by Olena

Santa Fe Chicken and Lentil Casserole

by Olena

5 from 2 reviews

Santa Fe Chicken and Lentil Casserole

Santa Fe chicken and lentil casserole recipe with corn, green lentils, chicken, cayenne, cilantro and cheese baked into healthy kid approved bake. It will win the hearts of all lentil haters.

My rule of thumb for a healthy casserole: complex carbs in moderation, more lean protein and veggies, and keep cheese to reasonable amounts.The list of ingredients might seem long but really they are mostly spices that repeat themselves. I just broke down the recipe nicely for you. Some chicken, of course green lentils, veggies, cheese, spices and cilantro. And of course cheese on top. That’s it.

Santa Fe Chicken and Lentil Casserole in casserole dish

How to Make Santa Fe Chicken and Lentil Casserole

cooking chicken on skillet; lentils in pot

First cook your lentils. I added extra liquid for a reason, do not drain it. Make some flavourful golden brown chicken pieces. You could use chicken thighs too.

Santa Fe Chicken and Lentil Casserole ingredients in skillet and adding cheese

Then saute onion, garlic and bell peppers until golden brown. Mix everything together with cheese and spices. Do not thaw the corn. Extra liquid is perfect for keeping the casserole moist during baking.

Then bake uncovered for 50 minutes. The casserole will be bubbly, moist and cheesy. Take it out of the oven, cover with foil and let rest for 30 minutes. Really you could eat it right away but it’s not ideal. You want your casserole to sit, the ingredients to marry each other and soak up the juices. Then it’s the best!

Looking for more ideas with green lentils? Try my lentil casserole with mushrooms, green lentil curry or spinach lentil soup.

Santa Fe Chicken and Lentil Casserole


Santa Fe Chicken and Lentil Casserole

5 from 2 reviews

Santa Fe Chicken and Lentil Casserole Recipe with green lentils, chicken, corn, cumin, cilantro and cheese baked into a healthy kid approved casserole.

  • Author:
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 85 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x



  • 1 + 1/2 cup green lentils, rinsed & drained
  • 3 cups chicken broth, low sodium
  • 1/8 tsp salt



  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 large bell peppers, diced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Cooking spray (I use Misto)

Mix Ins:

  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups corn, frozen & unthawed
  • 2 cups (6.5 oz) Tex Mex or Colby Jacks cheese, shredded & divided
  • 2 tbsp jalapeño peppers, seeded & minced (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped & divided


  1. In a medium pot, combine lentils, chicken broth and salt. Bring to a boil on high, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 35 minutes. Do not drain excess liquid. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat large skillet on high and spray with cooking spray. Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and draining any liquid if necessary. Add cumin, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper and cook for another 5 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Return skillet to medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Add onion, garlic, bell peppers, cumin, salt and cayenne pepper and cook for 7 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.
  4. Transfer to the bowl with chicken along with cooked lentils, diced tomatoes, corn, 1 cup cheese, jalapeño peppers, garlic powder, cumin and 1/2 cup cilantro. Mix gently with spatula enough to combine. You may want to taste and adjust the spiciness/salt of the dish with extra cayenne/jalapeño peppers/salt.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a 9 x 13 oven proof baking dish and level/press gently with spatula. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake uncovered for 50 mins. Remove casserole from the oven, cover with foil and let stand for half an hour before serving. Garnish with remaining cilantro, cut into 8 slices and serve hot.

Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze leftovers for up to 3 months.

Freeze: Assemble, tightly wrap with plastic and then foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight and bake as per instructions + 15 minutes.

 Did you make this recipe? Please give it a star rating in the comments.

olena osipov in the studio

Hello and welcome to iFOODreal.

My name is Olena Osipov. I'm a mom to 2 boys and a wife to Alex. And this is our healthy family recipes blog. I grew up in Ukraine on real food. As an adult, I tried many diets without results. Now for over 10 years, I cook quick and easy healthy meals for my family. I can help you with “What’s for dinner?” too.

What You Will Find Here

Healthy family recipes with simple ingredients. Many are inspired by my Ukrainian heritage. I share mostly dinner recipes because it just never ends... I’m obsessed with healthy freezer meals. And more than in love with my Instant Pot.

A Little More About Me

Originally from Ukraine, I now reside on magic Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada with my family. I started this blog in 2012 when I ended up at home with 2 small kids unemployed and a wee bit chubby.

44 comments on “Santa Fe Chicken and Lentil Casserole

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  1. My husband never need know this is a pretty healthy recipe. He loved it! I made the beans in my Instant Pot. They turned out perfectly and I had the liquid needed for the casserole. As always, I upped the spices a bit, and added Chipotle peppers. I’ll definitely be making this again!

  2. I absolutely love this recipe!!! It is hearty, healthy, and not too difficult! I bought the veggies at the farmers market this morning so it was extra fresh.

  3. I just made this for dinner. It was absolutely freaking delicious! I only had red lentils, so I used those and it turned out great! Very flavorful and comforting. Thank you!

  4. Olena, this recipe is incredibly good! I was trying to find lentil recipes and you saved me! Im so in love with your recipe that this is my second time making it in 1 week! Thank you very very much!

  5. Help! Ive made this for the second time and it’s been mush both times(basically a stew consistency).
    You say to keep excess liquid. My lentils are mushy, maybe that’s it?

    1. Hm. This casserole is on a liquidy side. Do you mean mush casserole overall like too liquidy or that you want firmer lentils? If you want firmer lentils do not keep extra liquid and see how that works.

  6. You are wonderful!! Thank you so much for this recipe! I am a huge lentil lover and I am looking to eat them more often and in new ways. I can have them alone and be fine, but my husband is a meat lover, and he always loves my casseroles (that never involve goopy canned coups), so he will love this too. Can’t wait to try it!

  7. 2 thumbs up! I made this for lunch today. We were having our daughter and her boyfriend over for the game and I wanted something healthy. For you lentil haters out there you can hardly even tell they are there!!! There is still half left and 4 adults ate lunch so plenty for lunch this week which is a TOTAL bonus. Does take a bit to prepare, but totally worth it!!! Thank you Olena!!!

    1. You are welcome, Sheila. Glad I could help you impress the most important people – those are hit and miss and nerve wracking to deal with at times lol.

  8. sounds delicious! I have precooked lentils on hand from Trader Joes. Any idea how much liquid I should add to the dish?

  9. trying for dinner tonight! pretty excited, I was curious if you think Id be able to add minute brown rice to it?

    1. I never cooked with it so don’t know if it soaks up a lot of liquid or not. If not then more likely yes but you might need to add extra water in any case.

    1. You can leave the cheese out but the casserole would not stay as well together. Or you can use any cheese alternative but I haven’t tried. I know there are many soy and vegan cheeses.

  10. This was amazing!!! So flavorful and filling. So far I have made 4 dishes from your website, this one, the cauliflower cheese bread, eggplant fritters, and the grilled Balsamic veggies. Thanks for sharing your awesomeness..LOL. I plan on making the layer greek dip and greek fish kabobs for the 4th. You rock!!!

    1. Awe. Thank you so much for your comment! I wish I had more time to share. I have so many ideas…Anyways, so glad to hear you enjoyed my recipes.:)

  11. Omfreakingod. We LOVE your recipes at my house; I am such a fan of your website. Although at my house, I cannot get ANYONE to eat cilantro, so I’ve started substituting fresh baby spinach and parsley. And if I want the freshness, I use a bit of really fresh mint from the farmers’ market. Your recipes are really making a difference; I am waiting for a cookbook! Thank you!

    1. Hi Sarah. Oh, thank you.:) You made my day. Parsley is a great alternative to cilantro or dill would work in some recipes. Haha, cookbook, maybe one day. But thank you for your kind words.:)

      1. Hey I mean it; it’s amazing and awesome and fun. Also oooo dill I didn’t even think of that. I will have to try it! Thank you! Please keep up the good work!

  12. I made this for dinner and it was delicious. I had extra liquid but carefully poured it out. The flavor was wonderful. Thanks for the recipe!

  13. This was a delicious dish. My one worry is that somehow mine was heavy on the liquid? I followed the recipe to the ‘T’… but I wasn’t so much serving slices, as scoops. Lol. It was still very yummy. Thank you!

    1. I had some liquid on the bottom right after cooking which got soaked up a lot after half an hour of letting the casserole cool. The casserole won’t be holding exactly in slices because there is not that much cheese in it for health reasons.:) You can add 1 more cup cheese or 1/2 less chicken stock to lentils next time. Glad you enjoyed it!:)

  14. I really enjoyed reading this post. I liked the phrase “Ingrediends to marry each other” .
    I will try this casserole, it looks really good. I have lentils in my pantry, and the soup is the only thing that I’ve ever cooked with them. Thanks for the idea.

    1. Thank you, Vera. When it comes to soups, stews and casseroles, they do taste better after ingredients “marry” each other.:) I heard that on TV cooking show one day, from that NJ Italian chef Buddy. Let me know how it comes out. I know many people struggle with cooking lentils but they are awesome. Just need more pitching, like quinoa or chia needed.:)

  15. This sounds amazing. I’m struggling to make dinner during the “witching hours” and have been hunting for healthy casserole recipes I can prepare during day then heat up. I love love love this!

    1. I know. I find school mornings, between 7 – 8 AM and before dinner 5 – 6PM THE WORST hours of the day. Kids are going crazy, you are on a timer and food has to be served. I always come back to casseroles after toying around with fancy salads and stuffed chicken recipe LOL. Enjoy!:)

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