain sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 2 cups cooked chicken
- 3 cups cooked rice or quinoa
- 1/2 cup crushed butter crackers
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 2 quart casserole dish.
- Over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and whisk in flour. Cook for 1 minute to get rid of raw flour taste.
- Whisk in milk, chicken stock, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic, tumeric (if using). Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer until sauce has thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off heat.
- Add in cooked chicken, cooked rice, sour cream, chia and poppy seeds and stir to combine. Pour mixture into greased casserole dish (or leave in pan if using an oven safe dutch oven).
- In a ziploc bag, crush up butter crackers. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and add to cracker crumbs and toss to coat.
- Top rice mixture with cracker mixture.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until crackers have browned.
- Make Poppy Seed Chicken GLUTEN FREE by using 1:1 Gluten-Free Flour Mix and Gluten Free Butter Crackers.
- You can use all poppy seeds instead of a mixture of chia and poppy seeds.
- Feel free to use cooked quinoa in place of the cooked rice.
- Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Preparing in Advance: Assemble the casserole up to baking, minus the cracker coating. Allow to cool and store in a large freezer gallon-sized bag or in a disposable casserole pan. Freeze for up to 3 months. To prepare from Frozen, defrost overnight in the refrigerator. Top with the cracker topping and bake at 350 degrees covered for 1 hour and then uncover and bake for 20-30 minutes until the dish is bubbly and warmed through.