Hot chicken salad casserole brings the flavors of classic chicken salad into irresistible creamy casserole form. Tender chicken is mixed into a combo of seasoned cream cheese, mayonnaise and savory enhancements like celery, onion, pickle relish or spices. This flavorful chicken base gets layered with cheese, veggies and a crispy topping then baked until bubbling and hot.
This easy crowd-pleasing dish makes excellent use of leftover cooked chicken. Customize to your tastes by mixing in buffalo wing sauce or going lighter with Greek yogurt. This winning chicken salad casserole recipe can feed a hungry family dinner or impress at potlucks. Just slice and serve the piping hot casserole right from the pan for smiles all around!
Ingredients You’ll Need
Chicken salad casseroles build flavor from a core list of flexible ingredients:
- Cooked Chicken – Rotisserie, baked or grilled. Chopped or shredded.
- Cream Cheese, Mayo or Yogurt – Blend provides creamy base.
- Celery, Onions, etc. (optional) – Sautéed veggies add crunch.
- Shredded Cheese – Cheddar or pepper jack.
- Frozen Peas/Veggies (or substitute) – Mix of choice.
- Crunchy Topping – Crushed crackers, chips or toasted breadcrumbs.
Step-By-Step Casserole Instructions
Follow these simple steps:
Prep Chicken & Veg
Chop or shred 2-3 cups cooked chicken. Mince 1⁄2 onion and celery stalks.
Make Chicken Salad
Mix chicken with 8oz softened cream cheese, 1⁄2 cup mayo, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, salt, pepper and any extras like hot sauce or ranch seasoning.
Optional – for crunch and flavor
Cook minced onion and celery in 1 Tbsp oil or butter until softened, 2-3 minutes.
In a greased 2-quart casserole dish layer as follows:
- 1⁄3 chicken salad mixture
- 1 cup shredded cheese
- 1 cup veggies like peas, broccoli, corn, etc
Repeat layers two more times, ending with chicken mixture.
Top and Bake
Cover top layer with 1 cup crushed crackers, chips, fried onions or toasted breadcrumbs. Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes until bubbly and top is browned.
Cool and Slice
Allow casserole to rest for 10 minutes before scooping out cheesy chicken goodness!
Tips for Best Flavor
Follow these secrets from grandma:
Amp Up Seasonings
Don’t be shy with savory flavors like garlic, onion and spice blends.
Soften Cream Cheese
Let cream cheese reach room temperature before blending for ultra-smooth results.
Chilled Pie Crust Topping
For an extra special presentation, top hot casserole with chilled, pre-made pie dough cut into strips before baking.
With endless ways to tweak this recipe and use up leftover chicken, this satisfying casserole will become a new family classic! Both the finished casserole and fully cooked, cooled dish can be stored for quick meals later…
Storage and Reheating
Chicken salad casserole stores easily for grabbing fast meals later on:
Leftover casserole will keep fresh refrigerated for 3 to 5 days. Cover dish tightly in plastic wrap or foil.
The cooked casserole freezes well for up to 3 months. Allow dish to cool completely before wrapping tightly for the freezer.
To thaw frozen chicken salad casserole, keep wrapped dish in fridge overnight until fully thawed.
Leftover individual portions or fully thawed casserole can be reheated in the microwave with a splash of milk or chicken broth to prevent drying out.
For best results, reheat entire casserole in a 325°F oven, covered in foil, for 15 to 20 minutes until heated through. Broil a final 2-3 minutes if you want the topping extra crispy.
Now that you know how easily this yummy chicken bake comes together, be sure to add hot chicken salad casserole into your regular meal planning rotation. It makes excellent use of leftover chicken or turkey and whips up in just 30 minutes.
Simply switch up the add-in ingredients and crunchy toppings to invent your family’s perfect comforting version to request over and over. Enjoy!
Crispy Chicken Salad Casserole
- 3 cups of cooked chicken either shredded or chopped
- 1 cup of finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup of lightly crushed potato chips
- 1 1/4 cups of mayonnaise
- 1 cup of finely diced celery
- 1/4 cup of cooked and crumbled bacon
- 1 tablespoon of dry ranch seasoning
- 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Preparation: Preheat your oven to 350º F (175º C). Lightly grease a square baking dish with either butter or a non-stick cooking spray.
- Combine Main Ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken, cheddar cheese, celery, and crumbled bacon.
- Prepare the Sauce: In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, ranch seasoning, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and onion powder. Season this mixture with salt and freshly ground black pepper to your liking.
- Mix and Transfer: Stir the sauce into the chicken mixture until thoroughly combined. Transfer this to your pre-greased baking dish.
- Add the Crunch: Sprinkle the crushed potato chips evenly over the top of the mixture in the baking dish.
- Bake and Serve: Place the dish in the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when it’s hot, bubbly, and the cheese has fully melted. Serve immediately and enjoy your culinary masterpiece!