Cheesy Chicken Bacon Ranch Kale Casserole. Are you ready? I’ve been ready since someone randomly brought home creamed kale, and I had an idea. I promise you can’t even taste the kale. If you do like kale, then yay! There’s plenty of kale to be found. And by the way, creamed kale itself is not in this recipe – It’s just where I got the spark of an idea to disguise kale in my casserole. Casserole dreams coming true in 3… 2… 1… (jump to recipe!)
It was so hard not to title this masterpiece a ‘kale-sserole’. While that is obviously the best name for a casserole containing an entire bunch of kale, I’ve been learning a lot more about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) lately. People are NOT typing ‘kale-sserole’ into Google (unless you’re me, and Google is sure I meant ‘kale casserole’). So, I have grudgingly titled this one Cheesy Chicken Bacon Ranch Kale Casserole.
During said SEO research for this recipe, I also discovered people are clamoring over anything related to Chicken Bacon Ranch (just try typing ‘chicken bacon casserole’ and avoiding Ranch… you can’t). In my opinion, the Ranch seasoning, while a definite highlight of the recipe, takes a huge backseat to the kale. I’m so thrilled/happy/excited/dancing over the fact that I put a boot load of kale in this dish, and I’m not bothered one bit. In fact, I LOVE this thing. We’ve had it a lot lately (yay recipe testing!) and I’m not even sick of it.
In case you needed to hear about some more casserole magic, here it is. I know cooked brown rice pasta gets all dry and sticky after being stored for like half a day. Even when doused in olive oil (camping trip fail turned into cheesy goodness – story for another time). But when it’s in a casserole, no dryness what-so-ever. Especially this casserole. I’m obsessed. Can’t stop won’t stop.
Assembly for this one is pretty easy. After all the components are cooked, you’ll end up with two basic layers – the kale onion sauté mixed with noodles, chicken and bacon; and the ‘custard’ as I call it in the recipe, with the greek yogurt, milk and cheeses. Simply make layers with half of each mixture at a time, for four layers. Then add your remaining cheese and parmesan crisps for topping (I will never be without Whisps Parm Crisps again – P.S. find them at Costco to save $$$).
Finally, bake and enjoy. Yes, enjoy kale. I know. Just trust me. And check out the layers below.
We know kale is good for us – but I was curious just how good. Kris Gunnars at Authority Nutrition wrote 10 Health Benefits of Kale, an incredibly detailed article with several reasons why kale is one of the best vegetables for any of us. Kris also provides several citations for the claims, which I am always excited about (evidence for health claims on the internet is totally not too much to ask). He says kale is the most nutrient dense food on the planet, made so by it’s low caloric content while being packed with so many nutritious things. Here’s a quote from Kris, discussing kale:
This is coming with a total of 33 calories, 6 grams of carbs (2 of which are fiber) and 3 grams of protein. Kale contains very little fat, but a large portion of the fat in it is the omega-3 fatty acid called alpha linolenic acid. Given the incredibly low calorie content, kale is among the most nutrient dense foods in existence. Eating more kale is a great way to dramatically increase the total nutrient content of your diet.
Sounds good to me Kris! As long as my kale is smothered in meats and cheeses, we’re cool. I could eat this for days. If you’re interested on more information about kale, you can check out 15 Health Benefits of Kale – And 8 Delicious Kale Recipes from Jen at JenReviews.com.
A healthy and creamy combo of brown rice pasta, kale, chicken, greek yogurt and more! – ProjectMealPlan.com
- 1 rotisserie chicken, pulled (about 3–4 cups of shredded chicken)
- 8 strips of turkey bacon, uncooked (be sure to use quality turkey bacon – I like Columbus, or use real bacon if you prefer)
- 3 cups brown rice pasta, dry
For the sauté:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 kale bunch, leaves cut from stalk and shredded (about 6 cups packed, all stalks removed)
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon each salt/pepper
For the custard:
- 2 cups whole fat greek yogurt
- 1 egg, whisked
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (another 1/4 cup for topping)
- 1/2 cup milk, 2%
- 1 tsp red chili pepper flakes
- 2 tsp Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning mix
- 1/4 teaspoon each salt/pepper
For the Topping:
- 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese OR crunched up parmesan crisps (my preference)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- In a medium pot of salted boiling water, cook brown rice pasta according to package instructions. Drain well and set aside when done. To avoid sticking while the remaining ingredients are cooked, toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- In a large skillet or Dutch Oven (capable of containing the entire bunch of shredded kale), cook bacon according to package instructions, until crispy. Remove bacon from pan and set aside. Chop the bacon into small bits when cool enough to do so. Remove additional liquid grease from the pan, though it should be minimal if you are using turkey bacon. You can use the same pan to sauté onions and kale.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in the same deep skillet or Dutch Oven. Add onions and cook for about 4 minutes, until they start to turn translucent, stirring occasionally.
- Add the kale and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Stir until kale begins to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, and continue to cook until all the kale is wilted and most of the chicken broth is absorbed by the kale, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine greek yogurt, egg, mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, milk, red chili pepper flakes, Ranch seasoning, salt and pepper. Mix until well combined.
- To the kale sauté pan, add chicken, bacon bits, cooked pasta and mix with the kale and onions until evenly distributed. This will help the pasta soak up the rest of the chicken broth remaining in the pan.
- In a 9×13 greased casserole dish, layer each component of the casserole starting with the kale noodle mixture. Place half of the kale noodle mixture evenly in the casserole dish. Next, place about half of the custard mixture on top of the kale noodle mixture using a large spoon or utensil to spread evenly over the noodles. Repeat the process once more, until all custard and noodle mixtures are gone.
- Spread remaining 1/4 cup cheddar cheese and parmesan crisps evenly on the top of the casserole
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is melty and golden brown. I like to broil for an extra 3 minutes for that crisp top!
PREP: The chicken can pulled a day ahead of time, or pre-cooked if you are using chicken breast. I’ve also made the bacon for this recipe ahead of time when I was cooking bacon for breakfast.
Store in an airtight container or Pyrex dishes.
- Serving Size: 1/8 of casserole
- Calories: 489
- Fat: 18g
- Carbohydrates: 30.2g
- Protein: 51.4g
Thank you so much for checking out the Cheesy Chicken Bacon Ranch Kale Casserole! Tag @projectmealplan on social media if you make this yummy recipe, or any other kale creation! Throw me a comment if you have any super amazing ways to disguise your kale. I just wish I loved kale a little more (or at all😕).
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Inspired by Healthy Squash and Kale Casserole from Food Network.