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Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 10-12 minutes
Great weeknight dinner
On the weekends, I tend to cook things that take a little bit of time and preparation because I have more time to enjoy the process. It can be as simple or elaborate as I choose and take a few minutes or a few hours. However, if I factor in commuting time, my days tend to be 11-12 hours long during the work week. After working full-time during the day and then sitting in traffic for hours, the last thing that I want to do is come home and make a complicated or time-consuming dinner. I have several go-to, quick and easy meals that I can prepare that are ready in 30 minutes or less. However, every once and again, I try something new but still strive to have it done (including prep time) in under 30 minutes.
The trick to quick and easy meals (for me anyway) is to use simple pantry items that come together quickly. If I can microwave it instead of using the stove-top or oven, even better because it’s faster. I enjoy cooking, I do, but there are just times when quick and easy overrides traditional low & slow methods. My quick and easy chicken taco casserole is one of those dishes. AND, I made it up as I went along with items that I had in the pantry. I’ve always been of the mindset that if I like the single components, then a mishmash of the components can’t be ALL bad (I’ve been wrong on occasion though).
Using pantry staples
I purchased corn tortillas, salsa, taco sauce, and shredded cheddar from a local store knowing that I wanted to eat something made from these ingredients but unsure of exactly what. Now I know that most purists will tell you to buy your own block of cheese and shred it yourself because the texture is better (the pre-shredded stuff is usually coated with something so that the cheese doesn’t clump together in the bag). However, when time is of the essence, I’ll take the pre-grated stuff any day. I thought that if nothing else, I could make really simple cheese enchiladas using the taco sauce as a stand-in for enchilada sauce (not traditional but I enjoy it).
Upon survey of items that I had at home, I created this recipe. If you decide to make it, you can certainly make it your own (I’ve listed some optional ingredients that I think would go well with this dish). All the quantities and measurements are based on my using a 8 x 11 glass casserole dish (it’s microwave safe), but you use this recipe for a 9 x 11 casserole dish. If that’s the case, you’ll want to have some additional corn tortillas on hand as you may need more than I used. You could also half the recipe and use a 8 x 8 microwave safe dish instead.
- 2 cups of shredded cheese (I used Mexican blend)
- 1.5 cups of shredded/cooked chicken (I used canned chicken from Costco that I drained of the water but shredded rotisserie chicken would work well too)
- 1 cup of softened/room temperature cream cheese*
- 1/2 cup salsa (brand or heat is up to you)
- 1 – 1.5 cups of taco sauce (heat level is up to you but I used mild)
- 1/4 cup of chopped green onion
- 1 packet of taco seasoning (approximate 2 tablespoons)
- 15-20 corn tortillas
- 1 15.25 oz can of corn kernels (drained of water) – mexicorn would work well too
- Small can of green chilis
- Saute onions
- Chopped jalapenos (fresh or pickled)
- Black olives
- Chopped bell pepper
- Cilantro/Chinese parsley
- Shredded iceberg lettuce
- Chopped tomato
- Sour Cream
- Tortilla or corn chips
- Black olives
- Cilantro/Chinese parsley
- Taco Sauce
- Shredded cheese
- Corn or Tortillas chips
- Spanish Rice
- Refried beans
In a large mixing bowl, mix your cream cheese, drained chicken, 1 1/4 cups shredded cheese (reserve the rest for later), salsa, corn, 3 TBL green onion, and taco seasoning. *If your cream cheese is not softened or at room temperature, before you add the other ingredients, microwave it for 30 second intervals until you can easily mix it. Set aside.* In your microwave safe dish, put a thin layer of taco sauce to coat the bottom of the dish (about 1/4 cup). Add a single layer of corn tortillas, tearing it in pieces if you need to make it fit (for the 8 x 11 casserole dish I used, it came out to about 5 tortillas per layer). Top with half of the chicken/cheese mixture and spread to evenly coat the tortillas. Top with 1/4 cup of taco sauce and smooth evenly across chicken mixture. Top with another layer of tortillas, the remaining chicken/cheese mixture, and 1/4 cup taco sauce. Top with the final layer of tortillas, the rest of the taco sauce, the rest of the shredded cheese and green onions and make sure all are in an even layer. Cover with plastic wrap, leaving a small area on one corner of the dish for venting. Microwave on high for 8-10 minutes but check after 7 minutes as microwaves can vary. It’s done when the cheese layer on top is fully melted. Serve hot with your choice of toppings/sides.
Or, you could bake it for 25-30 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree oven covered in foil (make sure your dish is oven safe). For the last 5-10 minutes of cooking, remove the foil. The results should be similar but will take longer.
- Make sure that the tortillas are fully covered in sauce and/or chicken/cheese mixture – any exposed tortilla will come out hard.
- If your microwave does not have a turn table function, rotate the dish half-way through cooking.
- To make it a creamy chicken burrito casserole, you could substitute flour tortillas for the corn tortillas.
- The corn kernels add sweetness. Omit if undesired.
Print this recipe: Quick and Easy Creamy Chicken Taco Casserole