Chicken, Cheddar + Wild Rice Casserole

by Amy on 22 January 2013

let’s talk about the elephant in the room, shall we? i tried my best to make this casserole look pretty, but casseroles, despite their extreme deliciousness, are just not the prettiest of meals. so, you’ll have to trust me when i say that, despite its ugly duckling appearance, this is one of the *best* casseroles i’ve ever had. it’s a super savory casserole full of delicious wild rice, tender pulled chicken, lots of veggies, + an absolutely divine creamy homemade cheddar sauce. topped with a crunchy cheddar + panko breadcrumbs crust, then baked until golden + bubbly, it is casserolely perfection.

here’s how good it is: i made the full recipe last Thursday for dinner. the recipe makes about 10 servings, + in the 4 days since then, we ate every single one of those servings. my husband is not usually a huge leftovers fan, but he specifically requested this for all of his lunches this weekend. like many dishes, it actually seems to get more flavorful after a day or two in the fridge. so, if you’re looking for a fantastic comfort food meal that will make for awesome leftovers, too, give this a try!

Cheesy Chicken, Cheddar + Wild Rice Casserole

serves 8-10, adapted from picky palate


3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves fresh minced garlic
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken breast
2 4.6 oz boxes of wild rice, prepared (i use uncle ben’s long grain + wild rice blend)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

for the cheese sauce:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups chicken broth
3 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. heat oil into a medium dutch oven or pot over medium heat. saute onion, celery + carrots until softened, about 10 minutes. stir in garlic + cook for 1 minute. stir in chicken, prepared rice, salt, pepper + garlic salt. reduce heat to low.

prepare cheese sauce: melt butter into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. whisk in flour, salt + pepper + cook for about 3 minutes, until roux turns golden. slowly pour in chicken broth whisking continuously. whisk until thick + nearly boiling, then stir in 2 cups cheddar cheese until melted.

pour cheese sauce into chicken/rice mixture then transfer to a 9×13 inch baking dish. top with additional 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese + panko breadcrumbs, + bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted, golden + bubbly.

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{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Regina @ SpecialtyCakeCreations January 22, 2013 at 6:44 am

Amy! This must be one of the prettiest casseroles I have ever seen served. You are right, they are hard to make look good. But I think you REALLY accomplished that.
It makes me salivate!

2 danielle January 22, 2013 at 7:22 am

I think it looks great! I love casseroles and I’m always looking for a good recipe that doesn’t have cream of anything in its ingredients.

3 amy January 22, 2013 at 8:20 am

Agree, I prefer to not use canned “cream of something” soups if I can help it, so I’m always on the lookout for recipes, specifically casserole recipes, that don”t use ’em!

4 claire @ the realistic nutritionist January 22, 2013 at 8:44 am

You totally just made a casserole look elegant. You are my idol!!

5 Tracey January 22, 2013 at 10:39 am

It’s totally casserole weather here right now and we’ve been loading up on them. Looks like I have another one to add to my to-do list, this looks great!

6 sally @ sallys baking addiction January 22, 2013 at 12:07 pm

I love having leftovers in the fridge to take to work for lunch for the week. this would be a perfect sunday night meal for us! i love casseroles. :)

7 Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious January 22, 2013 at 12:17 pm

It definitely looks pretty on my end! Please pass me a fork so I can devour this.

8 Katie B. of January 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I think you did a wonderful job of making a casserole attractive! And kudos to you for not using those canned “cream of fake ingredients” soups. This looks delicious. :)

9 kirsten@FarmFreshFeasts January 22, 2013 at 2:24 pm

My family loves casseroles *and* leftovers, so I look forward to trying this out on them. I think that a bag of chopped carrot/celery/onion/chard stem/zucchini that I put up from my farm share would be a good sub for the diced veg. It seems all I need are some Uncle Bens, chicken, and panko.


10 amy January 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Yes, that chopped veg blend from your farm share would be an awesome substitution, plus it would add some zucchini into the casserole, which I love. great idea! hope y’all love this when you try it!

11 Choc Chip Uru January 22, 2013 at 3:08 pm

I love the beautiful presentation and ingredients involved :)

Choc Chip Uru

12 Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking January 22, 2013 at 4:06 pm

This looks so delicious, Amy! My husband would love it, and I’d gobble it up too!

13 Bernadette @ Now Stir It Up January 22, 2013 at 5:55 pm

This looks great if you ask me! I am always up for a casserole that makes plenty of left overs.

14 angela @ another bite please January 22, 2013 at 9:04 pm

hahahaha the elephant in the room…you are too funny…some meals are SO hard to get a good photo…yours still looks so pretty. And you’ve sold me on this – eating leftovers for that many days I am in. I love leftovers…and my hubby now loves leftovers since my cooking has gotten so much better 😉

15 amy January 22, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Angela, I totally know what you mean! My husband used to hate leftovers when I first met him, now he’s more than willing to eat them because he says that my cooking makes them worthwhile. Best feeling ever to convert a leftover-disliker into a leftover-lover!

16 Kathryn January 23, 2013 at 4:39 am

you’ve done a way better job with the photographs than I ever could – I think it looks really amazingly delicious!

17 Caroline @ chocolate & carrots January 23, 2013 at 6:22 am

I always hate photographing casseroles. You did a fantastic job at making it look gorgeous!

18 Megan @ girl by the lake January 23, 2013 at 8:47 am

Hi there! This looks awesome! Now that I’m back in the work force, I’ve been struggling to find easy, yet yummy, casseroles for weeknight dinners. This one definintely makes the list!

I hope you’re doing well…I’ve heard it’s been a bit chilly in Tennessee (just not as cold as my -9 degree Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of this week!). Happy Wednesday!

19 amy January 23, 2013 at 8:48 am

Hey friend! Yesterday was the coldest day Nashville had had in ages (at least it seemed that way) – highs only in the 20s! But I agree – that’s nothing compared to some of the super-cold Midwest + Northeast temps. It’s already starting to warm up here – hope you get some higher temps in Chicagoland soon, too!

20 Beth January 23, 2013 at 8:49 am

These days I’m really trying to make big batches of things that we can ALL eat (including the little one), plus have leftovers, and this looks perfect. Like the idea of being able to add other vegetables in too – particularly broccoli since the boys both love it, but I don’t unless it’s inside something (this is one of those weird aversions that came during pregnancy and hasn’t left me after…)

21 amy January 23, 2013 at 9:28 am

I think broccoli would be an especially awesome addition to this, since it’s such a good companion for cheddar sauce. I’ll definitely be trying that add-in next time – thanks for the great idea!

22 Annie @ Annie's Noms January 23, 2013 at 9:29 am

I know exactly what you mean about trying to make casseroles pretty! I find it so hard, they are pure comfort food, I adore them, but I haven’t managed to make one look good in a photo yet. I’m jealous because yours looks amazing and delicious! :)

23 sarah k @ the pajama chef January 23, 2013 at 10:29 am

casseroles aren’t that pretty, but they taste so good. this sounds like a winner!

24 Jessica@AKitchenAddiction January 23, 2013 at 11:33 am

I love wild rice and this casserole sounds like a perfect way to use it!

25 chris @ thekeenancookbook January 23, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Yum! Looks great!

26 Jackie @ Domestic Fits January 23, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I don’t care what you say, this thing looks delicious! Love it :)

27 Nicole @ youngbrokeandhungry January 23, 2013 at 9:12 pm

You did a great job making it look pretty! And I love recipes that taste better the next day, it doesn’t make me feel guilty when I can’t eat the humongous portion I served myself.

28 The Food Hound January 23, 2013 at 9:46 pm

YES! My friends and I are always saying that it would be nice to make a comforting casserole that does not involve a canned cream of something! This is PERFECT for cold weather comfort! Can’t wait to try it, and I KNOW the babe will gobble it up!! And I totally agree- it’s useless to try to take a pretty photo of a casserole :)

29 amy January 23, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Yay, I can’t wait to hear what you think of it!! =)

30 Shannon January 23, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Oh, I’m totally going to try this one. I am total Pro-Casserole. They are easy to make, doesn’t use a ton of dishes for prep, and in about 30 minutes dinner is served. And you can’t go wrong with cheese, chicken and rice!!

31 luv what you do January 24, 2013 at 7:00 am

I love one dish comfort meals this time of year! They are perfect for these freezing temperatures!

32 Mackenzie {SusieFreakingHomemaker} January 24, 2013 at 7:37 am

I lourves me a casserole. But I totally agree – it’s hard to make them look pretty. Though I do think you have done a damn good job!! :)

33 amy January 24, 2013 at 7:41 am

Awww, thanks Mackenzie. =)

34 Hayley @ The Domestic Rebel January 24, 2013 at 9:08 am

ugly duckling or not, i still want to go to town on this casserole, Amy! I love casseroles; they’re so hearty and comforting!

35 Beth January 24, 2013 at 4:00 pm

There’s no need to apologize for your photo! It looks so good that I can’t wait to try it. Casseroles are terrific, and I love leftovers the next day.

36 Monet January 24, 2013 at 6:55 pm

We will be making this…tomorrow night. I think this looks AMAZING. I adore chicken and rice casserole, but I’ve never tried it with wild rice. Brilliant. Thank you for sharing!

37 amy January 24, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Wonderful, Monet – hope you and your family love it!

38 Elizabeth January 24, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Not only does this sound delicious, but it looks amazing as well! You did a great job photographing such a tough casserole!

39 Blond Duck January 24, 2013 at 9:18 pm

You make a magazine worthy- casserole– SO delighted it’s not with canned cream of chicken soup!

40 Stephanie @ Macaroni and Cheesecake January 25, 2013 at 9:11 am

This sounds wonderful and I love the homemade cheese sauce! I love your presentation too!

41 Anna @ Hidden Ponies January 26, 2013 at 1:15 am

I think your casserole is ready for the ball! It looks so pretty, and I can imagine how great it tastes – pinning this one to try, I love finding new rice recipes!

42 Amy (Savory Moments) January 26, 2013 at 7:58 am

Don’t worry — your casserole looks both pretty and tasty! I feel the same way though because the past couple dishes I’ve posted have been gooey casseroles that just aren’t super photogenic (but still delicious!)

43 natalie@thesweetslife January 26, 2013 at 10:14 pm

before i even read your first sentence i was like dang, she knows how to make a casserole pretty! well done!

44 Marina January 27, 2013 at 4:00 am

Girl, it looks beautiful, what are you talking about?? Wow, yummi!!

45 Jed Gray (sportsglutton) January 27, 2013 at 10:11 am

Seriously a great job of making a casserole look good Amy. I’ll be stealing this idea from you for future use. 😉

Hope you’re having a great weekend!

46 EA-The Spicy RD January 27, 2013 at 10:17 am

I don’t see the elephant in the room Amy…Sure looks good to me :-) Pinned and ready to make -perfect comfort food for the rainy weather we’ve been having!

47 amy January 27, 2013 at 10:49 am

Y’all are so sweet – thank you for your kind casserole words!

48 Kristi @ My San Francisco Kitchen January 27, 2013 at 7:10 pm

I agree with you that casseroles are hard to make “pretty,” but yours certainly does not look ugly! It looks quite delicious :)

49 katie January 28, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Oh this sounds great. I love making dinner with leftovers in the fridge!

50 CJ January 31, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I think the first pic is quite nice :)

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