A quick, healthy all-in-one pan Mexican Quinoa Casserole full of all the flavors you love - black beans, chicken, salsa, cilantro, and cheese beefed up with a hearty helping of quinoa. A satisfying Mexican dinner with just 20 minutes of prep and on the table in 40!
Table of Contents
Easy Mexican Dinner Recipes
I decided to take those Mexican flavors and mix them all up in a healthy casserole. It still has all the flavors that you love just without the tortillas and taco shells. And you know it's not a bad idea to do without those heavier carbs on occasion.
I wanted to keep this as low calorie as possible but just couldn't leave out the cheese (after all, cheese makes everything better). However, you can use low-fat cheese to keep the calorie count in check.
Why You'll Love This Mexican Quinoa Casserole
Simplify your cooking with this one-pan marvel! Beginning in a skillet on the stovetop and finishing in the oven, this casserole minimizes cleanup and maximizes convenience. Perfect for busy weeknights or when you just don't feel like dealing with a pile of dishes.
If you're a meal prep enthusiast, rejoice! Pre-cook the quinoa during your weekend prep, and you'll slash the cooking time to a mere 30 minutes. This dish is all about getting a hearty and delicious meal on the table without the fuss.
Indulge in a meal that's not only mouth-watering but also packed with health benefits. Quinoa, a superfood, brings a bounty of fiber and antioxidants to your plate, making this casserole a guilt-free pleasure.
Experience the unexpected but delightful fusion of nutty quinoa with bold Mexican flavors. The quinoa's subtle taste is perfect paired with the vibrant notes of garlic, salsa, and taco seasoning, creating a harmony of flavors that's both unique and familiar.
This casserole is a canvas for your culinary creativity. Feel free to tweak the ingredients to suit your taste or dietary needs, making it a versatile recipe that caters to everyone. See the Recipe Variations section below for some ideas.
Not only is this casserole a hit for dinner, but it's also fantastic as leftovers. The flavors meld and deepen overnight, making it a great option for lunch the next day.
Here's what you'll need to make this Mexican quinoa casserole recipe. The exact amounts are in the printable recipe card below.
For the casserole:
- Chicken broth
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts
- Olive oil
- Fresh garlic
- Onion - red, white, or sweet
- Fresh jalapeno peppers
- Taco seasoning
- Fresh cilantro
- Lime juice - freshly squeezed
- Canned black beans
- Canned corn kernels
- Salt & pepper
- Shredded cheddar cheese, shredded
- Avocado - sliced or chopped
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Chopped onion - white, sweet, or red onion, whichever you use in the dish
- Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt
- Jalapeno pepper slices - fresh or pickled
- Lime wedge to squeeze fresh lime juice on top
- Tortilla chips or strips
How to Make Mexican Quinoa Bake
Here are the simple steps and some photos of the process for making this quinoa Mexican bake. Find the exact measurements in the printable recipe card below.
- Place rinsed quinoa and chicken broth into a medium saucepan.
- Heat to boiling, cover, turn down heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes then fluff with fork. (You can make the quinoa the day before or earlier in the day and save yourself some time.)
- In a large, deep skillet, heat olive oil then add onions, garlic, and minced jalapenos.
- Stir and saute for 1 minute.
- Cube chicken and place in a bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning. (Make your own taco seasoning or use store-bought.)
- Add seasoned chicken to skillet with vegetables.
- Cook until chicken is almost done, about 5-6 minutes. This will prevent the chicken from drying out when baked.
- Add cooked quinoa, black beans, corn, cilantro, lime juice and remaining taco seasoning to skillet.
- Add salsa.
- Stir well.
- Sprinkle cheese over the top.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Brown cheese under the broiler for a few minutes, if desired.
Note: This can also be made in a 9x13-inch casserole dish instead of a deep skillet.
Let the casserole rest for 5 minutes before serving with your favorite sides. I love a dollop of sour cream, avocado slices, and tortilla chips. See other suggestions to make it a complete meal below.
- Quinoa Prep is Key: Rinse your quinoa under cold water before cooking to remove its natural coating, saponin, which can give it a bitter taste. This simple step ensures a more pleasant flavor.
- Quality Ingredients Matter: Choose a good quality chicken broth and fresh salsa. These ingredients significantly impact the overall flavor of the casserole. The fresher the ingredients, the better the taste.
- Don’t Overcook the Chicken: When sautéing the chicken, cook it until it’s just about done. It will continue to cook in the oven, so this prevents it from becoming dry.
- Let it Rest: After baking, allow the casserole to rest for a few minutes before serving. This helps the flavors to meld together and makes it easier to serve.
- Cheese Options: Elevate the dish with different cheese choices. Experiment with a Mexican cheese blend for authenticity, pepper jack for a spicy kick, or Cotija for a crumbly texture.
- Sauce Swaps: Transform it into a chicken enchilada casserole by using enchilada sauce instead of salsa. This swap adds a rich and savory dimension.
- Chili Pepper Play: Customize the heat level and flavor by choosing from a variety of chili peppers. Poblanos offer a mild heat, hatch green chiles bring a smoky flavor, and chipotles in adobo add a spicy, tangy kick.
- Meat Varieties: Beyond chicken, consider using ground beef for richness, pork loin for a tender twist, or leftover turkey for a post-holiday remix.
- Vegetarian-Friendly: Make it meatless with tofu or a plant-based meat substitute. This option caters to vegetarian diets without compromising on the protein content.
- Grain Alternatives: Replace quinoa with rice for a more traditional casserole base. Both brown and white rice work well in this dish.
- Tomato Twist: Substitute salsa with Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chiles for a chunkier texture and a blend of mild heat and sweet notes.
- Bell Pepper Burst: Add chopped fresh bell peppers for a crunchy texture and vibrant color. Red bell peppers not only add sweetness but also make the dish visually appealing.
- Roasted Veggie Boost: Include roasted vegetables like cauliflower or sweet potatoes. They add depth, nutrition, and a delightful caramelized flavor.
- Deepen the Flavor: Amplify the Mexican essence by adding dried Mexican oregano and smoked paprika. These spices contribute an earthy and smoky undertone.
- Herb Harmony: While cilantro is a staple, don't hesitate to experiment with chives for a mild onion-like flavor or parsley for a fresh, slightly peppery taste.
- Crunchy Topping: Sprinkle crushed tortilla chips on top of the cheese for a delightful crunch. This adds texture and a toasty corn flavor.
- Doritos Delight: For an unconventional and bold topping, try crushed Doritos. Flavors like Nacho Cheese or Flamin' Hot add a fun and zesty twist.
- Seafood Surprise: For a pescatarian variation, consider adding shrimp or a white fish like tilapia. This adds a light, fresh flavor that pairs well with the Mexican seasonings.
- Beans and Legumes: Mix in different beans such as kidney or pinto beans for added texture and protein. This also makes the dish more filling and nutritious.
What to Serve With Mexican Quinoa Bake
- Chips and Salsa or Mexican Cheese Dip: Kick off your meal with a classic favorite. Opt for a vibrant and zesty salsa or a creamy and rich Mexican cheese dip. They're perfect for whetting the appetite.
- Guacamole: A bowl of freshly made guacamole is a must-have side. Its creamy texture and fresh flavors complement the casserole beautifully.
- Simple Green Salad: Balance the heartiness of the casserole with a light and refreshing green salad. Dress it with a citrus vinaigrette for an added zing.
- Roasted Corn Salad or Corn on the Cob: Whether you choose a flavorful roasted corn salad or corn on the cob with chili butter, these sides add a sweet and smoky contrast to the dish.
- Charro Beans or Refried Beans: For a true Mexican feast, include a side of charro beans or creamy refried beans. They round out the meal with their rich and savory flavors.
- Grilled Vegetables: A medley of grilled vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, and onions can add a smoky and nutritious side to the meal.
- Sour Cream and Salsa Verde: Offer small bowls of sour cream and salsa verde. These condiments allow guests to add a creamy or tangy touch to their casserole.
- Pico de Gallo: A fresh pico de gallo, with its combination of tomato, onion, cilantro, and lime, adds a burst of freshness and is especially good for those who prefer less spicy sides.
- Fruit Salad with a Citrus Twist: A light and sweet fruit salad, especially one with a citrus twist, can be a refreshing palate cleanser after the rich flavors of the casserole.
By offering some of these diverse and complementary sides, you'll elevate your Mexican Quinoa Casserole into a full-fledged and memorable meal.
How to Store Leftovers
Proper storage is key to enjoying your casserole for more than just one meal. Here's how to store it effectively:
- Allow the casserole to cool to room temperature before storing it to prevent condensation inside the container.
- Transfer the cooled casserole to an airtight container. This keeps the casserole fresh and prevents it from absorbing other flavors from the fridge.
- Place the container in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking to ensure food safety.
- Properly stored, the casserole will last 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. This makes it a great make-ahead meal for busy weeks.
How to Freeze Leftovers
Freezing is a fantastic way to extend the life of your casserole. Here's how to do it right:
- Ensure the casserole is completely cool before freezing. This prevents ice crystal formation, which can affect texture and taste.
- Consider dividing the casserole into individual servings before freezing. This makes it easier to thaw only what you need for a meal.
- Use freezer-safe containers or plastic freezer bags to store the casserole. If using bags, try to remove as much air as possible before sealing.
- The casserole can be frozen for up to 2-3 months. Beyond this, it may start to lose its flavor and texture.
How to Reheat
Reheating your casserole correctly can help preserve its flavor and texture. Here's how to reheat it:
Thawing: If frozen, thaw the casserole in the refrigerator overnight. Avoid thawing at room temperature as it can lead to bacterial growth.
Oven Reheating: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Place the casserole in an oven-safe dish and cover with aluminum foil to prevent it from drying out. Reheat for 20-30 minutes or until heated through.
Microwave Reheating: For a quicker option, reheat in the microwave. Cover the casserole with a microwave-safe lid or parchment paper and heat on medium power, stirring occasionally to ensure even heating.
Adding Moisture: If the casserole seems dry, sprinkle a little water or chicken broth over it before reheating to add moisture.
Check Temperature: Ensure the casserole reaches an internal temperature of 165°F to ensure it is safe to eat.
More Mexican Recipes for Dinner
- Air Fryer Quesadillas
- Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Mexican Chili
- Mexican Pork Stew
- Pork Enchiladas
And make some Dessert Empanadas to enjoy after dinner.
Find lots of easy recipes for Mexican food right here on 2CM!
Mexican Quinoa Bake
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ large onion
- 2 jalapenos, minced
- 1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons taco seasoning
- 2 large chicken breasts, about 1 lb., cubed
- 2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons lime juice,
- 15-16 ounces of your favorite fresh salsa
- 15 ounces can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup canned corn, drained
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ½-2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
- Garnish: 1 sliced avocado, chopped cilantro & tortilla chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Bring quinoa and chicken broth to a boil. Turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes (or as directed on package). This step can be done earlier in the day or up to several days ahead of time.
- Cube chicken and toss with 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning.
- Place olive oil in a large, deep skillet and heat on medium-high. Add garlic, onions, and jalapenos and saute for 1 minute. Add chicken and cook until just about done, about 5-6 minutes.
- Add remaining ingredients except for cheese and garnishes including remaining 2 teaspoons of taco seasoning to skillet. Stir well. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. If you like your cheese browned on the top, place the skillet under the broiler for 5-7 minutes.
- REMEMBER TO GRAB THE SKILLET WITH A POT HOLDER AS THE HANDLE WILL BE EXTREMELY HOT!
- Garnish with crushed tortilla chips, sliced avocado, and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro.
This post has been updated with new photos and more helpful information. It was first published on November 8, 2015.