Tuesday, July 8

Mexican Chicken & Rice Casserole

Easy. Flavorful. Yummy... those are the descriptions that I thought of after taking my first few bites of this new dish. I heart American-Mexican food. Sometimes I think casseroles get a bad rap. In the past they were something I avoided like the plague because they were all made with the same canned, sodium filled, preservative-laden ingredients. I definitely grew up on casseroles, but as an adult my goal is still to enjoy food just in a healthier way. I have been able rework some of my favorites like tuna casserole, by making my own white sauce and using that in the place of a can of cream of whatever. 

Like most casseroles - I love their flexibility, make ahead-ability, and transferability. You can throw almost any vegetable or cheese in casseroles - gotta love that. They can be made a few days ahead, stored, then baked the night you need them. They are excellent for giving to someone who just had a baby or was in the hospital. Throw some foil on it and put it in a bag and take it to any potluck, friend's house, work function. Maybe its just the cheese talking... But there is just something about a casserole that means you care about them.

Mexican Chicken & Rice Casserole
Feeds 4 people 
prep + cooking time = 1 hour
Slightly adapted from cookbook: 

3/4 cup of rice (I used long grain white)
small handful of chopped cilantro probably 3-4 Tbs
1 Tbs oil
4 chicken thighs (I used skin on, bone in, and just removed the skin before cooking)
1/2 jar of your favorite salsa (I used mild)
1 cup of shredded/grated cheddar cheese
1 cup of shredded/grated creamy gouda cheese 
1/4 cup of mild green chilies, chopped

optional: chips (used scoops tortilla chips made eating fun)
optional: avocado or guacamole
optional: sour cream or thick creamy greek yogurt 

Note: Next time I will use boneless thighs just for more kid-friendly option. It was difficult for my kiddo to navigate around the bone. I did like how moist the meat was - bone in meat is definitely easier to cook. Next time I will use brown rice instead of white for more flavor, and add in some corn just for color and and fun. Corn is really best in the summer. 


In a pot parboil the rice. Fill the pot with water and turn it on medium. Once the water is boiling start cooking the rice and simmer the rice over medium low. After 10 minutes drain the rice from the water and set it aside. 

While rice is cooking, prep your baking dish by spraying nonstick spray into it or spreading butter throughout. 

While the rice is cooking also start the chicken. In a medium sized pan pour in the oil and swirl it around, and put the chicken in. Over medium heat, brown the chicken for 3 minutes on the first side. After turning the chicken over, pour the salsa over each piece and continue cooking for another 3 minutes. The chicken should be golden but will be still raw in the middle. 

Put the almost finished rice, half of the cilantro, and green chilies in the baking dish. Smooth it out to create a flat surface. 

Top the rice mixture with half of the cheese. 

Top the cheese with the chicken pieces. 

Top the chicken with the remaining cheese. 

Cover the entire dish with foil and bake at 350 for 40 minutes

Take the foil off and return it to the oven for an additional 5 minutes. 

Top the cheesy golden dish with the remaining cilantro. 

Serve with chips, guacamole, sliced avocado, sour cream... whatever sounds good




  1. This looks like such a great weeknight meal!

    1. Thanks. Yes it is and thankfully has pantry ingredients that are easy to keep on hand whenever chicken goes on sale.


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