Winter in Texas isn’t really what most would call winter, but it still calls for comfort food. In Texas, that means either Tex-Mex or casseroles. Yes, casseroles have a bad rep due to the glut of Cream of Whatever soup laden 70s and 80s dinners. But in general, what they lack in panache with their brown and drab appearance, they make up for in personality with their one-pot ease and multi-layered flavors and when made with real food instead of processed canned and boxed food, they are very healthy like this Chicken Broccoli Casserole.
How to make Chicken Broccoli Casserole without Canned Cream Soups
Canned soups are so 1985 and we are all so beyond that, right? We know that the starches, substandard dairy and sugars don’t help our bodies but what do you use instead? Simple. You make your own cream soup base using real ingredients. For this recipe, we are using chicken broth, coconut cream and a little yogurt to make the sauce. You can use gluten-free flour to thicken, but since I try to steer clear of grains as much as possible, I am using a blend of almond flour and tapioca starch that has become my go-to thickener. It’s basically equal parts of each mixed together.
What Makes This Chicken Broccoli Casserole Healthy?
Besides the creamy sauce element, most casseroles also have a starch base, a protein and some sort of veggies (in the best case scenario, but many old-school ones don’t.) While the early renditions of casseroles were far from healthy except maybe the protein, this one is full of protein and veggies. While rice is a common, casserole base, you will use cauliflower rice for this one instead. (But please use real rice if you have die-hard cauliflower rice haters because there is still broccoli and this is so good!) and of course chicken and broccoli for the other elements. The final, and usually most loved, part of a casserole is the crunchy topping. For this one, I used almond flour and sliced almonds. You can also use crushed pork rinds if you are doing keto, I just found those to be not quite as crunchy or flavorful the first time I made this recipe.
Make Ahead Chicken Broccoli Casserole
You can make this entire casserole up ahead of time and refrigerate it for a day before you bake it. You can even make it in individual containers (1-2 servings each) and freeze it for busy nights.
Life Beyond Casseroles
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Chicken Broccoli Casserole (Paleo, Keto, Whole30)
This is a great recipe to use rotisserie chicken or previously cooked chicken.
- Casserole Ingredients
1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breasts or thighs OR 4 cups shredded or cubed cooked chicken
5 cups broccoli florets, frozen or fresh and lightly steamed
1 lb cauliflower rice
- Sauce Ingredients
1 tbsp butter or ghee
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp (3 cloves) minced garlic
1 1/2 tbsp tapioca starch mixed with 1 1/2 tbsp almond flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup coconut cream (thick part of coconut milk)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp Nutritional Yeast (Optional sub for cheese for Paleo and Whole30)
1/2 cup yogurt (regular or dairy free)
1/2 cup finely shredded Parmigiano Reggiano (omit and add 1 tbsp nutritional yeast to topping ingredients if you are Paleo or Whole30)
2 tbsp butter or ghee
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 tsp each sea salt and granulated garlic
- Casserole Ingredient Prep
- If chicken isn’t already cooked, bake chicken at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until no longer pink. Cut or shred into bite sized pieces.
- For fresh broccoli, steam for 1-2 minutes or until just bright green.
- Cook cauliflower rice on medium high until most of the liquid has evaporated and it’s starting to turn golden brown. (You can leave out this step, but your casserole may contain more liquid.)
- Sauce Directions
- Melt butter in oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are pretty soft. Stir in almond flour/tapioca mixture and whisk well to incorporate.
- Add chicken broth slowly, whisking the whole time.
- Whisk in the coconut cream, apple cider vinegar and spices.
- If the mixture looks pretty thin at this point, mix another 1/2 tbsp each almond flour and tapioca starch with some of the sauce and whisk in well.
- Turn off heat and add yogurt (nutritional yeast, if using) then whisk again very well to incorporate.
- Taste and add more salt if you think it is necessary.
- Casserole Directions
- Layer the cauliflower rice, broccoli, chicken and sauce in a 9×13 pan.
- Top with parmesan cheese if using.
- Mix together topping ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle over the top evenly.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbly and the top is brown. If top doesn’t brown, place it on the second shelf under broiler until it is brown and somewhat crunchy.
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