Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Mexican food: I could eat it all day every day.  Tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, nachos, guacamole and anything with cilantro. By the way, what’s with the people who think cilantro tastes like soap?  Have they ever eaten guacamole without cilantro?  It’s like peanut butter without chocolate; spaghetti without meatballs; gin without tonic.  All good, but the addition of that second component makes it worlds better.  I plan to grow a cilantro plant this summer so I can have fresh deliciousness at my fingertips.  I have a bit of a black thumb though so we’ll see how that turns out.

I found this enchilada casserole in Cooking Light Magazine and had to make it immediately.  I put on the menu for the week and made sure I had all the ingredients.  It seemed like it might be time intensive so I prepared most of the dish the night before and it took less than half an hour the next night.  Time intensive was an under-statement for this dish.  Holy time-suck.  Mostly it was because I was simultaneously making some delicious chocolate-walnut-banana bread so I was in the kitchen for roughly 3 hours preparing this dish and the bread.  A mighty productive night if you ask me!

I used 2 things in this recipe that I don’t usually use, but since they called for it I figured I would follow the recipe.  I used corn tortillas and chicken thighs, where I would usually use flour tortillas and chicken breasts.  Since the corn tortillas absorbed the liquid in the dish, they weren’t as hard as I usually find them to be so I would definitely use them again.  I’m not sold on the chicken thighs though, I’m much more of a white meat kinda gal.  Kevin loves dark meat, though so I promised I would incorporate it more in our dishes.  This is a good place to use the dark meat because there are so many other flavors and textures going on you doesn’t focus on the slimy chicken (blech).

This dish is a little spicy, so cut down on the cayenne if you cant handle the heat.  I kind of wished I cut back because my lips were uber-chapped so they felt like they were on fire while eating it.  But believe me, that didn’t stop me from shoveling bite after bite into my mouth.

This dish is very good and it will definitely be in our rotation.  If you have some already cooked chicken that will definitely save some time in this dish and even make it possible to prepare it the same night as eating it.  So yummy.  It’s already in my Tupperware for tomorrow’s lunch.



Here is the recipe, adaped from Cooking Light:


  • 1 lb boneless chicken thighs
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, divided
  • 1 cup canned corn
  • 1/3 cup (3 oz) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onions, divided
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup salsa
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 fresh jalapeno
  • 9 corn tortillas (6-inch)
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add chicken to pan; saute 4 minutes on each side.  Place skillet in oven; bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes or until done.  Remove chicken from pan and let stand for 15 minutes.   Chop or shred the chicken, and put it in a medium bowl.  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of cilantro, corn, and next 5 ingredients (through black pepper) to chicken and toss to combine.
  3. Return pan to medium-high heat.  Add 1/2 cup onion; saute 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add 3 garlic cloves and saute for 30 seconds, until fragrant.  Add onion mixture to chicken mixture and stir to combine.
  4. Combine remaining 1 1/2 cups onion, remaining 3 cloves garlic, broth, salsa, 1/4 cup water, and jalapeno in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes.  Add 2 tablespoons of cilantro and blend in the pan using an immersion hand blender.  Alternatively, transfer the mixture to a blender and process until smooth.
  5. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 2 tortillas; cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side.  Remove tortillas from pan and repeat procedure with remaining tortillas.  Cut tortillas into quarters.
  6. Spread 1/2 cup salsa mixture in the bottom of an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated in cooking spray.  Arrange 12 tortilla quarters over salsa mixture.  Spoon hald of chicken mixture over tortillas.  Repeat layers, ending with tortillas.  Pour remaining salsa mixture over tortillas; sprinkle evenly with cheddar cheese.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until bubble and lightly browned.  Top with remaining cilantro.

Note: In order to make this a week-night meal, cook chicken and prepare salsa mixture and chicken mixture the night before or on the weekend.  Then, on the night of, heat the tortillas in the skillet, assemble casserole, and bake.  I wouldn’t recommend preparing the entire casserole the night before, because the tortillas will get way too soggy.

Don’t let the long directions discourage you from trying this meal.  It’s super tasty, and totally worth the time.  It’s even better the next day, and I was sorry when we ran out.



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