Veggie-Packed Barbecue Chicken Casserole That's Perfect As A Perfect Make-Ahead Dinner

When one of my friends has a new baby, I am always at a loss for what to bring. I want to bring a dinner over, but I feel like everyone does the same thing. You need a dish that will keep well, is easy, and requires no work for the new, tired parents. Lasagna and casseroles are always the go-to, but I worry that my friends will get sick of those staples. 

Enter barbecue chicken casserole. This lightened-up version of a classic chicken casserole is just as creamy and comforting as the original, but loaded with more flavor and veggies. This is a quick and easy dinner you can bring to a new mom or keep in the freezer for busy weeknights. Just pop in the oven and enjoy some home cooking!

Gather your ingredients

Start by assembling all of your ingredients. There's no need to cut up the chicken, because we'll be cooking it whole and then shredding it. However, if you're short on time and need it to cook faster, cut it up into slightly smaller pieces. We'll be cooking the chicken in either chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth. Both of those options have much less salt than regular broth, and you don't need any extra salt for this one.

Choose any barbecue sauce you like. I chose one with honey for that extra sweet flavor, but if you prefer spicy, go for it! Then choose either two large or three medium-sized sweet potatoes. Next grab your spices, and you're good to go!

A full list of ingredients and step-by-step instructions can be found at the end of this article.

Place chicken in the slow cooker

Start by spraying your slow cooker with a nonstick olive oil spray and placing the chicken breasts in the bottom of it. This is the easiest way to prepare juicy, shredded chicken. I love using my slow cooker, because when it comes time to shred the chicken (the worst part by the way), the chicken literally falls apart as soon as the fork hits it. 

If you are short on time and need to make dinner now, then boil a pot of water and poach your chicken breasts. This method also produces chicken that easily falls apart. However, nothing beats the slow cooker, so plan ahead or you could even prepare the chicken a day or two ahead of time.

Cook the chicken

Pour your chicken stock or low sodium broth into the slow cooker to cover the chicken breasts. Start with two cups, but add more if they're not covered. Cooking the chicken in stock or broth keeps it juicy and flavorful. You could also cook the chicken in water in a pinch. This will keep it moist, but you'll miss out on some of the flavor.

Then cover the slow cooker and cook on the low setting for about three to four hours. The chicken is finished cooking when it's completely cooked through and no longer pink inside. 

If you choose to prepare your chicken a day ahead of time, remove it from the broth once it's cooked and allow it to cool. Once it's cool enough to handle, shred the chicken with two forks, then place in the refrigerator until you're ready to make the casserole.

Chop the sweet potatoes

Once the chicken is almost finished cooking, start preparing the rest of the casserole. Instead of using rice, we'll be using sweet potatoes as a base. You'll still get that hearty carbohydrate base, but with way more nutrients and taste.

Start by cutting the ends off the sweet potatoes, then cut them in half width-wise. Chop the halves into fry-size pieces, then dice into half-inch pieces. Also, there is no need to peel the sweet potatoes for this casserole (you're welcome).

Prep the sweet potatoes

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray it with nonstick olive oil spray. Place the diced sweet potato pieces on the foil and drizzle with olive oil. Then sprinkle kosher salt over the potatoes and toss with your hands to coat each piece.

Cook the sweet potatoes

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and cook the sweet potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. They should be slightly browned and crisp when they come out. Once you remove the sweet potatoes from the oven, reduce the oven's heat to 350 degrees. Set aside the potatoes to cool.

Chop the vegetables

While the sweet potatoes are cooking, core and seed the red bell pepper. Chop it into half-inch pieces and set aside. Peel and chop the white onion into half inch pieces. I like using red bell pepper because of its slightly sweet taste, but any color bell pepper will do. If you prefer more vegetables, double the bell pepper.

Saute the vegetables

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat with olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the peppers and onions to the pan and toss to coat. Saute until the onion is fragrant and translucent, about four to five minutes. The veggies should be tender and just a bit browned.

Assemble the casserole

Now we can start assembling this casserole. Spray a 9x13-inch glass baking dish with nonstick olive oil spray and pour in the cooled sweet potatoes. Then layer the cooked peppers and onions on top. There is no need to mix them together, because all of the flavors will come together when you cook the casserole.

Make the sauce

To prepare your creamy casserole sauce, start with two cups of barbecue sauce and one cup of whipped cream cheese. Buying the whipped variety makes it much easier to mix together for a smooth sauce.

Then add the dried basil and garlic powder. Whisk together until smooth and creamy. Taste your sauce as you go and feel free to add more spices or a pinch of salt. 

Shred the chicken

Once the chicken is cooled, place the cooked chicken breasts on a cutting board and shred with two forks. If you made your chicken ahead of time, skip to the next step.

Fold in the chicken

Make sure your sauce is in a large bowl, then add the chicken and fold together. Continue to fold the chicken into the sauce until it's completely covered. Again taste your chicken and sauce to make sure you like the flavors (hint: they're amazing).

Top the casserole

Now spoon the chicken mixture over the veggies in the casserole dish. Make sure to evenly spread the chicken across the entire casserole. 

Sprinkle the cheese

Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the casserole to finish it off. This recipe calls for shredded cheddar cheese, but use your favorite variety. 

Bake the casserole

Place your casserole in the preheated oven and cook until the entire dish is heated through, about 20 minutes. There's no need to cover this casserole with foil. I always hate that step, because the cheese, the best part of the dish, always sticks to the foil when it comes out of the oven. 

Remove the casserole from the oven when the cheese starts to brown. Allow it to cool for a few minutes, then dig in!

Veggie-Packed Barbecue Chicken Casserole That's Perfect As A Perfect Make-Ahead Dinner
5 from 2 ratings
This lightened-up version of a classic chicken casserole is just as creamy and comforting as the original, but loaded with more flavor and veggies.
Prep Time
30
minutes
Cook Time
5
hours
Servings
8
servings
Ready in 5.5 hours
Ingredients
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • ½ - 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • ½ white onion
  • 2 cups barbecue sauce
  • 1 cup whipped cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Fresh cilantro to garnish
Directions
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick olive oil spray. Spray your slow cooker with nonstick olive oil spray.
  2. Place the raw chicken breast in the slow cooker and cover with chicken stock. Set heat to low and cook until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink, about 3 to 4 hours. Once chicken has cooled, shred it with two forks and set aside. This step can be done a day ahead of time.
  3. Prepare the vegetables. Cut the ends off of the sweet potatoes and dice into ½ inch pieces. Place the diced sweet potato pieces on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and kosher salt. Toss with your hands to coat each piece and place in the oven. Bake until tender, about 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, chop the remaining vegetables. Finely chop the red bell pepper and white onion. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat with extra virgin olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the pepper and onion. Cook until the onion is fragrant and translucent, about four to five minutes.
  5. To prepare your casserole's creamy sauce, combine the barbecue sauce, whipped cream cheese, basil, and garlic powder in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the shredded chicken and fold together until combined.
  6. Spray a 9x13-inch glass baking dish with nonstick olive oil spray and assemble your casserole. Line the dish with the cooked sweet potatoes, then top with the cooked peppers and onions. Spoon the barbecue chicken over the top, then sprinkle the cup of cheddar cheese over it.
  7. Reduce the oven's heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place the casserole in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes or until completely heated through. Top with fresh cilantro and serve.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 525
Total Fat 23.7 g
Saturated Fat 9.9 g
Trans Fat 0.2 g
Cholesterol 130.9 mg
Total Carbohydrates 42.9 g
Dietary Fiber 2.5 g
Total Sugars 28.4 g
Sodium 1,093.2 mg
Protein 33.8 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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