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Chicken Chile Relleno Casserole combines layers of roasted poblano pepper, chicken, onion, cheese, and seasonings, all topped with a fluffy egg batter that bakes up golden and bubbly.
Mexican-Style Comfort Food
If you’ve ever made authentic Chile Rellenos – stuffed, breaded, and fried poblano peppers – then you know that it can be a little cumbersome and messy to prepare. Good news: Our Chicken Chile Relleno Casserole is an easier (and just as delicious) riff on classic Chile Rellenos.
We’ve layered roasted poblano peppers, poached and shredded chicken breast, zesty white onion, and shredded cheeses in a casserole dish, then topped with an egg batter that bakes up golden and fluffy.
Every bite of our Chicken Chile Relleno Casserole has delicious creamy flavor, tender chunks of chicken, and a gentle heat from the poblano pepper. The golden topping adds a nice contrast of texture with a light flavor.
This is an incredibly comforting Mexican-inspired casserole without a lot of fuss!
What are Chile Rellenos?
It’s a very popular Mexican dish made with roasted and stuffed poblano peppers. (The term relleno means stuffed in Spanish.)
The filling is typically a variety of cheese and sometimes meat. Then, the pepper is dipped in an egg batter that puffs up as the peppers are deep fried before serving with sauce or salsa on the side, along with rice and beans, guacamole, or other sides.
Why you’ll love Chicken Chile Relleno Casserole
- The combination of flavors and textures is the ultimate, delicious comfort food.
- You can easily adapt this recipe to suit your tastes and ingredients on hand. Swap out the chicken and add beef or spicy sausage. Use different cheeses to change up the flavor. And, make this casserole spicy (or not) by adding more jalapenos and other spices.
- Much of the prep can be done ahead of time – then just before serving, add the egg batter and bake so it’s piping hot out of the oven for dinner.
Key Ingredients & Substitutions
- Poblano Chile Peppers – These large, mild-flavored, dark green peppers are traditional for a Chile Rellenos recipe and really shouldn’t be substituted if possible. (If you can’t find fresh poblanos at your market, small green bell peppers or banana peppers could be used – but the flavor of the dish will be quite different.)
- Cheese – We made today’s recipe with sharp white cheddar cheese, as well as Monterey Jack cheese. If your supermarket sells Mexican cheese varieties, try adding queso fresco or Oaxaca cheese. You can also swap Pepper Jack cheese for the Monterey Jack if you want to add some heat to the finished dish.
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts – You can use any cooked, shredded chicken in this recipe. We typically poach the chicken so it is juicy and tender before it goes into the casserole.
- White Onion – White onion lends a nice, sharp bite to the filling, so it is preferred over a sweet or yellow onion for this recipe.
- Jalapeno – This adds a touch of heat to the finished dish. Add more or less to suit your tastes. (The seeds add the most heat so avoid those if you want a mild casserole.)
- Fresh Cilantro
- Whole Peppercorns as well as Ground Pepper
- All-Purpose Flour
- Baking Powder
- Garnish – We simply garnished our Chicken Chile Relleno Casserole with diced, fresh Roma tomatoes, sour cream, and chopped cilantro. Another option is a tomato-based sauce or salsa which is often served with the traditionally-fried Chili Rellenos.
Special Tools Needed
- Large Saucepan – To poach the chicken.
- Cutting Board and Sharp Knife
- Various Measuring Spoons and Cups
- Sheet Tray Lined with Foil – To roast the poblanos.
- Gallon Zipper Seal Bag
- Spoon or Knife – To peel skin off peppers.
- 2-quart casserole dish
- Cooking Twine
- 4-cup Measuring Cup
- Two Medium Bowls
- Mixer (a hand mixer is sufficient but if you only have a stand mixer, that’s fine)
- Rubber Scraper
How do I make Chicken Chile Relleno Casserole?
- Broil the whole peppers until the skins are charred. Place in a zipper seal bag, then seal shut so the steam loosens the skin. Peel and discard the charred skin, seeds, and stem.
- Boil poaching liquid. Add chicken, cover, then remove from heat to poach.
- Shred poached chicken into a bowl and mix in cooked onions and seasonings.
- Return cooking liquid to heat and reduce to one-quarter cup. Strain and discard solids.
- Layer cooked and peeled peppers with cheese, chicken, and cilantro in the casserole dish.
- Make batter by first beating egg whites with salt in a bowl. Mix egg yolks with milk, reduced liquid, flour, and baking powder in a separate bowl. Then, fold in in egg whites.
- Pour batter over casserole and bake.
- Allow the casserole set up for about 10 minutes, then cut into six portions for serving.
Tips & Tricks
After peeling the skin from peppers, pull apart gently and fold open. Avoid using a knife, just tear open with fingers to a flat surface and remove seeds and stem.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I make Chicken Chili Relleno Casserole ahead of time? The casserole can be made ahead without the batter. When ready to bake, beat egg whites into batter, pour over casserole and bake.
- How do I store leftovers? Store refrigerated for up to three days.
- How do I reheat leftovers? Reheat in the oven or microwave.
- Can I freeze? No, the dish will become mushy once thawed.
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6 large Poblano peppers
1 1/2 quarts water
1 cup white onion diced large
*1 jalapeno pepper left whole
2 garlic cloves left whole
1 small bunch cilantro, divided
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into a few large pieces
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
3 whole eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Diced Roma tomatoes
- Turn on broiler to high.
- Line a sheet tray with foil and lay out whole poblano peppers. Broil 7-8 minutes per side or until the skin is completely charred and black.
- Immediately place hot charred peppers into a gallon zip lock bag and seal for 15 minutes. This will loosen the charred skin.
- Open bag and remove one pepper at a time and peel off charred skin. Split open with your fingers and scrape out seeds and stem with a spoon or knife. Set peeled peppers aside.
- While peppers are broiling, place water, onion, jalapeno, and garlic in a 2-3 quart saucepan or pot. Tie about 10 stems with leaves of cilantro with twine and add to the pot.
- Wrap peppercorns in a small pouch of cheesecloth, tie and add to the pot along with one teaspoon of kosher salt and bring to a boil then simmer ten minutes.
- Add the large pieces of chicken, turn off heat (pot can be left on the burner) and cover tightly and let the chicken poach in the hot liquid. Check after five minutes and if no pink, remove chicken quickly to a bowl to stop cooking.
- Remove the cilantro, jalapeno, peppercorns, and garlic to a small bowl. Over a bowl or large measurer, strain out onions and add to the bowl with the chicken but retain liquid. Return cilantro, jalapeno, peppercorns, and garlic to the pot with the liquid and put on a fast simmer. Cook down to reduce the liquid to one-quarter cup. Discard the solids and save the reduced liquid to cool.
- Once the chicken cools, shred with two forks or your fingers and return to the bowl with the onions and mix in ½ teaspoon of kosher salt, white pepper, cumin, and coriander. Set it aside.
- Shred and mix the two cheeses together.
- Chop the remaining cilantro fine.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Brush a little oil or kitchen pan spray in the 2-quart casserole dish and lay out two cleaned poblano peppers, skin side down into the bottom.
- Sprinkle on one-third of the cheese, a sprinkle of chopped cilantro and half of the cooked chicken and onion mixture.
- Repeat with a second layer same as the first.
- Top with the last two poblano peppers skin side facing up this time.
- Sprinkle over the last third of cheese.
- Separate the egg yolks from whites into two medium bowls.
- Add the remaining half teaspoon of salt to the egg whites and beat to stiff peaks with a hand mixer.
- Add the milk and reserved liquid from earlier to the egg yolks and whisk to combine. Then add the flour and baking powder and whisk.
- Fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture then spread over the top of the casserole.
- Bake uncovered for 40-50 minutes or until the top is nicely browned and a probe thermometer inserted into the center reads at least 150 degrees F. (May need to cover with foil for last ten minutes if getting too browned.)
- Let rest ten minutes then cut into six portions with a sharp knife.
- Serve with sour cream, chopped tomatoes and a little more chopped cilantro. Or serve with Southwestern Red Chile Sauce or our Restaurant-Style Salsa.
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* If you like it mild, use less than one jalapeno or eliminate it all together.