Chicken Divan Made from Scratch
This is my favorite and best Chicken Divan ever with no canned soups or mayo! Nothing like that happens in my kitchen! Just layers of juicy chicken and tender broccoli in the most deliciously rich, creamy cashews sauce all topped with golden crispy gluten-free bread crumbs or Panko. This Chicken Divan Casserole is easy to make and perfect for all those busy families that don’t have much time for cooking. This recipe can be prepared ahead of time and wait for you when you get home ready to bake!
I did not grow up with Chicken Divan?! I learned about from my friend’s family, where Chicken Divan was one of their family go-to dinners, and I enjoyed it as well. So I’ve decided to make my own gluten and dairy-free version.
I definitely gave this classic Chicken Divan recipe a fresh spin, using plenty of flavors, substitutes for gluten and dairy and a perfectly creamy cashew sauce for those with dairy sensitivities! Trust me you will not feel deprived! I’ve also given you a diary recipe as well so you can enjoy it! So, let’s get to it.
WHAT IS CHICKEN DIVAN?
Chicken Divan is an American Classic created at the Divan Parisian Restaurant (thus the name!) at the Chatham Hotel in Manhattan in the 1930s and has since become an American classic.
Chicken Broccoli Divan is an easy and quick chicken casserole that is described by a layer of steamed broccoli followed by a layer of chopped cooked chicken and topped with a creamy, silky and rich, creamy sauce.
In the beginning, Chicken Divan was made with a Mornay Sauce – a béchamel sauce with shredded or grated Gruyère cheese. The recipe evolved, and it was made with cream of chicken or mushroom soup mixed with cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, milk, and sour cream. Yes, full of rich diary!
Topping that was used for Chicken Divan ranges from regular breadcrumbs, Ritz crackers, cornflakes, and Panko. In addition to that, the newer version recipes for Chicken Divan gluten-free options are used along with Paleo where seeds and nuts are used.
Chicken Diven is a very satisfying, delicious, and comforting dish that everybody can enjoy it. It has many layers of textures and hits all the right notes. You have juice chicken, tender broccoli and creamy sauce with crispy gluten-free breadcrumbs to cradle every bite.
My Chicken Divan recipe is made from scratch, and it is full of flavor. Thrust me, I’ve seen way to many bland recipes. The recipe is rich but without canned soup or mayonnaise, with all the right notes! It is irresistibly smooth, creamy, rich, cheesy, and comforting. I used these beautiful baking dishes I had just ordered.
WHAT GOES IN CHICKEN DIVAN?
Chicken: I use chicken breasts, but you are welcome to use chicken thighs instead. Some people also use shredded rotisserie chicken, which will add lots of flavor to it. Just make sure that it is not to dry.
Broccoli: The best way is to always use fresh broccoli. Frozen broccoli has a tendency to be watery and mushy instead of tender. To save a little time, you can also buy bags of precut broccoli florets. Make sure you chop up any big pieces so the florets are all roughly the same size.
Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup: My cream of chicken soup is epic, and it is gluten-free and Paleo. It starts with a roux (a mixture of fat and flour), then you whisk in chicken broth and blended cashews whisked with arrowroot to create a beautiful thick sauce. You want the sauce to be on the thick side because it will thin out some in the oven. To this delicious sauce, we stir in the chicken bouillon, onion powder, granulated garlic, nutritional yeast, Dijon, onion powder, dried thyme, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. It is velvety, seasoned bliss.
Cheese. I made my sauce dairy-free using cashews, but I’m giving you a diary version also. You can add some freshly grated Parmesan for its salty bite and cheddar for it is sharp richness. Just make sure that you only use freshly grated cheeses for its freshness, and some of the pre-shredded varieties don’t melt well.
The same goes for Sour Cream. You are welcome to use if you are a dairy lover and have no sensitivities to it. For better flavor, use a full-fat one because it is richer.
Gluten-free breadcrumbs (you can find gluten-free Panko at the store, too). Don’t skip the crunch! It is well worth the effort and adds an additional layer of texture to the dish. It makes the dish fluffier and crispier. You can find it with the other breadcrumbs at the grocery store. For those who don’t eat grains, I like to use crumbled walnuts. They are easy to make; just put them in the food processor and process until they crumble.
Cashews- I used cashews instead of dairy, so people who can’t eat dairy can enjoy it as well! I love to use cashews for any non-dairy creamy sauce. They are perfect for creating a creamy texture.
HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI DIVAN
- Step 1 – Chop into bite-size pieces and season them with salt and pepper.
- Step 2 – Dice and brown onion with one tablespoon of olive oil in the medium-sized skillet.
- Step 3- Put the broccoli in the skillet and sauté for 3 minutes. Add ½ cup chicken broth or water, cover the pot with a lid, and lower heat to medium. Cook broccoli until tender but not limp, about 2 minutes. Transfer it to a bowl.
- Step 4 – Melt one tablespoon olive oil or butter over medium heat. Increase heat medium-high and add chicken in a single layer. Cook until tender. Make sure not to overcook your chicken because it is also going to bake in the oven.
- Step 5 – Make Sauce: For cashews sauce: Put all the ingredients in the high -speed blender and blend until
smooth. Then, transfer the sauce to a small skillet or pot and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- For diary sauce: In a medium size pot, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour, then cook, and stir for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low, then gradually whisk in chicken broth and 1 cup of milk. Whisk arrowroot with the leftover cup of milk and add to skillet, followed by Dijon, Worcestershire sauce, seasonings, and chicken bouillon. Bring sauce to a boil, continually whisking, then reduce heat to a simmer, often whisking until thick.
- Remove the pot from heat and whisk in ½ cup sharp cheese until melted, followed by Parmesan cheese until melted. Then whisk in sour cream until blended.
- Step 6 – Layer: Spread the chicken and broccoli in the baking dish, then pour sauce evenly over them. It might seem like there is a lot of sauce but it is just right. We all want a moist Chicken Divan!
- Step 7 – Bake: The best baking dish for this recipe would be one with a lid, so you wouldn’t have to use aluminum foil to cover it, because it is not healthy. Aluminum leaks to the food, and it is a neurotoxin. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until hot.
HOW TO PREPARE CRISPY BREADCRUMB TOPPING
Melt butter over medium heat in a skillet or medium-sized pot. Add breadcrumbs or Panko and stir to coat. Cook until crumbs become golden brown.
Of course, you can adapt this Chicken Divan to make other chicken casserole recipes. You can swap the veggies, cheeses, and seasoning. Use your imagination and have fun in the kitchen!
Chicken Divan is a perfect dish to prepare ahead of time because it stays perfectly creamy and becomes more flavorful. Just reheat Chicken Divan in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until hot. You can also reheat individual servings of Chicken Divan in the oven.
Chicken Divan is also perfectly convenient for freezing, so if you feel like double the recipe while you are on it, and enjoy it later!
My favorite way of serving Chicken Divan is with salad, roasted veggies, wilted dark leafy greens, or cauliflower mash.
Did you make this recipe?
Please let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #thetastesoflifeholisticblog
- 1 1/2 lb chicken breast chopped into bite-size pieces
- 1/4 tsp each salt, pepper
- 3 large 16-20 oz. bag broccoli florets
- 3 tbsp olive oil or unsalted butter divided
- Dairy Sauce
- 3 tbsp avocado oil or butter
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth divided
- 1 cup milk if you are using dairy
- 1/3 cup cassava flour
- 1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 tsp gluten-free Worcestershire sauce optional
- 1 tsp EACH granulated onion, granulated garlic, dried parsley
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese divided - if you are using dairy
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese - if you are using dairy
- 1/2 cup sour cream - if you are using dairy
- salt to taste
Gluten-free Panko Topping (optional)
- 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp melted butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
Dairy-free cashews sauce:
- 1 1/2 cup cashews soaked
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- juice from 1 lemon
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp thyme fresh chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp onion powder granulated
- salt to taste
- 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick coconut or avocado oil cooking spray.
- Season chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside
- Add 1 tablespoon avocado oil to a large skillet. Heat over medium-high heat until very hot. Toss the broccoli in a skillet and sauté for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth, cover pan, and lower heat to medium. Steam broccoli until tender about 2 - 3minutes. Transfer broccoli to prepared bake dish in an even layer.
- Melt one tablespoon butter (you can substitute with olive oil or avocado) over medium heat. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add chicken in a single layer and sear it. Continue to cook and stir chicken until cooked through. Then evenly layer chicken on top of broccoli.
- For the version with dairy: Melt 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat (or just use olive oil for dair-free version). Whisk in cassava flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Turn heat to low, then gradually whisk in 1 1/2 cups chicken broth and 1 cup of milk. Add Worcestershire sauce, and spices.
- Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to a simmer and whisk often until thick. Remove from heat, set it asaide, and whisk in 1 1/2 cup cheddar until melted. Add Parmesan cheese, whisk it until melted. Then whisk the sour cream in until blended. Pour sauce over broccoli and chicken and spread into an even layer.
- Cashew sauce: Add all the ingredients to the high- speed blender and blend until smooth. Transfer it to a small pot and cook it for 5 minutes, whisking in occasionally.
- Breadcrumbs topping:Melt butter over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add Panko and stir to coat. Continue cooking until crumbs become golden brown.
- Pour the sauce over the chicken, broccoli and cheese.
- Top it off with breadcrumbs topping.
- Put it in the oven at 350 F for 30 minutes.