Chicken Divan with Asparagus

4.75 from 8 votes
1 hour
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This Chicken Divan recipe with asparagus is a spring-inspired twist on the classic casserole. A homemade Mornay sauce with roasted chicken covers a bed of tender asparagus and is topped with sliced almonds for an elegant and comforting recipe. This dish can even be assembled and baked just before dinner!

Chicken Divan with Asparagus in oval baking dish with serving spoon garnished with sliced almonds with asparagus and chicken exposed.

Why This Recipe is a Keeper!

While the name Chicken Divan may evoke images of a dated casserole made with canned soup and mayonnaise as in the Southern version, this take on the classic dish is closer to the more elevated preparation that originated at the Divan Parisien restaurant, located in one of New York City’s fine hotels in the early 1900s.

A creamy homemade Mornay sauce is the key to this recipe for Chicken Divan. It replaces the soup element that became popular in the 1950s retro dinner party version. Broccoli is traditionally used, but this version swaps it with fresh asparagus for a springtime twist.

Gruyere cheese has a buttery and decadent flavor, and I love using it in dishes like this one because it melts beautifully and results in a velvety smooth Mornay sauce. The subtle tang of dry sherry wine cuts through the richness and balances flavors.

The casserole is finished with a topping of sliced almonds for some textural contrast that makes for a more elegant crust than potato chips, as in the canned soup version or breadcrumbs. 

This Chicken Divan recipe is:

  • Delicious! A creamy Mornay sauce pairs perfectly with asparagus and tender chicken.
  • Made from scratch! No canned soup is used for this Chicken Divan recipe, just a simple-to-make cheese sauce.
  • Make-ahead! This dish can be prepped up to one day in advance. Place it in the oven before dinner and bake until it’s bubbly and golden brown!
  • Family-friendly! Basic and simple ingredients for a recipe that even picky kids will surely enjoy.

Let’s make it!

Chicken Divan with Asparagus in oval baking dish garnished with sliced almonds with serving spoon scooping some up.

How to Make Chicken Divan with Asparagus:

Recipe Ingredients:

Here’s everything you’ll need to make this Chicken Divan recipe, along with instructions for preparing the ingredients. The exact quantities are on the recipe card below.

Ingredients for Chicken Divan with Asparagus in glass bowls.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions:

  • Chicken: This Chicken Divan recipe uses boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, which work well because the cream sauce is already quite rich. However, you could also use boneless skinless chicken thighs. Adjust the cooking time since dark meat takes longer.
  • Asparagus: This recipe for chicken divan is the perfect way to use thicker asparagus because it won’t cook too quickly and become overdone. If you aren’t an asparagus fan, you can certainly use broccoli.
  • Dry Sherry: Chicken Divan made with sherry has a lovely, subtle tang for a bit of acidity, which helps balance the richness of the cheese sauce. Be sure to use dry sherry, not sweet sherry. You can substitute the sherry with another dry white wine or vermouth. NON-ALCOHOLIC SUBSTITUTE: Use 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar combined with 1/2 cup chicken broth or water. A non-alcoholic wine will also work.
  • Gruyere Cheese: Gruyere cheese is a lovely, nutty, firm cheese from Switzerland that melts beautifully. It can be pricey, but Grand Cru or regular Swiss cheese may be used instead.
  • Nutmeg: Nutmeg is traditionally added to Bechamel sauces for warmth and depth and to liven up basic cream—and cheese-based sauces.
  • Almonds: I like sliced almonds for this recipe for Chicken Divan, but slivered almonds work, too. A topping of panko breadcrumbs, dried Italian breadcrumbs, and shredded Parmesan cheese is a great alternative if you have a nut allergy.

Step-By-Step Instructions:

  • Gather and prep all the ingredients.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Lightly oil a 13 x 9-inch or similar-sized baking dish with 1 tablespoon of oil.
  • COOK THE CHICKEN: Drizzle the chicken breasts with the remaining tablespoon of oil and season with salt and black pepper.
  • Bake for approximately 22 to 25 minutes or until no longer pink (165 degrees in the center).
  • Let cool slightly, then cut into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch pieces. Keep the oven set at 350 degrees.
  • BLANCH THE ASPARAGUS:  Prepare an ice bath while the chicken is baking.
  • Bring a saucepan full of generously salted water to a boil. In 2 to 3 batches, blanch the asparagus in the boiling water for 30 to 45 seconds or until it turns bright green.
  • Transfer to the ice bath. Repeat until all the asparagus is blanched.
  • Remove the asparagus from the ice bath and blot dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.
  • Cut the asparagus into 3 pieces and transfer to the prepared baking dish.
  • Season the asparagus with salt and black pepper to taste.
  • MAKE THE SAUCE: Melt the butter over medium heat in the saucepan you used to blanch the asparagus.
  • Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes (do not let the flour brown).
Butter and flour being whisked in stainless steel saucepan.
  • Add the sherry or wine, stirring until you have a thick paste.
  • Slowly add the half-and-half, whisking constantly until smooth.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until it is thickened, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Stir the cheese into the sauce a handful at a time, whisking constantly until melted and smooth.
  • Remove from the heat and add white pepper and nutmeg.
  • Stir in the chicken.
  • ASSEMBLY: Pour the cheese sauce and chicken combination over the asparagus. Smooth the top.
  • Cover loosely with aluminum foil.
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through and starting to bubble around the sides.
  • Uncover and sprinkle with the almonds and return to the oven for 5 more minutes (uncovered).
  • Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley. Serve immediately.
Chicken Divan with Asparagus in oval baking dish with serving spoon garnished with sliced almonds.
  • Done and delish!! Creamy, cheesy, luxurious, and perfect for a spring special occasion!
Chicken Divan with Asparagus in oval baking dish garnished with sliced almonds with serving spoon scooping some up.

Chef Tips and Tricks:

  • After cutting the chicken breasts into small cubes, place them back onto the baking sheet and toss them with the juices that resulted from baking the chicken. White-meat chicken tends to be dry. Those juices add extra moisture, and the cut sides of the chicken cubes will get seasoned.
  • Choose thicker asparagus rather than thin because thinner asparagus will cook too quickly.
Chicken Divan with Asparagus in oval baking dish with serving spoon garnished with sliced almonds with asparagus and chicken exposed.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why is it called Chicken Divan?

The name Chicken Divan comes from the restaurant where the dish originated (Divan Parisien Restaurant) at the Chatham Hotel in New York City in the early 1900s. The dish became the restaurant’s signature and was so popular it went mainstream by the 1950s as a popular casserole often served at dinner parties.

Can Chicken Divan be made ahead of time?

Yes! This recipe may be assembled one day in advance. Leave the nuts off. When you are ready to bake, let the casserole sit out while the oven preheats, and then bake as directed.

Does this recipe for Chicken Divan freeze well?

This recipe for Chicken Divan does not freeze the best because of the asparagus. After blanching and then freezing, it can become mushy. A better option would be to prep the Mornay sauce with the chicken to freeze or substitute the asparagus with blanched broccoli.

What is the best cut of chicken to use for Chicken Divan?

I like to use boneless skinless chicken breasts for this recipe since the cream sauce is already quite rich, and dark meat adds to the richness. You could use boneless skinless chicken thighs instead, making sure to adjust the cooking time since they take longer. Leftover, shredded rotisserie chicken meat would be a super convenient option.

Chicken Divan with Asparagus in oval baking dish garnished with sliced almonds with serving spoon scooping some up.

Storage:

  • Store any leftovers in the refrigerator and consume within five days. Reheat leftovers in a small oven-safe container in the oven or toaster oven at 350 degrees until heated through to 165 degrees in the center.

Serve with:

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Chicken Divan with Asparagus in oval baking dish with serving spoon garnished with sliced almonds with asparagus and chicken exposed.

Chicken Divan with Asparagus

4.75 from 8 votes

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By: Carol | From A Chef’s Kitchen
This Chicken Divan recipe with asparagus is a spring-inspired twist on the classic casserole. A homemade Mornay sauce with roasted chicken covers a bed of tender asparagus and is topped with sliced almonds for an elegant and comforting recipe. This dish can even be assembled and baked just before dinner!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Chicken and Turkey
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 654 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves - (approximately 1 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil - divided, plus more for oiling the baking dish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bunches asparagus - medium to wide width, about 1 1/2 pound, tough ends trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry - or dry white wine
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Gruyere cheese - or Parmesan cheese, or a combination
  • ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds
  • Chopped fresh parsley

Instructions
 

  • Lightly oil a 13 x 9-inch or similar-sized baking dish with 1 tablespoon of oil.
  • COOK THE CHICKEN: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle chicken breasts with the remaining tablespoon of oil and season with salt and black pepper. Bake for approximately 22-25 minutes or until no longer pink (165 degrees in the center). Let cool slightly, then, cut into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch pieces. Keep the oven at 350 degrees.
  • BLANCH THE ASPARAGUS: While the chicken is baking, prepare an ice bath. Bring a saucepan full of generously salted water to a boil. Working in 2-3 batches, blanch the asparagus in the boiling water for 30-45 seconds or until it turns bright green. Transfer to the ice bath. Repeat until all the asparagus is blanched.
  • Remove the asparagus from the ice bath and blot dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Cut the asparagus into 3 pieces and transfer to the prepared baking dish. Season the asparagus with salt and black pepper to taste.
  • MAKE THE SAUCE: Melt the butter over medium heat in the saucepan you used to blanch the asparagus. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly for 1-2 minutes (do not let the flour brown).
  • Add the sherry or wine, stirring until you have a thick paste. Slowly add the half-and-half, whisking constantly until smooth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until it is thickened, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  • Stir the cheese into the sauce a handful at a time, whisking constantly until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and add white pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the chicken.
  • ASSEMBLY: Pour the cheese sauce and chicken combination over the asparagus. Smooth the top. Cover loosely with aluminum foil.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes or until heated through and starting to bubble around the sides. Uncover and sprinkle with the almonds and return to the oven for 5 more minutes (uncovered).
  • Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

Notes

It’s better to use thick rather than thin asparagus because thin asparagus cooks too quickly.
MAKE AHEAD:  This recipe may be assembled one day in advance.  (Leave the nuts off.) When you are ready to bake, let the casserole sit out while the oven preheats, and then bake as directed.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 | Calories: 654kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 47g | Saturated Fat: 23g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 17g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 146mg | Sodium: 508mg | Potassium: 929mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 2800IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 625mg | Iron: 6mg

These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

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4.75 from 8 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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13 Comments

    1. Hi, Nancy, Thanks so much for your great question. In my Ingredient Notes and Substitutions I address that: Use 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar combined with 1/2 cup chicken broth or water. A non-alcoholic wine will also work. Not sure white grape juice would work; it could be too sweet. Thanks again and please let me now how it works.

    1. Hi, Jane, Thanks so much for your question. I’m not too sure how this would do frozen; my concern is the asparagus. Asparagus cooks so very quickly and will soften up even more after having been frozen. It also has such a tendency to shrink. How about substituting broccoli instead? Just give it a super-quick blanch (20 seconds), ice it and pat it dry. If you really wanted asparagus, you could make the chicken and sauce and freeze that. (Leave almonds off.) Then, when wanting to serve, thaw that and place it over lightly roasted asparagus, top with the nuts and heat through. Thanks again and hope this helps!

  1. 5 stars
    You had me at asparagus! Yum!!! My mom made something similar growing up, and it was one of my favorite recipes. This looks so creamy and delicious-the perfect comfort food!

  2. 5 stars
    I love that this gets away from the canned soups I always think of with chicken divan. That creamy, dreamy sauce is calling my name right now and making me so excited for dinner!