Leftover chicken green enchilada casserole - the perfect low effort meal for a busy weeknight
My chicken green enchilada casserole recipe is a delicious, filling, and most importantly easy meal. After a long day, you just pull out your leftover chicken, your sauce, chips, and cheese, and you’re off to the races. Leftover chicken means no defrosting time and no worrying if the chicken is cooked through at the end.
Once it comes out of the oven, you get to enjoy tender chicken in a flavorful tomatillo based sauce, topped with a hearty amount of tortilla chips and cheese. Served with rice and refried beans, you’ll feel like you’re at a Mexican restaurant.
Don’t have smoked chicken? Any chicken will do!
I like to use leftover smoked chicken for this recipe because the smokiness of the chicken cooks into the sauce and adds an incredible flavor to the dish. But, not everyone has smoked chicken on hand, so here are some alternatives.
- Shredded rotisserie chicken – This will give you a very similar experience to a smoked chicken. You will likely have a combination of white and dark meat, and the meat will have a deep flavor that enhances the other flavors of the dish. Shredded rotisserie chicken is a fantastic substitute for smoked chicken.
- Shredded chicken breast – If you have shredded chicken breast on hand, you can easily substitute that for the smoked chicken. You will miss out on some of the added flavor, but using a good sauce (especially my smoked tomatillo enchilada sauce), you will still end up with a delicious dish.
- Shredded turkey – If you have leftover roast turkey, that would also be a fantastic substitute for smoked chicken. It will have a fantastic flavor, and you’ll get the white and dark meat mix that you’d get from a whole chicken.
When making substitutions, you’re probably wondering – but how much meat do I use? In my smoked chicken recipe, I use what the grocery stores call a “whole fryer chicken”. These are usually young and tender birds, which means they’re usually between 4-6lbs total. But remember, a lot of that weight is coming from bones and skin. If you’re substituting a rotisserie chicken, just use half of that, and it’ll be very close. If using chicken breast or turkey, I recommend targeting 2-3 cups of shredded meat. That will be about 1.5-2lbs of chicken breast, or about half of a turkey breast plus a leg and thigh.
Can I use other enchilada sauces in my leftover chicken green enchilada casserole?
For this recipe, I use my smoked tomatillo enchilada sauce, and I encourage you to try it too! But, having to make a sauce first makes this a much more complicated meal. You could make these enchiladas with just about any enchilada sauce and have a delicious meal. You can buy cans of green and red enchilada sauces in the Mexican aisle of the grocery store, but make sure you buy the big can (about 32oz).
Do I have to boil the sauce with the chicken in it?
You might read the directions and wonder why on earth you would need to boil the chicken in the sauce before putting it in the oven for nearly a half hour. It seems like a lot of effort and dirty dishes. But trust me, pre-boiling the sauce and chicken really speeds this dinner up. Unless you’re cooking fresh chicken for this recipe, the shredded chicken is probably cold from the refrigerator or the freezer. Baking cold chicken into cold or room temperature sauce until the sauce is bubbling is going to take a very long time. You could do it by covering your casserole dish for the first 20 minutes of cooking, but even then, it will still be another 20-30 additional minutes you have to bake it.
Instead, I recommend pre-boiling your sauce and meat so that they are hot going into the oven. You’ll spend about 5 minutes bringing it to a boil, instead of waiting an extra 20 minutes at least for the casserole to bake. I call that a fair trade.
How to add vegetables to leftover chicken green enchilada casserole
This meal, from the ingredients list, doesn’t look like it has a lot of vegetables. The enchilada sauce is tomatillo based, and you’re likely to serve it with refried beans, which counts as another vegetable. If you’re still looking to add more vegetables to your leftover chicken green enchilada casserole, I have a few suggestions.
- Add a sauteed onion into the chicken and sauce mixture. I have done this a number of times, and it adds a nice depth to the dish. Even more so if you sautee your onion with garlic!
- Corn or hominy are also good add-ins to this casserole. Hominy is really just dried corn kernels soaked in lye, but the kernels are more comparable in size to a bean than corn, and the texture gives more of a bite than corn does. Either of these options will add a fun texture and color to the dish, while giving you and your family a healthy serving of veggies.
- Serve the dish topped with avocado! Sliced or cubed avocado would go great as a topping for this meal!
Side dishes to serve with leftover chicken green enchilada casserole
I usually serve my leftover chicken green enchilada casserole on top of white rice with a side of refried beans, but there are a lot of options of how to serve this dish.
How to make Leftover Chicken Green Enchilada Caserole
Chicken Green Enchilada Casserole Recipe
- 1 9x9 casserole dish
- 2-3 cups shredded smoked chicken
- 8 oz green enchilada sauce
- 2 oz tortilla chips
- ½ cup Oaxaca Cheese (substitute with shredded mozzarella)
- Remove the chicken meat from the bones and shred it.
- Add the enchilada sauce and chicken to a pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 1-3 minutes and transfer to a 9x9 casserole dish.
- Crush the tortilla chips into large pieces and cover the top of the casserole dish. Now cover the top in cheese.
- Bake in a 425F oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is golden brown.
- Serve atop rice with refried beans on the side. Enjoy.