Easiest Chicken Enchilada Casserole
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
I’m so taken by this chicken enchilada casserole recipe, because it’s extremely simple and incredibly flavorful, unlike so many other enchilada recipes I’ve attempted previously. It was originally published in the WSJ’s “Slow Food Fast” column and it comes from Chef Spike Gjerde of Baltimore’s Woodbury Kitchen.
Here’s the gist: After you make the sauce—a mix of broiled onions and garlic, canned tomatoes, and chipotles in adobo that simmers for 7 minutes—you layer it lasagna-style with tortillas, cheese, chicken, scallions, and cilantro. Twenty-five minutes in the oven, and it’s done. That’s it! There’s no frying of the tortillas, no dipping of the tortillas in sauce, no stuffing and rolling—there’s nothing that might keep you from making enchiladas as often as you would like.
Once you make enchiladas lasagna-style, it’s hard to go back. Here you get all the same goodness — tortillas layered with sauce, cheese, meat, and vegetables — without the hassle the traditional preparation demands.
This recipe is endlessly adaptable to your tastes and preferences. I love it with kale and mushrooms, too.
PS: Vegetarian Tortilla Casserole
PPS: Vegetarian Bean and Cheese Enchiladas
The sauce starts by broiling onions and garlic for 3 to 4 minutes:
Then you simmer them with canned tomatoes and chipotles in adobo sauce:
After 7 minutes of simmering, it looks like this:
And is ready to be puréed:
This sauce is so good. Very spicy. It’s great with kale and mushrooms, too.
Poach a few chicken breasts as the sauce simmers, then shred them:
Time to asssemble!
Ready for the oven!
25 minutes later, dinner is served!
Easiest Chicken Enchilada Casserole Recipe
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: serves 6 to 8
Adapted from Spike Gjerde’s recipe for Smoky Chicken Enchiladas in the WSJ.
- Tortillas: I am partial to tortillas made with a mix of flour and corn. Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s both sell tortillas made with this blend, but use whatever you like. If you prefer all corn, use all corn. If you prefer flour, use all flour.
- Heat level can be amped up by adding a tablespoon of the chipotle in adobo sauce. If you are sensitive to heat, I wouldn’t use more than 1 chipotle in adobo.
- If you don’t want to poach chicken breasts, you could use rotisserie chicken, which is what the original recipe calls for.
- A nice vegetarian option: sautéed kale and mushroom.
- 2s mall boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 yellow onion, cut into wedges
- 6 cloves garlic
- Kosher salt
- one 28-oz can whole, peeled tomatoes
- 1 to 2 chipotles in adobo, see notes above
- 14 corn tortillas, see notes above
- 9 ounces grated cheese, such as Monterey Jack or sharp Cheddar
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 6 scallions
- Preheat the broiler to high. Place the chicken breasts in a small pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer, then cover the pan and remove it from the heat.
- Place onions and garlic on a small sheet pan and season with salt all over. Broil until well charred in spots, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from broiler and set aside. Set oven temperature to 425 degrees.
- Place tomatoes, charred onions and garlic, ½ cup water, and 1 to 2 chipotles in adobo (depending on heat tolerance, see notes above). Bring liquid to a simmer and cook until onions soften, about 7 minutes. Off heat, use a handheld blender or food processor to purée to a thick, smooth, uniform sauce, taking care with hot liquid. Set sauce back over low heat and gently simmer to keep warm.
- Remove chicken from poaching liquid and set on a plate to cool. Once cool enough to handle, pull chicken into shreds. Coat bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with a thin layer of sauce. Arrange a single layer of tortillas over sauce, trimming edges to fit. Add chicken to the pot with the remaining sauce.
- Spoon a thin layer of sauce/chicken over tortillas and top with a loose layer of grated cheese. Sprinkle over some cilantro and scallions. Continue layering tortillas, sauce, cheese, scallions, herbs until dish is nearly full. End with a layer of tortillas, a layer of sauce and a final layer of cheese. You should have three layers of tortillas.
- Bake enchiladas on top rack of oven until cheese topping bubbles and browns in spots, 15-20 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and scallions and serve immediately.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: Mexican
Keywords: enchiladas, chicken, casserole, cinco de Mayo, lasagna-style
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
33 Comments on “Easiest Chicken Enchilada Casserole”
I love the no roll approach, as the tortillas always seem to crack for me. Also, I made your Lemon Semolina cake last night. Absolutely amazing. It’s gone, not even crumbs on plate remain 🙂 Thanks for all the yummy recipes!
Me, too! In the one bad experience that I referenced, the tortillas cracked and the whole process just didn’t go smoothly. So happy re lemon-semolina cake … love that one so much 🙂 🙂 🙂
Can I make a day ahead or best to prepare and serve the same day? Love your recipes! I am on an #alexandracooks steady diet.
Thank you Amy! Sorry just getting to these comments here … I’m faster responding over on Food52 🙂 Glad we resolved things over there. (For anyone else reading here, we concluded that maybe these should be assembled last minute though all of the individual elements can be prepped ahead.
Thank you! I like the idea of serving enchiladas for dinner, but then I think of the work involved and make tacos or fajitas instead — the juice just ain’t worth the squeeze.
Woodberry Kitchen is incredible in every respect — menu, atmosphere, and decor –if you ever get the chance to go!
Oh Ann, I have heard such great things! I need to go.
And your thought process re enchiladas has been mine for years — this is why I love this recipe so much. It’s so easy and so good. Hope you are well!
Just dropping in to say that I finally got around to making this a few weeks ago and it was a big hit. I’m making a batch tonight and to make life a little easier, I doubled the sauce and froze half for next time. I also cheated and picked up a pack of pulled rotisserie chicken from Costco — I’ll use half the pack and freeze the rest. I’ll be serving this up with some Rancho Gordo “Moro” beans, made in InstaPot!
I’ve been on a pressure cooker butter chicken kick lately and I think part of my next batch will have to become Butter Chicken Enchiladas. Freaking genius.
Wendi, hello!! Yes, you must. Do you love your pressure cooker? Should I get one? Or an instant pot? Butter chicken anything sounds genius 🙂 Hope you are well!!
Made this last night! It was awesome! I think because of the homemade sauce, it actually tastes pretty “fresh” and unprocessed, unlike a lot of other mexican food. Additionally, I added corn, black beans and mushrooms for some extra veggies and variation in texture. I also used my slow cooker to make the chicken, since I was able to do that ahead of time. Will definitely be making again!
Yay! So happy to hear this, Erin! All of your additions sound lovely. Slow cooker chicken will be so nice, too.
I made this for dinner last night and it was delicious. My husband, who is the true cook in the house, loved it. Thanks for giving us a keeper!
So happy to hear this, Susan! I’m loving all variations of this one 🙂
Nothing beats a 1 pan meal! These looks awesome and I am eager to try making homemade enchilada sauce. Thanks for the recipe!
Amazing recipe (and photos!)! We don’t have chipotle in adobo here in Greece, but we’re thinking to try it out using roasted red peppers and a pinch of smoked paprika. Does that sound like something that could work ? Sorry in advance, for asking this, the recipe calls for chipotle in adobo, we know (but we really want to try out this recipe):)
Greetings from sunny Athens, Greece!
Mirella and Panos
Hi! So sorry for the delay here: Yes! I think your roasted red pepper idea + smoked paprika is a great idea. Wish I were in sunny Athens with you!!
One other thought: do you have dried ancho chiles? The original recipe calls for covering 2 dried ancho chiles in hot water, letting them sit until they soften, then puréeing them with the other vegetables.
Hello! How long do you think the sauce would keep in the fridge? Or do you think you could make it ahead and freeze until ready to use? We’ve already made these once and loved them, thank you for the great recipe! I’m excited to experiment with filling variations as summer vegetables come to market.
Amy, so sorry for the delay here, and good question: I’m afraid I don’t know! I sort of think you’re on to something with the freezing. And perhaps baking it straight from the freezer as well? I think we emailed/comment-exchanged about this, but I worry about the tortillas getting soggy in the fridge if left assembled for too long. The freezer might be the solution to non-soggy tortillas with the bonus of make-ahead capabilities. I’m excited to experiment with summer flavors as well.
This looks delish! My family would love it without it being spicy. How would I change it to be mild and not spicy? I’m hoping to make it tomorrow.:)
I would maybe leave out the chipotles in adobo. You could add some smoked paprika or cumin instead for flavor and smokiness. That should do it!
I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting this to be wonderful, but it certainly turned out well. I just needed a quick casserole because I didn’t think about a Cinqo de Mayo menu until about 2:30pm this afternoon. I followed the recipe without variation. Corn tortillas and only 1 extra tbsp. of the chipotle sauce. This recipe was fast, easy and delicious. Next time, and there will be a next time, I’ll add corn and beans and more chipotle sauce and enough to make two pans, one to freeze. Thanks.
So happy to hear this, Marji! I made these this weekend, too, using spinach in place of the chicken. Love the idea of adding more chipotle sauce!
Very easy and delicious! Thank you for another winning recipe that is now on the dinner rotation! 🙂
Wonderful to hear this, Kathleen!
Made this tonight and thought it would be a “project” to make the enchilada sauce and tortillas and beans from scratch but it was actually extremely easy with these amazing recipes. Turned out delicious, and I had two enchiladas and am soooo full but I love that so many of your recipes are so filling but actually really healthy and not so killer on the calories!
Oh yay! Olivia, so nice to hear all of this. Thanks so much for writing and thanks for the kind words… means a lot 🙂
This was a HUGE hit! I poached 2 larger chicken breasts, used fire-roasted diced tomatoes, and a combo of pre-sliced pepper jack and provolone cheeses. I made one side with corn tortillas and the other with flour tortillas, and the corn were the clear favorite. I served it with a side green salad with strawberries, cucumbers, and a cilantro/lime crema dressing. My husband was surprised it was chicken breast instead of thigh. I was very pleased with the ease of poaching and shredding and assembly – NO ONE cared that it wasn’t in rolled up enchiladas. I told them it was like a Mexican lasagna. My family asked me to make this one a keeper. Thanks, Ali!
Yay! So nice to hear this, Laurie! Thanks so much for writing. I love the ease of the assembly of this one, too. So glad your family approved, too!
What can a person use instead of Cilantro, as I don’t like it at all, thank you.
Hi Linda! Parsley would be great. Or simply omit it.
Thank you so much for your reply Alexandra, I always love your recipes and hope that you stick around for a long time : ) God bless and have a great day !
Awww thanks so much, Linda 🙂 🙂 🙂