Mexican Chicken Casserole
Is there anything in life quite so beautiful as a gooey, cheesy casserole? Mexican Chicken 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, especially at this most blustery time of year.
Oh sure, casseroles 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 at a deeper level—and I don’t simply mean that they have a good personalities.
Perhaps I am genetically disposed to love casseroles. Growing up, my mom’s trusty 9×13-inch baking dish was among the most well-used and duly-splattered tools in our kitchen.
Today, now that I’m the one doing the cooking, I am all about the casserole, especially when they are as delicious and simple as this easy Mexican Chicken Casserole.
Casseroles are a friendly way to cook in large quantities, hit every food group in a single pan, and generate yummy leftovers for the rest of the week.
Casseroles can also be adapted to suit any number of tastes and are categorically creamy and cheesy, leaving me with a welcome case of 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. Hate me if you will, but those are two places I will not go.
Although my friend did mention that she makes this Mexican Chicken Casserole with Doritos, so perhaps there is something to the whole crunchy topping thing…
The canned soup, however, can stay away. We have a better plan!
Better Ingredients for Mexican Chicken Casserole
Instead of the gobs of heavy, processed add-ins, this healthy Mexican Chicken Casserole uses Greek yogurt, real cheese, and a mix of fresh ingredients like bell peppers and canned pantry staples like black beans to create a healthy dinner that’s still reasonably easy to prepare on a weeknight.
Simply sauté the chicken and veggies, stir in the black beans and other ingredients, top with cheese, and bake!
I love using quinoa in this Mexican Chicken Casserole because of its high fiber and protein content, but if you’d prefer a Mexican chicken rice casserole, cooked rice (or farro or any other whole grain) can be swapped in easily.
Hoping to make this Mexican Chicken Casserole in a slow cooker? Check out my Crock Pot Mexican Casserole (similar ingredients, but this one is already adapted to a crock pot, so I’m 100% sure of the results).
And if what you were actually looking for was a dip…Ben actually eats his Mexican Chicken Casserole with tortilla chips, as if he were scooping up a dip. Naturally, I scolded him but then tried a bite that way myself.
Official Casserole Fan Club, member number one right here. Anyone else care to join? We can wear sashes, create a secret handshake, and eat healthy Mexican Chicken Casserole directly from the pan, with or without tortilla chips. All interested parties, raise your forks!
Mexican Chicken Quinoa Casserole
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 yellow onion — chopped
- 1 green bell pepper — chopped
- 1 red bell pepper — chopped
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts — cut into bite-size pieces (about 2 large breasts)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder — plus 2 teaspoons
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic — about 2 cloves
- 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes — (15 ounces) well drained
- 1 can black beans — (15 ounces) , rinsed and drained
- 1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese — divided
- 1/2 cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese — divided
- Fresh cilantro — for serving
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a large casserole dish (9x13 inch or similar) with nonstick 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, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
In a Dutch oven or similar large, deep sauté pot, heat the olive oil over medium high. Add the onion, green bell pepper, and red bell pepper. 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 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and drained tomatoes and cook 1 additional minute. Remove from the heat. Stir in the black beans, reserved quinoa, Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, and 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread evenly in the pan. Top with remaining cheddar and mozzarella. Bake, uncovered, until the cheese is melted and the casserole is hot, about 15 minutes. Turn the oven to broil, then continue cooking until the cheese is lightly browned, about 3 to 4 additional minutes, watching carefully so that the cheese does not burn. Let rest 5 minutes, sprinkle with chopped cilantro, and serve.
Nutrition InformationAmount per serving (1 (of 8)) — Calories: 277, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 39mg, Sodium: 496mg, Carbohydrates: 30g, Fiber: 6g, Sugar: 4g, Protein: 24g
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