Pinterest's Top Casserole Recipe Is Equal Parts Indulgent and Healthy
Quinoa + chicken + casserole = a Pinterest win. Over 325K people have saved this creamy casserole recipe, making it the top pinned casserole in the network. The combination of healthy ingredients (quinoa, broccoli, and chicken breasts) and indulgent ones (a milky sauce, bacon, and cheese) fuse together for a comforting weeknight meal we had to learn the story behind and then make ourselves.
Lindsay Ostrom, the blogger behind Pinch of Yum, developed this creamy chicken quinoa and broccoli casserole recipe (pictured left) because she knows the struggle to eat well during cold months is real. “I wanted [to make] something that was comforting but also loaded with good-for-you ingredients (quinoa, chicken, broccoli, etc.),” she tells Brit + Co in an interview. Also noteworthy: This casserole does not rely on any shortcut ingredients. She emphasizes the importance of making things “from scratch with minimal time and effort.”
The recipe has gone on to become a massive success on Pinterest, and the recipe page itself has sparked quite the conversation — 875 comments, to be exact. She says she thinks people have gravitated toward this recipe because it’s “comforting for those cold months but you don’t feel totally awful after eating it.” The intro for the recipe sums it up best: “This baked goodness is the antidote to winter.”
We did adjust a few things in this recipe (our version is pictured left). Instead of combining the milk and flour together in a sauce pot (which can sometimes lead to a lumpy gravy), we started with making a roux sauce, which requires whisking together equal parts fat and flour until it toasts up. We reduced the amount of liquids slightly because quinoa really only needs twice the amount of the milky sauce in order to puff up into tender bits. And then, because we just couldn’t help ourselves, we did add more bacon, cheese… and broccoli to the mix. We think it only improved things! Here’s our version, which we’re dying to make again already.
Creamy Chicken Quinoa and Broccoli Casserole Recipe
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (or reserved bacon fat), plus more to grease pan
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- dash paprika
- dash cayenne
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
- 1/2 cup cooked, crumbled bacon
- 3 cups fresh broccoli florets
- 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
Preheat the oven to 400°F, and generously grease a square baking dish with olive oil or bacon fat.
Make the sauce. In a medium-sized skillet, heat oil (or bacon fat), then whisk in flour. Continue whisking until mixture bubbles and toasts to a golden-brown color.
Carefully whisk in milk and chicken broth. Continue cooking and whisking until sauce becomes foamy and creamy. Add salt (optional), then turn off heat and set aside.
Season chicken breasts. Combine salt, poultry seasoning, paprika, and cayenne together, then sprinkle it all over chicken breasts on butcher paper or a bowl. Set aside.
Assemble casserole. Into the prepared casserole dish, combine rinsed quinoa (don’t forget to rinse it or else it will turn out bitter!), milky sauce from step two, and bacon. Lay the chicken breasts over the top of the quinoa mixture.
Bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until quinoa fully absorbs the liquid.
Prep the broccoli. While the casserole is in the oven, place the broccoli in salted boiling water for 1 minute until it turns bright green, and then strain it out in a fine mesh sieve. Run the broccoli under cold water until it’s fully cooled or place the sieve in a large bowl of ice water. Shake off excess water, and set aside.
Garnish the casserole. Remove the casserole from the oven. When the quinoa and chicken are cooked and the sauce is thickened, add the broccoli on top followed by the cheese. Bake for 5 minutes, then set on broil and continue to cook until cheese becomes golden brown on the exterior.