Boasting those delicious Tex-Mex flavors that everyone loves, this quinoa casserole is a great way to please the eaters in your home and insert some well-rounded nutrition all at the same time! If you love our Chicken-and-Rice Taco Casserole, then this Chipotle Quinoa Casserole with Chicken is a must-add to your menus!
Quinoa Casserole for a healthy, Delicious Dinner!
We love to add a casserole (made ahead OR the night of) to our weekly menus because they are a great way to have a well-rounded dinner out of one dish. Plus, they’re easy to make, can be a nice way to use up leftovers (such as pre-cooked chicken or partially used veggies), and feature several food groups. This quinoa casserole get high marks from our families for delicious taste, and it gets high marks from us (as registered dietitians and moms) for health and ease.
Ingredients to make this chicken Quinoa casserole
Here’s what to gather to make this healthy chipotle chicken quinoa casserole for dinner this week!
- Cooked chicken – you’ll need 1 pound of pre-cooked chicken (see the recipe card below for our quick instructions to make cooked chicken on the stovetop, in the slow cooker, or in the Instant Pot)
- Spices – chili powder, garlic powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, chipotle powder (or substitute regular chili powder)
- Uncooked quinoa
- Salsa – you’ll need a 16-ounce jar of any type of salsa
- Frozen corn – or use fresh corn cut from the cob
- Diced green chilies – you’ll need a 4-ounce can of diced green chiles
- Colby Jack or Cheddar cheese
- Optional garnishes: chopped fresh cilantro, fresh lime wedges, sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, and/or diced or sliced avocado
How to make chipotle Quinoa Casserole with chicken
This recipe couldn’t be easier, especially since you mix the ingredients right IN the baking dish! No need to dirty extra bowls or kitchen tools. Here are the four quick steps to make this easy quinoa casserole for dinner:
- Heat the oven and prep the dish: Preheat the oven to 375℉. Spray a 9×13-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- Combine ingredients in the baking dish: To the baking dish, add the diced or shredded chicken, seasonings, quinoa, salsa, water, corn, zucchini, green chiles, and 1¼ cups of cheese. Then, stir until everything is combined.
- Cover and bake: Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 45-50 minutes or until the quinoa is tender. Remove the foil from the baking dish and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and let the quinoa casserole stand for 15 minutes.
- Garnish and serve: Serve with fresh cilantro, sliced avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips, and/or lime wedges. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Or, freeze the fully baked and cooled casserole for longer storage.
We recommend reading through this blog post for our step-by-step instructions and photo tutorial showing you exactly how to make this chipotle quinoa casserole with chicken. For the printable directions, ingredient amounts, and complete nutrition analysis that lists calories, protein, carbohydrates, sodium, and more per serving, scroll down to the printable recipe card below.
Healthy ingredients in this quinoa casserole
This delicious dinner casserole boasts many nutritious ingredients that represent several important food groups. When you make it, you can know that you’re getting a well-rounded and healthy dinner that also tastes fantastic! Here are some ingredient highlights:
- Quinoa – this gluten-free grain is high in protein, fiber, and antioxidants, essential for cardiovascular health
- Chicken – this lean protein is liked by many and contains body-building amino acids, as well as micronutrients, including vitamin B12, tryptophan, choline, zinc, iron, and copper, which we need for overall brain and body health, as well as a normal functioning metabolism
- Corn – corn is a healthy starch vegetable (it’s a whole grain when dried, like popcorn or ground into a flour) that boasts a bunch of B vitamins, as well as fiber and eye-protective carotenoids
- Zucchini – this easy-to-find veggie is a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium along with antioxidants. It’s also a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber, helping to promote healthy digestion
FAQs about this Quinoa Casserole with Chicken
Here are some frequently asked questions we get about this delicious quinoa casserole recipe. Perhaps one of them will answer your question, too!
- Do I need to pre-cooked the quinoa? No, you should use dry (uncooked) quinoa in this recipe.
- What is the texture of this casserole? The texture of this casserole is similar to a chicken-and-rice casserole. Note: The casserole will appear slightly soupy when it comes out of the oven. But it does thicken up nicely during the 15 minutes of stand time.
- How should I store leftovers: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Or, freeze the cooked casserole for longer storage (see question below).
- Can I freeze this for future meals? Yes! You can either freeze individual portions in oven-safe and freezer-safe glass meal prep containers like these or freeze the entire dish. For best results, allow the quinoa casserole to thaw in the fridge before reheating.
- What is the best way to reheat a quinoa casserole? The microwave is the easiest method for reheating, plus it prevents the casserole from drying out while reheating. You can also get excellent results by reheating the casserole in a covered skillet over medium-high heat to which 1-2 tablespoons of water has been added.
- Is this casserole spicy? This casserole has traditional southwest seasonings, which provide familiar and crowd-pleasing Tex-Mex flavors and smokiness, but not a ton of spicy heat. If you prefer to increase the spiciness, add some cayenne pepper and use hot diced green chiles in place of the mild diced green chiles.
Perfect Occasions to Serve this Dish
Wondering when you should serve this dish? Of course, we think the best answer to that question is “Whenever you’re hungry for it!” But some other perfectly appropriate times that this healthy quinoa recipe is just right are for:
- easy weeknight meals
- make-ahead or meal prep lunches and dinners
- Sunday dinners
- small potluck dinners
- for entertaining when you dress it up with garnishes
- a great option to bake ahead for an expecting mom, a sick friend, or someone who needs a quick and healthy dinner option at the ready
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 1 lb. chicken, cooked and shredded or diced*
- 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon chipotle powder (may substitute regular chili powder)
- 1 cup dry quinoa (uncooked)
- 1 (16 oz) jar salsa
- 2 cups water, add water to empty salsa jar and shake
- 1 ½ cups frozen corn
- 1 small zucchini, diced (1 – 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 4-ounce can diced green chiles
- 8 ounces shredded colby jack or cheddar cheese (2-2 1/2 cups)
- Optional: Chopped fresh cilantro, fresh lime wedges, avocado
- Preheat the oven to 375℉. Mist a 9×13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
- Directly to the baking dish, add the diced or shredded chicken, seasonings, quinoa, salsa, water, corn, zucchini, green chiles, and 1 ¼ cup of cheese. Stir the ingredients until combined.
- Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 45-55 minutes or until the quinoa is tender.
- Remove the foil from the baking dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the casserole. Return to the oven and bake, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and let it stand for 15 minutes. (Note: The casserole will appear slightly soupy when it comes out of the oven. But it does thicken up nicely during the 15 minutes of stand time.)
- Serve with fresh cilantro, diced avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips, and/or lime wedges.
- Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. May be frozen for longer storage.
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*For the cooked chicken – You may cook the chicken however you please. Here are three ways we like to cook chicken to use in casseroles like this one, as well as for adding to soups, salads, and other recipes:
- Slow Cooker Cooked Chicken (great for shredded): Place 1 to 1 1/2 lbs of raw boneless skinless chicken breasts in a crock pot along with 1 cup of broth or water Cover and cook on the high setting for 3 hours or until the chicken is cooked through and can easily be shredded.
- Skillet Cooked Chicken (great for diced): Click here to see our method for Perfect Cooked Chicken Breast in a skillet
- Instant Pot (great for shredded): To an Instant Pot, place 1 to 1 1/2 lbs of raw boneless skinless chicken breasts along with ½ cup broth or water. Seal the lid and select manual high pressure cooking for 12 minutes. Manually release the pressure when time is up and shred the chicken (see this post on Easy Shredded Instant Pot Chicken).
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Photo Credit: The photos in this blog post were taken by Rachel of Half Acre House
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Jessie is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist living near Denver, CO where she splits her time among nearby playgrounds, typing away at her trusty laptop, and heating up her home kitchen with delicious experiments. Her best taste tester is her husband, a Denver firefighter with a well-trained palate. A former magazine editor-in-chief, Jessie has a long career in food publishing and health writing. While she once played centerfield for the Northwestern University softball team, Jessie now prefers her fitness in the way of biking up mountain passes and chasing two busy toddlers (the latter proving to be the more exhausting activity).