Necessity is the mother of invention... and also great new recipes! I avoid taking my kids to the store with me like the plague (anyone else?), so over Christmas break, I threw together this healthy chicken and rice bake with what I could find in my freezer and cupboards. And oh my goodness, it came out so delicious! The whole family loved it, and I've already made it many many more times! And the best part is that you probably already have the ingredients in your pantry too!
Ingredients for chicken and rice casserole
- Chicken Breasts — Baked and shredded. Or my favorite shortcut is to use a baked whole chicken from the deli section of the grocery store or Costco. Feel free to use chicken thighs if you prefer.
- Uncooked Brown Rice — Brown rice adds a lovely texture and flavor, but white rice can be substituted as well.
- Salsa Verde — This is where a lot of flavor comes from, so choose your favorite salsa verde, or try your hand at homemade salsa verde!
- Cream Cheese — Adds a great tartness to balance the salsa. But yogurt or sour cream can be used as well.
- Taco Seasoning — I like to pick up a big container of this seasoning mix, but it's really easy to make your own taco seasoning too!
- Black Beans — Pinto or white beans would be delicious in this recipe too.
- Shredded Mexican Cheese Blend — Tastes great with whatever cheese you have on hand. I especially like Monterey Jack.
How to make salsa verde rice bake
Cook the brown rice according to package directions. Set aside.
If you're baking your own chicken, preheat oven to 350°F. Place breasts in baking dish and cover with ½ cup salsa verde.
Bake chicken until cooked through (165°F in the center). Remove and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Once cooled, shred the chicken with 2 forks.
Lightly spray a 9"x13" baking dish with nonstick spray. Set aside.
To the rice, add ½ cup salsa verde, cream cheese, taco seasoning, black beans and shredded chicken. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
Pour mixture into baking dish and then generously cover with shredded cheese.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until heated through and cheese is fully melted.
Remove and add cilantro, avocado, sour cream or hot sauce if you'd like! I love lots of toppings on this recipe. So amazing and so simple!
The best part of this recipe is that you can make this entire recipe ahead of time and just cover with foil before baking.
simplicity is king for weeknight dinner
I'm not typically a big fan of casseroles (which is why I cleverly call it a "bake"). But I willingly jump on board when it means I can make it ahead of time, it's really inexpensive, it tastes this good, it's healthy AND it's super easy!
That's the ultimate recipe for me. And who doesn't love chicken and rice? Especially with some salsa verde, YUM!
You can completely prepare this recipe the night before and just cover with foil and throw in the fridge. That way, when you get home from a long day at the office (or a long day taking care of the kids), this meal is ready to go after just a few minutes in the oven.
By far, this is the easiest way to prepare a delicious weeknight meal!
try this recipe with other add-ins & toppings
When you throw this recipe together, consider using a roast chicken to make it even quicker. And I think it would also be amazing with roasted vegetables or go the other way with a lean chopped steak.
Best Mexican Casserole Toppings
- Avocado or Guacamole — I am the only avocado lover in my family (blasphemy, I know), so I buy the individual servings of mashed avocado from the grocery store or Costco so I can add it whenever I want without wasting a whole avocado or a large container of guacamole.
- Cilantro — I LOVE cilantro, but I'm empathetic to those who dislike it, so I like to serve this on the side, rather than IN the casserole.
- Sour Cream — I recently found a lactose free sour cream at the grocery store and I'm putting it on everything! Great way to cut back on the lactose if you're sensitive, like me.
- Chopped Tomatoes — Add more of the healthy stuff!
- Black Olives — I keep a can of sliced black olives on hand to throw on top of recipes like this.
- More Salsa — Use any flavor you like on top.
- Tapatio — If you love hot sauce, you're probably familiar with Tapatio. It happens to be one of our family favorites, however, use your favorite hot sauce to kick up the heat.
How to store mexican chicken casserole
Refrigerate any leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days. According to the USDA, chicken will keep fresh in the refrigerator for 3-4 days after cooked.
Can I freeze this rice bake?
Yes! This casserole can be assembled ahead of time and frozen. Simply use a foil baking dish. Or line a 9x13 baking dish with foil, leaving an overhang around the edges to easily remove casserole after frozen.
Dairy products do not freeze well in a casserole. So DO NOT INCLUDE CREAM CHEESE AND CHEESE BLEND if freezing. Once thawed, the cream cheese can be added before baking. All other ingredients will freeze well. For more information on freezing casseroles, check out this in-depth article from All Recipes.
Make recipe through step 6 (omitting dairy ingredients), then instead of baking the casserole, cover tightly with saran wrap and foil. Casserole will stay fresh for up to 6 months, but will taste best after 3 months.
To cook from frozen, allow to safely thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then add cream cheese or dairy substitute, cover with cheese and bake as directed below.
Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice Bake
- 2-3 chicken breasts or chicken thighs About 1.5 pounds
- 2 ½ cups uncooked brown rice
- 1 cup salsa verde divided
- 4 ounces cream cheese or plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
- 1 15 ounce can black beans or pinto beans
- 1 16 ounce bag of shredded Mexican cheese blend
- salt and pepper to taste
- garnish with cilantro, avocado and more salsa verde
- Cook brown rice according to package instructions.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place chicken breasts in baking pan and pour ½ C of salsa verde over chicken
- Bake chicken until center reads 165 degrees F, or about 25 minutes. Once done, remove chicken from oven and let rest 10 minutes. With 2 forks, shred the chicken then set aside. Leave oven on.
- Lightly spray bottom and sides of a 9"x13" casserole dish and set aside
- To the rice add: ½ C salsa verde, cream cheese, taco seasoning, black beans and shredded chicken. Taste, add salt and pepper if needed.
- Place rice mixture into greased casserole dish and evenly spread cheese over top.
- Place in oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is fully melted and dish is heated through.
- If you want to make this ahead of time, prepare completely, just don't bake. Cover with foil and place in the fridge until ready to bake.
- Preheat oven to 350°. Keep casserole covered in foil and bake 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 20 minutes until cheese is melted and dish is heated through.