Chicken Taco Casserole (Quick and Easy)

By: Cassy Joy Garcia

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Chicken taco casserole is an easy-to-whip-up dinner with cilantro lime rice, Mexican-seasoned shredded chicken, a creamy salsa, fresh pico, shredded cheese, and a dollop of guacamole!

a full serving dish of chicken taco casserole with a garnish of sour cream and cilantro on top

Chicken Taco Casserole with Rice

This chicken taco casserole dish is made up of 5 different layers: cilantro lime rice, Mexican-seasoned shredded chicken, a creamy salsa, shredded cheese, then fresh pico, guacamole, and sour cream after it comes out of the oven.

Chicken Taco Rice Casserole Ingredients

Here's what you'll need for this chicken taco casserole:

all of the ingredients for chicken taco casserole sitting in different sized bowls and plates on a marble surface
  • White Rice – to start, you'll need 4 cups of cooked white rice.
  • Lime Juice – a 1/4 cup of fresh lime juice (the juice from about 2 juicy limes) gets added to the rice for a punch of acidity and brightness.
  • Cilantro – in addition to the lime juice, you'll also add a 1/4 cup of chopped fresh cilantro to the cooked rice.
  • Shredded Chicken – the second layer of our taco casserole consists of about 4 cups of shredded chicken (about 2 pounds of raw chicken, cooked and shredded) mixed with several delicious spices.
  • Spices + Seasonings – 1 tablespoon of chili powder, 1 tablespoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of onion powder, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, a 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, and a 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper mix with our chicken to add a really delicious taco flavor to the finished product.
  • Salsa – our next layer is a creamy salsa! For this, you'll need 16 ounces of your favorite salsa. We used a red salsa here, but feel free to use a green salsa if you prefer that.
  • Sour Cream – to make the salsa nice and creamy, we'll mix it with 1 cup of sour cream. When the casserole comes out of the oven, we'll top each serving with an additional dollop of sour cream, so be sure to have enough for that too!
  • Shredded Cheese – the last layer of our casserole is cheese! You'll sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese over top the casserole before popping it into the oven.
  • Pico de Gallo – now for the MOST fun part: toppings! When the casserole comes out of the oven, you'll top it with 2 cups of fresh pico de gallo (homemade or store-bought).
  • Guacamole – we love serving this casserole with a dollop of guacamole on top.
  • Cilantro – a garnish of chopped fresh cilantro finishes everything off beautifully!

What's the best way to cook chicken to shred it?

There are so many options when it comes to cooking and shredding chicken. Our favorite ways to do this are either in the Instant Pot or the slow cooker, and if you need to cook your chicken from frozen, we have directions for that too!

Is it easier to shred chicken hot or cold?

This is totally up to you — neither way is necessarily harder or easier than the other, it'll just depend on when you have time to shred your chicken (right after cooking or later on) and which you prefer!

How to Make Chicken Taco Casserole

This casserole is so easy and so yummy — here's how you'll bring it together:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix the rice, lime juice, and cilantro – to start, mix the cooked rice with the lime juice and chopped cilantro. Then, spread the rice evenly into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  3. Make the shredded chicken layer – mix the shredded chicken with the chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper, and spread it evenly over the rice in the baking dish.
  4. Whisk together the sour cream + salsa – in a bowl, whisk together the salsa and sour cream. Pour the mixture over the chicken and rice in the baking dish.
  5. Sprinkle the cheese over top + bake – lastly, sprinkle the cheese over top and bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is browned.
  6. Garnish + serve – before plating, spread the fresh pico evenly over the casserole. Garnish individual plates with guacamole, cilantro, and additional sour cream, then serve.
a metal bowl of white rice mixed with cilantro leaves
a person whisking together a creamy light red colored sauce in a large bowl
a full serving dish of chicken taco casserole without garnishes
a metal bowl of shredded chicken mixed with taco seasoning
chicken taco casserole being assembled - a light red colored sauce being poured over seasoned shredded chicken
a full serving dish of chicken taco casserole with a garnish of sour cream and cilantro on top
chicken taco casserole being assembled - seasoned shredded chicken being spread over cilantro rice
a full serving dish of chicken taco casserole just before going into the oven
a small plate with a serving of taco casserole on it

Should the casserole be covered when baking?

Nope! You don't need to cover the casserole while it bakes. In fact, we want the cheese to get slightly browned and bubbly, so it's best to not cover it.

What to Serve with this Taco Rice Casserole

One of the really great things about this casserole is that is a complete meal all on its own. The rice provides a healthy dose of carbohydrates, the chicken provides the protein, and the guacamole + sour cream add some nice, healthy fats. If you really want to serve this with something else, a simple side salad would be a good choice!

a full taco casserole with two servings on two small plates

Storing and Reheating Taco Chicken Casserole

Store your casserole in an airtight container in the refrigerator or top your casserole dish with either a matching lid or parchment paper-lined (if you'd like) aluminum foil, and reheat a single serving in the microwave or pop the whole casserole into the oven!

Can I substitute the chicken for another type of meat in this recipe?

Absolutely! Shredded pork shoulder, ground beef, or ground chicken would all be delicious options!

Print

Taco Shredded Chicken Casserole

This chicken taco casserole is an easy, delicious way to get dinner on the table!

  • Author: Cassy
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 4 cups cooked white rice
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 4 cups shredded chicken (this will be 2 pounds of chicken)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 16 ounces salsa
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups fresh pico, for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
  • Guacamole, for garnish
  • Additional sour cream, for garnish
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix the rice with the lime juice and chopped cilantro. Spread the rice evenly into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  3. Mix the shredded chicken with the chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper. Spread the seasoned shredded chicken evenly over the rice in the baking dish.
  4. In a bowl, whisk together the salsa and sour cream. Pour the mixture over the chicken and rice in the baking dish. Sprinkle the cheese over top and bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is browned.
  5. Before plating, spread the fresh pico evenly over the casserole. Garnish individual plates with guacamole, cilantro, and additional sour cream, then serve.

Notes

If you're looking for the original taco casserole recipe, find it below!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups white or cauliflower rice, cooked
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 4 cups shredded chicken
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups fresh salsa
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 cups fresh pico, for garnish
  • Guacamole, for garnish
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix the rice with the lime juice and chopped cilantro. Spread the seasoned rice evenly into the bottom of a 9×12 baking dish.
  3. Mix the shredded chicken with the chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper. Spread the seasoned shredded chicken evenly over the rice in the baking dish.
  4. In a bowl, whisk together the salsa and coconut milk. Pour this mixture over the chicken and rice in the baking dish. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
  5. Before plating, spread the fresh pico evenly over the casserole. Garnish individual plates with guacamole and cilantro.

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Recipe rating

  1. anna says:

    I love how you have made our evenings easy and healthy. I have a question about the rice (either kind) – is it cooked first or put in the casserole raw? This looks yummy! Thanks!

  2. anna says:

    sorry just saw it says make the rice then assemble!

    1. Cassy says:

      No sorry needed, Anna! I hope you love the dish!

  3. KT says:

    Question: do I cook the shredded chicken before putting it in the casserole? I know that seems like a really basic question but I’m “kitchen-challenged”.

    Thanks!

    1. Cassy says:

      I’m here for you, then! Yes, all the ingredients are cooked before they’re put into the casserole. Check out my “slow cooker shredded chicken” for a super easy recipe for the shredded chicken. I hope you love the dish and feel like a kitchen wizard instead 😉

  4. KT says:

    Never mind. I re-read it. Apparently I’m also reading challenged

  5. Jennifer says:

    Hi! Just found your awesome site! Won’t the cauliflower rice get mushy in the oven if you’ve already cooked it?

    Thanks!

  6. Rebecca says:

    This looks so good! Any substitute for the coconut milk? I was thinking maybe plain greek yogurt but I’m not sure.

  7. Angie says:

    Wish the recipe said COOKED jasmine rice. Just made without cooking it first (had no idea) and now have to throw away all the chicken;(

    1. Kelly says:

      I’m sorry Angie. It doesn’t say it in the directs but somewhat mentions it before the recipe. I will update the recipe.

  8. Leslie says:

    Hi Cassy! Do you think this would freeze well? I’m looking for a casserole type dish I can make ahead and bring to paleo friends expecting a baby. I would like to fill their freezer with food they can easily reheat. Would you recommend any of your recipes for this purpose? Thanks so much!

  9. Rebecca says:

    I made this last night and it was delicious! I used the slow cooker shredded chicken recipe and did the casserole with jasmine rice. I also added a diced zucchini to the rice mix. It was awesome. A winner for the whole family.

  10. Kim says:

    I made this tonight… loved it! I would have never thought to mix coconut milk with salsa 🙂

  11. Melissa says:

    I made this tonight with some store bought salsa and already shredded chicken. It had a creaminess that I miss since giving up dairy. It was delicious! And so easy!
    Thank you!!!!!

    1. Cassy says:

      Awesome! You’re so welcome, Melissa!

  12. Cindy says:

    This was delicious! I used the jasmine rice. If someone doesn’t like spicy (I’d rate this as medium), you may want to use a little less chili powder and a mild salsa. Cooked as the directions state, though, I was amazed at how good this was.

    1. Cassy says:

      Glad you liked it, Cindy!

  13. Elise says:

    What are the nutrition facts for this recipe? I’m excited to try it!

  14. Janet says:

    How many ounces are in the can of coconut milk? Sizes vary, plus I want to us a substitute.

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      About 13.5 ounces, Janet!

  15. Rachel says:

    If I am buying 12oz bags of frozen cauliflower rice, do I need 2 to get to 4 cups cooked?

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      It looks like there are about 3 cups of cauliflower rice in a 12oz bag, so for exactly 4 cups, you’ll need to use part of another bag too! If you don’t have another bag, though, don’t worry about it! It’ll be just fine with 3 cups!