This Healthy Chicken Enchilada Casserole with Spiralized Butternut Squash is made with an easy homemade enchilada sauce. It’s loaded with lots of healthy vegetables and has a slightly sweet and spicy (but not too spicy) flavor that the whole family will love!
It is a variation of a quick and easy recipe I often do for my kids when I’m in a hurry. Normally I just throw together: black beans, chicken, a chipotle pepper in adobo (paid link) sauce, onions, garlic, tomatoes and serve it in tortillas or wrap them up into burritos and air fry them. This time, however I decided to make a homemade enchilada sauce and put the mixture over spiralized butternut squash and turn it into a casserole. The results are delicious! Serve it with a dollop of my Jalapeño Cream.
One of my Gourmet Done Skinny Private Facebook members, Karen, requested healthy Mexican. She’s not a fan of super spicy so Karen, if you take out the chipotle pepper and chipotle powder (paid link) this recipe will be perfect for you! I like the fact that you can control the heat very easily in this dish.
The great thing about this homemade enchilada sauce is that it hardly has any calories, and while you can substitute a canned sauce, the flavor won’t be nearly as good and it may have a ton of calories.
How do you make homemade enchilada sauce? Is it easy?
Making a homemade enchilada sauce is super easy and doesn’t really take that much time. Basically you toast the ancho chiles (paid link) and guajillo chiles (paid link) in a skillet for a few minutes, soak them in boiling water for about 20 minutes and use a food processor (paid link) to grind them up with a few extra ingredients. That’s it!
Are Ancho chiles hot?
No, they Ancho chiles (paid link) are not hot but have a mild heat. Dried chiles often have different names than their fresh beginnings. Poblanos peppers after dried become Ancho chiles (paid link). Jalapeño peppers after aged, dried, and smoked become Chipotle. Guajillo chiles (paid link) come from the Mirasol chili. They are not as hot as a Jalapeño but sweeter and commonly used in authentic Mexican mole sauces.
Why do you toast the chiles and why put them in water?
Toasting the chiles in a dry pan or wok (paid link), helps to bring out the flavor. You only toast them for a few minutes, it doesn’t take long but makes a big difference in the flavor. I like to sauté the onions in the same pan so they pick up that flavor as well. After toasting you put them in boiling water to rehydrate them and make them soft.
Can you freeze homemade enchilada sauce?
Yes, you can freeze it for later use, which makes this recipe even easier to put together! Make a double batch of the sauce when you make it and freeze one for next time.
Can you substitute canned enchilada sauce?
Yes, you can but keep in mind the flavor won’t be nearly as good and it can add more points and/or calories. The great thing about this homemade enchilada sauce is that it hardly has any calories, and it’s delicious!
How to Make Healthy Enchilada Chicken Casserole in Pictures:
Time needed: 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Cut off the stems and deseed the chiles.
- Toast the chiles in a dry pan or wok (paid link).
I like to use my wok (paid link) but a regular pan will work fine.
- Rehydrate the chiles.
Place chiles in a bowl, add 2 c. boiling/hot water. Place a bowl or plate on top to keep them submerged for about 20-30 minutes.
- Sauté onions.
Sauté onions for a few minutes, then add the garlic.
- Peel and spiralize the butternut squash.
See my post on How to Peel and Spiralize Butternut Squash for directions.
- Make the enchilada sauce.
Combine chiles, onion mixture, chipotle pepper and spices in a food processor (paid link).
- In a large bowl, combine sauce, chicken and remaining ingredients except for cheese and squash.
- Place butternut squash in a prepared casserole dish, add chicken mixture and top with cheese.
- Cover with foil and bake at 350° for about 45 minutes.
- Take off foil and allow to sit 10 minutes before cutting. Cut into 8 pieces. Eat some and freeze some for later!
- Enjoy with a dollop of my Jalapeño Cream.
I also like to put a slice of the hot casserole on a bed of spring greens. My husband doesn’t like it this way, hot casserole, cold lettuce but I love it, like a warm taco salad!
Chicken Enchilada Casserole with Spiralized Butternut Squash
- 1 lb. of cooked chicken thighs cut into bite sized pieces, or use rotisserie chicken or cooked chicken breasts shredded for less points
- 4 dried ancho chiles
- 2 dried guajillo chiles or do all ancho if you prefer very mild
- 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce - leave out if you want mild take one out of the chiles in adobo sauce, freeze the rest, see note at bottom of recipe)
- 1 c. chopped onion 1 large red or white
- 1 T. cumin
- 1/4 t. - 1 t. of chipotle powder use the lesser amount if you like it mild
- 6 oz. can tomato paste
- spray from olive oil mister
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 t. kosher salt
- 2 15 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 15 oz can corn (optional), drained
- 1 small can 4 oz diced green chiles - mild, not drained
- 4 oz sharp white cheddar shredded
- 1 large butternut squash - about 4 cups - spiralized
- In a dry pan or wok, toast the seeded chiles for a few minutes, be careful not to let them burn. Remove from pan.
- Place chiles in a bowl, add 2 c. boiling/hot water. Place a bowl or plate on top to keep them submerged for about 20-30 minutes.
- In the meantime, spray the pan or wok with a bit of oil from your olive oil sprayer. Add onions and saute for a few minutes.
- Add minced garlic and brown for about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
- While still waiting on chiles to rehydrate, spiralize the butternut squash. To do this: first, cut off the bulbous end of a butternut squash. Cut off the top. Microwave remaining squash for 2 minutes. Allow to cool. Peel squash and spiralize. Set aside. For complete instructions on spiralizing squash with pictures, check out this post!
- Transfer onion/garlic mixture to a food processor. Add 1 chipotle pepper from the adobo sauce, 1 t. salt, cumin, chipotle powder, tomato paste. Add in chiles from the hot water (save the chile water).
- Process mixture until smooth. Add 3 T. of the reserved water. Process again.
- In a large bowl, add cooked chicken, enchilada sauce, beans, corn, green chiles. Combine well.
- Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with olive oil spray. Add spiralized butternut squash, chicken mixture and top with cheese. Cover with foil.
- Bake at 350° for about 45 minutes or until hot. Remove foil and allow to sit for 10 minutes before cutting.
- I hate wasting food so when I use a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, I take one out and plop the rest on parchment paper and freeze. Then when I need just one, I take it out of the freezer.
- To learn more about how to spiralize noodles, check out How to Peel and Spiralize Butternut Squash.
This casserole is the perfect comfort food! My whole family loved it, and it was easy to make. The instructions on how to spiralize the butternut squash were very helpful.