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Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole Recipe is chock full of chicken in a creamy sauce with a crunchy topping of buttery Ritz crackers, tiny poppy seeds, and crunchy almonds — pure comfort food!

a serving spoon resting in a partly eaten chicken poppy casserole.

Sometimes we all need a hug, a kind word, a prayer, and the reassurance that everything will be all right in the end.

Maybe it’s a phone call or text, a handwritten note, or fresh flowers. Or maybe it’s comfort food like this Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole delivered to your front door that lets us know someone cares. 

Chicken Poppy Seed Casserole is my go-to recipe when I want to bring a comforting meal to a deserving friend. It transports well in throw-away aluminum pans to reheat for an easy dinner, AND there’s no need for my friend to wash and return cookware — toss it and forget it!

Many comfort casseroles are made with canned cream soups, but I’ve adapted the recipe to replace that with a cream soup substitute. It’s fresh and delicious!

Make this easy recipe a complete meal by serving it with my hassle-free Instant Pot Green Beans. Or try pairing it with Browned Butter Roasted Asparagus, or even Broccoli Bacon Salad

ingredients for chicken poppy seed casserole on a table.

Key ingredients & substitutions for Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole

  • Chicken breasts — You’ll need boneless, skinless chicken breasts cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces. This recipe is also the perfect casserole to throw together when you have leftover thanksgiving turkey!
  • Butter — What do all comforting casseroles have? Butter, of course. If you prefer, you can use a non-dairy butter substitute.
  • Flour — You’ll use a small amount of flour to create a gravy-like sauce to pour into this dish. If you don’t have flour on hand, you can substitute with cornstarch.
  • Chicken broth — Choose the low-sodium option if you want to keep the recipe on the healthier side.
  • Milk and sour cream — Milk and tangy sour cream make the sauce extra creamy and comforting.
  • Water chestnuts — Crisp water chestnuts give this recipe a little crunch and some refreshing nutty flavor—canned or fresh will work just the same. You can change this out for more chopped almonds.
  • Ritz crackers — Buttery crushed Ritz crackers top the casserole with additional texture and comforting flavor.
  • Poppy seeds — Poppy seeds provide a rich and nutty taste to the dish — YUM!
  • Almonds — Chopped almonds carry on more of the nutty and sweet flavors in this recipe. If you’re not a fan of almonds, try replacing them with hazelnuts, cashews, or pistachios.

How to make Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole

Step 1 | Prep

Begin preparing this easy and delicious poppy seed chicken casserole by preheating the oven. I always spray my baking dish with cooking spray before starting the recipe.

This is also a good time to chop your chicken, crunch up those golden crackers, slice the almonds, and drain the water chestnuts.

tip

  • If you have a family member that is not so fond of water chestnuts, you can omit them or chop them up small. I like them because they are high in fiber and have no fat, are low in calories, and contain antioxidants and vitamins.

process steps for making chicken poppy seed casserole: melt butter in dish; add chopped cooked chicken; pour sauce over chicken.

Step 2 | Layer the chicken

Next, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the bottom of a casserole dish. You can melt the butter in the microwave, or place the pan and butter in the oven while it is preheating.

Then get your precooked chicken and chop it into bite-sized pieces. Layer the cooked chicken pieces on top of the melted butter.

Step 3 | Make the sauce

In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter (yes, more butter) and stir in 3 tablespoons of flour to make a roux. Cook for a couple of minutes on medium heat while continuously stirring.

Then, add the milk and chicken broth. Whisk until the texture becomes thick and creamy like gravy.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the seasonings, sour cream, and water chestnuts. Pour the warm gravy mixture over the layered chicken in your casserole dish.

process steps for making crumb topping for chicken poppy seed casserole: stir together cracker crumbs, almonds, and poppy seeds.

Step 4 | Sprinkle the crunchy topping

Next, combine crushed Ritz crackers with poppy seeds and almonds in a medium-sized bowl. Pour an additional 2 tablespoons of melted butter into the cracker mixture and toss to coat all the topping ingredients.

Sprinkle the mixture all over the top of the casserole from one edge to the other.

tip

  • Want a mess-free way to crush the Ritz crackers? Place the correct amount in a large zippered plastic bag and take out some frustration! Using a rolling pin or a serving spoon, crush away. Then you can toss the bag after you put the crackers in the recipe.

Step 5 | And bake!

Place the chicken casserole dish into the preheated oven and bake for about half an hour or until the top is golden brown and bubbly.

a cooked chicken poppy seed casserole in a white baking dish.

Frequently asked questions

Can this poppy seed chicken casserole be stored for later?

Absolutely! The best way to store this dish is to freeze it before baking (It will last in the freezer for up to three months). After you have prepared the casserole, cover it with foil and place it in the freezer.

When you’re ready to serve it up, move it to the refrigerator in the morning to thaw for dinner that night. All you need to do is bake as directed — EASY!

How can you make this casserole a complete meal?

Served along with a veggie, this dish is excellent for a busy weeknight dinner! You can also try adding vegetables like peas, broccoli, or green beans directly to the casserole.

Can you swap the chicken breast for another meat?

Sure you can! To make dinner prep even easier, grab a whole rotisserie chicken from the store. Or you can replace the chicken with turkey breast.

a serving of chicken poppy seed casserole in a white bowl on a table.

Behind the recipe: Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole

This delicious Chicken Casserole with buttery crackers, almonds, and poppy seeds recipe was given to me by my sweet friend, Betty Jo, who has been in heaven for a few years now. I always think of her whenever I make it… it’s a true life, love, and good food memory.

I once had the privilege to participate in a virtual potluck. I am blessed to be a member of a food blogging community that includes some very caring and encouraging ladies. There, I learned about a fellow blogger, Ashley from Center Cut Cook, who’d been going through a rough time for several years.

Ashley’s husband, Ryan, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer at age 29. Their infant son, Miles, needed a kidney and liver transplant due to Primary Hyperoxaluria (type 1).

Of course, I was happy to spread the word about a fundraiser in Ashley’s honor along with my blogging friends. This creamy Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole is just one of the many delicious comfort food recipes from our virtual potluck!

a forkful of chicken poppy seed casserole.

Please share!

Your shares are how this site grows and I appreciate each one. Do you know someone who would enjoy this recipe? I’d love it if you would share it on Facebook or on your favorite Pinterest board!

a serving spoon resting in a partly eaten chicken poppy casserole.

Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole

Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole – chunks of chicken in a creamy sauce with a crunchy topping of Ritz crackers, poppy seeds, and almonds. Pure comfort food!
4.36 from 14 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Course Chicken
Cuisine American
Servings 6 servings
Calories 305 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts cooked and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup water chestnuts chopped (or 1/2 cup sliced almonds)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups crushed Ritz crackers
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons butter in bottom of 2-quart casserole dish; layer cooked chicken pieces on top of butter in casserole dish.
  • In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter and stir in 3 tablespoons flour. Cook 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add milk and chicken broth and whisk continually until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in salt, pepper, sour cream, and water chestnuts. Pour over chicken.
  • In a medium size bowl, combine crushed Ritz crackers with poppy seeds and almonds. Pour 2 tablespoons melted butter into cracker mixture and toss to coat. Sprinkle all over top of the casserole.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly.

Notes

  • If you have a family member that is not so fond of water chestnuts, you can omit them or chop them up small. I like them because they are high in fiber and have no fat, are low in calories, and contain antioxidants and vitamins.
  • Want a mess-free way to crush the Ritz crackers? Place the correct amount in a large zippered plastic bag and take out some frustration! Using a rolling pin or a serving spoon, crush away. Then you can toss the bag after you put the crackers in the recipe.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 305kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 6gFat: 23gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 49mgSodium: 468mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3g
Keyword casserole, chicken, poppy seed
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was.
sheila thigpen in her kitchen

About Sheila Thigpen

Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer

Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.

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11 Comments

  1. SO glad you updated this wonderful recipe! Can’t wait to give it a try. I’m also delighted to join you in helping out the Wagner family.

  2. This casserole is the food equivalent to a hug, Sheila! Delicious comfort food truly is soothing to the soul…especially when it is made with love. 🙂 It is wonderful that you and the other bloggers are bringing Ashley’s story to more readers! I am sure that the extra positive thoughts as well as the donations, will be helpful! We all need a good, sharable casserole like this one in our recipe file!

  3. OMG I haven’t had Poppy Seed Chicken in a REALLY long time! Love it and love that you used a substitute for the soup. Will have to try! Looks delish! Great working on this project with you. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Lisa! This is one of my favorites as well…and yes, the cream soup substitute was great in this recipe. Nice collaborating together!

  4. Sheila, it has been such a pleasure to get to ‘know’ you through this wonderful project … and I hope that we’ve made a big difference for Ashley and her family! I love that we can all come together to create a wonderful list of recipes that people can use when they need to send a meal to comfort a friend or loved one.
    Thanks for this fabulous recipe … the ones from sweet friends are always the best! Love that you shared this one! 🙂

    1. Gretchen, the pleasure is all mine! Isn’t it rewarding to see the contributions continue to rise for the Wagner family? I feel blessed to have worked with all of you awesome bloggers on this project.

  5. 5 stars
    What a wonderful recipe for the holidays! I love the fact that you incorporated poppy seeds, they are so healthy and will sure add extra depth to the recipe!

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