Recipe Review: Healthy Brown Rice Broccoli Chicken Cheese Bake

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Please don’t confuse this recipe with a traditional broccoli rice casserole.

The dish is full of flavor and texture.

It tastes like comfort food, but it’s still very good for you.

Six reasons your should make this.

#1 Plain ol’ milk is substituted for cream. And there are NO cans of condensed soup in this recipe!

#2 Two servings of vegetables per serving. And the broccoli is lightly steamed therefore it retains most of it’s nutritional value.

#3 Brown rice is in place of the traditional white rice. And brown rice is a complex carbohydrate which is MUCH better for you.

#4 There are twice as many vegetables as meat in this dish, making it super heart healthy.

#5. The sauce is finger licking good thanks to Parmesan and mustard. Weird combo I know. But it works!

#6. It’s not called a casserole. I don’t like casseroles:)

Need any more convincing?

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This America’s Test Kitchen recipe inspired my healthy version of this classic American casserole.

(By the way, the America’s Test Kitchen magazine, Cook’s Illustrated is my absolute favorite! If you want to learn to cook, it’s a great “course”)

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I start with 1.5 lbs of fresh broccoli.

Chop into bite size pieces.

Place in a microwaveable bowl with 1/4 inch of water.

Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 4 minutes.

Immediately place in a strainer and run cold water over the broccoli to stop the cooking.

Then set aside to drain completely.

These extra steps make for bright yummy looking broccoli.

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You don’t want to scorch or burn the garlic.

Scorched or burnt garlic is incredibly bitter.
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Side note: we are just making a basic roux.

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Now fluff the brown rice that is completely cooked.

Side note: If you are unsure of brown rice, buy a package of frozen precooked brown rice. Most grocery stores have it in the freezer section.

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Then whip out some chicken. Any chicken will do.

I had some of this grilled chicken left over from another meal.

Or rotisserie chicken would work well too.

The choice is yours.

It’s a free county, at least in regards to chicken.

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Brown Rice Broccoli Chicken Cheese Bake (click here →Broccoli Cheese Bake for printable recipe)

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated 30 Minute Meals, Cheesy Broccoli Chicken and Rice Casserole

  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh broccoli, chopped into bite size pieces (frozen broccoli works too, just cook it to your liking and then drain it very well)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 -2 teaspoons black pepper (depending on how spicy you like things)
  • 1/2 -1 tsp salt (depending on how salty the chicken stock is)
  • 1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (reserve 1/2 cup of cheddar as the topping)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan
  • 2-3 cups cooked brown rice (follow the directions on the package, add salt to boiling water for extra flavor)
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, cubed


Preheat oven to 375°.

Place broccoli in a microwave safe container with 1/4 inch of water. Cover and microwave for 3-4 minutes on high.

Drain the broccoli immediately and rinse with cold water. Set aside to drain completely.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add chopped onion to the skillet and saute for 3 minutes, then add garlic and continue to saute another minute.

Add the flour to the hot skillet, mix with the onion and garlic, and continue stirring constantly for 1 minute.

Pour the chicken stock and milk into the skillet. Allow the sauce to thickened for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Once  the sauce starts to thicken, add mustard, black pepper, salt and the cheeses .

When the cheeses have melted into the sauce add the broccoli and mix well. Set aside.

Grease a casserole dish and layer cooked rice and then the chicken.

Pour the broccoli sauce mixture over the top of the chicken.

Option#1 Top with the reserved 1/2 cup of cheddar, cover and bake for 25 minutes at 375°. Remove cover and bake an additional 5 minutes until the top starts to brown slightly. ***If the dish seems a little dry sprinkle with a little water before baking.

Option#2 This is a great make ahead dish. You can refrigerate it up to two days before baking it or freeze it up to a month. Let it completely thaw before following the instructions in option #1.

68 thoughts on “Recipe Review: Healthy Brown Rice Broccoli Chicken Cheese Bake

  1. hello ;) I found your blog from Kari Runge, I made this dish tonight using an Italian cheese blend since that is what I had on hand. SO yummy! everyone loved it! your blog is delightful and I enjoy reading it.

  2. I am so glad you like it! Kari is my cousin twice removed (I think??). Anyway the mushrooms are a great idea. And thanks for the great feedback!

    1. I don’t know how many calories are in it. My guess would be 300- 400 for a generous portion. If you want to lower the calorie count just bulk it up with more broccoli and less chicken.

  3. I made your dish for our supper meal, easy and soooooo good,I liked the idea of making it ahead and putting in the fridge for an easy supper.I have a recipe for a similar chicken/broccoli bake, yours is much better.

  4. I made this today, and though I bungled a few things, it still came out yummy! And I didn’t have to use any ‘cream of’ soups!

    This is going to be my go to casserole from now on for moms with a new baby :)

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. It is in the oven as I type…I DON’T do any “cream can of ??”, so that was the first plus, also we have a “no veggie” toddler at the moment…so hoping he will eat all that yumminess! I also changed olive oil to butter (sorry I had too) and no dijon, so I did Honey Mustard instead…also I cooked the rice in chicken broth for added flavor!! I will let you know how it fares at this house! I am sure they will LOVE It..thank you for sharing

  6. This was incredibly good. I don’t like mustard so I cut it down a bit, but I’m glad I used it. I never would have put these ingredients together. After making and eating this dish, I realized you’re from Greenville; my husband is originally from Seneca, so I now know why it was so good; a southern lady made it.

  7. Hi. This looks like a great recipe, and I will try making it tonite. I am trying to stay low-carb. Any idea where this recipe stands in that regard? Thanks.

    1. Well it’s not super low carb but the carbs it does have (brown rice) are a complex carbohydrate which is different from regular carbs like white bread or white rice. Complex carbs are good at keeping your full and keeping sugar levels even. You can’t go wrong with brown rice.

  8. just made it and my hubby shouted “this is f-ing good” pardon my french but it means it perfect for his picky butt! loved loved this recipe wouldn’t change a thing

  9. Mine is in the oven cooking now. My boyfriend keeps circling because he can smell it cooking. He is being torchured. lol

  10. Hey I am a Greenville Girl too. I was looking for a new way to bake chicken and I think this recipe will hit the spot!

  11. Made this last night. It’s very good! I added some dry sherry to the sauce – maybe 1/4 cup? Also, I only had 1 lb of brocolli so I chopped up 3 carrots and added them. I used frozen brocolli and didnt’ cook it before hand – I just chopped it up and put it in.

  12. This was fabulous! I was able to get a green carb and protein all in one dish. My 2 yr old grabbed the wooden spoon and was licking it all over house. Through dinner she kept saying mmmm,,,,yum yum, Mmmm after very bite! It helps she loves broccolli but I struggle getting her to eat chicken- not the time! She loves cheese ….I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner. Thank you thank you for the fab recipe!

  13. Thanks for the great recipe. Sadly my husband and daughter didn’t like the mustard:(. So I will adapt the recipe for them, but otherwise it was delish!

  14. I am going to try this tonight, My only question is my husband has a low sodium low fat restriction because of his heart condition, is this recipe considered low sodium?

  15. I made this dish a couple of weeks ago for my boyfriend and his family. They LOVED it! I’ve lived alone for quite a while so I really don’t cook much. They were shocked that I could cook AND make it taste good. I improvised a little here and there, but it really was awesome. Thank you for the great directions and great recipe!

  16. How much of the mustard can you taste? A lot of people say that the mustard is what really makes this dish great, but I’m not a huge mustard fan. Is there a substitute? How much can you really taste?

  17. How healthy would you consider this recipe? Also, how many calories are there per serving? And how many people does this usually serve?

    1. it is healthy in the fact that it is not made with processed ingredients. and I would guess it has 400 cal for a large portion. Serves 6.

  18. This looks so good! Could you use regular mustard instead of Dijon? Wanted to make it tonight but I don’t want to have to run to the store. Would it change the taste I wonder?

  19. Swapped out broccoli for peas/carrots, but followed the rest…was delicious, but WAY too much pepper! I only put in 1 1/2t and that was still too much! Kinda bummed! My kiddos wouldn’t eat it, sadly, but hubby loved it.

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