And now may I present to you the most Midwestern of recipe styles: the humble cracker-topped casserole, in the style of this Ritz Cracker Chicken Casserole.
This Ritz Cracker Chicken Casserole is inspired by countless recipes I ate as a kid growing up in the Midwest (northern Michigan, aka God’s Country) and it is almost endlessly customizable depending on your mood, how cold it is outside, what you’ve got in your fridge, how your kids have been eating lately, etc.
In short, it’s a perfect family weeknight recipe- one of those meals you bring to a friend who just had a baby or whose husband just had a shoulder surgery.
This particular Midwest-style casserole is made with a layer of rice on the bottom, then some kind of vegetable, then chicken mixed with sour cream and whatever cream-of-something soup you have, and then topped with crushed Ritz crackers and baked.
It’s not one of those “toss it together on the night of” kind of recipes, since it calls for cooked chicken and cooked rice before it’s assembled. But that makes it perfect as a recipe you plan ahead for later in the week, on a night when you know you’ll be too busy to cook a full meal but not too busy to layer a casserole dish up with prepared ingredients and then pop that baby into the oven.
You May Also Like: Old-Fashioned Tuna Noodle Casserole
That’s what I love about meal prep– I will place rice on the stove to cook one morning while I’m getting breakfast ready and packing lunches, and I can pack it away in the fridge to use for this recipe later in the week.
I’ll do the same when I’m making bacon on a Sunday; use that bacon grease to sear off some chicken thighs when the bacon’s done, and the chicken will store for up the 5 days in the fridge.
I’m always particularly thankful to the customizability of this dish, too. I prefer it with wild rice as the base, but I’ve used rice blend, whole grain rice, and even cooked tabbouleh or couscous on the bottom- just use a cooked grain you enjoy.
For the vegetable layer, I love broccoli florets but chopped carrots, or a frozen mix of vegetables, or green beans work fabulously here also.
The chicken I’ll use pre-seared chicken, as the recipe below calls for, but I’ve also used a rotisserie chicken I pulled the meat off of. I also use shredded chicken, like in the video below.
For the cream-of-whatever soup, I highly recommend cream of celery. But cream of chicken or cream of mushroom work great, too! And if you don’t have sour cream to mix in, Greek yogurt also works and, if you want to go full-fat Midwestern, melted cream cheese will never do you dirty.
The only thing I don’t customize or change up is that layer of buttery crushed Ritz crackers. They’re the best part of the recipe, and the piece that gets my kids over-the-moon to see this casserole on our dinner table. They also hold up surprisingly well to reheating the next day for lunch; they’ll lose their crush factor, of course, but that salty-buttery flavor stays and is really what rounds out this whole dish!
Ritz Cracker Chicken Casserole
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 1 sleeve ritz crackers (about 25 crackers)
- 1 can cream of chicken soup
- 1.5 cups whole grain and wild rice blend cooked
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs cooked
- .5 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Cook the rice according to package directions and store in a tightly sealed container for up to 5 days.
- Cook the chicken, either by searing it on the stovetop or braising it and then shredding. Transfer to a resealable bag or container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Chop the broccoli, discarding the stems, and Store in a resealable bag or container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Crush the Ritz crackers and store in a resealable bag or container.
Prepare From Prepped:
- Follow the instructions in “Make From Fresh”
Make From Fresh:
- Preheat the oven to 375*F.
- Layer the rice on the bottom of a 9×13” casserole dish.
- Top with the broccoli florets.
- Mix the chicken, garlic powder, soup, and sour cream in a bowl until combined, then top the broccoli with the mixture, gently spreading until it’s in an even layer.
- Crush the ritz crackers in a microwave safe bowl, either with your hands or in a plastic bag. Combine with the butter and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir to combine.
- Spread the crushed crackers over the top of the casserole in an even layer.
- Bake for 35 minutes or until the crackers have lightly browned.
- I like to use wild rice or a blend as the bottom layer.
- For the vegetable layer, swap green beans or even frozen vegetable mix instead of broccoli.
- Shredded chicken works just as well as seared, chopped chicken or even rotisserie chicken pulled off the bone.
- I prefer cream of celery soup, but you can just as easily use cream of mushroom or cream of chicken.