I Tried The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Wild Rice Casserole and It’s a Crowd-Pleasing Favorite
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As the holidays roll around and we look forward to hosting big groups of family and friends, we’re always on the lookout for hearty recipes that are both interesting and ideal for feeding a large crowd. It’s hard to beat a good casserole, and we were excited to try out The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Wild Rice Casserole, a veggie-heavy concoction that mixes in Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses, and gets topped with buttery bread cubes.
The benefits of this recipe is that it pleases even the pickiest eaters, is easy to make ahead and freeze, and can be made in bulk for your holiday gatherings. On those chilly winter nights, this should prove to be just the right fuel for your crew.
How To Make The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Wild Rice Casserole
The recipe requires a little prep work, but it’s nothing too difficult.
First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees and start cooking the rice according to the package recipe. Pioneer Woman uses only wild rice, which takes a little longer, so we subbed in a store-bought packet of mixed brown and wild rice. This cut down on the cooking time and avoided some of the more bitter flavors of wild rice can impart.
She incorporates cooked, diced chicken into her recipe. We seasoned chicken thighs with salt and pepper (we love dark meat), then baked them and pulled the meat. You could easily roast chicken breasts and dice those, or even pull a rotisserie chicken (but not one with any flavoring beyond salt and pepper; barbecue chicken or buffalo chicken would taste strange in this recipe).
While the rice is cooking, start sweating mushrooms, onions, carrots, and celery in butter. After 10 minutes, stir in minced garlic and cook for another couple minutes. Incorporate flour into the mix, cook down for two minutes, then stir in chicken broth. You’ll bring that to a boil for a few minutes to thicken before stirring in half-and-half to thicken a little more. By that time you can add the soy sauce, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper, then mix in the drained rice and chicken. Fold in the Gruyere and Parmesan (“You just fold it in!”), then season to your preference with salt and pepper.
Once everything is combined, pour it into a large casserole dish, cover with foil, and cook for 20–25 minutes, or until it starts to bubble. The instructions then say to remove it from the oven, top it with bread cubes, drizzle melted butter on the bread, and sprinkle with kosher salt and Parmesan. Then you return it uncovered to the oven for another 15 minutes. Once it’s done, add fresh parsley and thyme, and serve immediately.
My Honest Review
The whole family enjoyed the final results. The casserole is seasoned nicely, the adults appreciated all the veggies, and the kids were easily won over with a big plate of chicken, rice, and cheese. The casserole also goes nicely with a crisp salad and a slice of fresh-baked bread.
For someone who grew up eating casseroles mainly based on cream of mushroom soup, this recipe felt like it used more ingredients than you’d expect, and a few of the steps were just a little more complicated than they needed to be, like the bread cubes and butter topping. See below for the shortcut we took.
5 Tips for Making The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Wild Rice Casserole
1. I know wild rice is in the title, but using a grocery store packet of a brown and wild rice mix saves you a lot of time. Our boys seemed to like the texture better.
2. The Pioneer Woman doesn’t specify light or dark meat chicken, but the dark meat offered a richer flavor, and was less likely to dry out while baking. Also, if you’ve got Thanksgiving leftovers, turkey would make a wonderful substitution.
3. Rather than carefully drizzling melted butter and cheese over the bread cubes in the final step, just toss the bread, butter, and cheese together in a separate bowl, then spread that mixture over the chicken and rice casserole. There’s no need to sit there and try to drizzle melted butter on each individual bread cube.
4. We don’t normally keep half-and-half in the fridge, but we often have heavy whipping cream, so we just mixed that with milk to make our own.
5. The recipe doubles easily. The rice packet and package of chicken thighs were the right amount for a doubled batch, so we could easily use up all of those key ingredients. The casserole should freeze well, too, although whenever we freeze dishes like this, we’ll add a little more of the liquid ingredients first.