Introduction: Customizable Chicken Casserole

About: Jack of All Trades, Master of One: Being Me!

I'm from the Midwest and it's no secret that we like our casseroles in the Midwest. This is a simple family recipe that I got from my mother and have altered with time. The great thing about this meal is that it only has five central ingredients: rice, chicken, cheese, soup, and stuffing. Everything else can be changed in and out as desired.

Cooking Time: 50 - 60 Minutes
Necessary Equipment: 8x8 or 9x13 Glass Casserole Dish and a Large Skillet 
Preheat Oven to: 350 Degrees Fahrenheit 
Serves: 4 to 8

Step 1: Ingredients

As with any passed down recipes, the exact proportions of the ingredients are up for debate. The standard recipe is for a 9x13 casserole dish, but I commonly lower the quantities for an 8x8 dish to fit in the toaster oven since this is a more reasonable size to feed my wife and I. For ingredients with a value range (2 to 4, for example) the smaller value is for an 8x8 dish while the larger is for a 9x13.

2 to 4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 to 1.5 Cups Minute Rice
5 to 10 slices of Cheese
1 Box Stove Top Stuffing (Chicken or Cornbread Flavoring)
1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup + 1 Can Water
1 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
2 Tbsp Butter or Margarine
1 Cup Water
Non-Stick Cooking Spray

Once you've gathered everything, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Step 2: Rice It Up

Spray the casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and pour the rice into the dish. If using a different sized dish, just use enough rice to completely cover the bottom. Pour approximately 1 Cup of water over the rice so it is all moist.

If you don't have minute rice, you may need to precook the rice before you put it in the dish. Using rice that has very long cooking times or specific instructions may turn out bad. 

Stick to glass dishes. I don't recommend using a metal pan - it can evaporate the water before the rice cooks, burning it severely.

Spice It Up
The rice is a great place for additional ingredients. Here are some of the things I have mixed into the rice - either individually or as various combinations. Get creative!
  • 1 Diced Bell Pepper - Various Colors
  • 1/2 Cup Broccoli  - Cut Up
  • 1/2 Cup Shredded Cheese - Any Flavor
  • 1/2 Cup Ranch Dressing or 1/4 Cup Ranch Powder
  • Crumbled Bacon - Precooked (Or Bacon Bits)
  • Crushed Chipotle Spice Cube

Step 3: Preparing the Chicken

For an 8x8 dish, I only use 2 chicken breasts, but 4 should be used for a 9x13 dish. Cube the chicken into pieces one inch or smaller and cook in a large skillet over medium to high heat until no pink is visible. A Tbsp of olive oil or butter may be used if desired.

Layer the cooked chicken evenly over the rice and sprinkle with pepper and garlic.

Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw chicken!

The original recipe (that was given to my mother) called for placing the whole, uncooked chicken breast on top of the rice. This is not easy to serve since you have to spoon out an entire chicken breast at a time. Realistically, an hour in the oven at 350 degrees should be enough to cook the chicken, but I feel better precooking it.

Step 4: Dangerously Cheesy

Lay pieces of sliced cheese over the chicken and rice until covered completely. I use 5 pieces for an 8x8 dish or 8 - 10 pieces for a 9x13 dish.

If you like to use gourmet or deli cheese, then by all means go for it. I typically use yellow American cheese, but any flavor will work.

Step 5: Adding Soup

Dilute the can of Soup with about 1 can of water and pour the mixture over the cheese. Firmly grasping the handles, roll the dish around to ensure the soup mixture goes down along all sides of the dish. 

Other Options
If you are out of Cream of Chicken Soup or just want to try something else, here are a couple of other options:
  • 1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup + 1 Can Water
  • 1 Can Cream of Broccoli Soup + 1 Can Water

Step 6: Top It Off

Sprinkle stuffing mix over top of soup until completely covered. Drizzle melted butter over stuffing and bake for 50 - 60 minutes. If you have spray butter, about a dozen or so sprays over the top of the stuffing can replace the melted butter.

Step 7: Eat!

Call in the family, wash your hands, and set the table because when that oven timer goes off, dinner is served! Be careful when removing the casserole dish from the oven. Use oven mitts! It will be very hot and may require a few minutes to cool before consumption.

Foods in the Midwest don't have to look nearly as good as they have to taste, so don't worry about the sloppy presentation.

I like to pair this chicken casserole with cottage cheese, Doritos, and sweetened iced tea to drink!

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