I was born and bred in the heart of the South. That means that after football and Jesus, casseroles are like, my third favorite thing.
However, it can be hard to enjoy a casserole — or any Southern cuisine, now that I think of it — when you’re trying hard to stick to a Paleo or clean eating-type diet. Most casseroles are packed full of heavy cream, milk, Panko or breadcrumbs and worse. Most thickening agents are strictly off limits when you’re practicing clean eating. Although casseroles delicious, they just aren’t practical for the healthy eater.
Ha! Or so you thought! Casseroles don’t have to wreck your Paleo diet. Below, you’ll see where I’ve made a broccoli, chicken and caulirice casserole using all Paleo-friendly ingredients. This is a play off of one of my favorite classic dishes, chicken, rice and broccoli casserole. Almost anything can be made Paleo-friendly if you get a little creative!
Broccoli, Chicken and Caulirice Casserole
First things first, you’re going to need some ingredients.
- 2 cups of coconut milk (make sure to stick with full fat!)
- 1/2 cup of almond flour
- 3/4 teaspoon of onion powder or dried minced onion
- 3/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 3/4 teaspoon of pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon of parsley flakes
- 1 large head of cauliflower
- 1 large head of broccoli
- 1 1/2 pounds of chicken breast
- In a small pot, cover your chicken breast with water and bring it to a boil. Once the chicken is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F and is cooked all the way through, remove it from the heat and set aside.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a mixing bowl, combine your coconut milk, chicken broth, almond flour and all of your spices. Mix VERY well, as coconut milk tends to get chunky. The mixture should be smooth and slightly gelatinous when you’re finished. In case you haven’t figured it out, you’re going to use this mixture as a substitute for cream of chicken soup.
- Set your mixture aside and get ready to rice some cauliflower. I’m sure there is a better tool to do this with, but I haven’t figure it out yet, so for right now I use our cheese grater. I’ve heard rumors that Trader Joe’s carries frozen pre-riced cauliflower, but haven’t had any luck finding any at our location so far. Be prepared — ricing the cauliflower is a workout within itself, but it’s so worth it. I recommend alternating arms frequently because trust me, you’ll feel the burn.
- You’ll notice I rice my cauliflower directly into the casserole dish, just because ricing cauliflower is messy enough in itself without using more dishes than I have to. I’m all about efficiency and quick clean up. Once you’re done ricing your cauliflower (how’s that shoulder feeling?), go ahead and slice up your head of broccoli. My broccoli isn’t that pretty because I picked it from my garden (and maybe waited just a tad bit too long to do so) but you can really add as much or as little as you’d like. We’re broccoli fanatics at my house, so I did two heads for ours.
- Now, retrieve that chicken breast you put to the side earlier. You’re going to shred it with a fork and knife and then distribute it over the top. Don’t worry too much about shredded it super fine or making it all the same size.
- Once you’ve completed that step, pour your mixture over the top. It’s very important to make sure the mixture is evenly distributed so that your caulirice will cook evenly. You also want to evenly coat the chicken on the top. If not, it’ll come out of the oven dry as a bone. If you’re like me and HATE dry meat, feel free to pour another half cup of chicken broth over the mixture to keep everything moist.
Throw the casserole in the oven for approximately an hour. Fold some laundry or read some awesome articles on FitnessHQ. When the timer goes off, make sure the casserole has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees before declaring it finished. Grab a spatula and some plates and wow your kids and your spouse with this healthy version of a classic casserole!
Don’t be scared off by how it looks. This casserole is a delicious and healthy dinner-time meal and depending on how big your family is and how large their appetites are, you’ll probably have leftovers for days.
You should be prepared for about 25 minutes of preparation time and at least an hour of cooking. If you’re meal prepping ahead of time, try going ahead and having your cauliflower riced, your chicken breast cooked and shredded, and your broccoli chopped to greatly decrease your preparation time the afternoon or night you decide to try it for dinner. Traditionally, you would finish the dish off by giving the top a generous sprinkle of cheddar cheese, but since that’s not technically Paleo, I’ll leave the one up to you!