Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice Casserole

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Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice Casserole is totally cravable. Creamy, cheesy comfort food with a Mexican twist. 

Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice Casserole #glutenfree | iowagirlea

Let’s talk about conscious coupling for a change, shall we? That is, combinations of things, people, and food, for instance, that make our hearts go pitter patter instead of, well, running for the hills.

A glass of wine and girlfriend time. ‘Nuf said

Babies and Levis. Add some tiny Chuck Taylor’s and I’m not sure I could go on.

Honey roasted peanuts and candy corn. The only answer to your what do I do with all this leftover candy corn?? dilemma. Try it.

A long plane ride and in-flight wifi. Hello, productivity!

Summertime and hammocks. Add a vodka lemonade and a good book and I’m not moving until the snow starts to fall…or the vodka runs out.

Family and the holidays. I was just telling a friend the other day that nothing makes me happier than a full house at the holidays. Can’t wait!

Waking up in the middle of the night and realizing you still have 4+ hours left to sleep. THE BEST.

Creamy chicken and rice. This humble and comforting combo is not only a favorite of mine but tons of you too, as I found out through your giveaway entries in my Chicken Piccata Risotto with Crispy Capers + $100 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway post a few weeks ago. I read about it so much that I decided to put a new spin on the popular coupling in the form of Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice Casserole!

Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice Casserole #glutenfree | iowagirlea

I’m sure you’ve noticed over the past couple of weeks that I am craving all the comfort food in the forms of soups, casseroles, and skillets. This is not a bun in my oven confession, rather it’s an ALL THE WARM THINGS confession. That is to say, as the outside temperatures fall, my appetite revs up and Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice Casserole satisfies my current cravings perfectly. 

Long grain white rice is simmered in tangy salsa verde and chicken broth then combined with sauteed chicken and green chilies, and a creamy homemade cheese sauce before being scooped into a baking dish and broiled. It’s a riff on my Skinny Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Rice Casserole which I’ve gotten tons of great feedback on since I posted it around this time last year.

Spoiler alert – I like this version even better!

Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice Casserole #glutenfree | iowagirlea

The tangy tomatillo and cilantro-flavored salsa provides an awesome base flavor to the dish which achieves mind-melting status when combined with a creamy, mild Monterey Jack cheese sauce. The casserole takes mouse hole to bear cave to an entirely different level. I could. not. keep. my. fork. out!

It’s even delicious when re-heated, which is hard to come by in rice-based dishes, and would be great to scoop into gladware containers then reheated for lunches all week long. In a world of ho-hum, cold salads and sandwiches it is so nice to be able to enjoy something hot and homemade in the middle of the day. Lunch, dinner – whenever – you will LOVE this!

Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice Casserole #glutenfree | iowagirlea

Start by cooking 2 cups long grain rice (either basmati or Jasmine – I really like this RiceSelect Texmati rice,) in 3 cups chicken broth and 3/4 cup salsa verde. I started cooking rice with a little bit of salsa a few years ago and it is by far my favorite, easy way to infuse lots flavor into plain rice. Here’s my Mexican rice recipe using red salsa >

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Cook the rice according to package directions then fluff and add 3 small or 2 large chopped green onions to the pot, place a lid on top, then let the onions steam with the pan off the heat for 5 minutes.

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Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 chopped chicken breasts (about 14oz,) and a 4oz can green chilies. Season with salt and pepper then saute until the chicken is just cooked through. Add 3 minced garlic cloves then saute for 1 more minute. Pour the chicken and chilies onto a plate then very carefully wipe out the skillet with a couple of paper towels. No burns now, ya’ hear?

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Keep the skillet off the heat to cool down for a few minutes while you whisk 5 teaspoons gluten-free or all-purpose flour (I used white rice flour) into 1/2 cup milk (I used skim.) Place the skillet back over medium-high heat, pour the flour/milk mixture in, and then add 1-1/2 cups more milk. While this is not a dairy-free recipe by any means, making cheese sauce without a butter base is 100% possible (and delicious!)

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Season with salt and pepper, bring the mixture to a bubble, and then turn the heat down to medium and simmer until thickened, 8-10 minutes, stirring the entire time. Pull the skillet off the heat then add 6oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese and 1/3 cup sour cream and then stir until smooth.

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All together now! Add the cooked rice and chicken mixture to the cheese sauce then mix to combine. It should be cheesy, ooey, and 4,000% gooey!

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Scoop the mixture into a nonstick sprayed 8×8″ baking dish (or an equivalent size – this was a 9.5×7″ Le Creuset I got for under $10 at HomeGoods – woot!) then sprinkle 2oz more Monterey Jack cheese on top and broil until golden brown.

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Scoop onto plates, garnish with some chopped cilantro, if you please, then serve!

Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice Casserole #glutenfree | iowagirlea

Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice Casserole

Print this recipe!

Serves 5-6

Ingredients:
3 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup salsa verde (I used Herdez)
2 cups long grain white rice like jasmine or basmati (I used RiceSelect Texmati rice)
3 small or 2 large green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 chicken breasts (about 14oz,) cut into chunks
4oz green chilies
salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 teaspoons gluten-free or all-purpose flour (I used white rice flour)
2 cups milk, divided (I used skim)
8oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
1/3 cup light (not fat free) sour cream

Directions: 

  1. Spray a 8×8″ baking dish (or equivalent-sized baking dish) very well with nonstick spray then set aside. Bring chicken broth and salsa verde to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan then add rice, place a lid on top, turn heat down to medium, and then cook according to package directions. Remove pan from heat then fluff rice, sprinkle green onions on top, and then place the lid back on the pan for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat extra virgin olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and green chilies, season with salt and pepper, and then saute until chicken is just cooked through. Add garlic then saute for 1 more minute. Remove chicken and chili mixture to a plate then very carefully wipe out the inside of the skillet with a couple of paper towels (don’t burn yourself!) Let the skillet cool off the heat while you whisk the flour into a dish with 1/2 cup milk.
  3. Return the skillet to the burner over medium-high heat, add the flour and milk mixture, and then add the remaining 1-1/2 cups milk. Season with salt and pepper then let the mixture come to a bubble (NOT a rolling boil,) stirring constantly. Turn heat down to medium then simmer until thickened, 8-10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the skillet from the heat then stir in 6oz shredded cheese and sour cream. Taste then add salt and pepper if necessary.
  4. Add the chicken mixture and rice to the cheese sauce then stir to combine and scoop into the prepared baking dish. Top with remaining cheese then broil until golden brown.

Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice Casserole #glutenfree | iowagirlea

Your entire family will flip for the casserole. Perfect fuel for getting through fall activities or just hunkering down with a plate underneath a big blanket with a fire roaring in front of you. Because that’s how we all eat our dinner, right? Ahh, a girl can dream. ;) Either way, enjoy!

Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice Casserole #glutenfree | iowagirlea


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