This comforting Chicken Divan recipe is a healthier version of the classic casserole, made with wholesome ingredients that are gluten-free, dairy-free, and Paleo-friendly. The combination of tender chicken, fresh broccoli, and a creamy sauce made from chicken broth, cashews, and arrowroot powder makes for a satisfying and nourishing meal that your whole family will love!
Table of Contents
- What is Chicken Divan?
- Why should you try my paleo and Whole30 Chicken Divan?
- Can you make Chicken Divan ahead of time and/or freeze it?
- How to make Chicken Divan
- What do you serve with Chicken Divan?
- How to store leftovers?
- More comforting paleo casserole recipes
- Easy Chicken Divan (Paleo, Whole30, Gluten Free) Recipe
What is Chicken Divan?
Chicken Divan is a classic American casserole dish that typically consists of cooked chicken, broccoli, and a creamy sauce—all topped with grated cheese and baked until bubbly. This rich, comforting dish originated at the Divan Parisien restaurant in New York City’s Chatham Hotel in the 1930s, and was named after the restaurant.
Although the original version included poached chicken on broccoli with a cheesy béchamel or Mornay sauce, the dish that most folks recognize as Chicken Divan features a creamy sauce made from ingredients like mayonnaise, sour cream, and condensed cream of chicken soup or cream of mushroom soup. The casserole is then topped with grated cheddar cheese and/or a crispy topping (e.g., regular bread crumbs, panko breadcrumbs, or crushed Ritz crackers) and baked in the oven until the cheese is melted.
Why should you try my paleo and Whole30 Chicken Divan?
I’m always trying to recreate classic recipes with a healthier spin that’s still packed with flavor—and this recipe is no exception! Instead of cracking open a can of processed cream of whatever soup and dumping in a bunch of dairy that may not agree with you later, I created a simple and umami-packed sauce made with chicken broth, soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, Magic Mushroom Powder, and some commonly available spices. Just blitz everything together in a blender and you’re done!
Pair this Whole30-compatible creamy cheese sauce with cooked chicken, broccoli florets, and crunchy plantain chips and you’ll be looking at a new family favorite!
Can you make Chicken Divan ahead of time and/or freeze it?
Yes, Chicken Divan can be made in advance and baked once you’re ready to serve it! Assemble the casserole ahead of time (without the plantain chips) and keep it covered with foil or plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before baking. When you’re ready to bake it, top it with crushed plantain chips (if using) and bake as directed.
Alternatively, you can bake the casserole in advance, let it cool, cover it, and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer or up to 3 months. To reheat the casserole, heat the oven to 350°F and bake the thawed casserole for 20-30 minutes or until heated through.
- Broccoli: You can use fresh or frozen broccoli for this recipe—just cook it until it’s tender-crisp first. Feel free to substitute different cooked veggies (e.g. peas, kale, asparagus, or green beans).
- Cooked chicken breasts: Any leftover chicken works in this chicken casserole! You can also buy a rotisserie chicken and shred the meat into bite-size pieces for this dish.
- Chicken broth: I use a high-quality chicken bone broth in this recipe that isn’t salted. If you use a highly seasoned broth, you can back off on the amount of Magic Mushroom Powder or salt.
- Raw cashews: To replicate the creamy sauce without the dairy, I turn to soaked cashews. If you have a cashew allergy, you can probably substitute some coconut cream or coconut milk but beware: it will taste coconut-y.
- Nutritional yeast: Adds cheesiness and umami flavor to the sauce! My favorite brand is Bragg’s.
- Arrowroot powder: It thickens the sauce as it bakes in the oven! I use 3 tablespoons in this recipe because I like the sauce to stay thicker, even with reheating. If you want a thinner sauce, use less!
- Magic Mushroom Powder: I recommend using my one-of-a-kind, indispensable seasoning blend in place of salt. It incorporates not just salt but also porcini mushroom powder (more umami!) and pepper—all the things that’ll make this casserole pop with flavor. You can make your own Magic Mushroom Powder or buy it online at The Spice Lab, on Amazon, or on iHerb (worldwide shipping!). No MMP? You can use Diamond Crystal kosher salt and a dash of Worcestershire sauce or fish sauce for a boost of umami.
- Dried spices: To keep things simple, I add some garlic powder, onion powder, dry mustard, and freshly cracked black pepper to season this dish. If you want to kick things up a notch, you can substitute some curry powder for the spices!
- Crushed plantain chips (optional topping): My favorite paleo crunchy topping is crushed plantain chips or strips (and my favorite brand is Artisan Tropics!). Leave off the topping if you’re doing a Whole30 because store-bought plantain chips are not allowed.
How to make Chicken Divan
Prepare the filling
Place the cashews in a large bowl and soak them in boiling water for at least 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oven to 400°F with the oven rack in the middle position. In the meantime, cook the broccoli florets by adding them to a large pot of boiling water…
…and simmering them for 2 to 3 minutes or until bright green and tender crisp. Use a strainer to transfer the broccoli to a bowl or drain with a colander. (You can also steam the broccoli in the microwave for about 2 minutes in an Anyday bowl.)
Toss the cooked broccoli and chicken into a lightly greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish or a 3-quart casserole dish…
…and season with ½ teaspoon Magic Mushroom Powder or Diamond Crystal kosher salt.
Toss well to combine, making sure to arrange the filling in an even layer.
Blend the dairy-free sauce
In a high speed blender, combine the drained cashews, broth, nutritional yeast, arrowroot powder, Magic Mushroom Powder (use less if your broth is salty!), dried spices, and freshly cracked black pepper.
Blend until smooth and uniform. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Assemble the casserole
Pour the sauce on top of chicken and broccoli, making sure all of the ingredients are mostly submerged.
Sprinkle the crushed plantain chips on top of the casserole, if desired.
Bake the Chicken Divan
Pop the casserole in the oven and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and hot. Scoop up and serve!
What do you serve with Chicken Divan?
Chicken Divan can be a complete meal on its own, but you can also serve it with cauliflower rice, roasted vegetables, or a green salad if you’re trying to keep things paleo. If you don’t have dietary restrictions, feel free to serve it with rice, pasta, noodles, or bread. I won’t judge you!
How to store leftovers?
Leftover Chicken Divan can be stored in a sealed container for up to 4 days in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.
Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013), Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017), and Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2022)
PRINTER-FRIENDLY RECIPE CARD
Easy Chicken Divan (Paleo, Whole30, Gluten Free)
- 1½ cups raw cashews
- 1½ pounds broccoli cut into bite-sized florets
- 4 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
- 1½ teaspoons Magic Mushroom Powder or Diamond Crystal kosher salt, divided
- 3 cups chicken broth
- ⅓ cup nutritional yeast
- 3 tablespoons arrowroot powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon ground mustard
- ¼ teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup crushed plantain chips optional, leave off if doing a Whole30
- Place the cashews in a large bowl and soak them in boiling water for at least 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Heat the oven to 400°F with the oven rack in the middle position.
- Cook the broccoli florets by adding them to a large pot of boiling water and simmering for 2 to 3 minutes or until bright green and tender crisp. Use a strainer to transfer the broccoli to a bowl or drain with a colander. (You can also steam the broccoli in the microwave for about 2 minutes in an Anyday bowl.)
- Toss the cooked broccoli and chicken into a lightly greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish or a 3-quart casserole dish and season with ½ teaspoon Magic Mushroom Powder or Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Toss well to combine and make sure to arrange the filling in an even layer.
- In a high speed blender, combine the drained cashews, broth, nutritional yeast, arrowroot powder, 1 teaspoon Magic Mushroom Powder (use less if your broth is salty), garlic powder, onion powder, dry mustard, and pepper. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Pour the sauce on top of chicken and broccoli, making sure all of the ingredients are mostly submerged. Sprinkle the crushed plantain chips on top of the casserole, if desired.
- Pop the casserole in the oven and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and hot. Scoop up and serve!
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.