Cheesy Mexican chicken quinoa casserole is loaded with black beans, tomatoes, corn and peppers, plus plenty of cheese, for a delicious and healthy family dinner! (It’s also gluten-free and easy to make ahead!)
This post is sponsored by the American Dairy Association Mideast. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
We had a weekend full of birthday parties! 🎉
First up was my son's 6th birthday party. We had it at a trampoline park and invited his whole TK class from this past year.
They were running and jumping all over the place and had so much fun together! ❤️
Then later on Saturday, my husband headed up to a nearby lake for my friend's 40th birthday party shindig.
We had such a great time hanging out with friends in the backyard pool house, sipping on drinking, enjoying some catered BBQ and celebrating Dianne, who I love, adore and admire so much.
But after all the cake and celebrations, I'm more than ready to get back to some homecooked meals.
I recently shared my cheesy Mexican stuffed chicken breasts and I've got a different way to enjoy those yummy flavors to share with you.
Today’s recipe for this cheesy Mexican chicken quinoa casserole is one you are going to want to have on hand for back-to-school season.
It’s loaded with chicken, quinoa, black beans, tomatoes, corn and peppers, plus plenty of cheese both mixed in the casserole and sprinkled on top.
It’s a seriously delicious and also healthy chicken casserole that’s perfect for a family dinner.
(Plus, everyone can add their own favorite toppings to make it special just for them. I’ve got tons of ideas later in the post.)
Cause yes, I know things get busy this time of year, but it’s still so important to have family meals together whenever possible.
It’s a great way to spend time together, to decompress at the end of the day, to share stories and to get in some healthy foods.
Plenty of studies show, too, that family mealtime is really helpful for kids’ emotional and physical development.
And for me, it’s important to be able to control what’s going into our bodies.
Home cooking and scratch-made meals are always healthier in my mind because we can control the ingredients and limit the amount of sodium and fat. Not to mention, skipping over those additives that come in packaged foods and some restaurant fare.
(The American Dairy Association agrees. Read more about why home-cooked meals are the best.)
And no worries if you can’t pull off a home cooked meal every night. Just do the best you can because every little bit helps.
But OK, let’s talk cheesy chicken casseroles!
Tender pieces of chicken, fluffy quinoa, the colorful and yummy combination of black beans, tomatoes, corn and peppers plus the perfect blend of spices go into this yummy casserole.
Some of the cheese is folded into the mixture and the rest goes on top to get nice and melty and bubbly.
Everyone will be cheering come dinnertime!
And because we love the cheese, let’s talk a little more about the cheese in this recipe.
As is, this recipe has 1 cup of shredded cheese mixed into the casserole mixture and another 1 to 1 ½ cups sprinkled over the top of the casserole in the baking dish.
The cheese on the inside helps get it evenly distributed while the cheese on the outside gives it a nice, melty cheesy top.
You can use shredded sharp cheddar cheese like I do or you could substitute Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese for this recipe.
Want to make this extra cheesy?!
Add up to ¼ cup of cream cheese into the mixture in the pan, before adding the quinoa, stirring to get it melted. It’ll give a really great creaminess to the casserole.
And don’t forget, one serving of milk, cheese or yogurt provides nine essential nutrients, including eight grams of high quality protein. So bring it on!
(Side note: Getting enough dairy is also an easy, convenient, cost-effective and delicious way to help all of us stay full longer, kids and adults alike. 👍)
Now, I’ve got some notes and substitutions and make-ahead tips coming up for this recipe. Just tryin’ to be helpful.
If you want to jump on down to the recipe, simply scroll right on through the rest of the text. The recipe card is near the bottom of the page, above the comments section.
Notes on cheesy Mexican chicken quinoa casserole:
- I use a white quinoa for this recipe but you could use a mix or red quinoa if you prefer.
- We prefer black beans in this recipe but you could try pinto beans as well.
- The corn is optional and you can certainly leave it out. Also, feel free to use fresh corn, sliced off the cobs, frozen corn that’s been thawed or canned corn that’s been drained. Whatever ya got!
- I use a regular can of diced tomatoes, but fire-roasted diced or a Mexican-flavored canned diced tomato would work well too.
- As mentioned, you can use shredded sharp cheddar cheese or you could substitute Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese for this recipe.
- Use the full 2 ½ cups of shredded cheese if you want to make it extra cheesy and get plenty of melty cheese on top.
Have some leftover cooked quinoa on hand?
Definitely use it for this recipe. It’ll make it even quicker to prepare! You’ll need about 3 cups of cooked quinoa.
What chicken can I use in this casserole?
- A store-bought rotisserie chicken, chopped into ½-inch or so pieces, works great for this recipe.
- You can also use leftover grilled or roasted chicken.
- Or you can use raw boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Cut them into ½ inch pieces and season lightly with salt and pepper. Add them to your skillet along with thee onions and peppers and sauté until cooked through, about 6-8 minutes.
And since we are talking back-to-school mode, I want to make sure you know that you can easily prep this recipe ahead.
You could do that earlier in the day or up to a couple of days before.
Make-ahead notes for chicken quinoa casserole:
- You can prep the entire casserole ahead of time. Just let the casserole cool before adding the top layer of shredded cheese. Then cover it with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and store it in the refrigerator.
- When you are ready to bake it, take the casserole out of the fridge as you preheat the oven. This helps it come a little closer to room temperature.
- Add an extra 5-10 minutes of baking time (for a total of 20-30 minutes). You’ll know it’s ready when the cheese is melted and the mixture is hot and bubbly.
(Everything in the casserole is already cooked, so you don’t need to worry about undercooked chicken or quinoa. Gotta love that.)
Let’s bring this baby home now.
Cause of course you guys know I’m ALL about the toppings and can’t leave you without some ideas for those!
Toppings for this healthy Mexican casserole:
- Sliced or diced avocado
- Dollop of plain nonfat Greek yogurt or sour cream
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Fresh or jarred salsa
- Hot sauce or pickled jalapeños 🌶
Add any or all and let everyone pick their favorites.
So there you have it! An easy, cheesy chicken dinner that’s perfect for back-to-school — and anytime of year!
And a great way to gather the family together around the table to share a meal. ❤️
(Oh, and the leftovers are divine for lunch the next day. See, you’re totally winning at life!)
I hope you give this a try and let me know what you think in the comments below.
P.S. Check out these other cheesy chicken dinners for more inspiration:
- Cheesy chicken meatballs (Family Food on the Table)
- Cheesy fiesta grilled chicken (Family Food on the Table)
- Cheesy chicken pasta (Inside Bru Crew Life)
- Smothered cheesy sour cream chicken (A Dish of Daily Life)
- Cheesy chicken pasta with zucchini and peas (Family Food on the Table)
- Chicken breasts with jalapeño cheese sauce (Family Food on the Table)
- 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small sweet onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups rotisserie chicken, chopped (see notes)
- 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 cup corn (frozen, canned or fresh; optional)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne (or sub black pepper for less heat)
- 2 - 2 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese (or Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese), divided
- Optional toppings: sliced avocado, sour cream or Greek yogurt, chopped fresh cilantro, pico de gallo or salsa, hot sauce or pickled jalapeños
- Heat oven to 350. Grease an 9x13 casserole dish with cooking spray.
- Cook quinoa according to package directions. Fluff and stir in ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt once it’s finished cooking.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and peppers and sauté for 4-5 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and sauté another minute.
- Add chopped chicken and the black beans, tomatoes, corn and spices. Stir until well combined and warmed through, about 2 minutes.
- Add the cooked quinoa and 1 cup of shredded cheese and stir well to mix. (If your pan isn’t big enough, you can do this in a large bowl.)
- Add the quinoa chicken mixture to the greased casserole dish. Top with remaining 1 to 1 ½ cups of shredded cheese.
- Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving to let it set up completely.
- Serve with desired toppings and enjoy!
Want to make this extra cheesy? Add up to ¼ cup of cream cheese into the mixture in the pan, before adding the quinoa, stirring to get it melted. It’ll give a really great creaminess to the casserole.
I use a white quinoa for this recipe but you could use a mix or red quinoa if you prefer.
We prefer black beans in this recipe but you could try pinto beans as well.
The corn is optional and you can certainly leave it out. Also, feel free to use fresh corn, sliced off the cobs, frozen corn that’s been thawed or canned corn that’s been drained.
I use regular diced tomatoes, but fire-roasted diced or a Mexican-flavored diced tomato would work well too.
You can substitute Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese for the cheddar cheese in this recipe if you prefer.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 510Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 13gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 106mgSodium: 850mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 7gSugar: 6gProtein: 38g