Southern Chicken CasseroleThis Southern Chicken Casserole is another one of those basic casseroles that has been around for years. Indeed, a fabulous recipe, perfectly delicious all on its own in this bare bones version, but also a great blank slate to build on, making it the foundation for many of our southern chicken casseroles.
You can vary it with a wide range of ingredients by adding in cooked white, brown or wild rice, cooked raw vegetables, or even frozen or well drained canned vegetables. For extra flavor, add in a little sauteed onion and celery. For crunch, include chopped water chestnuts, sliced almonds, or finely chopped pecans. You can also switch out toppings for buttered plain or seasoned bread crumbs, panko, fried onion, or even shredded cheeses. You are limited really only by your culinary imagination.
While this casserole most often uses cut up or shredded chicken these days, originally it was made with poached bone-in chicken, bones removed, but leaving the chicken in whole pieces, making it an appropriate company casserole. Leftover turkey makes a fine substitute too.
Please don't scoff at the use of cream of soups here y'all - it is indeed traditional for this yummy casserole. Period. It's certainly okay to use reduced sodium or lower fat cream soups and sour cream of course, and you can absolutely substitute your own homemade sauce also. You know I love my cream soups, and in my little ole humble opinion, if it's good enough to be served in its original form as a regular dish in the buffet room of Blue Willow Inn Restaurant, a popular and well-loved Georgia restaurant, well then, it's sure good enough for my table too.
Here's how to make it.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together one can of cream of chicken soup, one can of cream of mushroom soup, and a cup of sour cream; set aside. Sub in lower fat and lower sodium products if you like.
Stir in a cup of chicken broth. I used Better than Bouillon chicken base with water this time because I didn't want to open a new carton of broth. Love that stuff - look for it at your local grocer for the best pricing.
Add any additional seasonings you like here - freshly cracked black pepper, thyme, rosemary, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne - whatever you like. You shouldn't need any salt at all in this recipe, though if you're using low sodium soups and broth, you may want to add a little. If making the wild rice variation with a packaged product, be mindful of sodium there as well. Taste the sauce and adjust here as needed.
You can use either whole cooked and deboned or boneless chicken breasts, mixed chicken, or any already cooked, shredded chicken (including dark meat) that you've put away in the freezer. I almost always have some pre-cooked, shredded chicken in the freezer ready, so that's what I used this time.
Place chicken into the bottom of the buttered casserole dish.
Pour the soup mixture on top of the chicken.
In a separate bowl, crumble 1-1/2 sleeves of saltines (which is what I used here) or a buttery cracker like Ritz, and mix in the poppy seeds if you're using them. I've seen some recipes using a lot of poppy seeds, but I think 1/2 tablespoon is about right. Use what you like.
Mix together and add a stick of melted butter. You can certainly reduce that also if you prefer.
Mix and spread on top of the casserole.
Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees F for about 35 to 40 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and cracker topping has browned. Remove and let rest 5 minutes before serving. Can be served as is, or spooned over cooked rice or noodles.
You can find recipes like this one and more in the Blue Willow Inn Bible of Southern Cooking.
Recipe: Southern Chicken Casserole©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 40 min | Yield: About 8 servings
- 1 (10-3/4 ounce) can of cream of chicken soup
- 1 (10-3/4 ounce) can of cream of mushroom soup
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 4 cups of chopped or shredded, cooked chicken
- 1-1/2 sleeves of saltine or Ritz crackers
- 1/2 tablespoon of poppy seeds, optional
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, melted
- Cooked rice or noodles, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the soups, sour cream and chicken broth. Add other seasonings (see below), as desired, taste and adjust; set aside. Place chicken into the bottom of the prepared casserole dish and cover with the soup mixture. In a separate small bowl, crumble the crackers, stir in the poppy seeds, if using and mix with melted butter; spread on top of the casserole. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees F for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until casserole is bubbly and cracker topping has browned. Remove and let rest 5 minutes before serving. Can be served as is, or spooned over cooked rice or noodles. Add a salad or green vegetable.
Cook's Notes: This makes a wonderful company casserole when using whole chicken breasts. Prepare 8 bone-in chicken breasts (more flavorful) or boneless, skinless breasts, by poaching or broiling. Remove skin and debone, but leave whole. Can also substitute leftover turkey meat for this casserole, as well as other varieties of cream soups, and also okay to use lower sodium and lower fat condensed soup products, however the sauce will be much thinner. Substitute a homemade cream sauce, if desired.
Add-ins: Cooked raw, frozen or well drained canned vegetables can be added as a layer. Asparagus, broccoli, French style green beans, carrots, peas, or mixed vegetables are good choices. Also good with sauteed onion and celery added, well drained pimentos, well drained, chopped water chestnuts, sliced almonds, or finely chopped pecans. Use other seasonings (but avoid added salt) such as freshly cracked black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, dried red pepper flakes, crushed dried thyme or rosemary, or dried parsley. Start with 1/4 teaspoon, taste and adjust.
Casserole Toppings: Use Panko bread crumbs or dry bread crumbs mixed with melted butter, or simply slice cold butter thinly and scatter over the top. Top with shredded cheeses, alone or mixed with these crumb toppings. Crushed plain or kettle style potato chips are also a great topper as are French fried onions. Cheese can also be added in the casserole.
Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole Variation: If you're poaching chicken to make this, reserve the water to use with making the rice. You'll need one 6 ounce bag or box of wild rice (like Uncle Ben's), prepared according to package directions. Saute 1 small container of fresh mushrooms in a couple tablespoons of butter, if desired,and add to sauce mixture. Place 1/2 of the sauce mixture in the bottom of the buttered casserole dish, top with the rice, then chicken, and pour remaining sauce all over the top, or can also mix all ingredients together and transfer to casserole dish. Top with cracker crumbs or cheese.
Chicken and Rice Casserole Variation: Sub in 3 cups of cooked white or brown rice for the wild rice, place 1/2 of the sauce mixture in the bottom of the casserole dish, top with the rice, then the chicken and pour remaining sauce all over the top. Top with cracker crumbs or cheese.
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