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.
Our Favorite Chicken Casserole
The very first recipe I shared on my blog WAY back in 2014 was this Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole.
It is by far my family's all-time favorite comforting casserole dish, and through the years, it has proven to be one of your favorites as well.
This simple chicken and rice casserole is easy to make, tastes extremely indulgent, and appeals to just about every palate--even picky kids!
Made with leftover chicken, cooked rice, a simple from-scratch creamy sauce, and cheddar cheese, this chicken and rice casserole is a simple dish, yet still delivers incredible flavors.
Truly, what is not to love? Tender chicken and rice are swimming in a rich, cheesy sauce. It is absolute comfort food!
This is one of those casseroles you make when you are craving comfort, need to bring a meal to a friend, or just want to make your family smile.
Notes on Ingredients
- Chicken: This recipe calls for pre-cooked chicken, making it a great time to use any leftover cooked you have like store-bought or homemade Rotisserie Chicken, Instant Pot Rotisserie Chicken, Roasted Chicken Breasts, or Instant Pot Shredded Chicken.
- Chicken Stock/Broth: Use either low-sodium store-bought or homemade chicken stock to control the level of sodium.
- White Wine: I love adding white wine to elevate the sauce, but it is completely optional. Feel free to use additional chicken stock in its place. If using wine, use a dry white wine such as chardonnay or pinot grigio.
- Herbs: To add depth of flavor and elevate this chicken and rice casserole into something memorable, I love to add in fresh thyme and garlic. Both are optional and can be omitted for a more basic chicken and rice casserole.
- Cheese: Use a sharp or mild cheddar or Colby cheese for this casserole. For best results, grate the cheese yourself, as pre-grated cheese is coated in anti-caking agents which can prevent a smooth, creamy sauce.
- Rice: Use cooked white or brown rice. You will need 4 cups of cooked rice, which is equivalent to about 1 cup of uncooked rice.
How to Make Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole
When using leftover chicken and precooked rice, this casserole comes together with minimal hands-on prep, but delivers incredible flavor!
- In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat.
- Whisk in an equal amount of flour, to form a thick paste, known as a roux.
- Cook the roux, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, which will cook off the raw flour taste and make for a really delicious sauce.
- Slowly whisk in the wine and minced garlic and simmer until thickened.
- Add the chicken broth, ¼ cup at a time, whisking to incorporate. By adding the broth slowly, you will avoid a lumpy sauce.
- Season the sauce with fresh thyme, salt, and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Simmer, whisking often, until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, and stir in half of the cheese.
- Cook until the cheese is melted into the sauce and then turn off the heat.
- Add the diced or shredded chicken and cooked rice directly to the sauce and toss to evenly coat.
- Pour the mixture into a greased casserole dish and then top with additional shredded cheese.
- Bake until the cheese is melted, golden, and the casserole is warmed through.
This Chicken and Rice Casserole is hearty meal that stands alone. However, I love pairing this casserole with a side salad or steamed or roasted vegetables, like Instant Pot Green Beans or Roasted Broccoli.
Leftover Creamy, Cheesy Chicken and Rice can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It can also be frozen after baked for up to 1 month in an airtight freezer-safe container.
To reheat, allow to defrost in the refrigerator overnight if needed, and then place the casserole in a shallow heat-safe dish. Cover with a moistened paper towel and microwave for 1-2 minutes, until warmed through. The paper towel will keep the casserole moist and the microwave clean.
How to Prepare in Advance
Creamy, Cheesy Chicken and Rice is a great casserole to prepare in advance, and refrigerate or freeze to bake at a later time. This casserole bakes up perfectly from frozen, making it perfect to pop on a busy night or to take to a friend in need of a meal.
To prepare this casserole a advance, prepare up to baking. If freezing, be sure to use a disposable or freezer-safe baking dish. Cover the baking dish tightly with 2 layers of foil. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.
- To bake from the fridge, remove the casserole from the fridge and remove 1 layer of foil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, letting the casserole sit on the counter while the oven preheats. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until warmed through.
- To bake from the freezer, remove the casserole from freezer and remove 1 layer of foil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, letting the casserole sit on the counter while the oven preheats. Bake for 60 minutes covered, remove the foil, and bake, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes, or until warmed through.
- Gluten-Free Chicken and Rice Casserole: If you need this casserole to be gluten-free, use an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend in place of the 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 from the recipe. Stir in ½ cup bleu cheese or ranch dressing, ⅓ cup hot sauce, 1 teaspoon paprika, and ½ teaspoon garlic powder into the cheese sauce along with the rice and chicken. Bake as directed.
- Lower Fat: To keep this recipe a bit on the lighter side, reduce the amount of cheese in half.
More Chicken Casserole Recipes
- Buffalo Chicken Casserole
- Homemade Chicken Pot Pie
- Creamy Chicken Casserole
- Instant Pot Chicken and Rice
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If you enjoyed this creamy, cheesy chicken casserole, I would love for you to leave a comment and review below.
Creamy and Cheesy Chicken and Rice
- 4 Tbs butter
- ¼ cup all purpose unbleached flour
- ¼ cup white wine or additional chicken stock
- ½ tablespoon fresh minced garlic
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- ½ tablespoon fresh chopped thyme optional
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
- 4 cups cooked rice
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 3 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese divided
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 2 quart or 9x13 baking pan
- Melt butter into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute to cook off the raw flour taste.
- Slowly whisk in the wine and garlic, whisking until thickened.
- Add in the chicken broth ¼ cup at a time, whisking to incorporate. Add in the salt, pepper, and thyme and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer, whisking often, until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and then stir in 2 cups of cheese until melted. Turn off heat and stir in the cooked rice and chicken.
- Transfer to a 9×13 inch baking dish. Top with remaining cheddar cheese and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted through.
- To bake from the fridge, remove casserole from the fridge and remove 1 layer of foil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, letting the casserole sit on the counter while the oven preheats. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until warmed through.
- To bake from the freezer, remove casserole from freeze and remove 1 layer of foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes covered and then uncovered for 15 additional minutes.
This recipe was the very first recipe published on my blog in February 2014. The pictures and recipe remain the same, but the post has been updated with tips, variations, and new photos in both January 2020 and February 2022.
Does anyone know if you could substitute rigatoni noodles for the rice?
Hi Angel! I haven't tried rigatoni noodles in this dish, but I have a recipe that is similar using noodles Creamy Chicken Casserole. You could swap out the parmesan cheese for sharp cheddar for a more "cheesy" taste.
It was okay but all just mushed together. Need more texture
Hi Amber, this is certainly a softer casserole, especially if your rice was not perfectly chewy before making the casserole. In the future, you can add a cracker topping for texture, as I do in my recipe for Chicken Poppy Seed Casserole.
I added cut up broccoli and it adds nice texture
Still a beginner in cooking but this is probably one of my favorite recipes with very easy to understand directions
I love hearing you enjoyed (and found the directions easy to follow) Thanks for sharing Jonathan!
Hi Kristen. I am making this tonight and was checking the nutrition content. My great nephew is diabetic so carbs are important. The serving size is listed as 8g and the carbs as 76 per serving. Are these values accurate?
Hi Cathy! This recipe serves 8. Each serving size is about 1 3/4 cups, not 8 grams. The 76 carbs per serving is pretty accurate.
Would I be able to use instant rice?
As long as you cook it first Kelley, it will work great.
I made this last night and we enjoyed the flavor very much. I missed crunch and texture though. Next time I will cube the chicken instead of spread it, and add broccoli and maybe some celery and mushrooms.
You may want to add water chestnuts for some additional crunch.
Hi! Any chance you might know if this recipe would work using gluten-free flour?
Hi Cathy! Yes! I have made this with a gluten-free flour free 1:1 blend and it worked great.
Making this tonight with crack green bean bundles. Thought about doing a ritz cracker crumble to bake on top. Do u think this would be a good add?
Hi Alicia! I have had other readers share they have added cracker crumble (mixed with melted butter) over the top. I personally have not done this, but I would imagine it would be delicious.
I have made this with a seasoned bread crumb and Panko topping. I am sure crumbled Ritz crackers would be equally delicious
I like to make sauces and gravies with tapioca starch or corn starch as a thickener ever since my daughter was diagnosed with celiac. Works perfect!
This recipe was simple and delicious. I was able to use up my leftover cheese, this time it was mild cheddar and swiss. My husband said it was definitely something he would eat again.
Does the flour need to be un bleached? Can’t wait to make this!
It won't make a difference either way! Enjoy!
This recipe was great what I did though is added two small cans Of Campbell’s golden mushroom soup to it try came out great ordered groceries one day and they brought me Campbell’s golden mushroom soup by mistake I used it in a couple of my gand sauce recipes that stuff is amazing
Has anyone made this without the thyme and has it made a big difference? Also, would regular chicken broth make it too salty?
Hi Megan! You can leave the thyme out! I have done that before with success. If using regular chicken broth, I would cut the added salt back to 1/2 teaspoon.
Does anyone have any other veggie additions that worked well? Or ideas to try..I was wondering about asparagus? Wanting to make the recipe this Sunday. Thank you for any suggestions! I see mushrooms and peas so far!
Steamed Broccoli works well and asparagus would be good, if diced and steamed or blanched prior to cooking.