I’m not sure if it’s a midwestern thing, or maybe just a convenience food thing, but there is a classic cheesy broccoli rice casserole involving a certain processed cheese food that has definitely made the rounds in our area throughout my childhood.  Even as a child who had no qualms about artificial foods, that fake cheese freaked me out a little bit.  However, I did enjoy the final casserole as long as I didn’t think too much about what went into it.  As we continue to pay more attention to where our food comes from and what exactly goes into it, this sort of thing has gone completely out the window and I haven’t made it in over five years.

Recently it occurred to me that I could resurrect that dish with a healthier, whole food spin.  I swapped out the white rice for quinoa and used a delicious homemade cheese sauce in place of the questionable ingredient.  I have to say, I was thrilled with the results.  The dish had the same familiar flavors that reminded me of childhood but I knew that we were actually getting some nutritional value out of it.  Our whole family loved this meal and it made for great leftovers as well.  If your family ever rocked the old version of this casserole, I’d love to hear what you think of this new and improved version.

Note: This recipe was developed as part of my ongoing contribution to the Go Bold with Butter blog.  Head over to see my posts as well as more great recipes from the other awesome bloggers involved with the project!


1½ cups quinoa
1 head broccoli, cut into small florets
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 shallots, diced
2 cups milk (low-fat is fine)
¼ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. dry mustard
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded*
2 cups shredded cooked chicken


  • 01

    Cook the quinoa according to the package directions.  Meanwhile, place the broccoli in a saucepan and add a couple inches of water.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Let boil just 1-2 minutes more, until the broccoli is crisp-tender.  Drain immediately and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.  Set aside.

  • 02

    Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour, shallots, garlic powder, dry mustard and cayenne.  Continue whisking the mixture until it is light golden, about 1-2 minutes.  Slowly whisk in the milk.  Allow the sauce to simmer, stirring frequently, until the mixture bubbles and thickens, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Whisk in the cheddar until melted and smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, broccoli florets, shredded cooked chicken and the cheese sauce.  Fold together gently until evenly combined.

  • 03

    Transfer the mixture to a lightly greased casserole dish.  Bake until the top is lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes.  Serve warm.

  • 04

    *For best results, always use freshly shredded cheese.  Pre-shredded cheese comes coated in things such as flour, cornstarch to prevent clumping and results in an unpleasant, gritty texture when melted.  

  • Kristin

    I’ve actually been thinking about this casserole lately & wanting to make it, even though it’s never as good as I remember. Can’t wait to try this. Now can you work on making chicken divan healthier?! I can’t bring myself to make that either.

  • Kelsey

    This looks like such a great comfort dish for fall. I’m so glad you created this!

  • Ali | Gimme Some Oven

    Mmmm…this looks like wonderful comfort food…all the better when lightened up!

  • Melissa Brooker

    This looks so yummy! Can’t wait to try it!

  • Dinah

    I am going to have to try this soon. Thanks for sharing.

  • Shawnda

    My family adores broccoli “cheez” rice casserole at Thanksgiving and I’m responsible for making it. Always. I’m going to try to sneak this on their plates this year!

  • Laura Stead

    Sounds great! But surely you realize this has been going around on Pinterest for over a year…

  • annieseats

    Not at all. I only know the processed version, this was my own creation :)

  • Laura Stead

    I’ve seen it with the “dry” mix – but regardless, your blog made it sound as if you’d come up with the idea all on your own. It may not be a bad idea to give credit to another blogger or cook for inspiring your version.

    Sent from Laura’s iPhone

  • SnoWhite

    I am really excited to try cooking with quinoa and I love casseroles, so this might be a good place for me to start. However, I’m having trouble finding a source of quinoa that’s not cross contaminated with tree nuts! Any suggestions on brands?

  • Caroline L.

    I love it when childhood favorites are revamped into something that’s healthier but just as delicious!

  • This looks wonderful. I actually did not grow up on that casserole, despite being from the midwest, but this one looks awesome at any rate!

  • annieseats

    Oh, your implication was quite clear. I take pride in always, always giving credit where it is due, even if a recipe was simply inspired by another blogger, website, etc. In this case, my only inspiration was that the Butter Blog peeps made a casserole our required recipe for the month of September. I racked my brain and this was what came to mind. If another version is all over Pinterest or elsewhere, it is merely a coincidence. Rest assured, if my inspiration came from elsewhere, I always make note of it. I actually appreciate you taking the time to follow up on it because not many things frustrate me more than bloggers ripping off other people’s ideas and taking credit for them.

  • Bakeaholic

    I have everything on hand for this dish, so I ‘ll make it tonight and let you know how the family likes it! Thanks for a healthy update.

  • Haley W

    I am regrettably guilty of making the very casserole with all of the amazingly processed ingredients. I make a habit of cooking as non-processed and whole as possible, but I just haven’t been able to cut that recipe from my repertoire – until now!! Thank you so much for posting this. It’s absolutely going on my menu plan for the week.

  • Kelly

    I already have all of the ingredients for this so I can’t wait to make it tonight! I have been looking for more ways to use quinoa. What size pan are you using here?

    Thanks Annie, you’re such an inspiration and I look forward to reading your blog every day.

  • Erin @ The Spiffy Cookie

    This sounds great. I’m really trying to cook with quinoa more.

  • MelissaB

    One thing i have always noticed is you giving credit where credit is due, i find it somewhat offensive that someone would accuse you of stealing someone else’s idea. The fact is there are several different versions of all kinds of recipes, it doesn’t mean anyone was ripping anyone off.

  • annieseats

    It’s a big smaller than a 9 x 13. Probably more like 8 x 12. I hope you enjoy it!

  • Kristen {bites&sights}

    This looks amazing. Definitely pinning it for later. And I had no idea about shredded cheese being coated in anything. Good to know. Thanks!

  • Julie

    There may be other’s out there but I LOVE that you don’t use any processed products i.e. cream of mushroom, etc….it is all fresh!!!

  • This looks very delicious and even better because its healthier!

  • Coby

    I love the broccoli-cheese-sauce combination! I may have to try this with brown rice – I’ve tried and tried to like quinoa…and I can’t. I may even add some wild rice in there!

  • Miriam

    Thank you! This looks great! Can’t wait to make it! Btw, I think you are amazing! :-)

  • Jessica

    I made this for dinner tonight and didn’t have any quinoa in the house so I used brown rice instead. It turned out delicious! Thanks for the recipe!

  • Bakeaholic

    Made this last night and it was fantastic! My whole family loved this casserole. I’ll be making this again soon.

    Thanks for the great recipe!

  • Bakeaholic

    Coby- The quinoa in this dish has a very mild flavor. Between the cheese sauce and broccoli, you can’t really taste the nuttiness of the quinoa. You may just like it after all.

  • crissyP

    This was really yummy, thank you for the recipe. My husband and I love it. I cut the recipe in half for just the two of us and we have leftovers for the next day.

  • OMG I would LOVE a healthier chicken divan recipe!!!

  • Brittany Persson

    Did you just panfry/bake your chicken for shredding? I want to make this tonight but my chicken is in the freezer so I am also considering picking up a rotissere chicken on the way home.

  • kc

    Do you think this could be frozen or otherwise made ahead of time?

  • Emily

    I can’t wait to try this! We are trying to find more quinoa recipes. This looks like a great fall dish!

  • Ann P.

    Never had this casserole (in its original fake cheese form) before, but I am super excited to try this version!! Sounds easy and crowd-pleasing!

  • annieseats

    You can use any type of cooked chicken you like. I roast chicken at home, shred it and freeze it so I have it on hand for recipes such as this.

  • Lauren

    This is baking in my oven right now! I made a few changes to meet what I had (mixed up the kinds of cheese to get rid of the random chunks I had laying about, chicken sausage instead of chicken, and the whole thing reduced in size) and the taste that I snuck before baking leads me to believe it will be quite delicious. Thanks for the recipe!

  • JensFavoriteCookies

    I can’t decide whether to jump on the quinoa bandwagon or not. I’ve heard good things, though, and I have a sample in my pantry. This cheesy broccoli dish might be just reason enough. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  • annieseats

    Probably but I haven’t tested that. I don’t see why not though. Enjoy!

  • annieseats

    I don’t know what chicken divan is…going to have to look into that further!

  • Mandy W.

    Oh my, Annie! This looks absolutely divine! I know the EXACT casserole you are talking about and have made it many times myself. I have just recently jumped on the quinoa bandwagon and love it! I will be making this for sure. It is your blog that always inspires me to get rid of the processed ingredients in our home. Your recipes are tried and true. One final note, for all those out there in doubt, you have always given credit where credit is due. I agree with Melissa B. on this one. Keep on cookin’ and creatin’, Annie! Haters always gonna hate.

  • annieseats

    Thanks, Mandy. I hope you enjoy it! I was completely shocked by how much the flavor was just like the old version I remember. And thanks for the vote of confidence. Haters gonna hate is one of our favorite quotes around this house :)

  • lanierswann

    I grew up in the South where casseroles were as common as breathing! Now that I’ve fallen in love with whole and healthy foods, I’ve avoided casseroles b/c I just hate all the canned crap. I was so excited to see this on your blog and thanks to another lesson I learned from you – keeping shredded chicken frozen and readily available – I was able to whip this up in no time and surprise a friend with it last night. They were thrilled, I was thrilled, a win-win all around. THANK YOU, Annie!

  • Sarah

    Did you sprinkle something on top before baking? It looks like maybe almonds?

  • Coby

    Yes, PLEASE look into it (you know, in all your spare time! Ha!)! My mom used to make this when I was a kid, and I loved it! As an adult, I asked her for the recipe, and when I saw what was in it I nearly gagged – copius amounts of mayonnaise. Blech, ick, ick!!! Not a mayo fan, but I still sometimes crave chicken divan, and I’m pretty sure I would one that YOU created! ;-)

  • DJ McCoy

    This sounds absolutely amazing!! I’ll definitely be making this sometime soon :) :)

  • annieseats

    Nope, not sure what you are seeing. Is it the chicken?

  • I am planning on making this for my family tomorrow night and was wondering if I could make this without the chicken, like more of a side dish?

  • annieseats

    Sure. Enjoy.

  • Thanks for the quick reply. I LOVE your blog!!

  • Sonja / A Couple Cooks

    This looks awesome! I had been considering trying a quinoa version of a casserole last season but never got around to it. Great idea! :)

  • Karen

    Loved this! Made it as a side dish for dinner last night (without putting in the chicken), and the family devoured it! Will definitely be making this over & over again!

  • Makala

    Okay, Annie, you asked for our thoughts, so I’ll share…. this recipe was SUCH A HIT in my house!!! My 13 year old daughter and I made it together last night, and the entire family (well minus Dad who is away for a six month deployment) LOVED it and even had seconds!!! They did request “more cheese” and sprinkled some on the top of their servings. And my son suggested adding those Durkee French Fried Onions on top as well… so we’ll give that a go next time! Now I am interested to find more recipes that call for Quinoa! Thanks again for another brilliant dish to add to my repertoire! Your blog is my new “go-to” for EVERYTHING food related! Cannot thank you enough!!! (p.s. Have no idea about the “star” button… tried to add stars to the review, but it kept going negative! oops!)

  • Macaire1

    I just made this tonight and it was EXCELLENT! I used chopped garlic for the garlic powder and onion powder in place of the shallots because that’s what I had on hand (along with a big tub of cooked quinoa that needed to be used up!). Thanks, Annie, for thinking of a use for quinoa that I wouldn’t have! I’m looking forward to taking the leftovers to work for lunch for the rest of the week. :D

  • Macaire1

    Coby, definitely try the quinoa version — it’s really good! I’m not a huge fan of it myself but I try to eat it because it’s the only plant-based, complete protein (or so I’ve read). The other flavors really stand out in this dish and the quinoa ends up being just a delivery vehicle for the awesome cheese sauce. I completely forgot I was eating quinoa!

  • Macaire1

    Well, color me stupid….I thought chicken divan was a chicken, cheese, and broccoli casserole made with rice! As far as I’m concerned, this IS the healthier version! :D

  • annieseats

    Awesome! So glad you enjoyed it :)

  • amanda

    Made this and love it!! I dirtied a lot of pots and pans making it, but worth it. my 3.5 year old gobbled it down. winner

  • Bet

    I made this, and it got mixed reviews. My husband LOVED it, I thought it was good but not great (I think I was expecting it to taste super cheesy since it had a whole block of sharp cheddar in it…but I ended up adding parmesan to my portion!), and my 1-year-old refused to eat it (but she has suddenly stopped devouring everything I put in front of her. boo). I had never used quinoa before and I loved how much faster it cooks than brown rice! Thanks for posting!

  • Molly

    Hi Annie! Do I need 1 1/2 cups raw or cooked quinoa for this recipe? Thanks!

  • annieseats

    Uncooked. Enjoy.

  • Kelly

    This recipe was a huge success. It was a great healthier spin on comfort food to offer my toddler. Even my husband (an admitted picky eater who does not like “weird” stuff like quinoa) thought it was good! Also, I test froze a portion, and I thought it reheated just fine. Thank you, Annie!

  • Kristin

    Chicken Divan is cooked chicken breast & broccoli spears topped with a “sauce” made from mayo & cream of chicken soup & some lemon juice, sprinkled with grated cheddar & baked til bubbly. Sounds pretty disgusting & is definitely sauce-heavy, but it’s a good memory from my childhood.

  • miranda

    I just made this for dinner…and wow! I absolutely loved it. Your cheese sauce is especially amazing. I replaced the shallots with onion but that was the only difference. Thank you for this recipe.

  • Haley

    I just made this! IT IS AMAZING! I used Bobs Red Mill All Purpose Flour instead of the white flour and used monterrey jack cheese…this is a new regular!

  • Juliana

    Just made this for our sunday lunch and it was great! My family ate a lot of it and there was still leftover for dinner. Just became a new favorite!
    The good thing about this recipe is that it gives some taste to quinoa, which usually doesn’t have any incredible taste at all. Amazing!

  • Andrea

    Thanks for asking that, Molly. I went back to cook this recipe today and wondered the same thing. If I were using brown rice, would it be the same, Annie?

  • annieseats

    The first step of the directions is to cook the quinoa, so you need uncooked quinoa. I haven’t made it with rice so I’m not sure how the volumes might vary between the uncooked and cooked yield. Enjoy!

  • Steph

    1.5 cups cooked quinoa? Or 1.5 cups dry quinoa, cooked?

  • annieseats

    Uncooked. Cooking it is part of the recipe instructions. Enjoy!

  • Lauren

    i’m so glad i stumbled upon this! i had JUST looked up a recipe quite similar but a lot less healthy (using canned, sodium-filled soups) so i’m really excited to try this instead tonight. thank you!!

  • I made this a few days ago! I used an onion instead of shallots, and roasted the broccoli with pine nuts instead of boiling it (merely to save space on the stove). I also added some hot sauce to the roux, and only cooked a cup of quinoa (1 1/2 cups is a lot, even for my crew of boys!). It was fabulous! Thank you, Annie!!!!!

  • Sarah

    Made this recipe this evening, delicious! I did make it with brown rice (cooked one cup of dried rice), this was not my intention, but I went to the cupboard, and found I didn’t have enough quinoa!

  • Beth

    Thank you for this recipe. My daughter, in 9th grade, had to make a recipe for school that included broccoli plus at least 2 other super foods. I knew if we came to your site we would find something. We chose this recipe but changed a couple of things. The more super foods the better the grade. We substituted the garlic powder for 2 garlic cloves and we cooked the chicken in olive oil. So she had a total of 5 super foods. Quinoa, garlic cloves, shallots(onions), olive oil, and broccoli. Thank you Annie, she got 100% on the project.

  • annieseats

    I LOVE this! Thanks for letting me know. So awesome.

  • anna maria

    Loved this – haven’t yet tried to make a gluten-free version of mac & cheese since I wasn’t quite sure how to sub the flour when making the sauce. After listening to a recent America’s Test Kitchen podcast, I took Bridget’s advice and substituted corn starch for flour. It worked perfectly! I followed the rest of the recipe exactly as you’ve written it and it was great. This is such a great gluten-free alternative to mac & cheese. I can’t wait to try more combos now :) thanks annie!

  • Meghan K.

    I’ve been meaning to pop by this post for ages to tell you how much my husband and I love this meal! It’s was a staple in our house last fall and winter (and who are we kidding, spring) and I can’t wait to work it back into the rotation once the weather finally plays nice and cools down again. I think the best part about this dish – other than how utterly tasty and healthy it is – is that the leftovers are just as good. Rumor has it the smell of this reheating in the microwave causes hungry coworkers to flock to the office kitchen and demand to know what’s for lunch! :-)

  • Marie Perry

    I was looking for a pasta recipe with these ingredients. I looked all over (including Pinterest) and was not happy with what I found. I don’t know why I doubted you’d have something along these lines. I would have tried the quinoa but grainy textures are really grossing me out (yay pregnancy). Anyway thanks again for an awesome recipe. Sure it’s pretty basic and there are probably other versions (none that I’ve seen blowing up my Pinterest feed). However I’m sure none of them compare to how delicious this was. Haters gonna hate ;)

  • annieseats

    Thanks Marie :) I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it! And yes, haters gonna hate ;)

  • Brit Mockler

    Has anyone tried making this a bit early and then cooking it in the oven like an hour later? Wondering for a dinner party I am having tonight. Would make things a lot easier if I could get it ready in advance! Thanks :)

  • annieseats

    You can definitely do that – just assemble and then bake when you are ready. (I realize this is probably too late now, but now you know for next time.) Hope you enjoyed it!

  • Haley Kunz

    Will this freeze well? If so, do you think it should be assembled, frozen, then baked? Or baked, frozen, and reheated? I love this recipe, and am looking for meals to freeze and reheat for after my baby is born. Thanks in advance!

  • annieseats

    I haven’t frozen it but I think it should freeze just fine. I would probably freeze it unbaked and then thaw before baking. Enjoy!

  • Lindsay

    I’ve made this twice now and both times it was devoured. This time, I added some chipotle powder to the chicken while it was cooking and to the cheese mixture for some added kick. Yum! Two thumbs up here. Thanks for the great, easy, and very flavorful recipe.