Poppy Seed Chicken

published Apr 30, 2024
Poppy Seed Chicken Recipe

This simple, creamy poppy seed casserole is perfect for nights when you just can’t.

Serves6

Prep15 minutes

Cook30 minutes to 40 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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An overhead view of a white casserole dish of poppyseed chicken with a spoonful coming out.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Just weeks after I became a new mom, a friend dropped off a dish of her family’s poppy seed chicken. It’s a simple casserole made of shredded leftover chicken, a creamy sauce, poppy seeds, and a butter cracker topping. The recipe was picked up from her family’s south Georgia town that is shared whenever there’s a meal train or potluck occasion. It’s quick, tasty, nourishing, and super comforting. 

In the decade since first being comforted by my friend’s family recipe, I’ve made it often on busy nights and to share with even more friends when they need a home-cooked meal. It’s sure to become a new family favorite.

Why You’ll Love It

  • With tender chicken, a creamy sauce, and a buttery cracker topping, this recipe is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Every time you serve it, someone’s bound to go back for seconds.
  • Did I mention how easy it is to make? This comfort food classic needs just six ingredients (plus salt and pepper) and comes together in the same dish it is baked in.

Key Ingredients in Poppy Seed Chicken

  • Cooked chicken: You’ll need 1 pound (about 4 cups) cooked chicken for this recipe. Use leftover cooked chicken breasts, chicken thighs, or a combination, or shred a store-bought rotisserie chicken.
  • Cream of chicken soup: Condensed “cream of” soups are essentially very thick cream sauces that add richness and seasoning to the casserole. Don’t be scared of this shortcut ingredient — it keeps the ingredient list short and prep time low.
  • Sour cream: Adds a subtle tang that balances the richness of the creamy casserole.
  • Poppy seeds: Stir poppy seeds into the chicken filling and the cracker topping so that every bite is speckled with the spice.
  • Round butter crackers: Crush crackers into coarse crumbs before toasting them with butter. This topping adds some much-desired crunch to the casserole.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

How to Make Poppy Seed Chicken

  1. Shred cooked chicken. Use your fingers, two forks, or this clever hack to shred cooked chicken into bite-size pieces. 
  2. Mix the filling. Save yourself from washing an extra mixing bowl by stirring the shredded chicken, creamy soup, sour cream, and poppy seeds together right in the baking dish. 
  3. Top with crushed crackers. Scatter the toasted cracker topping evenly over the creamy chicken. If you’re making the casserole in advance, wait to add the crackers until ready to bake.
  4. Bake. The casserole will be bubbling and browned in about 30 minutes (give or take 10 minutes).

Helpful Swaps

  • Other flavors like cream of mushroom can be substituted for the condensed cream of chicken soup. You can also make your own condensed creamy soup base with butter, flour, chicken broth, and milk.
  • The cracker topping adds a buttery crunch to every bite of this casserole. You can substitute Ritz for other brands, including Townhouse crackers. Alternatively, you can use crushed Saltines or toasted breadcrumbs.

Storage and Make-Ahead Tips 

Like most casseroles, poppy seed chicken is a great make-ahead option for busy nights. Assemble the casserole in the baking dish up to 2 days in advance and refrigerate. When ready to cook, let the casserole sit at room temperature to take the chill off while you make the buttery cracker topping. Then top and bake until the edges are bubbling and the topping is golden. Transfer leftovers to an airtight container, and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

What to Serve with Poppy Seed Chicken

Poppy Seed Chicken Recipe

This simple, creamy poppy seed casserole is perfect for nights when you just can’t.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes to 40 minutes

Serves 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 pound

    cooked boneless, skinless chicken (about 4 cups)

  • 1 (10.5-ounce) can

    condensed cream of chicken soup

  • 1 1/2 cups

    sour cream

  • 3 teaspoons

    poppy seeds, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 6 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 45

    Ritz crackers (about 1 1/2 sleeves)

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

  2. Shred 1 pound cooked boneless, skinless chicken into bite-size pieces (about 4 cups), and place in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Add 1 (10 1/2-ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup, 1 1/2 cups sour cream, 2 teaspoons of the poppy seeds, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir to combine and spread into an even layer. Wipe down the sides of the baking dish with a damp paper towel to clean it off if desired.

  3. Cut 6 tablespoons unsalted butter into 6 pieces and place a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until almost completely melted, 40 to 60 seconds (alternatively, melt on the stovetop and transfer to a medium bowl).

  4. Place 45 Ritz crackers in a large zip-top plastic bag and seal the bag. Use your hands to crush into coarse crumbs (about 2 cups). Add the crackers and remaining 1 teaspoon poppy seeds to the butter and stir to coat. Evenly sprinkle the cracker crumbs over the top of the casserole.

  5. Bake until the edges are bubbling and the top is golden-brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Check after 25 minutes and cover with aluminum foil if the crackers brown too quickly. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Cracker substitution: Other butter crackers can be used, such as Townhouse. You will need about 50 crackers (about 1 2/3 sleeves) to get about 2 cups crushed crackers.

Make ahead: The casserole can be assembled without the cracker topping, covered, and refrigerated up to 2 days ahead. Let the casserole sit at room temperature and make the cracker topping while the oven heats. Bake as directed; you may need to add 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.