Chicken Noodle Casserole

Favorite WinterCasseroleComfort Food

This Chicken Noodle Casserole is sure to hit the spot, especially if you’re looking to feed a family, satisfy that comfort food craving, or have leftovers to last the week. No canned cream of anything in this casserole. It’s from scratch and 100 percent delicious.

Photography Credit: Sally Vargas

Made with chicken cooked in broth, celery, onions, and chopped pimentos from a jar, this creamy Chicken Noodle Casserole completely trumps the tuna version my mother fed me as a child. She used canned tuna, spaghetti, peas, and cream of something soup.

Granted, I’m sure it was quick and easy, but I wish she had made this Chicken Noodle Casserole instead.

My Chicken Noodle Casserole is super creamy, thanks to a sauce I made from stock thickened with beurre manie (butter and flour) and sour cream. I finished the casserole with a blanket of melted cheddar on top, wide egg noodles underneath, and moist chunks of chicken throughout. It is impossible to stop eating it.

All of this flavor and gustatory satisfaction, without a can of soup in sight.

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CHICKEN NOODLE CASSEROLE WITHOUT CANNED SOUP

Why did I wait so long to make a noodle casserole? To be honest, I was more than a little turned off by canned soup (MSG, too much sodium, not very fresh tasting). In this recipe, I was determined to make it easy-ish—not instant, but not overly complicated either—without a can of soup.

I poached two chicken breast halves in stock for extra flavor, and while the chicken was cooling, I added diced onions and celery (more flavor) and simmered them in the stock.

Instead of dragging out another pot to make a roux, I thickened the stock with a mixture of butter and flour—an old French trick called beurre manie, used to thicken broths. It comes in handy when you don’t want to make a roux. No canned soup needed.

Creamy Chicken Noodle Casserole in a white baking dish with a silver spoon.

SAVE TIME: USE ROTISSERIE CHICKEN

Yes, you can use rotisserie chicken or use leftover chicken to make the casserole. You will need two to three cups cooked chicken, cut into bite-size pieces. Skip step two in the recipe and cook the onion and celery (step five) in three cups of good quality broth.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH CHICKEN NOODLE CASSEROLE?

This casserole is so rich that something green makes the perfect pairing.

Creamy Chicken Noodle Casserole in a white baking dish with a silver spoon.

STORING AND FREEZING CHICKEN NOODLE CASSEROLE

The casserole can be assembled and refrigerated for up to three days before heating and serving. You will need to bake it longer—for 35 to 40 minutes—to bring it to temperature. Cover it loosely with foil for the first 20 minutes. If it looks dry, sprinkle it with a few tablespoons of milk.

It can also be frozen for up to three months: Cool the casserole completely and cover with a layer of plastic wrap and then foil. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Leftovers will keep for three to four days in the refrigerator.

HERE ARE MORE GREAT COMFORT FOOD CASSEROLES

Updated December 23, 2019 : Some of you were having trouble with our original Chicken Noodle Casserole recipes, so we totally revised, retested, and updated the recipe. We hope you like the new recipe!

Chicken Noodle Casserole Recipe

  • Prep time: 40 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings

To substitute rotisserie chicken or leftover chicken: Use 2 to 3 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite-size pieces. Skip step 2 in the recipe and cook the onion and celery (step 5) in 3 cups of good quality broth.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken breast
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 parsley sprigs, divided
  • 12 ounces extra-wide egg noodles
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • Pinch of ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 (4-ounce) jar chopped pimentos, drained
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese

Method

1 Preheat oven and prepare the baking dish: Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Brush or spray a 4-quart (9x13-inch) shallow baking dish with oil.

2 Cook the chicken: In a wide, deep saucepan, place the chicken breasts skin side down, and add the peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon salt, bay leaf, and 1 parsley sprig. Pour the stock over the chicken (the breasts should be covered; if not, add enough water to cover by 1/2-inch).

Bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium-high heat. (Bubbles should appear around the edges of the pot, but not in the center.)

Adjust the heat, if needed, to maintain a low simmer, and cook the chicken, skimming the foam off the top with a spoon as necessary, for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 165°F. With tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate to cool.

When cool, shred the chicken into bite-size pieces. Discard the skin and bones.

Chicken poaching in the water with a bay leaf to make easy chicken noodle casserole.

3 While the chicken cooks, boil the noodles: Fill a large pot with water, add the remaining 3 teaspoons of salt and bring it to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for 2 minutes fewer than the package directions indicate. (This prevents the noodles from becoming overcooked when baked in the casserole.) Shut off the burner, drain the pasta and return it to the pot. In the end, you will add the finished sauce to the pot of noodles.

4 Make the beurre manie: In a small bowl, stir the softened butter and flour together until well combined. It will look a little like paste.

5 Cook the vegetables and make the sauce: Pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. You will use it make the sauce. Discard the solids. Measure 3 cups of stock and return it back to the saucepan. (Freeze any leftover stock and save it for another use.)

Add the onion, celery, and pepper to the saucepan with the stock, and bring the stock to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables soften.

A few tablespoons at a time, whisk in the beurre manie until the clumps melt into the stock and the stock thickens slightly. Bring the sauce to a boil while whisking constantly for about 2 minutes to cook the flour. Whisk in the milk and sour cream.

The sauce should look like cream soup; it is not as thick as béchamel. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

Poaching liquid for chicken in a sauce pot with garlic and onions. Thickened cream sauce in a sauce pot for homemade chicken noodle soup casserole.

6 Assemble the casserole: Pour the sauce over the noodles and stir to coat. Add the shredded chicken and drained pimentos. Transfer to the baking dish and top with the grated cheese.

Chicken, noodles and sauce in silver pot.Uncooked Creamy Chicken Noodle Casserole in a white baking dish.

7 Bake and serve the casserole: Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the sauce bubbles and the cheese melts. If you like a slightly crunchy top, run the casserole under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese is golden. If desired, chop the remaining sprig of parsley and sprinkle it over the top.

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of three cookbooks (Food for Friends, The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press, and The Cranberry Cookbook). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

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11 Comments / Reviews

No ImageChicken Noodle Casserole

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Rhoda

    I make mine with chopped and sautéed onion, celery, carrots, mushrooms and red peppers. I roast a whole chicken ( 5 lbs) and pick the meat off of the bones. To the sauce ( which I make with homemade chicken broth) I add finely chopped garlic, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper and chopped parsley.
    I also add two beaten eggs to this dish. I top the whole thing with buttered Panko bread crumbs. This is a family favorite that I’ve been making on request for 45 years.

    Show Replies (1)
  2. Wendy

    I loved the old recipe, is there a way I could get a reference to it?

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Md

    It nice and delicious.

  4. Heather

    If I wanted to skip the homemade sauce — how much canned cream of mushroom soup (not condensed) would I need?

  5. Melissa

    What vegetables (if any) would you recommend adding for a little more nutrition?

    Show Replies (1)
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Creamy Chicken Noodle Casserole in a white baking dish with a silver spoon.Chicken Noodle Casserole