The original version of this dish was my go-to chicken casserole recipe in the 1980s. It was a popular weeknight family meal and when served to guests, they always requested the recipe. Everyone loved the big chunks of chicken breast meat served in a cheesy and creamy sauce. It was topped with buttery Ritz cracker crumbs that melted in your mouth. I liked that I could serve it with wild rice or a variety of side dishes and salads since the casserole contained no starches or vegetables. It was also great to make ahead when entertaining and easy to double the recipe.
That dish stopped making appearances at the dinner table when I gave up canned “cream of anything” soups and Ritz crackers. The original recipe (on the cards below) calls for a can of Cream of Chicken Soup, one package (or sleeve) of Ritz crackers, one stick of melted butter, and boiled chicken breasts. If I wanted to make that recipe again, I needed to make changes to the ingredient list to make it healthier. Now, that I’ve updated the recipe, I’m happy to serve this delicious and lighter version of a classic chicken casserole. Prepared with ingredients that are lower in fat and sodium, I’ve also halved the recipe to make it a better size casserole for today’s smaller families.
Boiled chicken has been replaced with roasted chicken; since roasting the chicken makes the meat more tender, more flavorful, and locks in the juices. Ritz cracker crumbs have been updated with crispy Panko bread crumbs, which are seasoned with just a bit of butter. I also prepare a homemade cream sauce rather than use canned Cream of Chicken soup.
As with all the Retro Chic Cooking recipes, the original recipe card has been included, so if you prefer, prepare the original version. Both recipes are excellent and will become popular favorites in your home.
- 3 - 4 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin on (depending on the size, Organic chicken breasts will be smaller, so you will want to use 4)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth (I prefer Organic)
- ½ cup whole milk (You can use 2% milk, but whole milk give this a richer texture)
- ⅛ teaspoon poultry seasoning
- ½ cup low-fat sour cream
- ½ cup grated extra-sharp sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash and dry chicken. Place on a baking sheet or shallow roasting pan and sprinkle with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast uncovered in the oven for 40 minutes. You want the chicken to be undercooked since it will cook again in the casserole. Let the chicken cool until you are able to handle it. Remove the skin and bones and cut into bite-size pieces. Set aside.
- Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Quickly add flour and salt and whisk them into the butter. Cook for a minute while it bubbles. Whisk in both the chicken broth and milk and continue to cook over medium heat until until thickened, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat.
- In a large bowl, stir together the sauce, sour cream and grated cheese. Mix together thoroughly. Add the chicken and stir again. Taste for salt (I do not add pepper to this dish.) place the mixture in an 8-inch square dish or oval casserole dish that has been lightly greased with unsalted butter.
- Place the Panko crumbs in a small bowl and toss quickly with the melted butter evenly. Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the top of the casserole.
- Place in a preheated oven and cook for 35-45 minutes until the top is browned and the casserole is bubbling. If you like the topping a little browner, you can turn on the broiler for a few seconds to finish the browning. Let the casserole sit a few minutes before serving.