This no fuss Paleo Chicken Divan Casserole is one of those “dump it all in,” one pan wonder dinners you can make even on a week day!
Building progress, and winter comfort food made “busy life” easy!
We’re truckin’ along on the new home build, and with these new walls finally up, came a new sense of relief that soon (well, maybe more like soon-ish!), we’ll be “home.” There’s something about winter that makes me want to hibernate, and because of that, I’ve been busy in the kitchen creating comforting winter meals that not only help me feel like I’m cozy in my own home, but also work for a really busy season of life.
Chicken Divan…a childhood classic!
I don’t know one Mid-West adult that hasn’t grown up on some sort of version of a chicken divan casserole. I’m not even sure where it originated from, but in the Mid-West, a casserole is like a 6th food group. So, as a Michigan born and bred kid, it is pure childhood nostalgia for me.
Mid-West Casserole flavor, without the processed Mid-West casserole ingredients…
The biggest problem with most Mid-West casseroles from a health stand point, lies in those BPA lined red cans of creamed soups that are loaded with really crummy preservatives, and ingredients that are just not necessary. Years ago, I perfected a healthier condensed cream of chicken soup so that I could re-create all of my favorite casserole dreams, and that recipe is still so great! There is really nothing wrong with making that recipe to use in casseroles (it can even be done dairy free!), and there really isn’t even anything wrong with a little cheese in your casserole…that is, unless, you don’t have the time for a homemade canned creamed casserole assembly, and you don’t tolerate dairy well!
A faster, even tastier way to casserole!
I think one of the draws to a classic Mid-West casserole is the “dump it all in” style of prep work. We all have busy lives and dinner sometimes really does need to be that fast. While I loved the homemade “canned” condensed creamed soup I created years ago, I found myself having times where I just didn’t have it on hand, and really wished I could run to the store for a can! A couple winters ago this happened, and I decided to try making the creamed soup right in the pan that I was going to make the casserole in, and I truly haven’t looked back since! Everything went into ONE pot, there wasn’t any extra cooking or pans, and it was even faster than before!
One pan meal, creamy and delicious, *and* gluten, grain, and dairy free?!
Ah! You guys are going to just fall in love with this method, and I’m actually looking forward to hearing about any variations you make to use this method with your favorite childhood casseroles. I really feel like making the cream sauce in the pan, and then adding everything in, is a game changer, and can be used with just about any casserole. The secret to the rich, velvety cream sauce is all about using a little potato starch to thicken up your broth and coconut milk. It takes literally minutes to make, and the addition of the nutritional yeast adds a cheesy flavor without the dairy. The result is really decadent, and feels just like every casserole sauce you’ve had!
The Method :: The Cream Sauce
If you have an oven save casserole pan that can be used stovetop, you are literally going to be making a one pan meal! (And if you don’t, you can still make this! You’ll just be making your cream sauce separately on the stove top and then adding it to your casserole dish!) You’ll saute your onion, carrot, and celery right in the pan to create some deep flavors, before adding the garlic and seasonings. Once you stir in the potato starch, you’ll add the broth and coconut milk to thicken the sauce. It really does just take a couple minutes to thicken the sauce. Simmer your sauce for a few minutes to develop the flavors, and you’re ready to assemble the casserole to bake!
The Method :: Assembling the Casserole
That’s right! You aren’t going to be browning your meat separately, par-cooking the potatoes, making a separate sauce, or doing anything else outside of this pan! Once your cream sauce is thick, you can turn the heat off, and stir in the potatoes, broccoli, and chicken, all completely uncooked. Pop a lid on your casserole, put it into the oven, and you’re free for the next 30 minutes to get that homework done with the kids, change the baby’s diaper, or read your toddler a book!
The Method :: Baking the Casserole, and Adding the Topping
You’ll bake your casserole with the lid on for 30 minutes and then add the crunchy almond topping. If you are nut free, you can just leave the topping off, or use sunflower seeds. Once you sprinkle the topping on, bake the casserole for another 15 minutes, and you can even use the broiler for the last few minutes to get that golden crust on the top! From there you are ready to serve.
One Pan Paleo Chicken Divan Casserole :: Gluten, Grain, Dairy, & Egg Free!
- 2 tbsp butter ghee, or olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 medium carrots peeled and diced
- 1 celery stalk diced
- 3-4 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 tbsp potato starch tapioca starch or arrowroot starch would work here too
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast divided
- 3 tsp Italian seasoning
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp pepper
- 2 cups full fat coconut milk
- 1 cup bone broth or water
- 3 medium yellow potatoes sliced thin into rounds (I don’t peel them, but you can)
- 3 chicken breasts cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1 ½ heads broccoli cut into florets about 5-6 cups
- ¼ – 1/3 cup almonds blended into a fine meal
- Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. You’ll need a large oven safe casserole dish or large cast iron skillet to cook with on the stove-top and then transfer to the oven. If you don’t have one, you can make the sauce in a skillet and transfer everything into your casserole dish when you are ready to bake.
Make the Cream Sauce ::
- Melt the butter in your large casserole dish over medium-high heat, and add the onion, carrot, and celery with a big pinch of sea salt. Cook over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes until the veggies soften.
- Add the garlic, and cook for a minute.
- Add the potato starch, 1 ½ tablespoons of nutritional yeast, Italian seasoning, paprika, and pepper, and stir to coat the cooked veggies. Add the coconut milk and broth and stir until the sauce thickens. This takes a few minutes. Low simmer the sauce to allow the flavors to develop.
- Taste the cream sauce and season to your liking. This cream sauce SHOULD taste like a very salty, condensed cream soup – it needs to be on the salty side because it will be seasoning and flavoring the unseasoned chicken and potatoes.
Assemble the Casserole ::
- Turn the heat off the stove-top, and stir in the potato rounds, being sure that each of the potatoes are coated in the cream sauce.
- Stir in the chicken breast cubes and broccoli next, coating everything in the cream sauce, and distributing everything evenly in the pan.
Bake the Casserole & Make the Topping ::
- Place a lid on your casserole dish, and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.
- While the casserole is baking, blend up your almonds into a meal, put the almond meal into a small bowl, and stir in ½ tablespoon of nutritional yeast. This is your topping – set this aside for later.
- After the casserole has baked for 30 minutes, take the lid off, sprinkle the almond/nutritional yeast topping, and put the casserole back in the oven for 15 more minutes without the lid.
- After the casserole bakes the last 15 minutes, turn the broiler on high for up to 5 minutes to get the top nice and crispy and golden brown if you want too!
- The Nutritional Yeast adds the “cheesy” flavor you are used to in a traditional chicken divan/casserole. You can leave it out, but you will want to season your cream sauce with a bit more sea salt.
- If you have mushrooms around, I love adding them in with the carrots, onions, and celery part of making the sauce – I did not have them on hand the day I made this, but it does add an element of of the flavor you get from a can of mushroom cream sauce.
- You can swap some of the broccoli for cauliflower or green beans for a change up!