This Green Enchilada Casserole is creamy, dreamy and layered with chicken, quinoa and green chiles swimming in a vibrant salsa verde sauce.
It’s an easy and healthy Mexican chicken casserole that’s baked in the oven until the cheese is melted and the edges are a crispy golden brown.
You guys know how I feel about Mexican food. Tacos, burritos, bowls, oh my! And who could forget about good ol’ enchiladas rolled and drenched in a Mexican-spiced tomato sauce?
The secret is the fresh and vibrant spin from homemade salsa-verde-like enchilada sauce with fresh tomatillos (you know – those green, sticky tomatoes you always see at the market, but never know what to do with them).
Get ready for the enchilada bake of your dreams.
The list of the ingredients is a mix of fresh produce and Mexican pantry staples I always have on hand. I’ve broken it down into the sauce and casserole
categories as follows:
Enchilada Sauce Ingredients:
- yellow onion
- olive oil
- ground cumin
- garlic powder
- fresh cilantro leaves
- chicken or vegetable broth
Tomatillos. Tomatillos are more acidic and less sweet than their ripe red tomato cousin (they are actually the same family as a gooseberry!). You can find them in the produce section of most grocery stores, usually next to the jalapenos.
They have a thin, papery husk with a sticky surface underneath. Simply discard the husk and give them a good scrub under cool running water. Dry completely before coating with the olive oil.
One of the reasons I love this casserole SO much is the homemade enchilada sauce.
I love breaking out my Blendtec for soups and sauces. It powers through all the ingredients and leaves me with a smooth texture every time. This blender is the quietest blender I have ever used. You can literally have a conversation while it’s humming and you’d never know it was on!
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Enchilada Casserole Ingredients:
- chicken breasts, cooked + shredded
- canned green chiles
- cream cheese, softened
- cooked quinoa
- enchilada sauce
- flour tortillas
- shredded cheddar cheese
Quinoa. Quinoa is technically a seed, not a grain (hence the reason it is known as a pseudo grain) and comes in a variety of colors (white, red, black). I went with the prepacked tricolor (or rainbow) quinoa for both flavor and color.
Always rinse quinoa before cooking to rid of its bitter coating. Then, cook it the same way you would rice, but in a ratio of 1:1.5 quinoa-to-liquid, for 15 minutes. As soon as you see little curls poking out of the tiny seeds, it’s ready!
I love making quinoa in my rice cooker. It’s the perfect small dutch oven for cooking a big batch of quinoa and it’s heavy lid seals in all the steam for super moist quinoa.
Chicken. Poached chicken breasts are your best friend in this recipe. I like to purchase a big batch of chicken breasts and poach them in water with some onion, garlic and parsley stems.
Strain out the liquid and reserve it as chicken stock to use in this recipe and have on hand for the rest of the week. Shred the chicken breasts immediately or make ahead of time to have cooked chicken ready and waiting for you in the fridge. The chicken will keep best in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Toppings. Sour cream, avocado and cilantro is my perfect trifecta, but this is when you can go crazy! Pico de gallo, salsa, guacamole or even some crushed up tortilla chips for extra crunch would all be wonderful.
How To Make Green Enchilada Casserole
Traditional flour tortillas are layered with a creamy, zesty, spiced chicken and quinoa filling, along with the green enchilada sauce and loads of cheese! It’s baked until gooey and finished with some sour cream, avocado and fresh cilantro.
Rather than rolling the tortillas individually, these bad boys get stacked with the filling for a mile-high enchilada bake ready in no time. About half the time is making the sauce and the other half if completely hands-off since you’re just waiting for the green casserole to bake in the oven. Simply:
Blend the Enchilada Sauce
- Preheat. The oven to 400 F.
- Roast the tomatillos, onions and chile. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, add tomatillos, onion and jalapeno. Drizzle with olive oil and gently rub the olive oil onto the vegetables. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the tomatillos are tender and golden. Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes.
- Blend! In a blender, add roasted tomatillos, yellow onion, 1 jalapeno (reserve 1 jalapeno and taste test before adding the 2nd), salt, cumin, garlic powder, cilantro, lime juice and broth, then blend until smooth. Taste test for more salt and more spice once blended.
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Assemble the Green Quinoa Enchilada Layers
- Prepare the filling. In a medium bowl, mix together shredded chicken, green chilis, cream cheese, quinoa and ½ cup enchilada sauce. Mix together until creamy.
- Start layering. In the bottom of a casserole dish, add ¬º cup of enchilada sauce and spread evenly.
- Pile high! Layer in 2-3 tortillas, 1 cup of quinoa chicken mixture, ½ cup enchilada sauce and ½ cup of cheese. Repeat layers until the casserole dish is full. Top the top layer with cheese.
- Bake! In the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and bubbly.
- Garnish and serve. Top with a drizzle of sour cream, diced avocado and chopped cilantro.
Meat, Vegetarian & Gluten-Free Variations
I love the mix of chicken and quinoa against soft, pillowy flour tortillas, but there are simple swaps you can make to satisfy any meat, vegetable or gluten-free eaters.
- Ground Meat: Use 2-pounds ground beef, turkey or chicken that has been browned in a hot skillet with 2 tablespoons olive oil instead of the shredded chicken breasts.
- Beans: Replace the chicken with 2 (15-ounce) cans drained & rinsed black beans or pinto beans.
- Corn Tortillas: Sub out the flour tortillas with 1 large package corn tortillas. You will need more of the corn tortillas to fully cover each layer in the casserole dish since they are smaller.
Meal-Prep Ready & Freezer Friendly
Get ahead of the game with this green enchilada bake by blending the sauce and cooking the chicken and quinoa ahead of time. Store each in a separate container in the fridge.
All that’s left to do on the day you are going to serve is layer, assemble, and bake to glorious baked enchilada heaven!
For longer storage, once assembled and cooked, store in a covered, freezer-safe casserole dish in the freezer for up to a month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and rewarm in a 350 degree F oven for 25-30 minutes, or until warmed through.
Mexican-Inspired Recipe For A Crowd
I love casseroles for the fact that they easily serve a crowd! This recipe generously serves 4 but can serve up to 8-10 people at a picnic, potluck, or party. My friends devour it every time.
When I’m serving up a casserole like this I love baking it off in my Dansk Speckled Bakeware Roaster. Believe it or not, this entire pan can go right from the oven to the table. It’s a collection of bakeware that is perfect for busy people who don’t have time to plate up dinner (who does?!) but want everything to look as nice as possible.
It’s a great crowd-pleasing recipe for all your Cinco de Mayo celebrations, too!
- Use home-cooked poached chicken. I love to poach a big batch of chicken breasts at the beginning of the week so that it’s cooked and ready anytime I am inspired to make a shredded chicken casserole. Add a few aromatics and you have a homemade chicken stock to use in this recipe and throughout the week, too!
- Pull out the cream cheese while you make the sauce. Softened cream cheese is much easier to mix with the remaining filling ingredients. Cut into small cubes to speed up the process even more.
- Broil for extra crispy cheese. After the casserole is fully baked, set it under the broiler on HIGH for 2-3 minutes for a layer of crispy, crunchy, brown-speckled cheese.
- 10 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 jalapeños, deseeded, (1-2 depending on how spicy you want it)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- A handful of fresh cilantro leaves
- .5 lime, juiced
- .5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 3 medium chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
- 1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles
- 1 block (8-ounces) cream cheese, softened
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- 3 cups enchilada sauce
- 12 flour tortillas
- 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- sour cream, optional topping
- diced avocado, optional topping
- chopped cilantro, optional topping
- For the Enchilada Sauce: Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- On a parchment-lined baking sheet, add tomatillos, onion, and jalapeño. Drizzle with olive oil and gently rub each ingredient. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the tomatillos are tender and golden.
- Remove from the oven and set aside.
- In a blender, add roasted tomatillos, yellow onion, 1 jalapeño (reserve 1 jalapeño and taste test before adding the 2nd), salt, cumin, garlic powder, fresh cilantro leaves, lime juice, and broth, then blend until smooth. Taste test for more salt and more spice once blended.
- For Enchiladas: In a medium bowl, mix together shredded chicken, green chiles, cream cheese, quinoa, and ½ cup enchilada sauce. Mix together until creamy.
- At the bottom of a casserole dish, add ¼ cup of enchilada sauce and spread evenly. Layer in 2-3 tortillas, 1 cup of quinoa chicken mixture, ½ cup enchilada sauce, and ½ cup of cheese. Repeat layers until the casserole dish is full. Top the top layer with cheese and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and bubbly.
- Top with a drizzle of sour cream, diced avocado and chopped cilantro.
- Notes: Poach and shred the chicken ahead of time, if desired. The chicken will keep best in an airtight container for up to 5 days.