Chicken Divan is a classic cheesy, creamy chicken and broccoli casserole that's topped with buttery panko breadcrumbs and baked to golden perfection! This version is made from scratch with no condensed soup.
What is Chicken Divan?
This old-school American casserole is a ridiculously creamy and cheesy chicken and broccoli casserole that feeds a crowd. It's topped with melty cheddar and crispy breadcrumbs. Inside it has a homemade cheddar cream sauce that beautifully coats every single broccoli floret for a flavor explosion in each bite.
Many versions are made with condensed soup, but we can do better than that! This is a casserole recipe that tastes so much more delicious from scratch. You won't ever go back to using the "cream of" soup shortcut after trying it.
I think you'll like this Cheese Sauce for Broccoli as well.
Why is it called Chicken Divan?
- This chicken casserole originated in the Divan Parisien Restaurant in the Chatham Hotel in New York City in the early 1900s, so it's named after that. It looked a little different back then and had Mornay sauce, and the gourmet recipe was kept a secret. In the 1950s it began to appear in American cookbooks and morphed into the beloved casserole we know today!
What you'll need to make it
- Broccoli - fresh broccoli cut into bite-sized florets
- Chicken - I used a rotisserie chicken (a combo of light and dark chicken meat). If you don't have cooked chicken, cut up 3-4 chicken breasts into small pieces and sauté them in a skillet with some salt & pepper until they're just cooked, then proceed with the recipe as indicated.
- Cream cheese - I always use a block of Philly brand
- Cream - we're using whipping/heavy cream for luxuriousness
- Garlic powder and onion powder - this pair is a classic base to enhance flavor
- Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce - don't skip these! They're a special combo that you can't individually taste in the casserole, but they add an amazing savory touch
- Cheddar cheese - use an old/sharp cheddar if possible for best flavor
- Parmesan cheese - choose a good-quality block of parm
- Butter - for melting to make the crispy breadcrumb topping
- Breadcrumbs - use panko for best results. You can find them in a box in the same aisle as you'd find regular breadcrumbs at your grocery store.
- I highly recommend grating your own cheeses for this recipe. They will melt better than the pre-grated or bagged kind, and you'll enjoy the taste so much more!
How to make it
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
Start by prepping all ingredients so the recipe goes smoother. Partially cook the broccoli by adding it to boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then drain it and add to a 9x13 casserole dish.
Preheat your oven to 375F. Add the cooked chicken to the casserole dish. In a skillet or saucepan add the cream cheese, cream, onion powder, garlic powder, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and some salt & pepper. Whisk until melted.
Remove from the heat, and stir in half the cheddar cheese until the sauce is smooth.
Pour the sauce over the chicken and broccoli. Toss it together using two spoons to make it easy, and then spread it in an even layer.
Top it with the remaining cheddar, the parmesan, and the buttery panko breadcrumb topping. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until it's hot and the topping is golden!
Substitutions and variations
- Using heavy cream means the sauce will be thicker and less likely to curdle in the oven. If you want to replace it with a lower fat alternative (like half-and-half or milk), I suggest making a roux.
- You can sub the panko with crushed up cornflakes or Ritz crackers. Regular breadcrumbs can be used, but they're denser and the topping won't be quite as light and crispy.
- You can use frozen broccoli, but I'd thaw it first, drain it well, and then skip the boiling step since it's already been blanched.
Make ahead tips
- If you want to make this casserole a day or two ahead of time, assemble it up until just before the baking step, cover the casserole dish tightly, and refrigerate once it's cooled down a bit. You may want to wait to add the panko topping just before baking so it's not soggy. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until it's heated through.
- If you need to freeze it, assemble just prior to the baking step as outlined above, cover the casserole dish tightly, then freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until heated through. Cream sauces and broccoli don't always freeze well, so my personal preference is to avoid freezing it if possible.
Leftovers and storage
- Chicken Divan makes really good leftovers that will keep 3-5 days in the fridge in an airtight container.
- If microwaving, try to warm it up slowly in intervals not on the highest setting so the sauce doesn't separate. You may want to add a splash of milk to keep it creamy since cream sauces tend to dry out a bit the longer you leave them.
- You can also warm it up in a covered saucepan on the stove over a fairly low heat or in the oven in a baking dish covered with foil.
Questions about this Chicken Divan recipe? Ask me in the comments below!
- 1 pound broccoli cut into florets
- 3 cups cooked/rotisserie chicken shredded or diced
- 8 ounces cream cheese (1 block Philly) softened
- 1 cup heavy/whipping cream
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 2 cups grated cheddar cheese divided
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup butter melted
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Take the cream cheese out of the fridge at least an hour prior to starting the recipe or microwave it for 20-30 seconds (it should be very soft).
- Boil a pot of water for the broccoli. While you're waiting for it to boil, start prepping all the recipe ingredients (ensure they're ready to go before starting the sauce). For the melted butter, I recommend microwaving it in a small bowl and setting it aside until needed.
- Preheat your oven to 375F and move the rack to the top third of the oven.
- Once the water is boiling, add the broccoli and cook it for 2-3 minutes, then drain well and add it to a 9x13 casserole dish.
- Add the cooked chicken to the casserole dish (just put it beside the broccoli for now).
- To a skillet or medium saucepan, add the cream cheese, cream, onion powder, garlic powder, Dijon, Worcestershire sauce, and some salt & pepper. Cook it over medium-high heat, stirring/whisking nearly constantly until the cream cheese has melted into the sauce (this should take about 5 minutes). Important: Don't let the sauce get too thick (it should be similar to Alfredo sauce). If the sauce seems a bit too thick, add in another splash of cream. The sauce will thicken more in the oven.
- Take the skillet off the heat and stir in half of the cheddar cheese (stir until smooth).
- Pour the sauce over the chicken and broccoli, then toss and spread it in an even layer.
- Top the casserole with the remaining cheddar, followed by the parmesan.
- Add the panko breadcrumbs to the bowl that has the melted butter and stir until they're evenly coated in butter.
- Top the casserole with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. If you want the topping to be a little darker, broil it for a few minutes (watch it carefully).
- Let the casserole sit for 5 minutes prior to serving.
- Serves 6-8 depending on portion size/what it's served with.
- See blog post for info on substitutions, make ahead tips, storage, and step-by-step photos.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.