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Easy Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole (Healthy + Gluten Free)

Creamy and comforting, you’d never guess that this easy Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole is healthy and gluten-free! Made in 50 minutes, you’ll have this ready for dinner in a jiffy!
Course Main Course, Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American
Diet Gluten Free
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 365kcal

Ingredients

Chicken Pasta

  • 3 slices bacon chopped
  • 1 lb. cubed chicken breast
  • 3.5 cups chopped cauliflower chop small by hand or use a food processor
  • 1 tbsp. dried dill
  • 2 tsp. onion granules
  • 2 tsp. garlic granules
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 8 oz. penne chickpea pasta I used Tolerant brand which is 100% chickpeas

Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. gluten-free flour
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup full fat almond milk or milk of choice
  • 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 10 oz extra sharp cheddar shredded (buy a block and shred with a box grater)

Instructions

  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the bacon pieces to it. Allow the bacon fat to render and the bacon bits to brown. When the bacon is crispy, carefully remove the pieces from the pan but keep any bacon fat in the pan.
  • In a small bowl, combine the dill, onion, garlic, salt and pepper.
  • Add the chicken breast to the pan. Sprinkle half of the dill mixture on top of the chicken. Brown the chicken for 2 minutes on each side. Add the cauliflower to the pan and saute until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit and the cauliflower is soft. Add the browned bacon bits, remaining dill spice mixture, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, half of the parsley, chives and chicken broth and mix together. You can keep the chicken chunks whole or shred them with two forks. Set aside.
  • Boil a pot of water and add the chickpea pasta. Boil for 2-3 minutes Only (or ¼-⅓ of the time the cooking instructions on your box show) and then drain the pasta. Pour the drained pasta into the skillet with the chicken along with the remaining chicken broth, parsley and chives and mix to combine.
  • Heat the butter in a pot over medium heat. Once the butter is sizzling, add the flour. Whisk the flour until it is thickened and bubbling, then add the broth and milk and whisk together. Whisk on medium heat until the sauce starts to bubble. Continue whisking and the sauce will begin to thicken. Add the vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powder. Once it’s thick enough that it coats a spoon well, turn the heat off and whisk in half of the shredded cheese. Whisk until the cheese is fully melted and you have a nice cheese sauce. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper as needed.
  • Preheat your oven to 350 or 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish. Pour in half of the chicken and pasta mixture and ladle on half of the sauce all over it, making sure to get the sauce into the edges of the dish. Sprinkle on half of the remaining cheese. Repeat with the remaining chicken pasta, sauce and cheese. Sprinkle the top with black pepper and chopped chives.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and everything is bubbly. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool and set for 5 minutes or so before topping with more chopped chives and serving.

Notes

  • You can keep your chicken cubed up after cooking them through, or use two forks to shred the chicken pieces. I’ve tried both and think I like the shredded chicken better, but the final dish looks a little nicer with the cubed chicken.
  • Chop your cauliflower very small. You can cut a whole cauliflower into florets and then roughly chop them smaller. To save time, you can also blitz a bag of cauliflower florets in a food processor. 
  • You can use a dry ranch seasoning mix in lieu of the spices in the pasta, but I find most of them don’t have great ingredients, a lot of salt, or just don’t taste the way I want them to. Adding your own herbs and spices + acid from the apple cider vinegar and lemon give this dish a great tang just like your favourite ranch dressing.
  • I included the bare minimum of cheese I’d include in this recipe, If you want a dish that’s cheesier, use 12+ oz. of cheese and include half in the sauce + half sprinkled in. 
  • A very sharp cheddar here gives the cheese sauce and dish in general a nice bite.
  • If you’d like, you can broil the dish at the end for a minute to brown the cheese. I chose not to do this as some of the chickpea pasta that was poking through the top was already beginning to burn, but it would help the cheese brown and get more bubbly.
  • I used regular chicken broth (not low sodium) but you can use low sodium and always add more salt to taste as needed.
  • If you’d like, you can use dried parsley and chives in lieu of fresh. Try 1 tablespoon dried of each to start and you can adjust and add more to taste if you’d like.

Nutrition

Calories: 365kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 78mg | Sodium: 677mg | Potassium: 505mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 739IU | Vitamin C: 29mg | Calcium: 373mg | Iron: 5mg