Enjoy some old fashioned comfort food with a poppy seed chicken casserole, topped with a rich and buttery cracker crust. This classic dish is a crowd-pleaser, featuring tender chicken, a creamy sauce, and a topping of crushed crackers mixed with poppy seeds. It’s a favorite family dinner choice and a scrumptious addition to any potluck or gathering.
Make Poppy Seed Chicken for Dinner Tonight
A chicken poppy seed casserole is a classic Southern dish that’s perfect for an easy weeknight dinner. Baked up in less than an hour, this easy chicken casserole recipe is made with a homemade sauce that’s creamy and full of flavors like garlic and tangy sour cream. (no canned soup here)
This dish also uses crushed-up Town Crackers mixed with poppy seeds to make a golden brown, crunchy topping full of that perfect salty, buttery flavor.
A classic Southern comfort food, it’s the type of casserole you’ll see at church dinners, potlucks and is great to bring to a friend. It has just a few ingredients but they come together beautifully without using a can of cream of chicken soup.
This poppy seed chicken recipe is covered in a creamy sauce that’s traditionally based on a can of cream-of-something soup, but taking a few extra minutes to make it from scratch makes it taste so much better.
And finally poppy seeds give it a wonderful texture and nutty flavor when added to the buttery cracker topping.
Most chicken casseroles are incredibly easy to make, and it’s a great way to use up leftover turkey – but of course, you can always reach for a grocery store rotisserie chicken to make it easy. Most of the ingredients are things you have on hand, which makes this dish perfect for a last-minute meal.
If you want to roast chicken breasts, it only takes 30 minutes in the oven.
This comforting casserole is very forgiving – so whether you need a quick meal after a busy day or just want to make something everyone will enjoy, this casserole is a great option.
Try serving this creamy chicken casserole over plain white rice or brown rice, but you could also serve it with egg noodles or mashed potatoes. It’s nice to have some kind of dinner roll or biscuit on hand to round things out. To complete the meal, add in a green vegetable – my favorites are roasted asparagus, green beans, or a fresh salad.
What are canned cream soups made of?
“Cream of” soups that come in a can are the base of nearly every traditional casserole recipe I can think of. These soups are a combination of milk thickened with flour and some seasonings along with salt and preservatives. Canned soup is obviously convenient and fairly inexpensive, but making it at home is so easy and tastes so much better.
You have control over the ratios and can make it as thick or thin as you like, and you can customize the seasonings and salt level to your taste – give it a try, and you’ll never go back to canned soup!
What’s the best way to cook the chicken for a casserole?
Shredded chicken is an ingredient in a lot of casserole dishes. If you have leftovers, it’s great, but what if you need to make the chicken first? The best way I have found to make shredded chicken at home is to simply roast the chicken breasts in the oven, it only takes 30 minutes. You can also use an Instant pot, which will be a little quicker or poach it.
Do you hate shredding chicken? I get it – it can be time-consuming and messy. Learn my favorite way to shred chicken – no forks required!
What you’ll love about this poppy seed chicken casserole recipe:
- It’s a quick and easy meal. In total, this dish takes less than an hour from start to finish. Using pantry ingredients and cooked chicken, it’s a breeze to put together.
- It’s great for the freezer. Making casseroles ahead of time is one of my favorite ways to get dinner on the table quickly. Use a disposable dish and you can just pull it out of the freezer.
- It’s very versatile. Whether you’re craving rice, pasta, or mashed potatoes, this casserole can be paired with tons of side dishes – it’s versatile and tastes great with just about anything you can think to serve it with.
Town House Crackers
There are so many different ways to top a casserole, but one that I absolutely love is with Town House crackers. They’re buttery and crisp, and they crumble easily to make the perfect casserole topping. You can crush them by hand so that the pieces stay uneven or use a rolling pin.
Tossing the crackers with some melted butter also helps them toast up with so much flavor and turns them golden brown. They’re the ultimate topping for this casserole. You can easily substitute any type of buttery cracker or use panko bread crumbs.
Ingredients for a Creamy Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole
- Cooked tender chicken: Cooked skinless chicken breasts makes up the bulk of the casserole, you can use leftover chicken or turkey and can include any dark meat.
- Butter and flour: These two ingredients make a roux which is the base for the sauce.
- Milk and chicken broth: Using a mixture of milk and chicken broth makes the soup flavorful but not too rich.
- Sour cream: Using full-fat sour cream gives the casserole a creamy texture and great flavor.
- Worcestershire sauce: Worcestershire sauce brings a savory flavor to the casserole.
- Onions: Onions are the base for the sauce. I like a white or yellow onion for this recipe.
- Poppy seeds: Poppy seeds give the casserole some extra crunchy texture along with a nutty taste. You can find them in the spice aisle of the grocery store. ( Not sure what to do with poppy seeds? They add texture the dressing in a spinach salad and a perfect topping for mushroom appetizers.)
- Town House crackers: Town House crackers make a crunchy, buttery topping for the casserole. You can also use buttery Ritz crackers instead.
How To Make Quick and Easy Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole
Step 1: Cook the onions
In a large skillet, add the butter and onions and cook until the onions are soft and translucent. Add in the flour and cook for 1 minute.
Step 2: Make the sauce.
Warm the milk in the microwave. Slowly add warm milk and chicken broth to the onion mixture, whisking constantly until it thickens. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the sour cream. (warming the milk isn’t necessary, but it speeds up the process)
Step 3: Make the cracker topping.
Crush the crackers and add melted butter, stirring with a fork to combine, then stir in the poppy seeds.
Step 4: Assemble and bake
Add shredded chicken to the sauce and pour into a greased casserole dish. Cover the chicken mixture with the cracker mixture and bake until bubbling and slightly golden. Allow the casserole to cool for a few minutes before serving.
Tips for Making a Creamy Chicken Casserole
- Don’t worry if your sauce seems thinner than canned soup It will thicken as it bakes in the oven, so it will end up creamy.
- Cook the flour for at least one minute before you add the broth and milk. It helps to deepen the flavor.
How to Store Poppy Seed Chicken
In the refrigerator: Store any leftover casserole in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days.
In the freezer: Freeze leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
To reheat: To maintain the crispness, it’s best to re-heat it in the oven at 350ºF for about 20 minutes. You can also microwave it but the texture may not be as crispy.
How to Make Chicken Casserole Ahead
This dish makes a perfect freezer meal for a busy night or to give to a friend. I recommend using a disposable foil casserole pan if you plan to freeze the entire casserole. Here’s are two options:
- Bake the casserole first. Make sure it has cooled to room temperature before you wrap it in a layer of plastic wrap followed by a layer of foil, then freeze. Let thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then re-heat at 350º for about 20 minutes until warm.
- Freeze it before baking. For an unbaked casserole, assemble it, let it cool, cover and freeze. An unbaked casserole will last 4-5 months if you keep it wrapped tightly. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight and bake as directed.
Chicken Casserole FAQs
Can I use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth?
Vegetable, chicken, or turkey broth would all work for this recipe.
How do I stop my cracker topping from burning?
If your oven tends to burn the tops of your casseroles, the easiest way to prevent this is to cover your casserole with foil. You can remove the foil in the last 15 minutes of baking to let the topping get golden and crunchy.
More Casserole Recipes for Weeknight Dinners
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Chicken Poppy Seed Casserole (A Potluck Favorite)
- 4 chicken breasts 5 cups shredded chicken
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion finely diced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 ½ cups chicken broth
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 cups Town House Crackers 40 crackers – 1 sleeve, crushed
- ½ cup butter
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- Preheat oven to 350º. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.
- In a large skillet, add butter and onions and cook over medium heat until the onions are soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add flour and cook for 1 minute.
- Warm milk in the microwave for 1 minute. Slowly add warm milk and chicken broth to the onion mixture, whisking continuously until it has thickened.
- Once thickened to the consistency of soup, remove from the heat and whisk in sour cream.
- Add shredded chicken to the sauce and pour into a baking dish.
- Crush the crackers and add melted butter, stirring with a fork to combine. Add poppy seeds and stir to combine.
- Cover the chicken mixture with the cracker mixture and bake for 25-30 minutes until it starts to bubble.
- Serve over rice.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- You can use Ritz crackers if you prefer.
- The sauce should be the consistency of a bowl of soup, if not, let it cook a little longer before adding the sour cream.
- You can leave out the poppy seeds and still have a delicious chicken casserole.