I started making this mildly spiced, flavorful chicken enchilada casserole when my husband was still an active-duty soldier. It gave me respite because it was efficient, make-ahead, and freezer-friendly.
Chicken enchilada casserole is a shortcut version of the classic chicken enchilada dish. Instead of filling and rolling individual tortillas with juicy, shredded chicken, you assemble in layers á la lasagna.
A homemade red enchilada sauce with aromatics and a pinch of secret ingredients might seem like a laborious recipe, but you’ll see it’s simple to prepare and comes together quickly. The enchilada sauce coats soft corn tortillas to form the base of this casserole. Layered with cheesy Monterey Jack, you’ll find the same classic enchilada flavors you know and love.
Tips and Tricks
- Dipping the corn tortillas in the enchilada sauce ensures your casserole will have that tasty flavor throughout. Just pour the enchilada sauce in a wide, shallow bowl and use your fingers or tongs to slide the tortillas in and out of the sauce.
- If you prefer a lighter enchilada sauce coating, allow the excess sauce to drip off the tortilla before arranging it in the baking dish and skip pouring over the remaining sauce. I’m pro-enchilada sauce, so I transfer my tortillas while they’re still sopping with it.
Swaps, Substitutions, and Variations
- I prefer chicken thighs because, to me, they’re more flavorful than breasts are. You can swap the thighs out for boneless, skinless chicken breasts, however.
- Use your favorite cheese or a combination of cheeses in place of the Monterey Jack cheese in the recipe.
- Replace the homemade enchilada sauce with canned enchilada sauce. You’ll need 24 ounces of canned red enchilada sauce.
- Replace the shredded chicken with leftover shredded turkey.
- Make this a “Christmas Enchilada Casserole” by using both red and green enchilada sauce. Dip the corn tortillas in both, alternating between the two. Pour bands of red and green over the top of the assembled casserole to create the green and red look of this New Mexican favorite.
You can assemble this chicken enchilada casserole a day in advance and store it in the fridge, covered.
If you prefer to freeze it for a future meal:
- Assemble the casserole as instructed and wrap the baking dish in a couple of layers of plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
- Freeze the chicken enchilada casserole for up to 2 months.
- Thaw the casserole in the fridge overnight or for 24 hours and bake as instructed.
Make It the Best Enchilada Night Ever!
- Spanish Rice
- Refried Beans
- Pico de Gallo
- The Best Guacamole
- Arroz Verde
Preheat the oven to 350°F:
Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray, or use a pastry brush to give the dish a light layer of vegetable oil.
Season the chicken:
Sprinkle the taco seasoning over the shredded chicken in a medium mixing bowl. Add the chicken stock to the bowl and use a pair of tongs to toss the chicken in the seasonings. The chicken should be evenly moistened and coated with taco seasoning.
Add the drained black beans to the chicken and use the tongs to toss them with the chicken.
Layer the casserole:
Pour 2 1/2 cups of the enchilada sauce into a pie dish or wide, shallow 1 1/2-quart mixing bowl.
Dip 8 corn tortillas into the enchilada sauce in the bowl, one at a time, ensuring each is evenly coated in the sauce. Line the bottom of the prepared baking dish with the dipped tortillas, overlapping them slightly to completely cover the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the shredded cheese over this layer of tortillas.
Spoon half of the shredded chicken mixture over the cheese in an even layer. Top the shredded chicken with another 3/4 cup of the shredded cheese.
Repeat the dipping and layering process once more. Top with 8 more sauce-coated tortillas.
Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the top of the assembled casserole. Sprinkle the last of the cheese over the surface and cover the baking dish with aluminum foil.
Bake the casserole:
Bake the casserole for 25 minutes, covered. After 25 minutes, carefully remove the foil and bake until the cheese is completely melted and starting to brown, another 10 to 12 minutes.
Cool slightly, then garnish and serve:
Allow the casserole to cool for 10 to15 minutes. Use a spatula to cut the casserole into 8 squares. Serve the chicken enchilada casserole garnished with sour cream, chopped cilantro, diced red onions, and jalapeño slices.
Refrigerate cooled leftovers in a covered container for up to 3 days.
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