This Chicken Enchilada Casserole is loaded with spicy white queso and topped with a mixture of white cheddar cheese and cool ranch Doritos. Must I say more? This chicken enchilada casserole is super easy to make and is definitely a crowd pleaser. Perfect for these cold and dark winter evenings.
I graduated for the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. I can't say there is much about that town when it comes to food that I miss. The Mexican food there is subpar compared to my beloved Tex Mex.
There is a popular dish in Fayetteville called the Steven's Special, which is a fajita chicken on a bed of rice drowned in white queso. It is typically served with flour tortillas and you make tacos with the cheesy chicken rice mixture.
So I created this chicken enchilada casserole with the Steven's special in mind. In my opinion this dish is much better than the original. The queso is a little spicy and the chicken is super juicy. And what takes it to the next level is the cool ranch Dorito topping.
Try my Buttermilk Ranch Chicken and Dumplings for another hearty dinner idea!
Tips for Making the Best Chicken Enchilada Casserole
- Grease the bottom of the casserole dish. I use some nonstick spray to grease the bottom of the casserole dish. I find that if I do this I have no issues with the tortillas sticking to the bottom.
- Do not over thicken the queso. We want the queso to be a tad runny. It will thicken even more when the chicken enchilada casserole goes in the oven. This keeps the casserole moist.
- Save some of the chicken liquid. When we shred the chicken, we do not want to leave all of those cooking juices behind. The juice adds even more flavor and moisture to the casserole.
- Save some cheese for the top. The star of the show is this topping. Be sure to add some cheese to the top.
Let's Get Cooking
- Cook the chicken in the instant pot. The instant pot cooks the chicken quickly and makes it so tender. If you do not have an instant pot you can boil the chicken or see my shortcut below. Just throw in the chicken, water, enchilada sauce, spices, and turn it on.
- Make the rice. We will start by sautéing the rice in some butter. When it comes to the liquids, it is important to read the instructions on the back of the rice. Each kind varies on cook time and water ratios.
- Make the queso. Don't overcook the onions and peppers. They add some nice texture. Once those are done, we will make a roux. This is a paste of equal parts fat and flour, which thickens sauces. Once the half and half is added and the cheese is melted, remove the sauce from the heat. We do not want to over thicken the sauce, like I mentioned above.
- Shred the chicken and add the rice. We will shred the chicken and add back in some of the cooking liquid. Then we will add the rice to the chicken to make assembling easier.
- Assemble the chicken enchilada casserole. So this is the order of assembly (don't forget to grease the casserole dish): tortillas, queso, rice/chicken, queso. There will be four layers in total. Top with more cheese and chips and off to the oven it goes.
Shortcuts for Chicken Enchilada Casserole
Here are some ways to make this dish even easier!
Use rotisserie chicken instead of making it yourself. You will need about 2 ½ cups of shredded chicken. Add the same sauce and spices to the shredded chicken. Just omit the water.
Use pre-made rice. You can use microwavable rice (some come in the frozen section and some come in the pantry section). Rice triples in size when it cooks. So you will need about 2 ¼ cups cooked rice.