Creamy Chicken, Broccoli & Bacon Casserole
This Creamy Whole30 Chicken & Broccoli Casserole is a healthier spin on the classic casserole. It’s the perfect comfort dish for winter that everyone will love. This is a great casserole to make in advance, or freeze for those future nights when you don’t feel like cooking. This casserole is Paleo, Dairy Free, Grain Free, Gluten Free, Keto, Whole30 and Specific Carbohydrate Diet Legal.
A few weeks ago I asked followers on Instagram which fall/winter recipes they wanted me to share on the blog, and I couldn’t believe how many people requested casseroles. Full disclosure, I am relatively new to the world of casseroles (they weren’t something that my Mom made growing up) but I have quickly become a fan.
Why you are going to love this Chicken & Broccoli Casserole:
- It’s classic comfort food made healthy! This casserole is hearty, so creamy and the perfect dish to serve on a chilly night when you are craving a comforting meal. It has the richness of a classic chicken and broccoli casserole, but without the dairy or grains.
- It will win over picky eaters: This is a great casserole to serve to kids because the broccoli is smothered in the creamy sauce and hidden between chunks of chicken and crispy bacon. If you think they still might struggle, break the broccoli down into very small florets and serve it over pasta.
- Great for a make ahead meal: You can prep the casserole 3 days in advance and then just pop it in the oven to bake before serving. This is a great dish to bring to a potluck, everyone will love it without even realizing that it’s Paleo and Whole30.
- It freezes well: This Whole30 casserole has a base of just chicken and broccoli so unlike some cauliflower rice casseroles, it won’t become watery when frozen. I would recommend combining everything together into a casserole dish and then freezing before baking. This will ensure that the broccoli doesn’t become too mushy from baking twice.
What’s in this Whole30 Casserole:
- Broccoli – I like to steam the broccoli before adding it to the casserole but alternatively you can roast it in the oven or use precooked frozen broccoli florets.
- Chicken – you can use leftover chicken, buy a premade roast chicken or quickly boil chicken breasts, any of these options work for the shredded chicken.
- Bacon – you can easily leave this out, but in my opinion everything tastes better with bacon.
- A ridiculously creamy sauce that you would swear was made with dairy – The sauce is made with a base of cashews that are blended with almond milk, mustard, garlic and nutritional yeast. It’s a simple sauce but its smooth, creamy and so delicious.
How to make shredded chicken:
There are many different ways to make shredded chicken (bake, sear, grill, roast…) but my go to method is to poach it. I find poaching chicken to be the quickest method and it also ensures that the chicken remains super moist and doesn’t dry out.
- Filled a large pot half full with water and bring it to a boil on medium high heat.
- Add the chicken breasts to the pot and make sure that the water covers all of the chicken.
- Leave to boil for 15-18 minutes. You may need to add more water if it goes below the top of the chicken.
- Check to see if the chicken is done by removing a breast from the pot and cutting it in half. There should be no pink in the center.
- Remove the remaining chicken breasts from the water and leave them to cool for 5 minutes before shredding them with 2 forks.
As a general rule 1 large chicken breast equals 1 cup of shredded chicken.
How to make this Paleo Chicken & Broccoli Casserole
- Prep the broccoli. Cut 2 heads of broccoli into small bite sized florets and place them in a pot to steam until the stems can just be pierced with a fork but aren’t mushy.
- While the broccoli is cooking make the creamy sauce. In a high speed blender or NutriBullet combine the cashews which have been soaked in hot water for 10 minutes to soften, with mustard, garlic, almond milk and nutritional yeast and blend until completely smooth. If your blender is struggling to make the mixture smooth, add a splash more almond milk. Once the sauce is smooth, transfer it to a sauce pan on medium heat and leave it to gently simmer for approximately 5-8 minutes until the sauce has thickened and can easily coat the back of a spoon.
- Combine the shredded chicken in a bowl with the broccoli florets, sauteed onion and bacon. Pour the creamy sauce overtop and give everything a stir to ensure its all well mixed. Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish.
- If preparing the casserole in advance, at this point you can store it in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for 2 months. If eating straight away, bake it in the oven for 25 minutes until the top of the casserole is golden in colour and bubbly in the corners.
Ways to modify this Whole30 Chicken Broccoli Casserole:
- Add more veggies: Chopped sautéed mushrooms, steamed cauliflower florets, spinach or kale would all make a delicious addition to this casserole.
- Don’t have bacon? You can skip the bacon altogether or alternatively use chopped ham, turkey bacon or pancetta in its place.
- Swap the nutritional yeast: For anyone following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, or for those who can eat dairy, swap the nutritional yeast for 2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese, and sprinkle a bit more on top before baking.
- Thanksgiving leftovers? This is a great way to use up leftover turkey from thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Use a combination of both white and dark meat in place of the shredded chicken.
- Make it keto: to reduce the net carbs for this casserole to make it keto, swap cashews for macadamia nuts in the sauce.
Here are a few more casserole recipes that you might enjoy:
- Spaghetti Bolognese Casserole
- Jalapeno Tuna Casserole
- Beef & Cauliflower Rice Mexican Casserole
- Broccoli, Chicken & Rice Casserole
- Caramelized Onion, Butternut Squash & Turkey Breakfast Casserole
If you make this recipe let me know in the comment section below, I would love to hear what you think or take a photo and tag me (@everylastbite_) on Instagram, I love seeing your photos!
Chicken, Broccoli & Bacon Casserole
- 3 cups shredded chicken (3 large chicken breasts, cooked and shredded)
- 4 cups broccoli florets (2 heads of broccoli)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium onion finely diced
- 2/3 cup chopped bacon
- 1 cup cashews (soaked in hot water for 10 minutes)
- 1 1/2 cup almond milk
- 1 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400º Fahrenheit (200º Celsius) and place the shredded chicken in a large bowl.
- Fill a pot 1/2 full with water and bring to a boil on high heat. Once boiling, add in the broccoli and cook for 3 minutes until just tender but not mushy. Pour the broccoli into a strainer/sieve and run under cold water until they have cooled. Set aside to drain before adding the cooked broccoli florets to the bowl with the chicken.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet on medium high heat. Add in the diced onion and chopped bacon and cook for 8 minutes until the bacon begins to crisp and the onion has softened. Add the onion and bacon to the bowl with the broccoli florets.
- In a high speed blender or nutribullet container combine the drained cashews, almond milk, dijon mustard, garlic and nutritional yeast and blend until completely smooth. If your blender is struggling to blend it into a smooth consistency, add a splash more almond milk. Pour the sauce into a small sauce pan on medium heat, season with salt and pepper and leave it to gently simmer for 5-8 minutes until the sauce has begun to thicken. You can tell when the sauce is done by dipping a spoon into it and running your finger down the back of the spoon, if the line remains visible, the sauce is done and should be removed from the heat.
- Add half of the sauce to the bowl with the broccoli/chicken/bacon and give it a stir. Continue to add more sauce until everything is well coated but not "soupy" (you may have excess sauce leftover). Once the mixture is stirred well, pour it into a baking dish approximately 11 x 7 inches in size.
- Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the casserole is golden in colour on top and bubbling in the corners. Serve immediately.