This Healthy Chicken Broccoli Casserole recipe is creamy, cheesy, and wonderfully hearty – yet under 250 calories per serving! This chicken broccoli pasta bake omits canned soup, heavy cream and/or butter, using your choice of pasta, and lighter dairy options, for a wholesome, healthy mid-week family casserole!
Simple one-pot (and 2-pot) casseroles are a favorite for any mother or busy working person. Which is why this healthy chicken and broccoli recipe is just one of many in my regular rotation, including healthy Tuscan chicken pasta and one pot chili mac!
Table of contents
Healthy Chicken Broccoli Casserole
Another day, another ‘healthier’ version of a family favorite. This time in the form of this healthy chicken broccoli casserole. It’s creamy, cheesy, and you can use your pasta of choice (regular, whole wheat, GF)– with absolutely no canned soup in sight! Instead, this healthy casserole combines REAL ingredients, including pasta, chicken, broccoli, and a lightened-up creamy sauce.
Plus for healthy pasta dishes it’s shockingly simple – you don’t even have to drain the noodles!
The results are a comforting, cozy, well-balanced mid-week meal that the entire family will love (and just one of many one-pan pasta dishes your kids will ask for repeatedly – along with chicken parmesan pasta, healthy mac and cheese, ground turkey and broccoli pasta and turkey tetrazzini).
So how have I lightened it up? This healthy chicken broccoli casserole combines whole wheat pasta (or the pasta of your choice- including gluten-free) with lots of broccoli (fresh or frozen – just like for my chicken broccoli rice casserole), leftover chicken (for ultimate convenience), and a lightly spiced broth and milk-based creamy sauce. It’s then topped off with just enough cheese to feel decadent without becoming heavy or fatty.
As usual, I’ve made sure this recipe is versatile too. Add extra veggies, swap out the protein, make it meat-free, boost the spice – there are tons of ways to enjoy this healthy chicken and broccoli recipe! Just follow my tips and method, and you’ll end up with a wonderfully creamy and tender casserole that’s packed with flavor and avoids being mushy.
Best of all, the leftovers can be saved for several days in the fridge or months in the freezer and reheated for convenience (though it’s best fresh!). Plus, you can enjoy this recipe as-is, gluten-free, dairy-free, or even meat-free if preferred! Want more inspiration for simple one-pot dishes and casseroles? You might like this whole wheat chicken spaghetti, Instant Pot goulash, or one-pot chicken quinoa!
Why This Chicken Broccoli Pasta Bake Recipe Works?
- This chicken broccoli pasta bake requires just one pan and one dish – perfect for less washing up!
- It’s perfect for using up leftover chicken (or turkey) – in a healthy, wholesome way
- This chicken broccoli pasta bake is hearty and ‘cozy’ yet made lighter by swapping out canned soup and large quantities of cheese for lighter options and lower amounts.
- This recipe requires 11 ingredients, most of which are pantry staples!
- Cheesy pasta with chicken and broccoli is adult and child-approved– a great crowd-pleaser!
- Overall, this healthy chicken and broccoli recipe is creamy, cheesy, and wonderfully hearty – at a super low 237 calories per serving!
Ingredients for Healthy Chicken and Broccoli Recipe
- Pasta: I like to use whole wheat pasta. Gluten-free will also work. Use any pasta shape that will help the sauce ‘cling.’
- Protein: I used leftover cooked chicken. You can use any pre-cooked chicken breast or thighs, like this Instant pot chicken breast or pressure cooker shredded chicken. Even rotisserie chicken would work (but isn’t as healthy thanks to all the sodium). Alternatively, leftover turkey would work.
- Broth: Use low-sodium vegetable broth, chicken broth or Instant Pot chicken broth.
- Broccoli: You can use fresh or frozen (no need to thaw).
- Cheese: I used marble cheese which is a mix of yellow and white cheese. Cheddar, mozzarella, or even a spicy pepper jack would also work. I recommend using full-fat cheese as such a small amount is being used.
- Milk: Use whole milk (not skimmed, 2%, etc.) for the creamiest healthy chicken broccoli casserole sauce that isn’t ‘flat.’
- Cornstarch: Is used to thicken the sauce. Alternatively, arrowroot powder or whole wheat flour (not GF) would work.
- Spices: This chicken broccoli cheese casserole uses a simple yet flavorful combination of garlic powder (though you could also use fresh), dried oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
Read below (after the recipe how-to) for more information on healthy chicken broccoli casserole recipe add-ins and recipe variations!
How to Make Healthy Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
- Prepare the pasta: First, preheat the oven to 375F/190C, spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray, and then set aside. Then, in a large pot, bring the stock to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instruction (minus 1-2 minutes) until al dente, stirring occasionally.
The pasta you use will determine how long it takes to cook. I recommend following the package instructions minus 1-2 minutes to have al dente results. If you overcook the pasta at this point, it will become mushier during the baking time.
- Create the sauce: In a small bowl, combine the milk and cornstarch and whisk well. Then add to the pasta pot along with all the spices. Mix in and then cook for several minutes until the sauce thickens, stirring once or twice. Then switch off the heat.
- Combine and bake: Add the cooked chicken and broccoli to the pan, stirring to mix. Then transfer the creamy, healthy chicken broccoli casserole mixture to the prepared baking dish and bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese, and place back in the warm (switched off) oven until melted.
Alternatively, you can use a broiler to melt the cheese. However, it may make some of the top pieces of pasta a little crunchy.
Once melted, the healthy chicken broccoli casserole is ready to serve and enjoy!
Optional Add-In’s and Variations
- Yogurt: Adding in around ½ cup (or your desired amount) of Greek yogurt into the pasta dish before sprinkling over the cheese makes for an even creamier chicken broccoli cheese casserole. You could also use sour cream – but I’m not a fan of its’ ingredients list (even organic has additives).
- Cream cheese: Alternatively, you could add a few spoonfuls of cream cheese to the casserole when baking for a little extra ‘richness’.
- Mustard: To add further depth to the chicken broccoli pasta bake sauce, add 1-2tbsp of Dijon mustard. It also helps to enhance the cheesy flavor in the dish too.
- Other spices: Feel free to experiment with different spice blends for different flavors. For example, Cajun seasoning or curry powder would work well with this healthy chicken and broccoli recipe – alternately, use leftover cooked chicken that has been seasoned or marinated.
- Other protein: As well as chicken, you can also use turkey, sausage, or even shrimp. I recommend cooking it separately, then mixing it into the chicken broccoli cheese casserole in the last few minutes of baking.
- Other vegetables: With a creamy, slightly cheesy, and chicken-y base, tons of vegetables will pair well. Sautéed mushrooms, peas, cauliflower, zucchini, spinach, green beans, etc. Use any option that will cook in the baking time and add before baking in the oven.
- Mushroom sauce: To mimic the classic ‘cream of mushroom soup’ sauce, you can use a mushroom stock or add mushrooms to the recipe. Sauté them for 4-5 minutes until cooked before adding to the pasta pot.
- Dairy–free: You can make a dairy-free chicken broccoli pasta bake using a full-fat dairy-free milk and cheese alternative (and/or some nutritional yeast).
- Topping: Add a few healthy croutons after sprinkling with cheese for some crunch!
Tips for Best Chicken Broccoli Cheese Casserole Results
- To change the broccoli texture: If you prefer your broccoli firmer, you can cook it separately then mix it with the healthy chicken broccoli casserole when adding the cheese.
- Adjust the heat: Adjust the amount of red pepper flakes added (or omit entirely) to personal taste. To up the heat further, you could serve the casserole with a little hot sauce.
- Don’t overcook the pasta: If you cook it fully in the first cooking phase, it’s likely to become mushy when baked. So it’s essential to cook it until al dente before it goes in the oven.
- To avoid dry leftovers, make sure to add a splash of milk or broth when reheating any leftovers. The pasta will have soaked up the sauce as it sits, so it will dry out otherwise.
Yes – I actually have a specific healthy chicken and rice casserole recipe, though.
Yes, you’ll need to sear/ par-cook the chicken in a skillet first before it finishes baking in the oven. I recommend shallow frying it for 5-6 minutes and then folding it into the chicken broccoli pasta bake before going into the oven.
- Salad: I prefer a simple salad to pair with this healthy chicken broccoli casserole. This includes a leafy green salad like this lemon garlic kale salad. Alternatively, creamy cucumber salad or cucumber and tomato salad would all pair well.
- Bread: Enjoy with garlic bread, cauliflower breadsticks, or any crusty bread – possibly with a little butter if preferred.
- Vegetables: You could also enjoy this broccoli cheese pasta bake with additional veggies, like sauteed zucchini or spinach, garlic green beans, or roasted asparagus recipe.
Making Chicken Broccoli Casserole in Advance
Make ahead: You could chop the broccoli up to a day in advance and prepare your chicken of choice 2-3 days in advance. Store in airtight containers in the fridge.
Storing: Refrigerate any healthy chicken broccoli casserole leftovers in an airtight container for up to three days.
Freeze: Alternatively, you can freeze the leftovers for up to 3 months. Though I’ll be honest, I don’t usually freeze mine – as I find it becomes ‘mushy’ upon thawing (especially when using gluten-free pasta). But some people don’t mind it – so feel free to try.
Reheat: Reheat the chicken broccoli cheese casserole either in the microwave, on the stovetop, or in the oven. I recommend adding a splash or two of milk, if needed, to bring back the saucy-ness.
More Healthy Broccoli Recipes
- Broccoli quinoa salad
- Healthy beef and broccoli
- Healthy broccoli salad
- Penne with broccoli
- Broccoli mushroom stir fry
- Sauteed broccoli
- Chicken and broccoli stir fry
Healthy Chicken Broccoli Casserole
- 2 1/2 cups whole wheat pasta
- 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock low sodium
- 2 cups cooked chicken or turkey cubed
- 1 lb broccoli cut into small florets
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp oregano dried
- 1 tsp basil dried
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
- Ground pepper to taste
- 1 cup marble cheese shredded
- Cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and spray 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a large pot, add stock and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 5-6 minutes or al dente, stirring occasionally. Do not drain.
- In a small bowl, whisk together milk and cornstarch and add to the pot with pasta along with garlic powder, oregano, basil, salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Cook for a few minutes until thickened, stirring once or twice.
- Turn off heat and add cooked chicken and broccoli. Stir, transfer to previously prepared baking dish and bake covered for 15 minutes.
- Sprinkle with cheese, turn off the oven and “bake” until cheese is melted.
- Serve hot.
- Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- Freeze: Up to 3 months.
- Stir in desired amount of plain Greek or regular yogurt (I would say 1/2 cup) after casserole has baked but before sprinkling cheese. A few readers really love this addition!