Smothered Queso Chicken Bake Recipe

There's something so cozy and comforting about a classic chicken and rice bake — and, conveniently, it's the perfect weeknight meal because it incorporates everything you need for dinner in one casserole dish. This smothered queso chicken bake from developer Jessica Morone really amps up the flavors from a classic casserole by incorporating a bit of spice and plenty of cheesy goodness. "Tender, juicy chicken smothered in a creamy, cheesy queso sauce, all baked to perfection with fluffy rice that soaks up every bit of flavor," Morone tells us. And it is incredibly cheesy, with queso on both the rice and covering the chicken, but there is also an additional layer of shredded Mexican blend cheese melted on top.

Instead of opting for subpar jarred queso from the store, you'll be making a from-scratch version for this recipe — don't worry, it's easier to do than you might initially think. "The trick to making queso is to make sure you keep stirring it while the cheese melts, so the cheese never burns and it becomes a silky creamy sauce," Morone advises. If you love spice you can also make the queso hotter by adding in some diced jalapeños, cayenne pepper, or hot sauce, making this a very customizable dish. 

Gather the ingredients for this smothered queso chicken bake

Before you start making this recipe you need to gather all the ingredients. First you need boneless, skinless chicken breasts and taco seasoning. For the queso you need cheddar cheese, cornstarch, butter, a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles, evaporated milk, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and milk. You'll combine some of the homemade queso with cooked white rice, diced Roma tomatoes, and a small can of diced green chiles. Finally, you'll need shredded Mexican blend cheese to top off the whole bake along with some fresh cilantro, with that latter ingredient being optional.

Step 1: Preheat the oven

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Step 2: Season the chicken

Sprinkle taco seasoning over both sides of the chicken breasts.

Step 3: Sear the chicken

Sear chicken breasts in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes on each side until golden brown, then set aside. Note that the chicken will not be cooked through at this point.

Step 4: Combine cheddar and cornstarch

Mix the cheddar cheese and cornstarch together in a medium bowl until the cheese is coated, then set aside.

Step 5: Heat the butter

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan.

Step 6: Add tomatoes and green chiles

Add tomatoes and green chiles mixture and cook until heated.

Step 7: Make the queso

Add in evaporated milk, cheese/cornstarch mixture, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt. Stir until cheese is melted and sauce thickens.

Step 8: Finish the queso

Stir in the milk and remove the queso from heat.

Step 9: Prepare the rice

In a large bowl mix together the rice, diced Roma tomatoes, diced green chiles, and 1 cup of the queso.

Step 10: Put the rice in a baking pan

Spread the rice mixture into the bottom of a 9x13-inch (or similar size) baking pan.

Step 11: Top with chicken

Add the seared chicken on top of the rice.

Step 12: Add queso and bake

Spread the remaining queso over the top of everything. Cover with foil and cook in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Step 13: Sprinkle on the cheese

Remove the foil and sprinkle the shredded Mexican blend cheese over the top of the casserole.

Step 14: Finish baking

Bake in the oven for an additional 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 F.

Step 15: Serve

Sprinkle with cilantro if desired, then serve warm.

What spices can I use if I don't have taco seasoning?

Taco seasoning is usually a combination of chili peppers, paprika, oregano, salt, onion powder and garlic powder. The easiest thing to do is pick up a packet of this seasoning already made from the grocery store, but you can also make homemade taco seasoning if you want. If you're in a pinch, several single ingredients can mimic the overall effect of taco seasoning, especially if you're missing just one ingredient from the mix. 

Chili powder is the base of most taco seasonings, and provides both heat and depth, whereas cumin adds a warm, earthy note that is important to taco seasoning; if you have these individual spices, you can combine them to season the chicken. Paprika offers a sweet pepper flavor that complements the chili powder, so consider adding that as well. You could also go in a different direction and try other seasoning mixes. Fajita seasoning is very similar to taco seasoning with a bit of a different flavor profile. Creole or Cajun seasonings could also give this dish a fun southern twist with more heat and complexity. 

Can I make any part of this chicken bake in advance?

One of the best things about this recipe is that you can make certain components ahead of time. "The queso is the easiest thing to make ahead of time, as you can make it and keep it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days," Morone says. You also don't have to worry about heating up the queso before adding it to the casserole as everything will become nice and hot in the oven. To make this an easy weeknight meal you could also use jarred queso and skip the queso making step completely, although it wont be quite as good as homemade queso. 

You could also prepare this chicken bake up to a day in advance and put it in the oven when you are ready to cook it. In addition to making parts of this ahead of time, leftovers of this chicken queso bake will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days, or you can freeze them for up to a month. 

Smothered Queso Chicken Bake Recipe
4.9 from 17 ratings
This ultra-cheesy queso chicken bake is the ultimate comfort meal, making for a great weeknight option for the whole family.
Prep Time
10
minutes
Cook Time
1
hour
Servings
4
Servings
smothered queso chicken bake on a table
Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Ingredients
  • 3 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 ½ tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 2 ½ cups cheddar cheese, freshly shredded
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • ¾ cup diced roma tomatoes
  • 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
Optional Ingredients
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Sprinkle taco seasoning over both sides of the chicken breasts.
  3. Sear chicken breasts in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes on each side until golden brown, then set aside. Note that the chicken will not be cooked through at this point.
  4. Mix the cheddar cheese and cornstarch together in a medium bowl until the cheese is coated, then set aside.
  5. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan.
  6. Add tomatoes and green chilies mixture and cook until heated.
  7. Add in evaporated milk, cheese/cornstarch mixture, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt. Stir until cheese is melted and sauce thickens.
  8. Stir in the milk and remove the queso from heat.
  9. In a large bowl mix together the rice, diced roma tomatoes, diced green chiles, and 1 cup of the queso.
  10. Spread the rice mixture into the bottom of a 9x13-inch (or similar size) baking pan.
  11. Add the seared chicken on top of the rice.
  12. Spread the remaining queso over the top of everything. Cover with foil and cook in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
  13. Remove the foil and sprinkle the shredded Mexican blend cheese over the top of the casserole.
  14. Bake in the oven for an additional 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 F.
  15. Sprinkle with cilantro if desired, then serve warm.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 991
Total Fat 48.2 g
Saturated Fat 25.0 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 278.5 mg
Total Carbohydrates 56.8 g
Dietary Fiber 4.3 g
Total Sugars 12.2 g
Sodium 1,671.5 mg
Protein 79.6 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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