This freezer-friendly, curried chicken and broccoli casserole is fully homemade. No canned soups or packaged mixes in this Chicken Curry Casserole. Just good, real food.
So, casseroles get a bad rap. They’re considered dated, unhealthy, unhip.
The reality, though, is that casseroles can be delicious. Many casseroles will pluck at the chords of nostalgia in your heart and have your mouth watering just at the mere mention of their names.
Chicken Curry Casserole is one of those casseroles.
Though not a true Indian curry, this layered dish of juicy chicken and tender broccoli, luxuriating in a bath of a homemade curried cream sauce is divine. Served over rice alongside a few more veggies it’s not only delicious, but also not unhealthful, either.
Fun fact: This was often my birthday dinner as a child.
Chicken Curry Casserole
If you’ve got any vintage church cookbooks on your shelf, chances are there are more than a few versions of Chicken and Broccoli Casserole or Chicken Curry Casserole. Originally the dish was called Chicken Divan.
Chicken Divan is a chicken casserole made with broccoli and Mornay sauce, invented in NYC over 60 years ago. Then the canned soup companies got a hold of it and made it over into all kinds of things, under the guise of “it’s too hard for the average home cook to make her own sauce.”
Talk about unhip.
We can do it, can’t we folks?
Instead of using canned cream soup, I make my own white sauce and doctor it up just the way mom did with mayonnaise, lemon juice, and curry powder. It sounds odd, I know, but it’s so delicious!
This casserole is very customizable. There are likely so many versions of it out there because folks have difference preferences.
My sister makes it without mayonnaise on principle. (She doesn’t like mayo.) My husband prefers it with less sauce. One son prefers it with less cheese.
If you make it into small individual sized casserole dishes, you can customize each person’s dish.
What kinds of casseroles are there?
There are dozens of casserole recipes out there, ranging from mac and cheese to lasagna, enchiladas to pot pie. Chicken and Broccoli Casserole is a classic with variations including the addition of rice or curry powder.
How do you make a casserole healthy?
A basic casserole includes a sauce, mix-ins (like noodles, rice, or protein), and a topping, such as cheese or buttered breadcrumbs. On every level you have options to make your favorite casserole a little healthier:
- use whole grains instead of simple carbs
- focus on lean proteins instead fattier ones
- use less cheese
- spray the bread crumb topping with oil instead of dousing it in butter
- make your own white sauce instead of buying the canned varieties.
How do you make Chicken Curry Casserole?
One of the beauties of Chicken Curry Casserole — besides how delicious it tastes — is that it comes together super quickly.
- Prepare your ingredients. Cook and chop the chicken. Shred the cheese. Prepare the “Cream of” soup, if you’re using homemade. Steam the broccoli. Measure out the other things.
- Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish or single-serve gratin dishes with cooking spray.
- Spread the broccoli florets in the pan. Layer on the chicken.
- Whisk together the soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and curry powder in a large mixing bowl. Pour this mixture over the chicken and broccoli in the prepared dish.
- Sprinkle the top with the cheese.
- In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle this mixture over the cheese layer.
- Bake immediately or cover and refrigerate or freeze.
How do you freeze a casserole?
Freezing a casserole is super simple. Making several casseroles at one time and freezing the extras is a great habit to get into as it helps you stretch your time and money investments and gives you a night off cooking at a later date.
Remember that cold food freezes more quickly and has a lower chance of developing ice crystals for freezer burn, so be sure to use chilled ingredients for best taste and texture at serving.
Assemble the casserole, cover, label, and store in the freezer. Voila! Super simple.
If the ingredients are not already cold when you assemble the casserole, place the prepared dish in the refrigerator for several hours before storing in the freezer.
How do you serve a frozen casserole?
For best taste and texture, it’s usually best to thaw the casserole completely prior to baking. Transfer the frozen dish from the freezer to the refrigerator for safest thawing. A casserole may take 12 to 36 hours to thaw, depending on the temperature in your refrigerator.
You can bake a frozen casserole straight from the freezer, however, you will need to increase the cooking time and watch out for cold spots. Start by adding 30 minutes to the cooking time, after which you should check it every 15 minutes until hot and bubbly throughout.
For extended cooking times, it’s best to bake the casserole covered, so as not to overbrown the top before the filling is cooked. Bake uncovered near the end of the cooking time.
How to make this dish inexpensively
All the recipes on Good Cheap Eats are already pretty affordable. However, there are some strategies you can use to make this particular recipe more economical:
- Stock up on ingredients when they are on sale. When I find regular kitchen staples on sale, I buy a lot. It’s a great way to save money on your groceries without clipping a single coupon. I’m currently using a price book to track prices and that’s saving me money. For this recipe, keeping an eye on the price of cheese, chicken, and mayonnaise is key. Buy them on sale when you can.
- Make your own cream of soup. Making my own creamed soup with flour, butter, and milk is so simple and easy. Plus, the sauce freezes well, so I can make big batches so I can have some always to hand. You don’t need no stinking cans, man.
- Make your own breadcrumbs. Homemade breadcrumbs are practically free if you use bread that’s past its prime for sandwich making. Alternatively, check the bakery clearance rack for day-old bread that is perfect for making into crumbs.
Tools I Use for This Recipe:
- Box cheese grater
- Small Kitchenaid saucepan
- Wire whisk
- Rubber spatula
- 9×13-inch glass baking pan
- lid for 9×13-inch glass baking pan, if freezing
Homemade Curried Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a pot on the stove, the microwave or a vegetable steamer, cook the broccoli until crisp-tender. Arrange the broccoli on the bottom of the prepared pan.
- Layer the chicken over the broccoli.
- In a mixing bowl combine the soup, lemon juice, mayonnaise, and curry powder. Pour the sauce over the chicken.
- Top with the grated cheese.
- In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and butter. Mix well and sprinkle over the top of the casserole. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly, the cheese is melted, and the crumb topping is toasted.