Chef John's Chicken and Rice Casserole


Have you ever been eating chicken and rice and thought to yourself, "This is good, but I wish it had a little bit more going on?" If so, you'll love this. This chicken and rice casserole was inspired by many different recipes from many different places. Sprinkle this with red pepper flakes, if desired.

Prep Time:
30 mins
Cook Time:
1 hrs
Additional Time:
4 hrs 10 mins
Total Time:
5 hrs 40 mins
8 servings

In need of something comforting, filling, and flavorful? This satisfying chicken and rice casserole pays homage to Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian cuisines.

I could've just called this dish "Chicken and Rice," but Americans love a good casserole, so I tacked that on the end for some extra search engine love. Having explained all that, I will say that it's always a great sign when the hardest thing about a recipe is deciding what to call it, and I welcome you to come up with your own moniker.

I went with a whole chicken (watch our Buttermilk Fried Chicken video to see how to cut it up), but feel free to just use leg/thigh sections. Not only will that save you some prep time, but a dark meat approach works well in this casserole, since you don't have to worry about the meat drying out. Regardless of what you use, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Exotic Chicken and Rice Casserole
Exotic Chicken and Rice Casserole . Chef John

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For the Exotic Marinade:

  • cup plain yogurt

  • 1 medium lime, zested and juiced

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander

  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper

  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice

  • 1 (2 to 3 pound) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces

For the Rice:

  • 1 pinch saffron

  • 2 ¼ cups chicken broth, divided

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 ½ cups basmati rice

  • 1 drizzle olive oil

  • salt to taste

For the Garlic Yogurt Sauce (Optional):

  • ½ cup plain yogurt

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

  • salt to taste

  • 1 tablespoon water, or as needed


  1. Add yogurt, lime zest and juice, salt, paprika, cumin, coriander, cayenne, white pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, and allspice for marinade to a large mixing bowl; whisk to combine.

  2. Make one or two slits into each piece of dark chicken meat, down to the bone. Add chicken parts to the yogurt marinade and toss very thoroughly. Wrap in plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 8 hours.

  3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13-inch casserole dish.

  4. Grind saffron in a mortar with a pestle. Pour in 1/4 cup chicken broth and stir to combine.

  5. Combine unsalted butter and salt in a saucepan; pour in remaining 2 cups chicken broth and chicken broth-saffron mixture. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add basmati rice and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover tightly, and let simmer gently for exactly 15 minutes; do not disturb while cooking. Turn off the heat and let rest for 10 minutes.

  6. While rice is still hot, transfer into the prepared casserole dish. Use a fork to fluff the rice while gently spreading into an even layer. Place the chicken pieces, skin-side up, on top of rice. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

  7. Roast in the center of the preheated oven until chicken is no longer pink in the centers and juices run clear, about 45 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone, should read 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).

  8. While chicken is in the oven, mix yogurt, garlic, green onions, mint, cilantro, salt, and water together for sauce. Reserve in the refrigerator until needed. Serve chicken and rice on a plate and top with sauce.


Chef's Notes:

I used sheep's milk yogurt, but any plain, full-fat yogurt will do. If you don't have white pepper, you can use freshly ground black pepper. You can use any long-grain white rice.

I've seen versions of this recipe where the chicken is grilled after it's marinated, pulled off the bone, and then added to the rice--which I'm sure is good, but seems like a lot of extra work.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

362 Calories
15g Fat
32g Carbs
24g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 8
Calories 362
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 15g 20%
Saturated Fat 5g 27%
Cholesterol 72mg 24%
Sodium 1126mg 49%
Total Carbohydrate 32g 12%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 24g
Vitamin C 4mg 21%
Calcium 72mg 6%
Iron 2mg 9%
Potassium 265mg 6%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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