My deliciously cozy chicken tortilla casserole is layered with lots of bold, zesty flavors, and is mouthwateringly hot and bubbly fresh out of the oven. Filled to the brim with shredded chicken, rice, pinto beans, a homemade, fire roasted tomato and corn sauce, plus a layer of crispy corn chips and melted cheese, it's a hearty yet comforting meal with some zip to warm belly with!
Cozy Layers of Deliciousness in a Chicken Tortilla Casserole
Sometimes, there's nothing more delicious when it comes to a home cooked meal than going “all out” and preparing a nice hot casserole, utterly loaded with layers of zippy ingredients and topped with melted ooey-gooey cheese.
The thought of it makes my mouth water and my tummy rumble, and then I immediately think of my chicken tortilla casserole, which fits this delicious description perfectly…
A while back my hubby and I came up with the idea for this comforting chicken casserole when we were hungry and brainstorming what kinds of tasty ingredients would sound good layered into a large baking dish before being topped with one of our favorite guilty pleasures: Fritos corn chips and cheese!
The idea of those crushed, crispy corn chips crumbled over top of a hot and bubbly casserole filled with shredded chicken, cooked rice, pinto beans, some diced red bell peppers and corn sounded super inviting. And then tying it all together with a quick, slightly spicy and as bit smoky fire roasted tomato and corn sauce really sealed the deal for us.
This chicken tortilla casserole is just the dish to layer up and serve as a comforting, warming and hearty southwest-inspired meal, filled to the brim, not only with all sorts of scrumptious morsels, but with lots of love too!
How to Make Chicken Tortilla Casserole with Bold, Zesty Flavor
Whipping up this mouthwatering chicken tortilla casserole simply requires gathering up a few tasty ingredients, and simmering up the quick and zesty sauce to spoon in between the layers.
For this sauce, I use good quality canned fire roasted tomatoes, as well as some diced onion, spices, corn kernels, chipotle and some cilantro. It's simmered up and ready in just 5 to 10 minutes, and adds lots of bright flavor to this casserole recipe.
I also add in cooked and shredded chicken, and for this I simply use rotisserie chicken for convenience. I'll either shred the chicken with my fingers or cut into small dices, and have it ready to sprinkle in.
Cooked rice is also part of the casserole “party” here, and I'll typically start things off by simmering up some jasmine or basmati rice (my personal faves) and setting it aside until ready to assemble.
The rest of the ingredients I like to add consist of corn tortillas (to create those layers), diced red bell pepper, corn kernels, and of course, lots of mozzarella and cheddar cheese, plus those corn chips!
Here's a sneak peek at my chicken tortilla casserole recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe...)
- To get the party started, I'll cook my rice (about 1 ½ cups of dry rice) according to package instructions, and set it aside to become room temp/warm, and have on hand for assembly.
- Next, I simmer up my quick fire roasted tomato and corn sauce, and keep that warm.
- To layer the chicken tortilla casserole, I use a medium-large baking dish, and begin by adding a small amount of my sauce to the bottom; then, I add a few corn tortillas to create a base.
- Next, I begin the layering process by adding some more sauce, followed by about half of the rice and shredded (rotisserie) chicken, then some pinto beans and corn, plus diced red bell pepper; I sprinkle on about ⅓ of my mozzarella/cheddar cheese as well.
- Then, I repeat with another layer just as above; only this time, when I sprinkle over the cheese, I go a little lighter.
- To top it all off, I sprinkle over the crushed corn chips followed by the rest of the mozzarella/cheddar cheese.
- Finally, I bake the casserole at 350° for roughly 35 to 40 minutes, then garnished with some green onions and serve with leftover fire roasted tomato and corn sauce on the side.
Chicken Tortilla Casserole
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 8
Nutrition Info: 934 calories per serving
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
- 4 cups cooked rice
- 8 corn tortillas (or a couple more, depending on pan size)
- 4 cups cooked, shredded chicken (rotisserie is perfect)
- 1 (15 ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups corn kernels
- 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
- 2 cups whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded or grated
- 1 cup (heaping) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded or grated
- 2 cups corn chips, roughly crushed (Fritos or Fritos-style corn chips are ideal)
- 1 tablespoon chopped green onion, for garnish
Fire Roasted Tomato and Corn Sauce ingredients: Ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- Pinch or two salt
- Pinch or two black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
- 1 chipotle pepper, chopped
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
- 2 cups corn kernels
- ¼ cup cilantro leaves
- 1 tablespoon honey
- To prepare enough rice to yield the (roughly) 4 cups cooked rice needed, use 1 ½ cups dry rice and follow the instructions on the package for cooking; once cooked, fluff and set aside.
- While the rice is cooking, prepare the fire roasted tomato and corn sauce: place a medium-size pot over medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 2 tablespoons of the oil; once hot, add in the onion, plus a pinch of salt and pepper, and saute it until it softens for a few minutes; then add in the cumin, the garlic and the chipotle, and stir those together allowing them to become aromatic.
- Add in the fire roasted tomatoes, the corn, the cilantro, and the honey, and allow the sauce to gently simmer for only about 5 to 10 minutes; then, check the seasoning and add more salt/pepper, if needed.
- Puree the mixture until fairly smooth; set aside and keep warm.
- To prepare/assemble the chicken tortilla casserole, preheat the oven to 350°, and lightly mist a medium-large, slightly deeper casserole or baking dish with cooking spray.
- Add about 1 ½ cups worth of the tomato sauce to the bottom of the baking dish, and top with a layer of about 4 (or more) of the corn tortillas, overlapping them slightly and even cutting one or two half in order for them to fit snuggly and cover the bottom.
- Add about another 1 ½ cups of the sauce over top of the tortillas, smoothing it out, and then half of the rice and then half of the cooked, shredded chicken.
- Sprinkle over about half of the pinto beans and corn kernels, plus about half of the diced red bell pepper, as well as about a third of the grated/shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.
- Repeat this layering once again by adding the remaining corn tortillas (overlapping), more of the sauce, the rest of the rice and then chicken, and the rest of the pinto beans, corn, and diced red bell pepper.
- Sprinkle over another scant third of the cheese, and then sprinkle over the crushed corn chips, followed by the rest of the mozzarella/cheddar cheeses over top of the chips.
- Bake uncovered for about 35 to 40 minutes, until the cheese is melted and gooey; garnish with the green onions and serve with some of the leftover sauce on the side if someone would like extra.
Tips & Tidbits for my Chicken Tortilla Casserole:
- Rotisserie chicken, a terrific short-cut: If you already happen to have about 4 cups of cooked chicken on hand and ready to use, then great! Otherwise, I recommend using a rotisserie chicken for this recipe, which I personally love to do. Good quality rotisserie chicken saves cooking time, and lends lots of juicy flavor!
- Fragrant rice options: Feel free to use regular white rice in this recipe, if that's what you have on hand. But if you'd like to add more flavor and aroma, use either basmati or jasmine rice, both favorites of mine.
- Homemade sauce, or store-bought: The flavor of this super easy fire roasted tomato and corn sauce is very zesty and zippy, and it really only takes a small list of ingredients and a few minutes of time. However, if you'd prefer to use a store-bought tomato sauce, feel free. Choose a sauce that has complimentary flavors, or even jazz it up a little yourself with some cumin, cilantro and corn kernels.
- Mozzarella and cheddar, for flavor and delicious melt: Whole milk mozzarella is my favorite to use, as it melts really well, nice and evenly. I also like to combine that with some cheddar cheese for a touch of sharp flavor. Feel free to use just one of these, if you prefer, as either is fine.
- Perfect corn chips to use: For this recipe I'd recommend good ol' Fritos corn chips, or a similar type of corn chip. (I happen to really love the organic “corn chip dippers” from Trader Joe's—they're almost identical to Fritos.)
Craving more super cozy recipes? Check out these Lasagna Roll Ups, this Baked Ziti, this Stuffed Chicken Breast Southwest Style, these Chicken Nachos, or these Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Chili Cheese!
Cook's Note: This recipe was originally published in 2016, and has been updated with even more love!
This looks amazing, thanks! I'm so glad to see no canned enchilada sauce 🙂
The Cozy Apron
Thanks, Christine! Yes, the sauce is quite simple, so there's no reason to not make it from scratch. 🙂
Thank you Ingrid for the lovely recipe.
The Cozy Apron
Thank you, Liz!
Thank you for this great recipe! 🙂 I made this the other night but replaced the rice with quinoa to try to offset the guilt of the cheese, and replaced the chicken with shredded jackfruit to make it vegetarian friendly and it was AWESOME!! The leftover sauce is so good with tortilla chips, too!
The Cozy Apron
Hi Liz, your substitutions sound great! Glad you enjoyed this, and the leftover sauce, as well!
What size pan do you need to make this in. I’m going to make this for our church party.
The Cozy Apron
Hi Sharon, my baking dish was roughly 12 x 8 x 2 1/2 . Hope that helps, and happy cooking to you!
Made this the other night and it definitely is a repeat worthy recipe! The sauce is very balanced in its flavors and pairs well with the layers of filling. Very excited to make it again!
The Cozy Apron
Hi Cara, thanks so much for commenting! Thrilled you enjoyed the recipe! 🙂