Easy Healthy Chicken Broccoli Casserole with lots of sauce, not mushy pasta and crunchy broccoli. No canned soup, cheesy top and kids love it!
Healthy Chicken Broccoli Pasta Bake
It is so cold at my beach house, all I can think of is comfort food. And this healthy chicken broccoli casserole is the one this week.
Sometimes when I mark recipe “kid friendly” I understand that’s a very broad definition. Just like “healthy”. However, today this chicken broccoli pasta bake is for 99% of kids. Ha!
It is so good! Everything cooks almost in one pot ( you don’t even have to drain pasta). It has healthy amount of white sauce, pasta is not dry and broccoli isn’t mushy.
And it’s easy, no bazillion steps and simple ingredients. My family members love casseroles, hope yours will too.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Pasta: I used whole wheat pasta. Any whole grain or gluten free short pasta that can “scoop up” some of the cheese sauce (really it’s super healthy white sauce involved here) is good. Just follow pasta’s package instructions when cooking because for example, brown rice and quinoa pasta cook very fast.
- Chicken: I used leftover cooked turkey. You can use any pre-cooked chicken breast or thighs, I have very simple Instant pot chicken breast recipe that is perfect for this dish. Worst comes to worst, rotisserie chicken is OK too. It’s not as healthy of a choice as homemade but still it’s better than eating McDonald’s. Alternatively, you can use shredded chicken instead of cubed to make .
- Broccoli: Both fresh or frozen broccoli florets work. You can add frozen broccoli without thawing first because they cook fast.
- Cheese: I used marble cheese which is a mix of yellow and white cheese. You can use cheddar cheese, however it’s hard to find organic which is my preference for dairy, or mozzarella cheese. Full fat would be the best meaning anything with fat content more than 15% and that doesn’t say “low fat” on the label.
- Milk: Whole milk with 3.5% fat content a.k.a homogenized milk is A MUST for tasty chicken broccoli casserole. Why? Because it makes the sauce creamy. I would highly recommend not to use low fat milk or skim milk because dish will come out flat.
- Cornstarch: It thickens the sauce. If you are out or have sensitivity or preference, you can substitute with whole wheat flour or arrowroot powder.
- Broth: Vegetable or chicken broth work well. Make sure it’s low sodium though because that’s what I used developing this recipe. Regular broth is VERY high in sodium plus if you don’t adjust amount of salt, the casserole will come out super salty.
Can I Add Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt to the Sauce?
- Sour cream: I personally love the taste of sour cream but not its ingredients list, even organic has additives. However, it tastes very good and different from yogurt. Maybe once in a while it “won’t kill me” like I like to say.
- Greek yogurt: Plain Greek yogurt is strained yogurt that is high in protein. It is more tangy than sour cream.
Stir in desired amount of any (I would say 1/2 cup) after casserole has baked but before sprinkling cheese. Do not add to the sauce and bake with sour cream or yogurt. Yogurt will curdle for sure, and sour cream will dry out anyways iMHO.
How to Make Healthy Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
- Cook pasta al dente and do not drain.
- Make a slurry with milk and cornstarch and add to the pot with pasta and spices. Cook until thickened.
- Turn off heat and add cooked chicken and broccoli.
- Stir, transfer to a baking dish and bake covered for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and let it melt in the oven.
Can I Freeze Leftovers?
Yes, technically you can but I will be very honest with you and say that I wouldn’t.
- Casserole has been already cooked, stirred and mushed around. I wouldn’t like the texture of this bake particularly thawed. Especially if you use gluten free pasta like brown rice or quinoa – to me it would reminds a texture of baby puree.
- My offer to you is cut recipe in half if you are cooking only for 2. If for more, make full recipe and leftovers refrigerate well for a few days and prevent you from eating junk food.
More Healthy Casserole Recipes
- Healthy chicken and rice casserole – Betty Crocker has got nothing on this one!
- Turkey pasta bake – voted reader’s family favourite
- Ground turkey quinoa casserole – even with quinoa it’s pretty kid friendly!
- Healthy Mexican casserole with layers of tortillas, meat and veggies.
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 or freeze leftovers for 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!
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