Chicken Tortilla Bake

Here’s my contribution to Cinco de Mayo! And boy, is it good (the picture would be even prettier if I wouldn’t have forgotten the bright, fresh cilantro – so just try to picture it yourself, alrighty?).

Classic chicken tortilla casserole meets a revamped, homemade filling that is so delicious I’m surprised any made it into the casserole itself since I was ready to eat it up with some tortilla scoops. Not to mention the fact that my house smelled utterly amazing while this spicy, tasty concoction simmered on my stove.

I’m in love with chipotle chiles for their amazing flavor and warmth and they definitely add great depth to this dish (they also appear in these yummy chicken tacos). The best thing about this casserole is that it can be made up to two! days ahead and refrigerated. Now that’s what I call practical (someone’s looking out for us, bless their little hearts!).

Chicken Tortilla Bake

What To ServeCornbread Muffins
Fresh, seasonal fruit
Steamed corn or Corn on the Cob

Chicken Tortilla Bake

Yield: Serves 6

Chicken Tortilla Bake

Notes: Keep the corn tortillas wrapped in plastic or covered with a damp kitchen towel until ready to use – they will dry out quickly. The casserole can be made and refrigerated for up to 2 days. To bake, cover tightly with foil. Bake about 1 hour. Remove foil and bake until cheese has browned, about 10 minutes longer. Cool for 10 minutes.


  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and diced medium
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped with 2 teaspoons sauce (decrease the amount of sauce to 1 teaspoon if you want it less spicy)
  • 2 (15.5 ounce) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts trimmed of fat and cut into bite-size pieces
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 18 (6-inch) round corn tortillas
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 6 ounces cheddar cheese shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 6 ounces Monterey jack cheese shredded (about 2 cups)


  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Heat the oil in a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, bell peppers, cumin, chili powder, and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and the onions are golden, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute
  2. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer, whisking often. Add the chipotles with adobo sauce, beans, and tomatoes; simmer until the flavors have blended about 5 minutes. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Stir in ¼ cup cilantro, the lime juice and pepper.
  3. Place a damp paper towel on the bottom and top of the corn tortilla stack. Microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute until they are soft and pliable.
  4. Toss the cheeses together in a medium bowl. Spread 1/3 of the chicken mixture in a lightly greased 9X13 inch dish. Layer 6 tortillas on top of the filling, overlapping as needed, and sprinkle with 1 ½ cups of the cheese. Repeat the process to form a second layer.
  5. Spread the remaining filling in the baking dish. Cut the remaining 6 tortillas into quarters and arrange over the top and finish off with the remaining cheese. Bake until the cheese is golden brown and the casserole is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro before serving. Serve with additional accompaniments, such as salsa, diced avocado, sour cream or sliced green onions. The casserole can be made and refrigerated for up to 2 days. To bake, cover tightly with foil. Bake about 1 hour. Remove foil and bake until cheese has browned, about 10 minutes longer. Cool for 10 minutes.

Recipe Source: adapted slightly from America’s Test Kitchen Cover & Bake

54 Responses to Chicken Tortilla Bake

  1. Sha says:

    When you heat this from the fridge, do you heat at 450 for an hour?

  2. Kami says:

    Glad I only made half–this would easily serve 12!

    I thought it was pretty good. But there was an interesting flavor which I think must have been the chipotle. My husband asked if I was hiding elk meat in the casserole! So j guess now we know we don’t care for chipotle in adobo flavor!

  3. KatieM says:

    Is the temp on this supposed to be 350 or 450 as it says in the recipe. Since no one else has commented in all these years maybe 450 is right but it just surprises me so I wanted to double check.

    • KatieM says:

      I should have started with….Your recipes are dynamite and I’ve been making at least one of your recipes a day since 2009….so thank you doesn’t begin to express how much I appreciate what you do!

    • Mel says:

      It’s correct – the temp is high because it only bakes for 15 minutes or so. You could decrease the temp if you want to bake it longer.

  4. Kathy says:

    Mel, l have been following and have made many of your recipes for a couple of years. This is my first comment. This recipe is our favorite and that’s saying something because I use your recipes more than any other food blog, I follow several. This freezes well. Also, I use a chipotle chile salsa. It comes in a small can. I freeze the salsa I don’t use in a small Ziploc as I found I was wasting the leftovers. I just break off a piece and drop it in any recipe that calls for chipotle. I do the same thing with tomato paste and pumpkin.

  5. I have been following your blog for years and I believe this is my first comment, although I am not totally sure! I love so many of your recipes! I made this a couple weeks ago for the first time. So, so, so good! A new favorite meal for me. I had some extra portions and my husband was headed out of town for 3 weeks so I froze some individual portions for myself since I don’t cook a whole lot when he’s gone! They have reheated so well and I have loved having a yummy meal for myself without any work! (My 2 and 3 year old don’t eat most of what I cook, yet!!!) Thanks for your fantastic blog!

  6. Georgia says:

    My family & I don’t really like corn tortillas, do you think we will like them in this recipe?

    • Mel says:

      I’m not sure Georgia…I like corn tortillas for the most part so I like them in this. You might try subbing flour tortillas if you really don’t like corn.

  7. Julie says:

    We love this recipe at our house! It helps that a serving is only 4 weight watchers points! You’re sight is my go to for new recipes and when I am looking for something specific that I haven’t made. All recipes have been winners ! Thanks !

  8. Carissa says:

    This is delish! I used boneless, skinless thighs instead of breasts; white beans; and instead of canned tomatoes I used an equal amount of Herdez green chile salsa.

  9. Kaaren Provece says:

    I am also an chipotle chile in adobo sauce lover. yummmm
    I was on the hunt for inspiration for a great chicken/taco bake. Thanks for the great ideas.

  10. Meg says:

    So we really loved this dish. . . I am not awesome using chipotle peppers, and I chopped up two huges ones and stuck it in the deliciousness that is the sauce, and it was pretty spicy. Despite the heat, even my picky five year old kept saying, “mmm, mmm, mmm” all through dinner:) That is high praise from him:) I love your recipes!!

  11. MAIA EVERHART says:

    Just made your Chile Verde recipe in the crockpot!! It’s AWESOME!!
    Anyway, could you please let me now if this dish freezes well? Thx so much for
    all the great recipes!!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Maia – I’ve never frozen this tortilla bake so I’m not sure, but based on the ingredients, I’m guessing it should freeze just fine before baking.

  12. Marie says:

    I appreciate that I’m not the first that misread the recipe. This casserole was massively hot but looks beautiful. Some mistakes only take once to figure them out and this was one of them.

  13. Steph says:

    So I tried this recipe last night… I misread the recipe and ended up using two CANS of chiles instead of two CHILES. Holy moly was it HOT! LOL. We ended up eating cereal for dinner. Guess I’ll have to try this one again and maybe this time do it right… 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Steph – I can’t imagine how hot that must have been since those peppers back a major punch. I’m sorry for the wasted ingredients – what a bummer!

  14. Rachel says:

    Can this be frozen? It’s just my hubby and I, so I often will make casseroles, put into two 8×8 pans, and freeze one unbaked so that we aren’t stuck with days and days of leftovers. This looks super yummy!

  15. Reyna says:

    I made this tonight for dinner and I got a resounding, “Meh.” I think I have just come to the conclusion that I just don’t love chipotle in adobo. What I did like was the texture–not at all mushy and you could taste each component. But at the end of the day I just really like enchiladas a whole lot more! Good thing I have a friend with a killer honey and lime enchilada recipe…

    • Mel says:

      Reyna – oh, man, I’m so bummed you aren’t a fan of chipotle in adobo. But that’s ok. We can still be friends. That friend of yours must be pretty hot stuff to have such a killer recipe…

  16. Carol says:

    Not sure if you’ll even see this since this receipe was a while ago…but I’m confused by your warning to warm the tortillas just before putting them on so they don’t dry out….but then you appear to put them on before refrigerating this for a couple days. Wouldn’t the tortillas dry out while it sits in the fridge? Or am I supposed to wait and do the tortillas after I take it out of the fridge before it goes in the oven?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Carol – I hope I can help with your confusion. You want to warm the tortillas before assembling the casserole, even if you plan to put it in the refrigerator. The tortillas won’t dry out in the refrigerator because they are in contact with the filling of the casserole and tightly covered with plastic wrap. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  17. Katie says:

    Today was my first time on your website. My sister-in-law made a few of your recipes for me and I loved them! I tried this tortilla bake today and it was a huge success!!! The kids and my hubby all loved it. It was easy to prep ahead and we had tons of leftovers. I can’t wait to try more of your recipes! Thank you!

  18. Debbie says:

    I made this tonight for dinner. It was really yummy. I halved it though and baked it in a 2 1/2-quart corningware dish. It came together quite quickly too!

  19. Nicole says:

    Hi Mel,

    Yep, Holden cooked Sunday dinner for us using this recipe and I just whipped up a salad, what a great guy 🙂 We actually had friends over (risky with a new recipe, but I wasn’t too worried considering the source and the chef). Anyway, just wanted to report that it was fantastic, our friends loved it, and it didn’t turn out too spicy which was my main concern. I’m looking forward to the leftovers for lunch. Thanks again!

    • Mel says:

      Nicole – I was kind of nervous when I read Holden’s comment, crossing my fingers you guys didn’t hate this. I’m glad it turned out ok! Thanks for reporting back. And yes, Holden deserves major points for whipping up dinner for guests. What a guy. I’ll let Brian know…he’s always wanted to be like Holden. 🙂

  20. Holden says:

    Hi Mel,

    Thanks for the recipe. I have a couple of questions. Do you mean spread 1/3 of the total mixture into the pan to form a layer instead of 1/3 cup? 1/3 cup seems too little of the mixture.

    Also, is there a difference between chipotle chiles and chipotle peppers? We could only find chipotle peppers in adobe sauce and boy are they spicy!



    • Mel says:

      Hi Holden – thanks for pointing out the typo – it should be 1/3 of the filling (not 1/3 CUP). I’ve edited the recipe. And as for your other question, as far as I know, chipotle peppers and chipotle chiles are the same thing. They can pack a lot of heat – so use less if you don’t want it so spicy. I hope that helps! Sorry about the error in the recipe…I hope it didn’t create too many issues!

  21. Ashley Bond says:

    I have been reading and enjoying your recipes for a long while and I have never commented until now. I made this for dinner tonight and it was insanely good. The flavors and textures were perfect and I couldn’t believe how yummy it was! My husband said it’s a keeper and my kids loved it too! By the way…this is my favorite food blog! You rock 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Hi Ashley! Thanks for your comment. I’m glad the reviews on this recipe were great (and thanks for your nice compliment on my blog!).

  22. Sue says:

    As always – your recipes don’t disappoint! Made this last night and it was fabulous – looking forward to having leftovers. Thanks for all the great recipes!

  23. Bruce In De Pere says:

    I made it tonight. Meg ate seconds. It is kind of a savory parfait. We will add this one to the family cookbook.

    • Mel says:

      Bruce – I mean, Mr. Parfait Man. So glad you liked it. Are you sure Meg is ok that you confessed publicly that she ate seconds? I ate thirds, if it makes her feel better. Glad this Mexican parfait was a hit.

  24. Shannon says:

    Update…we really liked this. It almost has a tamale kind of flavor with the corn tortillas. Anyway, it reheats well, too, since it made a ton! I forgot to mention that I didn’t have the chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, but I had Salsa Verde (the green stuff) and it added a good spiciness. Other than that I followed the recipe exactly. I will be making it again.

  25. Tami says:

    We loved these. More work then honey lime enchis which are my personal fave but the kids liked these better. I love that the sauce is dairy free so I could make one pan with no cheese for the dairy allergy. A keeper for sure.

    • Mel says:

      Tami – thanks for the comment. I didn’t even think about the sauce being dairy free (even though I know the allergies you work around) so I’m extra glad you liked it now.

  26. Scoggdog says:

    This casserole was fantastic and I (like you) am not a big fan of casserole’s. I amended the recipe a bit in an effort to use items I already had on hand…I basically I used ground beef instead of chicken and used dried cilantro instead of fresh (though I know fresh would have been better). I will def. make this again and try the chicken version next time.
    Thanks for sharing it with us all and happy Cinco De Mayo!

  27. grace says:

    the make-ahead aspect of this is second only to the phenomenal flavor it must have. i love this type of dish, melanie. i wish every day was cinco de mayo. 🙂

  28. Julie says:

    Yum! Looking at this made me seriously hungry!

  29. Shannon says:

    How do you do it? You post the perfect things at the perfect time. I had all the ingredients and just put the prepared yumminess in the fridge. It smells so good. And prep work for dinner is done! And my kids won’t be pulling on me when I’m trying to assemble it during the witching hour of 5 o’ clock! Thanks for making the meal-making part of my life so much easier and so much yummier! Happy Cinco de Mayo!

  30. Cathryn says:

    I love casseroles and this one looks FANTASTIC! YUM!

  31. Bruce in De Pere says:

    This looks great. We will make this soon. Perhaps parfait for dessert.

  32. You have the best chicken recipes. This will make my husband a happy man.

  33. Julie M. says:

    Yum! My ladies cooking club is having a Cinco de Mayo party tomorrow night and just looking at this recipe is getting me in the mood!

  34. Kim in MD says:

    Happy Cinco de Mayo!

    This will the perfect drop-off meal for me to prepare for my friend that is having a baby! She doesn’t have family in the area, so I plan to cook for her as often as I can for the first few weeks.

    Thanks for sharing your delicious (and usually easy) meals with us, Mel! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *