I’m pretty sure you’ll love this Mexican Casserole recipe made with baked corn tortillas, shredded cooked chicken, Mexican spices and sauce baked into a cheesy comforting casserole. It is hearty and satisfying Mexican comfort food for the whole family! And it’s so helpful to have as a make-ahead dinner recipe for busy nights.
I originally shared this recipe on March 22nd, 2015. I have updated the text, photos and added a video to make this more useful today.
This recipe today is based on the idea of making a lasagna style casserole, with layers of shredded cooked chicken breast, crispy baked tortillas, enchilada sauce and vegetables all held together with Monterey Jack cheese. It’s sort of like a cross between Chicken chilaquiles and Mexican lasagna!
Ingredients For Mexican Casserole
Full measurements are below in the recipe card.
Soft corn tortillas:
Look for tortillas with a short ingredient list. If you are gluten-free make sure that the type of corn tortillas you buy are not harboring any wheat! I’ve noticed them more and more lately. My favorite corn tortillas are Maria and Ricardo’s.
Avocado oil or organic canola oil:
You can use whatever cooking oil you prefer to cook the filling. I prefer to use Avocado oil because it has a high smoke point, a healthy fat profile and neutral taste.
The onion is the base of the flavors in this recipe. Because we’re not using a salsa, it’s important to use onion in the chicken filling. Purchase a sweet onion, free from signs of rot. Peel and dice it, discarding the core.
Mexican spice blend:
Instead of salsa, the filling for this casserole gets it’s flavor from the Mexican seasonings mixed right into the chicken mixture. I really love the spices from Teeny Tiny Spice Co, but you can purchase any blend you happen to find. Note: If you are going to substitute Enchilada sauce for the Tomato sauce combo, you can omit or reduce the Mexican seasonings to 2 teaspoons.
Adding Baby Spinach helps to bulk up the veggie servings and make this a healthier recipe. I know this sounds crazy but trust me, the spinach melts right into the filling.
If you prefer another type of veggie, like finely chopped mushrooms, bell peppers, or cauliflower rice, you can use that instead. Just keep in mind that this is supposed to be a bulking ingredient to make it lower in calories per volume, so I like to choose a veggie that will cook into the filling and almost disappear.
Sweet corn kernels:
I used frozen corn kernels to add more veggies and make this a complete meal in one. You can just place the corn in a mesh strainer and run warm water over it to thaw it out. Also, if you like you can cut corn off the cob. Check out my Corn Chowder recipe to see how to do that easily.
Use whatever leftover chicken you have on hand. I have been into my instant pot lately and have been using it to make shredded chicken for meal prep. To cook it in the instant pot, I place two chicken breasts (approx one pound) and a half cup of water into the insert. Then I add in a pinch each of salt and pepper. Then I pressure cook it on high for 20 minutes. When it’s done, it shreds beautifully!
You can also poach it like I do in this recipe for Chicken and Biscuit Casserole.
Canned Enchilada Sauce or Canned Crushed Tomatoes Blended with Cider vinegar and Salt
When I originally came up with this recipe, I hadn’t discovered the Hatch Enchilada Sauce I used to make these Easy Chicken Enchiladas. So I did a work around of using the above mentioned Mexican seasoning in the chicken filling and then just doctored canned crushed tomatoes with some cider vinegar and salt. This works great, and if you can’t find the hatch brand I still recommend doing this. Also, if you have kids, know that the tomato sauce version is more mild.
If you use the enchilada sauce, do not add vinegar and salt, and drop the Mexican spices to 2 teaspoons (or omit them all together for a more mild casserole.) Use 3 1/2 cups sauce in place of the tomato combination.
Note: if you are salt sensitive, you can make homemade Enchilada sauce using the method in this Layered Chicken Enchilada Casserole recipe.
Monterey Jack cheese
The Monterey Jack cheese helps to hold the layers of the chilaquiles-style casserole together. I love the way it melts so well! Use 6 ounces, and shred it using the larger shredding holes on your box grater.
Scallions and cilantro for garnish
I always love to add a bit of freshness to the top of my casseroles, and to finish recipes. Today I used cilantro, but if you have scallions, they’re also great on top and add great flavor.
How To Make This Mexican Casserole
Bake the Tortillas
To get that classic crunchy tortilla flavor without all the extra fat and calories, you first need to bake the corn tortillas.
- Cut them into wedges. I cut mine into 6 wedges each. Just stack up two or three and cut them across into pie shapes.
- Lay them out onto an ungreased baking sheet and pop them into a 350 degree oven.
- Bake them until they’re just starting to harden and brown. This takes anywhere from 12 to 16 minutes.
Make The Healthy Chicken and Vegetable Filling
To make this a complete meal with protein and veggies you’ll also need to make the chicken filling. To do so follow these steps:
- Cook the onion in oil. This will be the backbone of the flavor profile. Cooking the onion helps to mellow an sweeten the flavor of the onion.
- Add Seasoning to hot onions and oil. The heat will help the volatile compounds in the Mexican spices bloom into the oils in the onions. This will carry the flavors through the filling and make the most of your ingredients.
- Add remaining filling ingredients. Last add in the spinach, chicken and corn and cook it until the filling is hot and the spinach is wilted. If you use peppers or mushrooms like I mentioned above, cook them with the onions before adding in the chicken and corn as they will take a bit of time to cook down to blend into the filling.
Make the Tomato Mixture
If you’re using canned enchilada sauce, you can skip ahead. If you’re using canned tomato, all you have to do is cut the can open and pour in the vinegar and salt and stir it together right in the can!
Next you’ll layer the casserole. But before you do… make sure your oven is preheated and coat your casserole dish with cooking spray. You’ll want a casserole dish that is roughly 9 by 13 or classic lasagna sized.
- Spread tomato sauce or enchilada sauce in the bottom of the casserole dish. You only need a half cup. This layer is used to moisten the tortilla chips and to prevent the casserole from sticking to the bottom of the casserole dish.
- Top the sauce with one third of the baked tortilla chips. Spread them out evenly.
- Add on about half of the chicken filling.
- Top the chicken with 3/4 cup of the tomato sauce and about 1/2 cup of the cheese.
- Repeat with half of the remaining tortilla chips, all of the remaining chicken filling, 3/4 cup sauce and 1/2 cup of cheese.
- Lastly, top the casserole with the rest of the tortilla chips and the rest of the tomato sauce. Hold off on the cheese so it doesn’t stick to the parchment/foil as it is baking.
Bake The Casserole
- To heat the casserole through and melt the cheese, and prevent the top from drying out, cover the casserole with parchment then foil.
- The parchment prevents the tomato sauce from reacting with the foil.
- The foil traps in the heat and makes it heat more evenly, quickly and without drying out the top.
- Bake the casserole for 30 minutes so that it is heated through.
Add Cheese On Top
To finish the recipe, remove the parchment and foil and top it with the remaining cheese. Then let it bake for another 10 minutes to melt the cheese.
Make Ahead and Meal Prep Tips For Mexican Casserole
This recipe can be made ahead for meal prep. To do so follow instructions through step 4. Cover and refrigerate up to 2 days in advance. To finish, continue with step 5 but initially baking it for 45 minutes instead of 30 to warm it through before topping it with cheese.
To reheat this recipe in the microwave: Cut individual servings and transfer to a microwave safe plate. Tent with parchment and microwave for 1 minute 45 seconds on high power. (Microwave cooking times vary depending on your machine.)
To reheat this recipe in the oven: Cover the casserole dish with parchment and foil and bake until the center of the casserole is hot.
Check That is is Hot with a Thermometer: Use an instant read thermometer to check the center. It should be over 150 degrees F.
Without a thermometer: slide a knife into the center of the casserole, and hold it for a moment. If the knife comes out hot, the center of the casserole is hot!
How To Serve This recipe
- Wait for several minutes before serving so that the casserole doesn’t burn your mouth.
- Top it with scallions and cilantro for fresh green yumminess. I also like a squeeze of lime too!
- Cut it into six squares as you would a lasagna.
What To Serve with this recipe
- I love this Mexican Coleslaw recipe for busy nights. It goes so well with pretty much any Mexican main dish. The crunch is great!
- You could make some Instant Pot Mexican Black Beans or just heat up some canned refried beans for an even easier option.
- Make a batch of classic guacamole and Mexican Street Corn saute for a veggie heavy meal.
- For a convenient make ahead option my Mexican Bean Salad or my Mexican Corn Salad with Jalapeno Cilantro dressing are so yummy and also good made ahead.
More Chicken Recipes To Try:
White Chicken Chili: this is a slow cooker recipe and has a freezer to crockpot option as well.)
Honey Mustard Chicken: if you’ve wondered what to do with chicken thighs, this is a great recipe to get started with.
Garlic Herb Marinated Chicken: this is one of my go-to ways of giving flavor to chicken breast. You’ll love the mess free technique!
Sheet Pan Chicken and Broccoli Supper with Honey Sriracha Sauce: This one pan recipe is also great for meal prep too! We love having it portioned for easy to heat and eat lunches.
This baked Mexican casserole recipe is made with tortillas, chicken, cheese and tomato sauce. It’s a healthy version of the Mexican comfort food casserole.
- 6 6-inch soft corn tortillas, cut into wedges
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil or organic canola oil
- 1 sweet onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons Mexican spice blend
- 2 cups finely chopped baby spinach
- 1 cup frozen sweet corn kernels, thawed
- 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, 6 ounces
- Freshly chopped scallions and cilantro for garnish, optional
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray
- Lay tortillas out on two baking sheet. Bake until just starting to harden and brown in spots, 12 to 16 minutes. Remove from the oven.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often until softened and starting to brown, 6 to 10 minutes. Stir in Mexican spice blend and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in spinach, corn and chicken and cook, stirring until heated through, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Open can of tomatoes, and stir in vinegar and salt. Spread about ½ cup of the tomato in the bottom of the baking dish. Layer a third of the tortillas over the sauce. Top with half of the chicken and corn mixture. Pour ¾ cup of the tomato mixture over the chicken and sprinkle with ½ cup cheese. Repeat with another layer of tortillas, the remaining chicen and corn mixture, ¾ cup sauce and ½ cup cheese. Top with the remaining tortillas and sauce.
- Cover with foil and transfer to the oven. Bake the casserole until heated through, steaming and bubbling around the edges, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove foil and top with the remaining ½ cup cheese and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling, 8 to 10 minutes.
If you do not have leftover cooked chicken you can use Rotisserie chicken or you can cook it using either of these two easy methods:
To Cook Chicken Breast in an Instant Pot
- Place two chicken breasts (approx one pound) and a half cup of water into the insert of the Instant Pot.
- Add in a pinch each of salt and pepper.
- Pressure cook it on high for 20 minutes. Carefully turn vent to release steam. Remove lid and remove the chicken from the liquid. Shred with two forks.
To Cook Chicken Breast on the Stove Top
- Place chicken breast in a medium saucepan and cover completely with cold tap water. Place over high heat and bring to a simmer.
- Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, turning in the poaching liquid occasionally until the chicken is no longer pink in the center and cooked through, 15 to 18 minutes, depending on thickness of the meat.
- Remove the chicken and shred with two forks.
- Serving Size: 1/6 casserole
- Calories: 399
- Sugar: 9 g
- Fat: 16 g
- Saturated Fat: 6 g
- Carbohydrates: 29 g
- Fiber: 5 g
- Protein: 35 g