Southwestern Chicken Casserole

Okay y’all, get ready to spice up your weeknight dinners with this Southwestern Chicken Casserole! It’s a hearty mix of tender chicken, zesty tomatoes, and a hint of jalapeno, all baked on a bed of lime-kissed rice. Plus it’s topped off with a layer of melty cheese and crispy tortilla chips that’ll definitely make your mouth water! SO simple to throw together on any ol’ busy evening, and it packs a punch of flavor that’ll have everyone at the table asking for more.

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A white casserole dish filled with Southwestern chicken casserole, featuring layers of rice, beans, corn, shredded chicken, and melted cheese, garnished with chopped cilantro. Next to it are avocados and lime, with more of the casserole plated in the background

Around my house, we can’t get enough of bold Southwest and Mexican flavors – just ask my family about my Mexican rice or that taco soup I keep making! But lately, I’ve been on a real casserole kick, trying to find the perfect blend of easy and tasty for our busy evenings. So, I thought… Why not mix those yummy flavors into a new kind of dish? And after a few attempts and playing around with just the right amount of sweet and spice, I finally nailed it. This Southwestern chicken casserole recipe came together beautifully, capturing all the zesty and comforting vibes of a Mex-inspired meal, but in a fuss-free casserole form! It’s heaven on earth, y’all.

The Lowdown of This Southwestern Chicken Casserole

Closeup of Jocelyn in pink dress smiling

Cuisine Inspiration: Southwestern/Mexican

Primary Cooking Method: Baking

Dietary Info: It has a little bit of everything! But it can be gluten-free if you use gluten-free tortilla chips

Key Flavor: Zesty and savory chicken with a hint of sweetness and spice

Skill Level: Beginner

Don’t let the ingredients list scare ya off! Even though it looks long, everything on there is super easy to find at your nearest grocery store and won’t break the bank.

This casserole is a complete meal all by itself – just load up your plate! It’s chock-full of proteins and veggies, and that bed of rice makes it extra satisfying. Perfect for those nights when you want something filling but don’t want to make side dishes.

Talk about easy cleanup! Everything for this casserole gets cooked in just one skillet and then baked in a single dish. Less mess and more time to chill.

This southwest chicken and rice casserole reheats like a dream, so it’s perfect for packing up for lunch the next day or for a quick dinner fix. It tastes just as good, if not better!

Ingredients to make Southwestern Chicken Casserole

Overhead shot of ingredients to make Southwestern Chicken Casserole on a white marbled surface before cooking
  • Rice: We start off with some good ol’ long grain white rice! It’s my favorite for this casserole.
  • Liquids for Cooking: You’ll need some chicken stock and a splash of fresh lime juice. If you want to keep things from getting too salty, use low-sodium stock – you can always add more salt, but you sure can’t take it out!
  • Veggies: Dice up some yellow onion and green bell pepper, and toss in some minced jalapeño for a kick. If jalapeños aren’t your style or you want less heat, a mild green chili works great too.
  • Garlic and Spices: Grab a few cloves of garlic, and for the spices, we’re talking chili powder, dried oregano, and ground cumin. These will give your casserole that warm, comforting flavor.
  • Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes: For that nice, smoky flavor.
  • Tomato Paste: Just a bit of tomato paste will help thicken things up and enrich the sauce.
  • Add-Ins: Sweet corn and black beans bulk this Southwestern chicken casserole recipe up. I use canned for convenience, but hey, if you’ve got some cooked beans sitting in the fridge, toss those in!
  • Chicken: Here’s where it gets even easier. I like to use rotisserie chicken because it’s simple to shred and toss into the mix. Plus, it’s flavorful and moist!
  • Fresh Cilantro: For a nice herby pop.
  • Crushed Tortilla Chips: They give that delightful crunch on top. You can go with plain or a flavored variety.
  • Cheese: A good shred of fiesta or Mexican blend cheese melts beautifully and ties all the flavors together.

How to make Southwestern Chicken Casserole

Step 1: bake the rice

  1. Place rice, salt, stock, and lime juice in a baking dish.
  2. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
A step by step image collage on how to make Southwestern Chicken Casserole with adding rice to a baking dish, covering it with foil and baking it

Step 2: cook the casserole mixture

  1. Add oil, onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno to a large nonstick skillet. Season with the remaining salt.
  2. Cook over medium-high heat until vegetables are translucent and softened. Add garlic and spices and continue cooking for a minute.
  3. Stir in diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Let it cook until just a little liquid remains.
  4. Remove from heat. Fold in corn, black beans, chicken, cilantro, and tortilla chips.
A step by step image collage on how to make Southwestern Chicken Casserole with cooking the casserole mixture in a large skillet

Step 3: add the mixture to the baking dish, top it with cheese, and bake

  1. Remove the rice from the oven once it’s par-cooked, and pull back the foil.
  2. Add the chicken mixture to the rice. Recover with foil and bake.
  3. Take out the casserole from the oven once the rice is fully cooked, and remove the foil. Switch the oven to broil, and top the casserole with the remaining tortilla chips and cheese.
  4. Place the casserole under the broiler and broil until the cheese melts. Let it sit for a few minutes, garnish with the remaining cilantro, and serve.
A step by step image collage on how to make Southwestern Chicken Casserole with adding the chicken mixture to the rice, topping it with cheese, and baking it

Tips for making the best southwest chicken and rice casserole

  1. Layer It Evenly: When you’re scooping that spicy, savory mix onto your rice, take a moment to smooth it out. An even layer means every bite’s got a bit of everything, which is just how you want it.
  2. Be Patient, Darlin’: I know boo, it’s tempting to dig right in when that casserole comes bubbling out of the oven (I’ve done it myself a few times), but give it a few minutes to cool down. This lets everything settle nicely, so when you scoop it out, it doesn’t just fall apart.
  3. Eye on the Broil: When you pop that casserole under the broiler, don’t wander off! Those tortilla chips and cheese can go from just right to overdone quicker than you can say “bless ya heart”.
  4. Crunchier Top: If you love a bit more crunch and texture on top of your southwest chicken casserole, don’t be shy with the tortilla chips. Add an extra handful just before it goes under the broiler!
  • Swap the Protein: If you’re not feelin’ chicken tonight, pulled pork or ground turkey can step right in and mix things up. They soak up the spices just as well and make the casserole just as filling AND tasty.
  • Go Green with Veggies: Mix in some spinach or kale for an extra pop of color and nutrients! Just stir it in when you add the beans and corn so it wilts nicely but doesn’t get too soggy.
  • Cheese Variety: Try swapping out the fiesta blend cheese for some sharp cheddar or smoked gouda for a different kind of cheesy goodness.
  • Freshen It Up: A dollop of sour cream or a few slices of avocado on the side not only look pretty but they’ll cool down the spices just a touch and add a creamy texture that complements the hearty ingredients.
  • Zest It: If you’re a fan of a little extra zing, squeeze a bit more lime over your southwest chicken and rice casserole right before you serve it up. Fresh cilantro sprinkled on top doesn’t hurt either!
A plate of Southwestern chicken casserole with half-sliced avocados and cilantro in the background

What to serve with this southwestern chicken casserole recipe

  • This casserole is pretty filling and hearty by itself, but if you want to double the heartiness, Roasted Sweet Potatoes or a skillet of Fried Corn make fantastic sides.
  • Toss up a refreshing Vinegar Coleslaw or a simple Shrimp Caesar Salad. These cool, crisp salads are great to balance the warm spices of the casserole.
  • Since this casserole’s got those Mexican vibes, why not lean into it with some dips and sauces? Whip up some Guacamole, Salsa Verde, or a Chimichurri Sauce. They’re perfect for pre-dinner munching or even spooned right on top of each casserole serving.
  • For a real down-home feel, a side of Pinto Beans or Red Beans could be just da thing. A tasty nod to the casserole’s Southwestern roots!

How to store & reheat Southwestern Chicken Casserole

After your casserole has cooled down, cover it tightly with foil or plastic wrap (or transfer it to an airtight container) and place it in the fridge. This will keep everything nice and moist!

To bring that Southwestern casserole back to life, you can warm it in the oven at 350°F until it’s heated through, which usually takes about 20 minutes. If you’re just reheating an individual portion, a couple of minutes in the microwave will do the trick. E

How long will Southwestern Chicken Casserole last in the fridge?

Safely tucked away in the fridge, your casserole will stay fresh and tasty for up to 3 to 4 days. Just make sure it’s cooled completely before you pack it away to keep things safe and sound.

Can I freeze southwest chicken casserole?

Of course, boo! Just wrap it well in foil or transfer to a freezer-safe container, and it’ll keep for up to 2 months. Then, thaw it in the fridge overnight and reheat it using the instructions above to get that “just-baked” taste.

Overhead shot of a white rectangular baking dish filled with Southwestern chicken casserole, topped with melted cheese and chopped fresh cilantro

Frequently asked questions

Can I make this casserole ahead of time?
Absolutely! You can assemble the entire casserole a day in advance and store it in the fridge, covered. When you’re ready to eat, just pop it in the oven and add a few extra minutes to the baking time since you’re starting from cold.

What can I use instead of tortilla chips for the topping?
Crushed cornflakes or even a sprinkle of breadcrumb mixed with a bit of melted butter can create a delicious, crunchy topping!

What can I do if the casserole comes out too dry?
Make sure you cover it tightly with foil while it bakes to lock in moisture. If it still seems dry, you can stir in a little extra chicken stock before adding your cheese and chips. Easy fix!

A white casserole dish filled with Southwestern chicken casserole, featuring layers of rice, beans, corn, shredded chicken, and melted cheese, garnished with avocado slices and sour cream. In the background there's avocados, tortilla chips and lime

It’s about time to roll up those sleeves and dive into making this Southwestern Chicken Casserole! Packed with juicy chicken, a hint of lime, and just the right amount of spice, it’s a recipe that’s sure to liven up any weeknight. I have a feeling it’s gonna become a regular request at your family dinners, boo!

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Overhead shot of a white rectangular baking dish filled with Southwestern chicken casserole, topped with melted cheese and chopped fresh cilantro, with avocados next to it

Southwestern Chicken Casserole

This Southwestern-Style Chicken Casserole is made with rotisserie chicken, lots of spices and of course cheese! This ain't your lack luster, flavorless chicken casserole that's for sure!
5 from 12 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Course: Main Course
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • ½ cup long grain white rice
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt divided
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup diced yellow onion
  • ½ cup diced green bell pepper
  • ½ jalapeno pepper minced (seeds and pith removed)
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes fire roasted
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ¾ cup sweet corn canned or frozen, drained
  • ¾ cup canned black beans drained
  • ½ rotisserie chicken shredded
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro divided
  • 1 cup crushed tortilla chips divided
  • 4 ounces shredded fiesta/Mexican blend cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Set rack in middle position. Prepare an 8×8 baking dish by spraying with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Place rice, ¾ teaspoon salt, stock, and lime juice in dish. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, add oil, onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Season with remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Cook over medium-high heat until vegetables are translucent and softened about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and spices and continue cooking for 1 minute.
  • Stir in diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Let cook for 2-3 minutes and until just a little liquid remains.
  • Remove from heat. Fold in corn, black beans, chicken, 2 tablespoons cilantro, ½ cup tortilla chips.
  • Once rice is par-cooked, remove from oven and pull back foil. Add mixture to rice. Recover with foil and bake for an additional 25-28 minutes.
  • Once rice is fully cooked, remove from oven and remove the foil. Switch oven to broil. Top casserole with remaining tortilla chips and cheese. Place under broiler, until cheese is melted, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove and let sit for 5 minutes. Garnish with remaining tablespoon of cilantro and serve. Great served with a dollop of sour cream or sliced avocados.

Notes

  • Layer It Evenly: When you’re scooping that spicy, savory mix onto your rice, take a moment to smooth it out. An even layer means every bite’s got a bit of everything, which is just how you want it.
  • Be Patient, Darlin’: I know boo, it’s tempting to dig right in when that casserole comes bubbling out of the oven (I’ve done it myself a few times), but give it a few minutes to cool down. This lets everything settle nicely, so when you scoop it out, it doesn’t just fall apart.
  • Eye on the Broil: When you pop that casserole under the broiler, don’t wander off! Those tortilla chips and cheese can go from just right to overdone quicker than you can say “bless ya heart”.
  • Crunchier Top: If you love a bit more crunch and texture on top of your southwest chicken casserole, don’t be shy with the tortilla chips. Add an extra handful just before it goes under the broiler!

Nutrition

Calories: 324kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 19mg | Sodium: 964mg | Potassium: 350mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1171IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 205mg | Iron: 2mg
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Filed Under:  Casseroles, Chicken, Dinner, Oven

Comments

  1. I have got to admit, I was a little intimidated when I saw how long the ingredients list was. Turns out, I had all of the ingredients! Thank you so much for sharing, it is a new family favorite 🙂

  2. This Southwestern Chicken Casserole is fantastic ! it is full of flavor and texture plus so hearty . This is the type of dish my family loves and they have already asked me to make it again . It looks like this will be in the regular rotation .

  3. Okay, this recipe is going to be on constant rotation in our house. We LOVE Tex-Mex flavors and this casserole hit all the marks: easy (thank you rotisserie chicken), minimal dishes (hello, easy clean-up), and one-pan meal (hallelujah for not having to come up with a side dish). Thanks for another great recipe!

5 from 12 votes

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