Chicken enchilada casserole is a family favorite meal that is so easy to make. Chicken, enchilada sauce and cheese are baked until it’s all golden brown and delicious.
This chicken enchilada casserole recipe is the perfect family meal to enjoy without the fuss of rolling tortillas. If you like easy casserole meals, check out my collection of best zucchini casserole recipes.
🌟 Foolproof Chicken Enchilada Casserole
This recipe is based on the America's test kitchen enchiladas recipe.
Unlike most enchilada recipes that use corn or flour tortillas, this enchilada casserole is much easier to prepare without needing any high-carb tortillas and ready to eat in under 1 hour.
This easy chicken enchilada casserole is packed with delicious flavors of spicy green chilies, tomatoey red enchilada sauce, a delicious shredded chicken mixture, and lots of melty cheese.
It's made with half the ingredients found in most chicken enchiladas, making it budget-friendly and perfect for a busy weeknight meal. Plus, it can be prepared in advance for busy parents when time is limited.
Low carb chicken enchilada casserole is versatile and can be made with fresh or cooked chicken, as well as making your own enchilada sauce or using canned from the grocery store to help save on prep time.
Nobody in your family will be able to resist this delicious meal for lunch or dinner, and it tastes even better the next day for meal prep.
🍽 Key Ingredients
This is a fairly simple recipe that only needs essential pantry ingredients to prepare the mixture.. You can almost consider this a base recipe and change it up to your taste.
Chicken - We're using fresh boneless chicken breast for the chicken mixture.
Enchilada sauce - Use homemade enchilada sauce for a fresher taste or buy a canned variety from the store.
Cheese - For the chicken mixture, we're adding queso fresco because it's crumbly and salty, and for the cheese layers, a strong flavored cheese like cheddar cheese is required to add layers of flavor.
Chilies - Fresh or canned green chilies work fine with this recipe. Use as much as you like depending on how hot you want your enchiladas.
Herbs - A small amount of fresh cilantro mixed into the chicken mixture gives it an aromatic citrus flavor.
You can use any leftover shredded chicken from a previous dinner or a rotisserie chicken instead of fresh chicken breast without changing the flavor.
If you don't have any cilantro on hand, you could use freshly chopped parsley instead as a close substitution.
Instead of queso fresco, you could opt for feta cheese as an equal substitute and Colby or Monterey jack cheese instead of cheddar for a similar flavor and melting qualities.
Remember, cheese is "all ok", so it is good to keep some of your favorites handy.
- Oaxaca: 10 points melting, 10+ elasticity
- Manchego: 10 points melting, 9 points elasticity
- Monterrey Jack: 9 points melting, 7 points elasticity
🔪 How to make
Chicken enchilada casserole is a delicious and super easy family dinner recipe to make in under one hour. The prep work is fast, and you can learn how to make it with my step-by-step instruction and helpful cooking tips.
- Chop the cilantro and chilies.
- Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (220 degrees Celsius).
Combine the chicken and enchilada sauce in a medium saucepan & simmer for 10-15 minutes over medium-low heat.
Then flip the chicken over, cover, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes until the chicken reaches 160-165 degrees with an instant-read thermometer.
Remove chicken from pan and shred into bite-sized pieces. In a bowl, combine shredded chicken, the remaining enchilada sauce, queso fresco, chiles, and cilantro. Add salt and pepper if desired.
Spray a square casserole dish with olive oil (or use a brush) and coat the entire bottom and sides. Evenly spread 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese on the bottom of the dish. Add the chicken mixture.
Then add the other cup of cheddar cheese on top. Cover with foil and bake for about 10 minutes.
Remove foil to melt and brown cheese a bit for another 3 to 5 min. and voila. Mexican enchiladas of the day! Be careful when removing from the oven.
Now slice some avocados, green onions, and chopped cilantro to garnish.
Once on the table, add a small bowl of sour cream to pour over your enchiladas. A delicious addition!
💭 Cooking Tips
If you're busy in the evenings and want to just pop a delicious recipe in the oven when you don't have time to prepare a meal, you could easily prepare this 1 day in advance and store it covered in the fridge, ready for baking.
Use block cheese
For better texture, buy the block of cheddar cheese rather than pre-shredded cheese. Packet shredded cheese from the grocery store comes with a coating that doesn't melt the same as freshly grated cheese, nor does it have the same smooth consistency.
⭐ Best Store-bought Enchilada Sauces
When it comes to enchiladas, the sauce is paramount. This single ingredient is the soul of all enchiladas. Here are the two best store-bought enchilada sauces!
Red Enchilada Sauce
The BEST red enchilada sauce is Rosarita enchilada sauce. This red tomato-based enchilada sauce dominates the kitchen and is loved by all. An authentic enchilada sauce with a hint of spice (mild heat) and is bold, zesty, and exactly what you'd expect.
The BEST green enchilada sauce is Old El Paso's mild green enchilada sauce. This green tomato enchilada sauce beats other notable brands like Las Palmas and La Victoria. At the end of the day, this sauce has an authentic taste, with just a touch of heat, and packed with flavor.
Whatever enchilada sauce you choose, these proven red and green enchilada sauces have you covered.
📖 Recipe Variations
This low-carb chicken enchilada casserole is versatile and can be made to suit everyone's taste buds while using this recipe. Try some of these additions to mix it up.
This recipe works just as well with ground beef, Italian sausage, ground turkey, or even shrimp.
Feel free to add extra veggies like black beans, olives, chopped bell peppers, onion, and garlic.
Upgrade your chicken enchiladas with corn tortillas, and roll the chicken mixture inside. Use these classic america's test kitchen chicken enchiladas for inspiration.
This enchilada casserole uses red enchilada sauce as it's slightly sweeter green enchilada sauce, but you can use whichever suits your taste buds. Both have the same flavor, just that the color is different and green chilies are hotter than the red variety.
🥗 What to serve with
Chicken enchilada casserole is a typical Mexican dish with other Mexican side dishes like rice, nachos, Pico de Gallo, or guacamole. Here are some easy taste creations to serve with these delicious enchiladas.
Keep the carbs to a minimum with this easy avocado salad with cucumber, lime juice, and fresh cilantro for a pungent, light, creamy side dish.
If you want to have some crunch and are not bothered about a few extra carbs with your meal, try out these crunchy baked tortilla strips for dipping in the melty cheese.
Mexican rice is a staple dish in any Mexican household. Although it can be tricky to replicate the same authentic taste, the same cannot be said about this low-carb option of fragrant cauliflower rice with garlic, lime, onion, and cilantro. It's delicious and ready in just 15 minutes!
🙋 Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between red and green enchilada sauce?
Both sauces have a similar flavor, the only difference is how it's prepared and the color of chili used. The red chilis are riper and sweeter in flavor, whereas green chilis are slightly hotter and have a more herbaceous aroma.
Do you cook corn tortillas before making chicken enchilada casserole?
Yes, the corn tortillas need to be softened before you can roll them. Otherwise, they will break. You can soften them in a frying pan with a bit of oil or cooking spray for 10 seconds on each side.
🧊 Storing and ♨️ Reheating
This easy chicken enchilada casserole is perfect for storing and eating the following day and tastes even better once the flavors infuse.
Fridge - Transfer any leftover chicken enchilada casserole to an airtight container, cover the baking dish in aluminum foil, and place it in the fridge for up to two days.
Freezer - Once the low-carb chicken enchiladas have cooled completely, transfer the leftovers to a freezer container and freeze them for up to 3 months. Alternately, if you want to freeze unbaked chicken enchilada casserole, assemble the contents into a large aluminum tray, ready for baking.
Reheating - The quickest way to reheat leftover enchiladas is to microwave them for 1 to 2 minutes on full power until piping hot (may require longer for frozen leftovers. Or you can preheat an oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until hot.
🍳 Related Enchilada Recipes
Save one of these amazing enchilada recipes for dinner! My favorite is the ground beef enchiladas.
👪 Serving Size
This chicken enchilada casserole makes 5 servings and feeds 4 people. Given this is a casserole dish and super easy, you could double or triple this recipe to cater to more guests. I always make two casseroles to freeze one for the following week and save myself time.
So without further ado, below is the recipe. You won't even miss the tortilla!
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Chicken Enchilada Casserole
- 1 ½ cups enchilada sauce - store bought or from scratch
- 1 cup finely crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese
- 1 can (4 oz) green chiles (chopped)
- ½ cup minced fresh cilantro
- olive oil spray - or you can use olive oil in a little bowl with a brush
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- salt & pepper
- lime wedges - optional
- sour cream - optional
Meat Options (pick one)
- 1 pound boneless chicken breasts - skinless, trimmed, and pounded if necessary
- 1 pound ground beef - or leftover roast beef
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.
- Combine the chicken and enchilada sauce in a medium saucepan & simmer for 10-15 minutes over medium-low heat. Then flip the chicken over, cover and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes until chicken reaches 160-165 degrees with an instant-read thermometer.
- Remove chicken from pan and shred into bite-sized pieces. Combine shredded chicken, the enchilada sauce, queso fresco, chiles and cilantro in a bowl. Add salt and pepper if desired.
- Spray a square casserole dish with olive oil (or use a brush) and coat the entire bottom and sides.
- Evenly spread 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese on the bottom of the dish. Add the chicken mixture, then add the other cup of cheddar cheese on top. Cover with foil and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 3 to 5 minutes to melt the cheese.
- Serve with optional lime wedges and optional sour cream.