Mexican Chicken Quinoa Casserole
Is there anything in life quite so beautiful as a gooey, cheesy casserole? Mexican Chicken Quinoa Casserole says, “I think not.”
Now, ocean sunsets, the Grand Canyon, and every Tim McGraw song ever recorded might argue for the title and tiara, but I maintain that the casserole deserves recognition in the beauty department. Oh sure they are ultra oozy, lose their shape immediately when cut, and are generally a food photographer’s worst nightmare, but their inherent value as a one-dish meal that’s comforting enough to cure a broken heart is worthy of respect. The casserole’s allure is of a deeper level—and I don’t simply mean that it has a good personality.
Perhaps I am genetically disposed to love casseroles—growing up, every dish my mother cooked eventually turned into one—but I’ve come to embrace them. Dinners like this Mexican Chicken Quinoa Casserole are a friendly way to cook in large quantities, hit every food group with a single pan, and generate yummy leftovers for the rest of the week (read: get away with cooking one less meal.) Casseroles can also be adapted to suit any number of tastes and are categorically creamy, cheesy, and give me the warm fuzzies.
The only two things about casseroles I will not embrace: the ubiquitous canned fried onion topping (I’m sorry but, why does this exist?) and cream of anything soup. Instead of the gobs of heavy, processed add-ins, Mexican Chicken Quinoa Casserole uses Greek yogurt, real cheese, and a mix of fresh and canned ingredients to create a healthy dinner that’s still reasonably easy to prepare on a weeknight.
Simply sauté the chicken and veggies, stir in the other ingredients, top with cheese, and bake! I love using quinoa because of its high fiber and protein content, but cooked rice (or farro or any other whole grain) can be swapped in easily.
The final selling point—Ben gave Mexican Chicken Quinoa Casserole his highest form of culinary praise: “It tastes just like a Chipotle burrito bowl.” Sold.
Official Casserole Fan Club, member number one right here. Anyone else care to join? We can wear sashes, create a secret handshake, and eat Mexican Chicken Quinoa Casserole directly from the pan. All interested parties, raise your forks!
Mexican Chicken Quinoa Casserole
Yield: Serves 6-8
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 2 large breasts)
- 1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
- 1 (15-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, well drained
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 3/4 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese, divided
- 3/4 cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese, divided
- Fresh cilantro, for serving
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a large casserole dish (9x13-inch or similar) with cooking spray and set aside.
- Place 2 cups water and quinoa in a large saucepan, then bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, still covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
- In a large, deep sauté pan or pot, heat the olive oil over medium high. Add the onion and bell pepper, then sauté until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken, chili powder, cumin, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Continue to sauté until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, drained tomatoes and cook 1 additional minute. Remove from heat. Stir in the black beans, reserved quinoa, Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread evenly in the pan. Top with remaining mozzarella and cheddar, then bake, uncovered until hot and the cheese is melted, about 15 minutes. Turn oven to broil, then continue cooking until the cheese is lightly browned, about 3-4 additional minutes, watching carefully so that the cheese does not burn. Let rest 5 minutes, garnish with chopped cilantro, and serve.
If you like this Mexican Chicken Quinoa Casserole, you’ll love these other healthy casserole recipes: