Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole is irresistibly creamy, satisfying, texture-packed comfort food made from scratch without any canned soups!

This Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole is warm, creamy, hearty, umami rich comfort food the whole family will love!  It’s packed with juicy, tender chunks of chicken, earthy mushrooms, and nutty wild rice, enveloped in a creamy, cheddar-Parmesan laced sauce made without any canned soups!  Top it all off with buttery, golden crispy panko for the perfect balance of satisfying textures and flavors. This chicken and rice casserole is perfect for all those busy nights because you can prep it entirely ahead of time, then just pop it in the oven at dinner OR freeze for later!  With a few tips and tricks, you can elevate this casserole to next level served alongside a green salad and garlic bread!

Chicken and rice are a match made in heaven!  Don’t miss my other chicken and rice recipes: Chicken Broccoli Rice CasseroleOne Pot Creamy Chicken and RiceChicken and Wild Rice Soup, Greek Chicken RisottoMexican Chicken and Rice, Arroz con Pollo and Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice Bake. 

How to Make Chicken and Rice Casserole Video

up close of serving chicken wild rice casserole showing how creamy it is


 
top view of chicken and wild rice casserole with mushrooms, carrots, celery and wild rice in a from scratch cream sauce topped with panko
showing how to serve chicken and wild rice casserole in a bowl garnished with fresh parsley

Ingredients in Chicken Wild Rice Casserole 

In addition to wild rice, this chicken casserole boasts an ensemble cast of juicy chicken, umami rich mushrooms, aromatic onions and garlic, carrots, and celery.  Instead of canned cream of chicken soup or mushroom soup, it’s made with a homemade cream sauce that’s 1000x better, and easy to whip up with ingredients you likely have on hand right now. Let’s take a closer look at what you’ll need to make Chicken Wild Rice Casserole from scratch (full recipe with measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

  • Chicken: Use boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs cut into large bite-sized pieces, about 1-inch. The large pieces ensure the chicken cooks evenly and stays tender and juicy. You are also welcome to use leftover chicken, shredded chicken or rotisserie chicken. 
  • Mushrooms: I recommend using baby bella (cremini) mushrooms. They are a more mature version of the white button mushroom and therefore heartier, earthier, and more robustly flavored.  Of course, you can also use more exotic mushrooms such as king oyster, shiitakes and portabella (remove stems from shiitakes).  I do not recommend white button mushrooms unless you are looking for a very mild flavor.
  • Onion and Garlic: These aromatics add depth and flavor to your casserole. Fresh is always best, but in a bind, you can substitute with 1 teaspoon each garlic powder and onion powder.
  • Vegetables: Celery and carrots add flavor, texture, and nutrition to the chicken rice casserole. Their sweetness balances the umami richness and their subtle crunch compliments the creaminess. They are also a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, helping to round out the meal.
  • Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup: My homemade version starts with a roux (a mixture of flour and butter/oil), then is whisked with milk and chicken broth whisked with cornstarch to create a wonderfully thick sauce. You want the sauce to seem a little on the thick side because it will thin out some in the oven. To the sauce, you’ll add seasonings and cheese so it’s stand-alone-scrumptious.
  • Herbs and Spices: Herbs such as thyme, parsley and basil add earthy freshness, and spices such as paprika, salt and pepper add a bit of warmth and heat.
  • Cheeses: Freshly grated Parmesan is used for its salty bite and cheddar for its sharp richness. Please only use freshly grated cheeses because the pre-shredded varieties don’t melt nearly as well – especially Parmesan.
  • Panko breadcrumbs: Panko makes the crispiest buttery topping! It’s a style of Japanese breadcrumbs that is fluffier and bakes up much crispier than traditional breadcrumbs. It is located with the other breadcrumbs at the grocery store.  

HOW TO MAKE Chicken wild rice casserole

There are quite a few steps in this recipe because the rice, chicken, vegetables, and mushrooms all cook separately for optimal flavor and texture. However, everything but the rice is prepared in one pan for easy cleanup. I assure you this chicken rice casserole is well worth the effort as it’s one of the most craveable dishes of all time!

Let’s take a closer look at how to make Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole (see full recipe with measurements in the printable recipe at the bottom of the post):

Step 1: Season and Sear the Chicken 

  • In order do achieve juicy, flavorful chicken, dab with paper towels to remove excess moisture. This helps the chicken sear instead of steam and for the seasonings to stick. Next, season the chicken with salt, pepper and paprika.
  • Add the cubed chicken to sizzling oil in a single layer in a large Dutch oven. You want to use a pot large enough to eventually hold the chicken, rice, vegetables and creamy sauce when combined.
  • Sear the chicken, then continue to cook and stir until opaque. The chicken will not be completely cooked through but which is what we want. It will continue to bake in the oven.
a collage showing how to make chicken and wild rice casserole by seasoning chunks of chicken with paprika, salt and pepper, then cooking in a Dutch oven

Step 2: Sauté the Vegetables and Aromatics

  • Add the chopped onions, carrots and celery and sauté until the onions are tender. It’s okay if the other veggies still have some bite because they’ll soften in the oven.
  • Add the garlic and sauté 30 seconds.
  • Transfer the vegetables to the same bowl as the chicken. 
a collage showing how to make chicken and wild rice casserole by sautéing onions, carrots and celery in a Dutch oven until the onions are tender

Step 3: Caramelize the Mushrooms

  • Cooking the mushrooms in a single layer until each side is golden will deliver tantalizing caramelized mushrooms that are slightly crispy on the edges! 
  • First, melt some butter in a drizzle of olive oil. Add the mushrooms and stir to coat, then spread the mushrooms into a single layer.
  • Cook for a few minutes until the bottom side of the mushrooms are deeply golden before flipping, then flip over and cook the other side.
  • Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl containing the chicken and veggies, then repeat cooking process with the remaining mushrooms. 

a collage showing how to make chicken and wild rice casserole by caramelizing the mushrooms in a Dutch oven in a single layer until golden

Step 4: Make the Creamy Sauce

  • Melt some butter with olive oil in the now empty pot. Sprinkle in flour and cook the flour for 1-2 minutes to remove the raw flour taste and small.  
  • Reduce heat to low to help the liquid absorb more quickly and evenly into the flour without lumps. Gradually whisk in chicken broth whisked with cornstarch, milk, Dijon, Worcestershire sauce, chicken bouillon and all of the seasonings.
  • Bring the sauce to a simmer until thickened. 
  • Remove from heat and whisk in 1 cup cheddar until melted, followed by Parmesan cheese until melted. 
a collage showing how to make chicken and wild rice casserole by making homemade creamy sauce from scratch by making a roux, whisking in the chicken broth and milk, followed by the spices and cheeses

Step 5: combine the ingredients

  • Add the prepared chicken, rice, and veggies to the cream sauce and stir until evenly combined.  
showing how to make chicken and wild rice casserole by adding chicken and rice the creamy sauce and stirring to combine

Step 6: assemble the casserole

  • Transfer everything to a greased 9×13-inch baking dish. 
  • Top with remaining 1 cup cheddar cheese, followed by toasted panko.
a collage showing how to make chicken and wild rice casserole by adding the creamy chicken and wild rice to a 9x13 baking dish, topping with cheddar cheese followed by golden crispy panko breadcrumbs

Step 7: Bake! 

  • Cover the casserole and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
showing how to make chicken wild rice casserole by baking until the panko is golden and the cheese is melted

TIPS FOR making chicken rice casserole

  • Prep ahead. This recipe has quite a few steps because everything has to be cooked separately before combining. To cut down on cooking time, the wild rice can be cooked ahead of time, the chicken chopped and seasoned, the vegetables and aromatics chopped and the cheeses shredded ahead of time.
  • Cook wild rice until al dente. Make sure the wild rice isn’t overcooked before adding it to the casserole. I suggest checking the rice a full 10-15 minutes before the package says it should be done, then continuing to simmer as needed.
  • Use quality mushrooms. The better the mushrooms, the deeper, richer, more complex the flavor. Please do NOT use white button mushrooms, they are too mild and won’t deliver rich, savory goodness.     
  • Don’t crowd mushrooms in the pan. This is key! Mushrooms need enough space so they can sear instead of steam. If you pile raw mushrooms on top of each other, they will become soggy instead of caramelized. By spreading them out in a single layer, the entire surface area of the mushrooms comes in contact with the sizzling butter in the hot pan so they can caramelize and become crispy around the edges.
  • Shred the cheese yourself. Quality, hand shredded cheeses will taste far superior and melt beautifully for a silkier sauce. Pre-bagged cheese is coated in anti-clumping chemicals designed to prevent the cheese from clumping in the bag; these same chemicals prevent your cheese from melting gorgeously. 
  • Cook flour for 2 minutes. 2 minutes can seem like a long time, but don’t cut it short! This not only removes the raw flour taste, but makes the sauce creamier and less likely to get lumps when the liquid is added. 
  • Use more or less cheese. Use as little or as much cheese as your heart desires.  More cheese would be a decadent dream, but if you’re trying to save calories, use less cheese and it will still taste creamy, just not as cheesy.
  • Adjust to taste. If your Chicken Wild Casserole is missing something, it is probably salt and/or pepper, so prepare to season to taste.
top view of chicken wild rice casserole being served in a bowl with mushrooms, carrots, celery and chicken

possible recipe variations

  • Use brown rice. It’s also delightfully chewy and nutty.
  • Use rotisserie chicken. Stir 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken into the sauce along with the cooked rice.
  • Protein. Swap the chicken for cooked Italian sausage, ground beef, ground turkey, chorizo, or cubed ham.
  • Swap veggies. Swap the mushrooms out for other veggies such as broccoli, asparagus, zucchini cauliflower, green beans or peas, or add other veggies in addition to the mushrooms. Any vegetables you add need to be cooked first.
  • Cheeses. Mix up the cheeses with any other favorite melting cheeses to create a different flavor profile such as Gruyere, Asiago, Gouda, smoked cheddar, Monterrey, Pepper Jack, Havarti, Colby etc.,
  • Other Add Ins. Water chestnuts, pimientos, olives, roasted bell peppers, pickled jalapenos, artichokes, green chiles, etc. add a fun variety.
  • Gluten-free. Use your favorite gluten free flour in the roux, gluten free Worcestershire sauce and double check the Dijon is gluten free.
scooping up chicken and wild rice casserole recipe showing all of the ingredients and how creamy it is

WHAT to serve with creamy chicken rice casserole

This Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole is practically a meal-in-one with protein, vegetables and carbs. Still, we love to serve it with a big green salad, crusty bread and fruit. Additional side dishes to pair with chicken rice casserole include: 

showing how creamy chicken wild rice casserole is with an up close of a spoon taking a bite

WANT TO TRY THIS chicken and rice casserole RECIPE?

PIN IT to your recipe BOARD TO SAVE FOR LATER!

FIND ME ON PINTEREST FOR MORE GREAT RECIPES!  I AM ALWAYS PINNING :)!

©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

up close of serving chicken wild rice casserole showing how creamy it is

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

This Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole is warm, creamy, hearty, umami rich comfort food the whole family will love!  It’s packed with juicy, tender chunks of chicken, earthy mushrooms, and nutty wild rice, enveloped in a creamy, cheddar-Parmesan laced sauce made without any canned soups!  Top it all off with buttery, golden crispy panko for the perfect balance of satisfying, hearty textures and flavors. This chicken and rice casserole is perfect for all those busy nights because you can prep it entirely ahead of time, then just pop it in the oven at dinner OR freeze for later!  With a few tips and tricks, you can elevate this casserole to next level served alongside a green salad and garlic bread!
Servings: 8 -10 servings
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Save This Recipe To Your Recipe Box

You can now create an account on our site and save your favorite recipes all in one place!

Ingredients

Chicken, Rice and Veggies

  • 1 1/2 cups wild rice blend, COOKED according to package directions (measure uncooked)*
  • 1 1/2 lbs. chicken breasts or thighs, chopped into large bite size pieces
  • 1/4 tsp EACH salt, pepper, paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces baby Bella/cremini mushrooms, sliced

Cream Sauce

  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon (granulated, base or crushed cubes)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp EACH dried parsley, dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp EACH dried thyme, salt, pepper
  • 2 cups freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

PANKO TOPPING (OPTIONAL)

Instructions

  • Oven: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Prep chicken: While the chopped chicken is still on the cutting board, pat dry with a paper towel. Toss with ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, ¼ teaspoon paprika. Set aside.
  • Cook chicken: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chicken in a single layer and sear for one minute without moving chicken, then continue to cook and stir chicken until opaque (it will not be cooked through). Transfer chicken to a large bowl using a slotted spoon.
  • Sauté vegetables and aromatics: Add a drizzle of oil to the drippings if they look dry (or butter for decadence). Add onions, carrots and celery and sauté until onions are tender. Add the garlic and sauté 30 seconds; transfer to the chicken bowl using a slotted spoon.
  • Caramelize mushrooms: Melt 2 tablespoons butter with a drizzle of olive oil over medium high heat in the leftover drippings. Add the mushrooms and give them a stir to evenly coat, then arrange in a single layer. Cook each side until deeply golden. Transfer to the chicken bowl using a slotted spoon.
  • Cream Sauce: Whisk the chicken broth and cornstarch together in a liquid measuring cup or bowl; set aside. To the now empty pot (don’t wipe out), melt 2 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, while whisking, for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low, then gradually whisk in chicken broth/cornstarch and milk, followed by Dijon, Worcestershire sauce, chicken bouillon and all spices/seasonings.
  • Bring sauce to a simmer, whisking often, until thickened. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 cup cheddar until melted followed by Parmesan cheese until melted.
  • Combine: Add the chicken/mushroom/veggies and COOKED wild rice blend to the sauce and stir until evenly combined. Taste and seasone with salt/pepper to taste. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Top with remaining 1 cup cheddar cheese.
  • Panko topping: Melt butter in olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add panko and stir to coat. Continue cooking until crumbs become golden brown. Evenly sprinkle over cheese.
  • Bake: Cover the casserole and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until hot and bubbly and cheese is melted.

Video

Notes

  • *Wild rice: Purchase a wild rice BLEND and not 100% wild rice.  Take care you don’t purchase instant wild rice.  To cook the wild rice blend, simmer it in a few inches of water, then strain off excess water at the end of cooking.  I highly recommend checking the rice for doneness at 25 minutes, even if the instructions say to cook closer to 40 minutes.  
  • Brown rice substitute: Brown rice is the best substitute for wild rice because it is also nutty and boasts a chewy texture.  Cook before adding to the casserole.
  • Rotisserie chicken substitute: Stir 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken into the sauce along with the cooked rice. 
  • Storage: Store Chicken Wild Rice Casserole tightly covered or in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Meal Prep: This Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole is a wonderful make-ahead meal. Assemble the casserole according to recipe instructions but don’t add the panko topping. Cover the casserole with foil and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Store the panko in a separate airtight container at room temperature.   When ready to bake, let the casserole sit on the counter while the oven preheats. Bake for 40-50 minutes at 350 degrees F or until heated through and bubbly around the edges.
  • Ingredient Prep: If you’d like to prep elements of the recipe before assembling, you can do any (or all) the following: season and chop chicken, slice mushrooms, chop onions, carrots, and celery, mince garlic and grate the cheeses.

How to Freeze

1.     Make and assemble according to directions up to the point of baking. You can add the panko if you want the casserole 100% assembled OR for crispier panko, toast and add it right before baking.
2.     Let the casserole cool completely (not from baking but from the warm sauce).
3.     Double wrap the casserole securely with plastic wrap, then with aluminum foil. Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
4.     When ready to eat, thaw the casserole in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours until completely thawed, then let it sit at room temperature while your oven preheats. If you’ve frozen the casserole in a glass dish, let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes because glass can shatter with abrupt temperature changes.
5.     Add the panko topping and bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

Did You Make This Recipe?

Tag @CarlsbadCravings and Use #CarlsbadCravngs

Leave a Review, I Always Love Hearing From You!

Reader Interactions

leave a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

32 Comments

  1. Lauren says

    It’s April 16 and it’s currently snowing in Minnesota. This was the perfect dinner to make! We followed the recipe exactly and it was delicious! The panko breading on top was a great add! My husband enjoyed it as his first “hot dish.” Thank you for another wonderful recipe!

    • Jen says

      YAY! Thanks Lauren, I love that you made it already and loved it!

  2. Greg says

    We love the site and everything we’ve made has been incredible. But wow this took almost 1.5 hours to get into the oven. I hope it’s amazing and we’ll follow up but for all looking for fast dinner ideas this isn’t it lol.

    • Jen says

      This recipe is definitely a labor of love, I hope you love it! (fingers crossed!)

  3. Greg says

    Update: It was really delicious with leftovers for days. Totally worth the time.

    • Jen says

      Phew! Thanks Greg, I’m so pleased/relieved it was worth it!!!

  4. Jordan says

    I wanted to try something new and homey for fall coming up. My husband and two kids loved this dish! Adding it to my rotation for fall.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much, Jordan, I’m so glad this is being added to your fall rotation! I’m thrilled you all loved it!

  5. Krystal Morales says

    If you use rotisserie chicken, what does that do to the cook time in the oven?

    • Jen says

      Hi Krystal, the cook time would be the same. Enjoy!

  6. Helen says

    This was a fantastic dish! On the monthly rotation now.

    • Jen says

      Yay! I am so happy you loved it!

  7. Kate says

    This was fantastic. Made it on a Monday night after work. Next time a lazy cold Sunday afternoon! I completely left the shredded cheddar out to save calories and salt and didn’t miss it.

    • Jen says

      Yay! I am so glad you loved it!

  8. Lurah says

    This is a fantastic casserole dish that guests will rave about. I did spend 3+ hours prepping for the oven. Next time I’m going to trim the amounts of oil & butter and the raw rice. I used 1/2 cup each of raw Basmati, white long grain white and wild rices from my pantry shelf. This cooked up into 7+ cups of rice, which was too much. I like the topping options to choose from. This will fill 3 – 8 or 9 inch square pans so you can share with neighbors or family. I took a pan to our son & family, they loved it including their adventurous eater preschoolers!

    • Jen says

      I’m thrilled that you and your family loved it! I’m so glad that there was plenty to share!

  9. Susan F. says

    Can this be made in a Dutch oven? If so, would the baking time be the same?

    • Jen says

      Yes! Instead of transferring to a casserole dish, bake in the Dutch oven. The baking time will be the same because the ingredients are already cooked, it just is up to your cheese melting. Enjoy!

  10. Makayla Endsley says

    So partially my fault I guess I need to change the way I follow directions but none of the steps told me when to cook the rice so when I got to “add wild rice beld” I added it uncooked and then pulled it out of the oven and wondered why the rice wasn’t cooked. I currently have it back in the oven hoping evening time will eventually cook it and I realized afterwards the note says it but when I write this recipe I’m definitely adding it to the first step of “turn on oven – cook rice to package instructions”

    • Jen says

      Hi Makayla, I’m sorry you didn’t notice before you made the recipe, but it is listed with the ingredients:
      *1 1/2 cups wild rice blend, cooked according to package directions (measure uncooked)

  11. Audrey says

    I made this last night and it was so delicious! The flavor is out of this world! My extremely picky eater husband went back for seconds. I doubles the recipe so that we can have more thru the week when we’re too busy to cook. This will be on repeat, for sure. Thanks for a wonderful recipe!

    • Jen says

      Thank you for the amazing review Audrey, I’m so pleased it was a winner!

  12. Jessica says

    I made this today (12.7.23)! Lovely dish! If you’re looking for something quick, this is not it. But, if you are looking for something yummy and filling, this IS it! The only change I made was I added garlic powder to the butter and olive for the bread crumb topping! Delicious! I will make it again!

    • Jen says

      Haha it can be time consuming, but I’m so glad that you found it to be well worth it! Thank you so much for the review!

  13. Diane Haines says

    Yes, it’s a labor of love, but it was so worth it! I will be making this again, for sure! I made it exactly as written, and it was perfect. I made it for my Minnesota friend, who loved it, and he said, “Why don’t you try it with pure wild rice next time.” I many try it that way. Thank you for a fabulous recipe!

    • Jen says

      I’m so glad it was worth it! Thank you for letting me know how it went!

  14. Cheyenne says

    Even though this took so long to make, it was delicious and I’ll make it again:) would make a great freezer meal for postpartum!

    • Jen says

      It is definitely a labor of love! I’m glad it will be a repeat for you!

  15. Judson says

    The flavors in this are amazing, but mine turned out soupy. I followed everything to a T and am usually a pretty good cook so not sure what went wrong. Will maybe try only 1 cup of milk along with the broth next time!

    • Jen says

      I’m sorry it was soupy! Sometimes the cream sauce needs to simmer awhile before it becomes thick enough. I’m glad the flavor was there though!

  16. terri says

    I really want to make this for my family but I’ve got a non-cheese-eater. (The horror!!) Seems simple enough to leave the cheese off the top, but can you make a recommendation for a substitution in the cream sauce? Sour cream perhaps? Thanks in advance…I’ve loved everything I’ve made from your recipes!

    • Jen says

      Thanks for making my recipes! Yes, sour cream would be tasty, just won’t have the cheddar flavor. Instead, would it be possible to portion out a non-cheese portion into a smaller dish?