If you're looking for a comforting one-pot meal that will please the whole family, look no further than this creamy chicken and rice stovetop casserole. Tender chicken, onions, and sweet peas cook together with long-grain rice in a creamy cheddar and thyme-scented sauce for a fast and hearty weeknight dinner.
The rice cooks right in the sauce, and everything's done on the stovetop so that dinner can be on the table in just about 30 minutes, leaving you with an unfussy one-pot meal and maybe, if you're lucky, leftovers for lunch.
To create the creamy texture in this dish we take advantage of the starch in the uncooked rice. Much like it does in risotto, the starch from the rice helps to thicken this casserole with some occasional stirring. You end up with one less ingredient to add and a creamy rice dish that's deliciously gluten-free.
I love that this casserole uses many ingredients I have already in the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer. If you want to swap out the cheddar for another cheese, or another herb rather than thyme, be our guest! Have leftover chicken or even deli ham or turkey? Use that instead of raw chicken, and just stir it in with the cheddar cheese to heat through.
If you feel like every casserole needs a layer of golden-brown, melty cheese on top, just heat the broiler while the rice is cooking, then broil for a few minutes until the top is browned.
One-Pot Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more for seasoning
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 3/4 cups whole or 2% milk
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 8 minutes.
Add the rice and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until they smell toasty, about 1 minute. Add the broth, milk, and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and season with pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally so that the rice doesn't stick to the pot. Add the chicken, stir to combine, and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 15 minutes. (Add water as needed if the rice absorbs it all before tender. If you'd like a browned top on the casserole, heat the broiler to high now.)
Remove from the heat. Stir in the peas and 1 cup of the cheese. Taste and season with more salt as needed. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese, then cover again and let sit for the cheese to melt and the rice to steam, about 5 minutes. (For a browned top, place under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese turns golden-brown in spots.) Serve immediately.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.