I don’t think dinner can get any more comforting than this Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole. It’s an impossibly delicious concoction of egg noodles, tender chicken, and a creamy poppy seed sauce, all topped with a buttery Ritz cracker crust, and I guarantee it will win over the whole family.
I love this easy chicken recipe, it’s a little bit vintage, a little unexpected, and off the charts delicious. It’s all about comforting texture rather than strong flavors…the creamy sauce and tender poached chicken play against the crunchy poppy seeds and the crisp Ritz crust. Nothing spicy, nothing outrageous, but everybody comes back for seconds.
If you follow along with me here on TVFGI you are already aware that I have a thing for poppy seeds. I wedge them in whenever I can because I love the unique personality they add to so many different kinds of recipes from Lemon Poppy Seed Salad Dressing to Amaretto Poppy Seed Ice Cream. The poppy seeds in this lush casserole just make it even more appealing. I double dare you to make it and not take a (big) taste before dinner.
To assemble it I lay down a layer of par-cooked egg noodles, then arrange poached chicken tenders on top. There’s no reason you couldn’t use hunks of rotisserie chicken as well. I pour the cheesy poppy seed sauce over it all, and then sprinkle generously with buttery Ritz cracker crumbs.
TIP: For super tender chicken, cover it with cold water, bring it to a boil over medium heat, turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for 20 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly before shredding.
TIP: We loved this poppy seed chicken casserole, and I’ve made it several times recently. You can use chicken tenders, or chicken breasts. You can leave them whole or shred the meat. I found large shreds worked best.
Cheesy Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole
- about 1 cup Ritz cracker crumbs
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1/4 pounds chicken tenders
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and fresh cracked pepper
- 4 ounces dried egg noodles
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
- 1 cup chicken stock or broth
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 2 Tbsp poppy seeds
- 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese, or any other cheese
- Set oven to 350F
- Toss the cracker crumbs with the melted butter until well mixed. Set aside.
- Put the chicken tenders and the bay leaf in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Just when the water boils, turn off the heat and cover the pan. Let sit for 20 minutes.
- Cook the egg noodles in plenty of salted boiling water until they are just barely tender, in other words, par cook them, they will finish cooking in the oven. Drain and set aside.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and whisk in the flour. Whisk for a minute, without letting the mixture brown.
- Whisk in the chicken stock, and then the evaporated milk and poppy seeds. Cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat until the mixture thickens and comes to a simmer.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until it melts and the sauce is smooth and creamy. Season well with salt and pepper.
- Spoon a bit of the sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish. Top with the noodles. Arrange the poached chicken tenders over the noodles. Pour the sauce over all.
- Top with the Ritz crumbs.
- Bake for 35 minutes, or until hot and bubbling throughout.
- Rice or quinoa will work as a base for this casserole too.
- Feel free to add some frozen peas or lightly steamed broccoli florets to the casserole for a little bit of green.
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