This Mexican cauliflower rice casserole is a great macro-friendly (high protein, lower carb) meal prep recipe! And it’s gluten-free, with a dairy-free option, too.
I first came up with this Mexican cauliflower rice casserole last year when I wanted to make a healthy lunch recipe to enjoy all week. I wanted to pack something for lunch other than salad that was delicious, high in protein, and filling, but also not too heavy.
I used a combination of ingredients I already had on hand in my fridge and pantry, and since then, I’ve made this cauliflower rice casserole at least five or six times! I make no claims that this is authentic Mexican cuisine, but it’s at least Tex-Mex inspired. 😉
I procrastinated posting the recipe on the blog for quite a while since I think casseroles can be really tricky to photograph, but I finally decided to give it my best shot and then share it, anyway!
Two things I really like about this Mexican cauliflower rice casserole:
1) It’s packed with veggies! Making vegetable side dishes sometimes falls to the wayside when school gets busy, so I love when my meals already include lots of veggies (which is why I eat salads most days for lunch).
2) It has a good ratio of macros and it’s relatively high in protein. I tracked macros for a couple of months last year to get an idea of if I was eating enough protein and not going overboard on sugar. I wasn’t too surprised to find that it was hard to meet my protein goals unless I made a conscious effort to include protein in most, if not all, of my meals and snacks. (And my protein targets weren’t all that high!)
I could probably write a whole post about what I learned from macro tracking, but my biggest takeaway was that I should make an effort to include a mix of carbs, fat, and lean protein in all of my meals (and snacks, if possible). Carbs and fat aren’t usually too hard to fit in, so protein was the main missing piece. That’s something that I already knew logically, but I’d gotten out of the habit of considering protein on a regular basis.
For a total carb lover 🙋🏻♀️ whose favorite foods include pasta, sweet potatoes, and ice cream, I realized I had to plan ahead to make sure I included some type of protein source in all of my basic meals and snacks. So, for example, one of my meal prep staples now is turkey meatballs that I bake in advance, store in the freezer, and then add a few whenever I make pasta or spaghetti squash with marinara or pesto. Or while I’d happily eat just a giant stack of pancakes, I’ll have just a few pancakes and add an egg or two. 😀
I’m not tracking macros currently, but I think it was helpful to try out for a while to get back into some good nutrition habits. And if macros are your thing, one big serving (1/6 of this casserole) has: 26c, 36p, 10f, which is pretty good!
But back to the casserole recipe! Here are a few tips and tricks for making it:
Where to buy cauliflower rice
You can buy cauliflower rice in the frozen vegetable section at most grocery stores, which I think is usually the most cost-effective option. I buy a giant bag of frozen cauliflower rice at Costco for this recipe and to add to smoothies.
You can also buy fresh cauliflower rice in the produce section at some stores, including Trader Joe’s, but I think it’s generally more expensive. You can also even make your own cauliflower rice, if needed!
Shortcuts & Tips
• To save time, I sometimes use a bag of frozen bell peppers and onions (no need to sauté the frozen ones; you can add them right in!)
• I also usually use a rotisserie chicken or leftover chicken from fajita night to make this casserole extra quickly
• Slow-cooker chicken: If you don’t have cooked chicken on hand, an easy hands-off way to make shredded chicken for casseroles is the slow-cooker method: cook chicken breasts or bone-in chicken in chicken broth in your slow-cooker for 6-8 hours on low or high for 3-4 hours and then shred it! Not quick, but super easy.
• Skillet chicken method: Or to quickly cook chicken in the skillet, you can sprinkle on some Mexican-type seasonings (chili powder, fajita seasoning, taco seasoning, etc.) and cook it in oil over medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes on each side, with the lid on, or until chicken is done.
• Use ground turkey or ground chicken instead of shredded chicken.
• Use salsa verde instead of regular salsa.
• Use sour cream instead of Greek yogurt, or for a dairy-free version, use plain dairy-free yogurt and skip the cheese on top.
• Add regular white or brown rice in addition to the cauliflower rice. I’ve made this recipe with both with ALL cauliflower rice and also by adding an extra cup of leftover cooked brown rice to add to make it even heartier. It’s delicious both ways and the taste is fairly similar, so feel free to use whatever fits your dietary and carb needs better.
Hope you enjoy!
If you try this Mexican cauliflower rice casserole, let me know in a comment (and leave a star rating!) or take a photo and tag me @livbane on Instagram! I’d love to see!
Mexican Cauliflower Rice Casserole
- 2 tsp. cooking oil (I use avocado oil or other oil safe for medium heat)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 24 oz. cauliflower rice (I use frozen)*
- 1/2 tsp. each black pepper and salt
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, optional (I add for some heat if using mild salsa)
- 1 1/2 cups mild or medium salsa
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt or Greek yogurt
- 3 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 16 oz cooked.)**
- 15 oz. can black beans
- 1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or canned corn kernels
- 3/4 cup shredded cheddar or four-cheese Mexican blend
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté chopped onion and bell pepper in cooking oil until almost soft, about 5 minutes. Add cauliflower rice and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
- To the sautéed veggies, add black pepper, salt, and optional cayenne pepper. Then, add the salsa, yogurt, shredded chicken, black beans, and corn and stir until heated throughout, about 10 more minutes. (If you run out of room in your skillet, you can add just the chicken, black beans, and corn directly to the baking dish instead and stir everything together again in the baking dish, increasing the oven time by an additional 10 minutes).
- Spray a 13x9 inch baking dish with cooking spray and add rice-veggie mixture. Top with shredded cheese.
- Bake for 20 minutes, until heated throughout and cheese is melted. Serve with guacamole, salsa, and sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.
Slow-cooker chicken method: cook chicken breasts or bone-in chicken in chicken broth in your slow-cooker for 6-8 hours on low or high for 3-4 hours and then shred.
Skillet chicken: Cook chicken in oil over medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes on each side, with lid on, until chicken is done. Dairy-free version: use a dairy-free plain yogurt and omit the cheese on top.
A Healthy Liv original recipe