THIS ENCHILADA CASSEROLE is everything you love about enchiladas in easy casserole form – a quick and simple meal the whole family will love!
This chicken enchilada casserole recipe is the epitome of Mexican comfort food and about to become a new repeat favorite! It’s easy, creamy, bursting with flavor with the BEST homemade green chile sour cream sauce (without any cream soup)! This layered chicken enchilada casserole delivers all the creamy, cheesy enchilada goodness without assembling and rolling up every individual tortilla which saves you at least half the prep time. And bonus, by layering the ingredients, you get stacks of flavor and texture. To make this chicken enchilada casserole recipe, rotisserie chicken is enveloped in a homemade creamy green chile sour cream sauce then layered between corn tortillas and cheese then baked to gooey perfection to create a mountain of saucy flavor and texture in each satisfying bite. This green chicken enchilada casserole can be made ahead of time, refrigerated then baked when ready for the ultimate make-ahead dinner! If you have never had chicken enchilada casserole before, prepare to fall in love!
Enchilada Casserole Recipe
It’s safe to say I am obsessed with enchiladas. From my crazy popular Salsa Verde Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas, to my Jalapeno Chicken Enchiladas to my Barbacoa Beef Enchiladas to my Enchiladas Verdes to my Breakfast Ham and Cheese Enchiladas – I can’t get enough! But you know what is even better? My favorite Creamy Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas in easy layered chicken enchilada casserole form!
REASONS TO LOVE Enchilada Casserole Recipe:
- DELICIOUS. Both my green chilie chicken enchiladas and now this enchilada casserole were inspired by my favorite chicken enchilada casserole growing up. Whenever I saw my mom start cutting up corn tortillas, I got giddy. My childhood favorite began with a base of cream of chicken soup mixed with milk, sour cream and green chiles to create the sauce. I’ve kept the creaminess of the original with a perfected homemade cheesy, creamy white sauce infused with green chiles and salsa verde that takes them over the top.
- FLAVOR! Many green chicken enchilada casserole recipes rely on one can of green chiles for the flavor but I found that when I combined the homemade white sauce with both green chiles AND salsa verde, we achieve a flavorful tang that cuts through the creaminess with tons of flavor AKA pure Mexican comfort food at its most obsessive worthy.
- QUICK AND EASY. In addition to being unapologetically delicious, this chicken enchilada casserole is way faster than assembling enchiladas! I’ve combined both the chicken and the beans into the sauce to eliminate extra layering steps so now all you have to do is repeat these layers a couple times: creamy chicken layer, tortilla layer and cheese layer then bake to spectacular bubbly goodness.
- VERSATILE. You can follow this green chicken enchilada casserole recipe as written, or mix it up with different beans, different veggies such as corn/zucchini/bell peppers, swap the cheese and even make it with ground beef!
- MAKE AHEAD. This enchilada casserole recipe can be completely assembled up to two days ahead of time then just popped in the oven at dinnertime – you will be loving life.
- FREEZER FRIENDLY. You can prep this chicken enchilada casserole to freeze or double the recipe and enjoy one now and freeze one for later.
INGREDIENTS FOR GREEN CHICKEN ENCHILADA CASSEROLE RECIPE
What chicken is best?
You can use either rotisserie chicken or make your own shredded chicken with chicken breasts, or chicken thighs.
- Rotisserie Chicken: is my first choice because it is a mixture of light and dark meat so it’s extra juicy and flavorful. It is also beautifully tender, delicately seasoned and delicious plain, so it makes a fabulous starting point for this green chicken enchilada casserole recipe. I like to purchase rotisserie chicken from Costco because you get almost twice the amount of chicken on one bird for the same price. You can portion the chicken into sandwich bags and freeze so you’re ready to make this enchilada casserole at a moment’s notice! I always stock shredded rotisserie chicken in my freezer and it’s a huge time/last-minute-dinner saver.
- Chicken Breasts or Thighs: You can make your own shredded chicken with either chicken breasts or chicken thighs so you can always make this enchilada casserole recipe with whatever chicken you have on hand – they will just require the extra step of cooking the chicken. Chicken thighs will give you juicer, more flavorful shredded chicken, but chicken breasts will work as well. I’ve included instructions below on how to make our own shredded chicken.
What Goes in enchilada sauce?
- Butter: use unsalted butter so we can control the salt. You may replace the butter with your favorite oil if you prefer.
- Olive oil: use quality olive oil for the best flavor.
- Aromatics: the complexity of the flavor profile begins with the aromatics. You will need ½ cup chopped onion and 4 garlic cloves. If you’re having a lazing cooking day (no judgement here!) then you may substitute with 1 teaspoon onion powder and 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
- Flour: is used to thicken the sauce. You may use gluten free flour.
- Chicken broth: use low sodium chicken broth so we can control the salt.
- Salsa verde: you can use my amazing Homemade Salsa Verde recipe, your favorite recipe or store bought. For store bought, I like mild Herdez.
- Chopped green chiles: these come from a can and add a subtle tang to the ground beef tacos. Take care you choose MILD chopped green chiles because the hot can is HOT. Mild green chiles, however are more tangy than hot so you don’t have to worry about them making your beef tacos spicy.
- Sour Cream: is a must in my book for the ultra-creamy enchilada sauce and slightly tangy undertones. Full fat sour cream melts easier than nonfat, but you can certainly use nonfat with this knowledge. For full disclosure, I have not tried this chicken enchilada casserole recipe with Greek Yogurt. I am sure it can be used but will offer a tangier flavor profile.
- Seasonings: in addition to the aromatics, green chiles and salsa verde, this green chicken enchilada casserole recipe is seasoned with ground cumin, chicken bouillon, salt and cayenne pepper. We need robust seasoning to cut through the creaminess and the richness of the sauce. The cayenne pepper is optional for those who like a little kick. If you aren’t sure you want to add it, then taste your sauce first, keeping in mind the flavors will mellow when combined with the beans, chicken and layered with the tortillas.
- Beans: I LOVE the addition of pinto beans to the creamy enchilada sauce. They add an irresistible textural creaminess that complements the enchilada casserole without fighting it. You may also substitute with black beans but they don’t offer the same creamy satisfaction. If you choose black beans, I would simmer them with the sauce so they soften a bit.
What CHEESE IS BEST?
Freshly grated Monterrey Jack cheese is creamy, buttery and melts beautifully. It is milder than cheddar so it enhances and complements the creamy green chile sauce without distracting from it. Please use freshly grated cheese because pre-shredded packaged cheeses use anti-clumping chemicals which prevent them from melting as well.
What TORTILLAS ARE BEST?
Enchiladas can usually be made with corn or flour tortillas but for this layered chicken enchilada casserole recipe, you will want to use corn tortillas. Their sweet corn flavor is a delectable complement to the green chili sauce, but most importantly, corn tortillas hold up better layered in between the sauce.
For all of my taco recipes, I highly recommend La Tortilla Factory corn tortillas because they are thicker and don’t tear, but for this green chicken enchilada casserole, however, I find them a little too thick. Instead, save your money and quality tortillas for when they’re not smothered in sauce and use any corn tortillas from your grocery store.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN SHREDDED CHICKEN
This green chicken enchilada casserole recipe is swimmingly easy with rotisserie chicken but if you don’t have it on hand and need this enchilada casserole NOW, you can easily make your own shredded chicken. You will need approximately 1 ½ pounds of chicken or 2-3 chicken breasts depending on their size.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add chicken and cook 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown on one side.
- Flip chicken and add 1 1/2 cups chicken broth.
- Cover and reduce heat to medium and simmer 10 minutes, then flip chicken over and continue to cook 5-10 minutes (thighs will take less time) or until chicken is cooked though and tender enough to shred. Add additional chicken broth or water if the liquid absorbs before the chicken is cooked through.
- Cooking time will vary depending on thickness of chicken and actual temperature. If your chicken does not shred easily, then continue to cook, adding additional broth/water if needed.
- Remove chicken from skillet and let rest 5 minutes before shredding.
HOW TO MAKE ENCHILADA CASSEROLE
Step 1 – Char tortillas
- Charring the tortillas over an open gas flame is optional but adds a subtle roasted corn flavor which is sublime. You can char the tortillas days in advance and store them in an airtight container at room temperature.
- To lightly char tortillas, use tongs to place tortillas directly on the burner of your gas stove then flip with tongs once they are lightly charred in spots on one side. You can also accomplish this on the grill as well.
- Don’t “over-char” the tortillas or they will become brittle and break. You still want the tortillas soft and pliable.
- I usually have multiple burners going so this process can be done in minutes.
- When tortillas are cool enough to handle, cut in half with a pizza cutter, scissors or knife. Cutting them in half helps them layer a bit more evenly.
Step 2 – Make sour cream enchilada sauce
- Start by melting butter in olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan then sauté onions for 3 minutes. If you are feeling lazy, like I often am, then you may substitute the onion with 1 teaspoon onion powder. Just add it with the rest of the spices.
- Next, sprinkle in some flour and garlic and cook for 2 minutes (it will be thick) to get rid of the raw flour smell. Reduce heat to low and slowly whisk in chicken broth, followed by salsa verde, green chiles, chicken bouillon, ground cumin, salt and cayenne pepper. I find the 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper has a mild kick but not overly spicy. If you aren’t sure how much you want to add, then simply add a little, then you can add some more to taste after you add the sour cream.
- Bring the sauce to a boil then reduce to a simmer until thickened. Stir in your luscious sour cream and watch the sauce change from green to creamy white before your eyes.
Step 3 – Layer casserole dish with sauce
- Before we add the chicken and beans to the sauce, remove ½ cup enchilada sauce and spread it evenly in the bottom of the prepared baking dish (it will be thin).
Step 4 – Finish Sauce
- Now that we’ve layered the bottom of the dish with plain sauce, stir in in chicken and beans. By combining both the chicken and beans with the sauce, we eliminate extra layering steps – yay for saving even more time!
Step 5 – Assemble Enchilada Casserole
- TORTILLA LAYER. Layer 10 tortilla halves onto bottom of the sauce, with the straight cut edges flush against the sides of the pan, then fill the center with the other halves.
- CHICKEN LAYER. Top evenly with 1/3 of the saucy chicken mixture.
- CHEESE LAYER. Top with 1 cup shredded cheese.
- REPEAT LAYERS. Repeat with another layer of tortillas, 1/3 chicken mixture, and 1 cup cheese. Finish with final layer of tortillas, remaining chicken mixture and remaining 1 cup cheese.
Step 6 – Bake
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15-20 more minutes to golden bubbly deliciousness!
- Remove pan from oven and garnish with desired toppings.
CHICKEN ENCHILADA CASSEROLE VARIATIONS
- Add vegetables: I’ve included pinto beans, but you can add black beans, corn, zucchini, red bell, tomatoes, spinach, olives, jalapenos, etc. You will need to reduce the amount of chicken to make up for the extra volume of veggies so the chicken enchilada casserole is saucy enough.
- Add rice or quinoa. Stir in cooked rice or cooked quinoa directly into the sauce for added texture. Again, you will need to reduce the amount of chicken or swap the rice for the beans so the enchilada casserole stays saucy.
- Swap protein: Although this recipe is called “Chicken Enchilada Casserole,” the seasonings and ingredients work well for ground beef, ground turkey, and ground chicken as well.
- Swap cheese. Use more or less cheese – and when I say “more or less,” I, of course, mean more. You can also swap the type of cheese but be aware this will change the flavor profile. If you love spicy, consider using Pepper Jack cheese (you might want to omit the cayenne pepper in this case).
- Make it lighter. Replace the butter with oil and the sour cream with Greek yogurt. I prefer sour cream but if you love Greek yogurt, it is a good healthier alternative. It is a 1:1 substitute but be aware it will deliver a tangier end result.
- Spice it up. If you love heat, you have quite a few options to spice up this enchilada casserole: 1) add cayenne pepper to the sauce, 2) add hot sauce to the sauce, 3) sauté 1-2 seeded, minced, chopped jalapenos with the onions, 4) sauté chopped chipotle pepper with the garlic, 5) swap the Monterrey for Pepper Jack. Alternatively, you can allow everyone to control the spice level of their own portion by passing around a bottle of hot sauce.
WHAT TOPPINGS FOR CHICKEN ENCHILADA CASSEROLE RECIPE?
- Tomatoes: quartered cherry tomatoes or seeded, chopped Roma tomatoes or skip the plain tomatoes and use pico de gallo.
- Pico de gallo: is fresh tomato salsa that adds a vibrant, punchy freshness. You can use my homemade pico de de gallo recipe or store bought. You can make the pico de gallo ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving.
- Cilantro: if you skip the pico de gallo, you can load on fresh cilantro and tomatoes instead for a fresh, zesty flair.
- Avocados: chopped or sliced avocados or my favorite guacamole recipe I shared in my Street Tacos recipe.
- Salsa: Salsa verde is a natural choice or black bean corn salsa, avocado salsa, or charred corn salsa add delightful texture.
- Hot Sauce: pass around the hot sauce so individuals can customize the heat.
WHAT SHOULD I SERVE WITH EASY CHICKEN ENCHILADA CASSEROLE?
This easy chicken enchilada casserole is the main event and doesn’t need much of a supporting cast, but I always love serving it with rice and some sort of fruit. Here are a few side ideas:
- Rice. First and foremost, you will want to serve enchilada casserole with some sort of rice or rice alternative to soak up the saucy goodness and to offer textural juxtaposition. Plain rice is excellent because the casserole is so flavorful or cilantro lime rice is excellent as well. You may also swap the rice for quinoa cauliflower rice.
- Salad. This creamy layered chicken enchilada casserole benefits from the contrast of a bright, fresh salad. You can go as simple as a green salad and toss in some crushed tortilla chips or go big with southwest salad, or corn salad.
- Vegetables. You can jam all your veggies into the salad or serve salad along with or in addition to elote (Mexican Grilled Street Corn – AH-mazing) grilled corn on the cob, baked asparagus, roasted broccoli, roasted cauliflower, roasted Brussels sprouts or roasted butternut squash.
- Fruit: keep it simple and serve this easy enchilada casserole with your favorite fruit such as pineapple, cantaloupe, or grapes or amp it up with any of these fabulous options: pina colada fruit salad, fruit salad with honey lime vinaigrette, grape salad, winter fruit salad, or caramelized grilled pineapple.
CAN CHICKEN ENCHILADA CASSEROLE RECIPE BE MADE AHEAD OF TIME?
Yes! You can make this chicken enchilada casserole recipe ahead of time for an easy bake and serve dinner! Just note that the longer the enchiladas are refrigerated, the softer the tortillas will become so it is a good idea to either char the tortillas or better yet, use thicker tortillas like La Tortilla Factory.
- To make ahead, prepare enchiladas according to directions, cover tightly with foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
- When ready to cook, bake according to recipe directions, increasing the baking time (with the foil on) by approximately 10 minutes or until the casserole is hot and bubbly and completely heated through.
- You can also prep all of your toppings ahead of time by chopping and storing in airtight containers or baggies. The guacamole (if using) will keep for up to a day without changing color very much – just make sure to press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the guac to prevent oxidation.
HOW LONG IS GREEN CHICKEN ENCHILADA CASSEROLE GOOD FOR?
Green chicken enchilada casserole should be tightly covered in plastic wrap or foil or transferred to an airtight container. When stored correctly, this enchilada casserole is good for up to 5 days. Of course, always use your best judgment.
HOW TO REHEAT LAYERED CHICKEN ENCHILADA CASSEROLE?
This layered chicken enchilada casserole reheats exceptionally well both in the oven and in the microwave.
- OVEN: cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
- MICROWAVE: you can also reheat individual servings in the microwave by transferring to a microwave safe plate and microwaving for 60 seconds. Continue to microwave at 20 second intervals until heated through.
CAN I FREEZE EASY ENCHILADA CASSEROLE?
Yes, you may freeze this easy chicken enchilada casserole, just be aware that the tortillas will become mush softer. Just like make-ahead enchilada casserole, it is a good idea to char the tortillas or use thicker tortillas like La Tortilla Factory if you plan on freezing.
TO FREEZE ENCHILADA CASSEROLE:
- Let enchilada casserole cool completely (or freeze before baking).
- Wrap casserole securely with plastic wrap, then with aluminum foil.
- Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
- When ready to eat, thaw chicken enchilada casserole completely in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
- Bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15-20 more minutes, until the cheese is melted and heated through.
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