by Olena

Santa Fe Chicken and Lentil Casserole

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Olena Osipov
4.9 from 14 votes

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.

If you love lentils, though, you might also like this Instant Pot dal, green lentil curry, lentil mushroom casserole, or spinach and lentil soup!

Santa Fe Chicken and Lentil Casserole

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.

I follow the same with lots of my favorite casseroles; chicken zucchini casserole, cabbage roll casserole, healthy Mexican casserole, etc.

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 lentils? Why not try a lentil soup like this red lentil veg soup, Instant Pot lentil soup, or slow cooker veggie lentil soup or chicken lentil soup!

Santa Fe Chicken and Lentil Casserole

More Healthy Chicken Casseroles and One-Pot Dishes

You can also browse through my entire collection of one-pot meals!

Santa Fe Chicken and Lentil Casserole

Santa Fe Chicken and Lentil Casserole

Santa Fe Chicken and Lentil Casserole Recipe with green lentils, chicken, corn, cumin, cilantro and cheese baked into a healthy kid approved casserole.
4.93 from 14 votes
Print Save Rate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 443kcal
Author: Olena Osipov



  • 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 Tex Mex or Colby Jacks cheese 6.5 oz, shredded & divided
  • 2 tbsp jalapeño peppers seeded & minced (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 cup cilantro chopped & divided


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


      Serving: 1slice | Calories: 443kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 43g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 102mg | Sodium: 506mg | Potassium: 1013mg | Fiber: 13g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1563IU | Vitamin C: 50mg | Calcium: 246mg | Iron: 4mg
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      olena osipov in the studio

      Hello and welcome to iFOODreal.

      My name is Olena Osipov. I'm a mom to 2 boys, a wife to Alex and we reside on magical Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. This is our healthy family recipes blog. Originally from Ukraine, I grew up on real food. As an adult, I struggled with diets for years because none worked long-term. Now for over 10 years, I cook easy healthy meals for my family. I can help you with “What’s for dinner?” too.

      52 comments on “Santa Fe Chicken and Lentil Casserole

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      1. 4 stars
        This was quite good! Certainly a more healthy alternative to other Mexican style casseroles as well. I only made one substitution: I didn’t have diced tomatoes or jalapeños so I added a jar of salsa-would use it again! Was 9 Weight Watchers points for me which was great!

      2. You’ve got to start using New Mexico chile! It’s in stores just about everywhere now in many forms (frozen peeled and whole, Frozen sauce, salsas, canned sauces or pieces, dried pods, powder, etc. Red or green). At least that will allow you to name an altered recipe after Santa Fe. No hard feelings. Just suggestion.

        1. Thank you for your suggestion, Donna. I will check out our Canadian stores, might be different supply. Nope, no hard feelings. I also think I can name my creations whatever I wish. It is quite hard to name recipes to consider Google requirements, social media marketing, traditional cuisines etc. This is in no way traditional, so I can name it whatever it matches closest to. I can call it Donald Trump if I want to lol.

      3. 5 stars
        Okay so I made this recipe exactly how it is written except that I used taco seasoning instead of just cumin. SO fantastic!! I had no idea how much of it there was, I made it for one.. still ended up freezing some but eating it all within two weeks! I love it. Great recipe 🙂

      4. 5 stars
        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!

      5. 5 stars
        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.

      6. 5 stars
        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!

      7. 5 stars
        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!

      8. 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.

      9. 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!

      10. 5 stars
        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.

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

      12. 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.

      13. 5 stars
        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.:)

      14. 5 stars
        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!

      15. 5 stars
        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!

      16. 5 stars
        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!:)

      17. 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.:)

      18. 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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