A Healthy Mexican Chicken Casserole that is full of lean protein, plenty of veggies, and tons of flavor! Not only is this Mexican dinner delicious, it is an all-in-one dinner recipe, everything is cooked together in one pan- including the rice.
Every layer of this dish is seasoned with the delicious flavors of Mexican cuisine. The base of this casserole, the rice, is herbed with cilantro, and then cooks in the enchilada sauce for an added layer of flavor. The chicken is seasoned with chili powder, garlic powder, salt & pepper. Then the veggies are tossed in a delicious chili lime vinaigrette, giving it a bright and fresh note. The queso fresco, added at the end, imparts just the right amount of salty cheesiness. Every bite will be full of bright flavor.
Tips for Making Mexican Casserole
Since this is an all-in-one dinner recipe, there are a few tips I want to share make sure your Mexican casserole turns out perfectly:
- Use the store-bought red enchilada sauce that you love! I happen to love Target’s Market Pantry Mild Red Enchilada Sauce because it has the perfect vinegar tang that I love. But any red enchilada sauce will do.
- Cover your casserole pan tightly with foil. You cannot skip this step, it is what allows the rice to cook. If you do not have foil- either go to the store or make another recipe, like this veggie enchilada recipe, it has a lot of the same ingredients but doesn’t need foil to bake.
- Let the casserole sit for about 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven. You may notice there will be a little extra liquid in the pan when it is done cooking. It will absorb and thicken as it sits.
What Rice to Use in your Casserole
A lot of casseroles call for the rice to be cooked before you assemble. I am not interested in pre-cooking rice before I even start making dinner!! So for this recipe the rice will cook right in the casserole dish along with the veggies and chicken.
It is SUPER important that you get the correct rice for this casserole! You will want to look for a rice that is parboiled, like Minute Rice, meaning that it is already half cooked. (This recipe was tested using Uncle Ben’s Parboiled White Rice and Minute Parboiled Brown Rice) It will be near the regular dry rice in the grocery store. It will say “parboiled” specifically on the package ingredients. Instructions for white or brown parboiled rice are included below.
By using parboiled rice it is able to cook alongside the chicken and veggies without any component over cooking.
Note: I have not tested this recipe with regular dry rice, the instructions are only for parboiled rice.
If you are not looking for a casserole, but instead want true enchiladas, you can check out these recipes too:
- My Favorite Chicken Enchiladas
- Creamy Verde Chicken Enchiladas
- Veggie Enchiladas with Chili Lime Crema
- Enchilada Zucchini Boats
Healthy Mexican Chicken and Rice Casserole Recipe
Healthy Mexican Chicken and Rice Casserole
- 1 cup par-boiled (minute) white or brown rice This recipe is written for par-boiled rice!! standard dry rice will not cook the same!! (tested with Uncle Ben’s White Parboiled Rice, and Minute Brown Rice)
- 1 T cilantro, chopped
- 2 fresh, boneless skinless chicken breast, cut in half lengthwise giving you 4 thin chicken breasts
- season chicken with: chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper
- 1 10 oz can red enchilada sauce divided
- 1 cup **chicken broth (optional, can use water instead)
- 1 cup fresh bell pepper, diced any color
- 1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup frozen corn
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved about 15-20
- 1 cup (heaping) fresh zucchini, 1/2-1 inch dice
- 4 green onions, white and light green parts chopped
- 1/2 small jalapeno, diced **optional can use more if you like the heat!
- Queso Fresco crumbled
- 1 T Olive Oil
- zest of 1 lime
- 2 T fresh lime juice (1-2 limes depending on size)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp chili powder
- lime wedges, extra cilantro, guacamole, or fresh diced avocado
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
- In a large bowl mix together the peppers, beans, corn, tomatoes, zucchini, green onions, and jalapenos. Set aside.
- Whisk together all the ingredients for the lime vinaigrette and pour over the veggie mixture. Set aside.
- In a 9×13 glass baking dish pour the par-boiled dry rice evenly over the bottom, sprinkle with the chopped cilantro. Lay the seasoned chicken breasts over the rice. Mix 1 cup of the red enchilada sauce with 1 cup chicken broth (or water). Pour that around the chicken into the rice, then shake the pan or shimmy the chicken a little to get the liquid to all the rice.
- Pour the seasoned veggie mixture over the top of the chicken and pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the veggies. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.((NOTE: YOU MUST cover the pan with foil or your rice will not cook through!! This step is not optional)) Remove the foil and bake for additional time- 10 minutes if using white rice or an additional 15 minutes if using brown rice, until the liquid is absorbed into the rice and the chicken is cooked through and reaches 165 degree internal temp.
- Let the casserole sit for 10 minutes before serving. Crumble Queso Fresco over the top of the chicken and veggies.Serve this Healthy Mexican Casserole garnished with cilantro, lime wedges, or guacamole!