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Hearty and comforting, homemade Chicken Noodle Casserole
Homemade from scratch – no canned condensed cream of anything soup!
I know, shortcuts are sometimes essential to get an edible dinner on the table. However, on those occasions when you have a few extra minutes, whip up this filling and delicious Chicken Noodle Casserole recipe.
This hearty dish is not difficult to make, with just a few easy steps like sautéing vegetables and boiling noodles. Make a simple béchamel sauce (flour, butter and milk) then add cheese for velvety smoothness. Pour the sauce over the whole pot of goodness, top with crackers and bake!
Beloved by baby boomers everywhere, this retro classic includes a few updates and plenty of extra flavor! It’s homey and comforting with a terrific blend of flavors and textures. The perfect Sunday supper the whole family will love!
Ingredients needed to make Chicken Noodle Casserole
- extra-wide egg noodles – we recommend dry egg noodles for this casserole. The noodles are partially cooked then added to the casserole before being baked.
- salt and pepper – we love lots of fresh ground black pepper in this dish. One of the benefits of scratch homemade casseroles is the ability to limit the sodium in your diet. Check the seasoning and adjust as needed for your family.
- olive oil – just a little for browning the mushrooms.
- unsalted butter – for sautéing the vegetables, making the béchamel sauce and for drizzling on top of the crushed cracker topping
- mushrooms – for maximum flavor with minimal sodium, we replace the condensed soup often found in this type of recipe with fresh sliced, well browned mushrooms. Any variety of mushroom will work; pick up whatever looks best.
- carrots – we’ve also made this casserole using red bell pepper in place of the carrots.
- all-purpose flour – for thickening the sauce
- milk – we prefer whole milk for an extra silky sauce
- chicken broth – low-sodium or homemade
- American deli cheese – great for its terrific meltability
- sharp cheddar cheese – for its good cheesy flavor
- garlic powder
- Dijon mustard – don’t skip the Dijon!
- frozen peas
- Cooked, shredded chicken
- Ritz crackers – or your favorite butter crackers for topping
What’s the best kind of chicken to use in this casserole?
You can use whatever cut of chicken you prefer. I always have chicken breasts on hand so that’s what I usually use. Poached chicken breasts or a whole roast chicken are perfect in this casserole. You’ll need about 4 medium chicken breasts or 4 cups of diced, cooked chicken.
How to make Chicken Noodle Casserole
- First boil the egg noodles slightly under the recommended cooking time. Drain then return the noodles to the pot.
- While the noodles are cooking, sauté sliced mushrooms, without stirring, until deep golden brown. Stir and continue cooking until the moisture is released from the mushrooms, then evaporated. Transfer the mushrooms to the pot with the noodles.
- Next sauté the carrots and onions then add to the noodle party in the pot.
- In the now-empty skillet melt butter and whisk together with flour. Cook a few minutes then add milk and chicken broth. Boil until reduced slightly then add the cheese. Whisk until smooth and melted.
- Add the garlic powder, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Pour the béchamel sauce over the noodles and vegetables.
- Finally add the cooked, shredded chicken and frozen peas. Pour into the prepared 13×9-inch casserole dish and top with crumbled crackers. Drizzle with melted butter and bake until bubbly and golden brown. Allow the casserole to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.
Can you freeze Chicken Noodle Casserole?
Leftovers actually freeze pretty well. Of course the noodles will be a bit softer once reheated, but not so much that it negatively affects the casserole. Thaw the frozen casserole overnight in the refrigerator, then gently reheat individual portions in the microwave. Add a splash of milk, water or chicken broth if desired to loosen the sauce.
Can you make this casserole ahead of time?
Yes you can! Refrigerate the casserole well covered with foil or plastic wrap.
Allow the casserole to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. Unwrap the casserole and add the cracker topping just before baking so the topping will remain crisp. You may need to bake the casserole a few extra minutes until bubbly and heated through.
What if your family doesn’t like mushrooms?
Personally I feel like the mushrooms really make this dish. The earthiness of the mushrooms add a lot of depth to the casserole. I guess that’s why cream of mushroom soup has been so popular, for so long.
You can omit the mushrooms if desired, but I hope you won’t. If your kids don’t like mushrooms I recommend leaving them large enough to pick out. Or, dice the mushrooms very small after cooking so they won’t even know the mushrooms are in there!
This casserole calls for frozen peas to be added at the end. You can use a combination of frozen peas and carrots and save yourself a step dicing carrots. I always have frozen peas on hand and fresh carrots, so that’s what I usually use.
Don’t skip using the American cheese. This cheese has such great creaminess and a nice mild flavor. It’s perfect in the white sauce and helps hold everything together. American cheese is easily found in the deli department of most grocery stores.
Even with both American and cheddar cheese, the sauce is not overly cheesy in texture or flavor, and it’s not meant to be.
Leave some of the crackers in larger pieces for a nice crispy crunch. You can also add more crackers if preferred. Tent the casserole with foil while baking if the crackers are browning too quickly.
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Chicken Noodle Casserole
- 12 ounces extra-wide egg noodles
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
- 10 ounces mushrooms cleaned and sliced
- 2 carrots chopped
- 1 onion chopped
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 cups chicken broth low-sodium or homemade
- 6 ounces American cheese deli style, rough chopped
- 6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 4 cups cooked diced chicken about 4 medium chicken breasts or 1 rotisserie chicken
- 1 ½ cups frozen peas
- 20 Ritz crackers broken into small pieces
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 13x9-inch baking pan with vegetable cooking spray. Set aside.
- Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Add egg noodles and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until almost al dente, about 2 minutes below the recommended cooking time. Drain and rinse with cold water. Pour the noodles back into the pot and add 1 tablespoon butter. Toss to coat. Set aside.
- While the noodles are cooking, warm a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Once melted add the sliced mushrooms and cook, undisturbed, until the mushrooms are very dark on one side. Stir and turn the mushrooms and continue cooking until the moisture is released then evaporated, and the mushrooms are well browned. Transfer the mushrooms to the pot with the noodles.
- Melt another tablespoon of butter in the now empty skillet. Add the carrots and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer all the vegetables to the pot with the noodles.
- In the empty skillet melt 3 tablespoons butter. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Whisk both cheeses into the sauce until smooth. Add garlic powder, Dijon mustard and 1 teaspoon black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Whisk until blended. Pour the sauce over the reserved noodles and vegetables.
- Add the diced chicken and peas to the noodle mixture and gently fold with a spatula until combined. Pour the chicken and noodles into the prepared baking pan.
- Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave. Sprinkle crushed crackers over the casserole, then drizzle with melted butter.
- Bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 15 minutes. Tent with foil about halfway through to prevent over-browning. Allow the casserole to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
If your family loves a good hearty chicken dish, don’t miss our Chicken Wild Rice Casserole. The nutty flavor of the wild rice is a personal favorite of mine!
We also love this Cheesy Chicken Broccoli and Rice Casserole anytime. It rewarms well, too, making leftover night something special.
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