Skillet Chicken Divan (Dairy-Free)


Classic casserole material is coming your way. Ever heard of Chicken Divan? It’s a pretty straight forward casserole of chicken and broccoli that has made its fair share of appearances at potlucks everywhere. In addition to being a creamy, cheesy concoction, it is uniquely seasoned with curry powder (and sometimes sherry vinegar). Sounds kinda strange to add curry to this, but when it comes together in one creamy bite, you’ll understand why this casserole has been around so long. It was one of my pre-Paleo favorites.

We’re gonna mimic the cream-of-something-rather soup and cheddar cheese by soaking and pureeing cashews. Vegans do this all the time, since they too avoid dairy. And instead of topping our casserole with buttered breadcrumbs, I’m using flaxseed meal. Who doesn’t love a little Omega-3′s slipped into their dinner? Well, I mean, unless you’re talking about a squeeze of fish oil… Let’s stick to flax!

2 cups diced chicken breasts or thighs, raw (skinless/boneless is best for this recipe)
2 cups broccoli florets
1 cup raw cashews (not the roasted kind!)

2 cloves garlic
1 cup white or yellow onion, large dice
1 cup organic chicken stock
1 tsp kosher salt
1.5 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
10 grinds fresh black pepper
Lard or your preferred Paleo-approved fat
Optional: 1/4 cup flaxseed meal

There are two options for soaking the cashews. The quick way is to boil the cup of cashews in two cups of water, then as soon as the water reaches a rolling boil, turn off the heat, cover and let rest for a good hour. Drain the water and use the cashews. The slower, simpler way is to soak the cashews in a cup and half of room temperature water overnight. In the morning (or when you’re ready to cook) just drain the water off and you’re ready to go. Choose your method, then when it’s time to cook do the following:

Select your chicken (and yes, boneless/skinless does work better for this recipe) and chop it into large, bite-sized pieces. If using thighs, you can just leave them whole. I made this with both thighs and breasts and definitely preferred the whole pieces of thigh meat. In any event, you’ll need a good two cups worth of meat for the amount of sauce we’ll make.

Heat a large skillet or sauté pan to medium high and add your fat of choice. These days I cannot get enough of the fresh lard I’ve been making thanks to the incredible Beyond Bacon. However, most any Paleo-approved fat will do: ghee, grass-fed butter, olive oil, tallow, schmaltz.

Get your fat to temp and add the raw chicken to the pan. Sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt and a couple grinds over the chicken and cook until the meat takes on a little golden color, then dump the fresh broccoli florets onto the chicken—don’t mix. Cover the pan and reduce the temperature to medium low. The broccoli should steam like this for 3-4 minutes.

While the chicken browns in the step above, make the curry cashew sauce. You’ll need your food processor for this. Add the soaked cashews, chopped onion, garlic cloves, coriander, curry, salt and black pepper to the food processor. Pulse several times to break down the cashews. Then flip the switch to “on” and stream in the cup of organic chicken stock. Let it run until the sauce is as creamy as you can get it… this may take a few minutes. Heads up – I noticed that the smell of raw garlic was very strong at this stage. It does “mellow” after the sauce had a chance to cook down, just so you know. Set the sauce aside until the broccoli from the previous step has steamed.

Back to the broccoli. It should not be fully cooked at this point, just steamed enough to soften slightly. Carefully pour all of the curry cashew sauce over the broccoli and chicken and toss gently to combine. Continue simmering at medium heat for at least five minutes (until the sauce has thickened slightly).

Just prior to serving, top everything with a sprinkle of flaxseed meal to get that toasted breadcrumb topping appearance. I used about a quarter cup.


The finished product looks so good!

I also made this with chicken breasts and baked it for a traditional casserole appearance. Rather than simmering on the stovetop for a few minutes after adding the curry cashew sauce, I transfer everything to a baking dish and bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the sauce is thick and bubbly. Top with flaxseed meal after it’s done baking and let cool slightly before serving. The sauce will set up more and you won’t burn your tongue. I hate that…


* * * * *

There are some kitchen tools that definitely make preparing this dish easier. I recommend getting a food processor and an oven safe skillet, if you do not already have them.

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56 thoughts on “Skillet Chicken Divan (Dairy-Free)

  1. Heather Wine

    Do you know if I could substitute macadamia nuts for the cashews? If yes, would I cook/soak them as well? I can’t eat almonds, cashews or walnuts.


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  3. cait

    How much lard or preferred Paleo approved fat do we use while cooking the chicken, if we do not use 1/4 of flaxseed meal? I didn’t see that measurement, and could probably guess, but wanted the “masters” opinion :)

    1. popularpaleo Post author

      I don’t know about “master”, but thanks! hahaha! :-D The lard/fat is just to keep the chicken from sticking as it cooks. The flaxseed meal is a topping to finish the dish with to give it the look of buttered breadcrumbs. So basically, they’re unrelated.

  4. Deb

    Love your recipes, I’m making this one today. One comment: please add a “print friendly recipe” option to your site. It’s crazy-annoying to have to copy and paste everything into Word (and then delete the photos so it’s not several pages long) in order to print out your recipes.

    1. popularpaleo Post author

      Ugh, I know… Sorry about that. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as a button. I have plans to rewrite all of my recipes into the printer-friendly plug-in, but that will come after I finish writing my book in the spring. Hang with me! I will get to it!

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  6. Viki

    Next week??? I made it tonight – my husband and I love, love, love it! This is definitely a keeper – 18 months into the grain free,sugar free life-style, I finally found the trick to making casseroles – Thank you Popular Paleo!!!! I am so delighted to find you!

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    1. popularpaleo Post author

      Awesome, Marianne! Let’s see, I fed my family of four (2 adults, 2 kids), plus had enough leftovers for one lunch the next day.

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  11. Cori

    I THINK I HAVE FOUND MY NEW FAVORITE SITE! i am reading all of these recipes as my morrocan chicken is braising thinking “WHERE HAS SHE BEEN ALL MY LIFE!?”

  12. Julie

    This looks so yummy. I used to love chicken broccoli casserole (as I called it, never knew it by the “Chicken Divan” name) and I’ve missed it since I’ve not had it in forever.

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    1. popularpaleo Post author

      That is so cool! Thank you for letting know!! It is always so rewarding to get these kinds of messages :-)

  14. Julie Carson

    Very Good!! I made it and i think for the first time my whole family liked something from the paleo menu. Even my very picky daughter. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe.

  15. charlotte

    OMG… BEST comfort food EVER. I actually felt guilty as I woofed it down thinking that it is so good that it has to be bad. Trust me, its nothing but healthy goodness in a bowl. I did mine caserole style in the oven, and made a crust from cauliflower and flax meal. I also added some nutritional yeast to give it a bit of that cheesy flavour. All in all a fantastic dish that I know I will make again and again

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  17. Autumn

    This looks delicious and I want to try it tomorrow! Is cashew butter going to be the same as mixing the raw cashews in the food processor? I bought a jar of cashew butter from whole foods (the 365 brand) and the only ingredients in it are cashews and safflower oil I believe!

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  19. Zane

    Just a quick question – where does the chicken stock goes? I read it carefully trough and didn’t see it… maybe I’m just blind and I missed it :D:D

    1. PopularPaleo

      Here it is: “Add the soaked cashews, chopped onion, garlic cloves, coriander, curry, salt and black pepper to the food processor. Pulse several times to break down the cashews. Then flip the switch to “on” and stream in the cup of organic chicken stock. Let it run until the sauce is as creamy as you can get it… this may take a few minutes.”

      It goes in to make the cashew sauce creamy in the food processor. :-)

    1. PopularPaleo

      That sounds really really good!!!! I think pouring over some cauli rice would be the best way to serve. I love to have broccoli and cauliflower together and think the idea absolutely works. Thank you!!

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  21. AmandaS

    Love the idea of the ground flaxseeds!! I’d recommend adding them after ‘ovening’ (if that’s how you choose to finish off the cooking) as the omega 3s in the seeds are delicate and will be even more exposed due to being ground up. Essentially their positive benefits turn a bit negative with the high heat!
    I look forward to making this dish : )

  22. Lori

    what could be a good alternative for the cashews? we can’t have nuts in the house? do you think the veganese will work in this?

    1. PopularPaleo

      I haven’t worked with the ingredient before so I’m afraid I can’t help you with that one… What are your dietary perimeters? Maybe I can throw out some other ideas?

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  24. Rachel

    Is this really spicy? If so what can I replace the curry with so its not too spicy? I get sick if things are too spicy. Thanks.

    1. PopularPaleo

      Hey Rachel,
      There are many kinds of curries out there — choose the non-spicy varieties! There was absolutely no heat in this dish when I made it. My 3-year-old gobbled it up without a problem :-)

    1. PopularPaleo

      Good question! I tend to make meals that feed two adults, two kids and leave at least one serving of leftovers for lunch the next day. I’m thinking that depending on serving sizes you could get away with feeding 4 adults, with maybe a little left for seconds.

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