Chicken Fajita Quinoa Bake (No Pre-Cooking!)

~ The family-pleasing flavors of chicken fajitas, in a simple baked casserole! Bonus: the base is super-healthy quinoa, with no pre-cooking needed! Seriously delicious, and soooooo easy! ~

This Recipe Is:     Gluten Free  

Chicken Fajita Quinoa Bake (No Pre-Cooking!) {from Two Healthy Kitchens}

Hark, tiny quinoa, how I doth love thee …

Oh dear … I just remembered I’m not a poet.

Right.

But this quinoa bake, with its genius no-cook method. Well, I kinda felt like I wanted to write it an ode … or something like that. (Is an ode Shakespearean? I was for sure not good at Shakespeare.)

Chicken Fajita Quinoa Bake (No Pre-Cooking!) {from Two Healthy Kitchens}

Huh.

Maybe a limerick? We learned those in … what … first grade? That seemed manageable. But first grade was a looooong time ago, and I couldn’t recall if limericks have five lines … or three … And do they always involve leprechauns and rainbows and kittens, or do I only think that because that’s what you write about when you’re in first grade?

*SIGH*

Ok …

We’re just gonna tackle the subject of the incredible fabulousness of this quinoa straight-up. Got it? Are you with me???? (Really … say yes … as you recall I’m admittedly terrible with poetry!)

Chicken Fajita Quinoa Bake (No Pre-Cooking!) {from Two Healthy Kitchens}

So here’s why this really deserves an ode …

It’s kinda magical. As in, if you did write it an ode, there probably should be rainbows and leprechauns … it’s magical, I tell ya!

And all because you get to skip an ENTIRE cooking step! I know, right!?!? How cool is that!?!

You don’t have to pre-cook the quinoa!

Chicken Fajita Quinoa Bake (No Pre-Cooking!) {from Two Healthy Kitchens}

So easy! Simply mix the uncooked quinoa directly in a 9×13 baking pan along with your salsa, black beans and some chicken broth.

Just dump it into the baking pan and the magical quinoa takes care of the rest. (While you go help with converting fractions or memorizing multiplication tables or reminding the kiddos about the household no bickering policy). Niiiiiiiice!

When it occurred to me to try this, I wondered if it would actually work, and why (if it did work) I hadn’t come across more recipes that used this method. It seems so logical, right? If you can bake pasta without pre-cooking it (hint hint … wait’ll you check out the upcoming post about that!) well, then why couldn’t quinoa work the same way? (These are the kinds of questions that keep food bloggers awake at night.)

If you follow THK, you know we did a big ‘ole post about all the ins and outs of cooking quinoa. In fact, it’s the most popular thing we’ve ever posted – no kidding! So, I’ve done a fair amount of research and testing when it comes to my friend quinoa.

Still, I was so excited about the no-pre-cooking idea. Why hadn’t I seen this before? (Why, oh why, hadn’t I tried it before???) After all – you, my THK friends, know that we loooooove to skip steps if it makes more time for fractions and multiplication tables, right!?!?

Chicken Fajita Quinoa Bake (No Pre-Cooking!) {from Two Healthy Kitchens}

The fajita strips just need a quick toss with the delicious Mexican spices, and they’re ready to nestle on top of the quinoa mixture for baking.

So I gave it a try. What better way to see what would happen?

I was actually shocked (and ridiculously excited) to find that … IT WORKED! Like a charm, actually! Or, well, (wait for it …) like MAGIC!

You can bet you’ll be seeing more no-pre-cooking quinoa bakes from Two Healthy Kitchens in the future. Why? Because they’re so gosh-darn easy! Not to mention totally jam-crammed with nutrition!

This fajita version was a total home run at my house. All the family-friendly flavors of chicken fajitas, in one super-easy casserole – no tortillas or messy jamming-the-fillings-into-a-wrap needed. It’s the kind of meal where you keep scooping a tiny bit more onto your plate … and then just a tiny smidgen more … and then maybe just a little …

Chicken Fajita Quinoa Bake (No Pre-Cooking!) {from Two Healthy Kitchens}

Because it’s too good to stop eating.

Oh, and also magical. With rainbows.

And lucky you. In the eleventh hour before we posted this, my creative husband came to our rescue with a fitting limerick.

So, enjoy … or … errrrrrr … whatever ………

For the Mexican feast you’ve been lookin’
It’s a favorite that could be mistooken
For food full of fat
But we never do that
And the quinoa requires no cookin’

THK By Shelley

We’d Love to Hear From You!

Easy question today! Who’s your favorite poet? (No, mine is NOT my hubby!) Don’t laugh … but hands-down mine is Shel Silverstein! (Wouldn’t my honors English teacher be horrified?!?!?) Gretchen also reaches back to her childhood for Shel Silverstein … those tattered copies of A Light in the Attic and The Giving Tree are among her favorite books of all time! And maybe it’s because we get to share these books with our kiddos now … but the man was a genius and his writing still puts a smile on everyone’s face!

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Chicken Fajita Quinoa Bake (No Pre-Cooking!)

Preparation 15 min. 2017-04-27T00:15:00+00:00 Cook Time 40-50 min. 2017-04-27T00:00:00+00:00
Serves About 13 cups     adjust servings

Ingredients

  • 1 16-ounce jar of your favorite thick and chunky salsa (see note)
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14.5-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa (rinsed if needed – see note)
  • 1 red pepper, cut into strips (to equal about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 green pepper, cut into strips (to equal about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 of a large sweet onion, cut into strips (to equal about 1 3/4 – 2 cups)
  • 1 pound chicken breasts, cut into strips, or 1 pound chicken tenders (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Optional toppings for serving: shredded reduced-fat cheese, shredded lettuce, reduced-fat sour cream, avocados or guacamole, chopped cilantro or green onions, hot sauce such as Tapatío

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Mix salsa, black beans, chicken broth and quinoa in a 9x13 baking dish coated with cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, combine peppers, onion, chicken, oil and seasonings until thoroughly combined. Spoon pepper mixture over quinoa mixture in baking dish.
  4. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 40-50 minutes (depending on thickness of your chicken and peppers and your brand of quinoa), or until chicken is cooked through, veggies are crisp-tender, and quinoa is done (it will no longer look like tightly closed white dots but will instead be tender and you'll see lots of quinoa "tails").
  5. Serve with desired toppings.

by

Recipe Notes

Salsa: We generally use a thick and chunky salsa for this recipe, but have also tested it with looser, less thick varieties. Either will work fine, so feel free to use whatever you have on hand. However, less chunky salsa will result in a runnier, looser casserole (which is still perfectly delicious). Either way, the casserole will thicken slightly upon standing, if you prefer that.

Quinoa: If your quinoa is not pre-rinsed, then before you add it to the casserole, you will need to rinse it in a sieve, swishing it with your fingers until the water runs clear. We always look for pre-rinsed brands to save that step.

Chicken breasts or tenders: Even when using chicken tenders, we often still cut larger tenders in half lengthwise to create thinner, fajita-like strips with more surface area to be coated with the delicious fajita spices. If you're in a hurry, though, you can use the tenders whole, although the meat won't be as well coated in the spice mixture. Also, if using tenders, be sure that your butcher has done a good job removing the little white nub of tendon from the end of each tender. If not, just cut that off to avoid having a rubbery, unappetizing piece of gristle after cooking. We generally find that there's no need to worry about removing the white wisp of tendon that extends all the way down through the tender, as it generally becomes unnoticeable after cooking. However, some people don't like the idea of that tendon – if that's true for you, or if the tenders available at your market are not well-trimmed and have extremely tough tendons, we advise just skipping them and choosing chicken breasts instead.

We'd love to see your photos of this recipe! Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter and tag @TwoHealthyKitchens!

 

Our Chicken Fajita Quinoa Bake recipe has been mentioned or featured in:
20 Delicious Chicken Breast Recipes at Penny Pincher Jenny
30 Black Bean Recipes at Trippin’ with Tara
40+ Gluten Free Comfort Food Recipes at Cupcakes & Kale Chips
11 Delicious Low Fat Casseroles at Rants from My Crazy Kitchen
Healthy One Pot Meals with Extra Veggies at Barbara Bakes
I Have a Lot on My Plate from There’s a polar Bear Down the Street
100 Easy Healthy Back-To-School Chicken Recipes from Jeanette’s Healthy Living 
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Comments

Chicken Fajita Quinoa Bake (No Pre-Cooking!) — 59 Comments

  1. Just had to let you know that I love this recipe so much—every time I make it, I can’t believe how easy and delicious it is!

    • Oh, Sue! You’re so sweet! It’s really kind of you to take a moment to pop back and tell us that you’re still loving this recipe! It makes me so happy to know that it’s become a regular at your house! Thank you bunches – really! 😀 ~Shelley

  2. Delicious! We topped ours with cheese and sour cream. My husband said it’s a definite make again! I have no problem with that as it was so easy to make. I prepared it while my 8-month-old napped and just popped it in the oven when we were ready for dinner. I’m glad there’s leftovers 🙂

  3. Doc advised me to try quinoa (first I had ever heard of it!) as part of my healthy diet. Cooked it according to instructions…yuck! Stopped the diet but still had quinoa, searched for and found an amazing recipe right here! Just got done eating it for supper…Thanks so much for sharing! Everyone loved it!

  4. This is great! Even my 16 year old that swears quinoa is bird seed and has voiced her distaste on many occasions ate it!
    If there was a calorie count included, it would be perfection!

    • Wow Sarah! That’s fantastic news that your family enjoyed this dinner! We are so happy! (But we really giggled about quinoa being bird seed!)

      The calorie count is definitely something we’ve discussed, but we found that there could be quite a range of ingredients across different brands of the same food. Because we don’t specify brands in our recipes (although sometimes you can what we are cooking with in the photos!) we just didn’t feel right about giving you the info for the brands we’ve used, since you may select a different brand at your store. The calorie count (as well as all other nutrients) could change depending on what brands you typically purchase. With Gretchen’s degree in Nutrition, she could absolutely figure out what the calorie, fat, carbohydrate, and protein would look like for our recipes. We’ve held off because we didn’t want to give you information that may be different from what you actually prepare.

      Thank you, Sarah, for your great feedback! We imagine we’ll revisit the calorie-count discussion again soon! 🙂 Have a great day! ~G&S

    • Oh, Sue! Thank you so much for taking the time to pop back and let us know that you and your family are enjoying this! We really, really appreciate it, and are so thrilled that your crew loves this easy dinner as much as our families do! (And don’t you just feel so great serving them something they love, and that’s really healthy, too!?!?) 😀 ~G&S

  5. I love the idea of cooking the quinoa in the salsa. Great! I love it when recipes do that for rice, so why not quinoa. And, maybe if it tastes like salsa my husband will eat it! Pinning to try it on him. And, I’m thinking potato chunks instead of chicken for me (’cause you know I don’t eat the chicken), but with all the protein of the quinoa and black beans I might not even need to worry about it! Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi, Debi! This method of cooking the quinoa is not only incredibly easy but also imbues it with sooooo much flavor – I’m really excited for your husband to try it! And I definitely think there are a lot of ways to take out the chicken – this could absolutely become a delicious, completely vegetarian dish with no problem at all! Besides the idea of potatoes, you could also just increase the onions and peppers to take the place of the chicken or even play around with other veggies, too. I adore vegetarian Mexican recipes (that’s normally what I order when my family’s out at a Mexican restaurant together) – the spices and flavors of Mexican food play so nicely with lots of diverse veggie textures and flavors! Yum! 😀 ~Shelley

    • Hi, Julie! Thanks so much for the kind words! We really do just love this recipe – total lifesaver on busy nights, but so delicious that the whole family feels like they’re getting a real treat at mealtime. And … who’s looking like the hero? Yep … mom is!!! Gosh, we just love when that happens! 😀 ~G&S

    • Thanks so much! This is one of those recipes that turns plain-old-chicken into a party-for-your-tastebuds! A fiesta kind of party, to be exact! Hope you love it as much as we do! Thanks for stopping by! 😀 ~G&S

    • Thanks, guys! Yeah – it’s seriously delicious! The gorgeous peppers and onions, along with the salsa and fajita seasonings … all the flavors of traditional fajitas in one super-easy casserole! Olé! 😀 ~G&S

  6. I’m totally trying this tomorrow! I didn’t know it was possible to cook quinoa this way, but oh wow, it is such a brilliant idea!
    And the fajita combo? SO. GOOD. I really need to have this for dinner soon. It looks beyond incredible!

    • Oh, Consuelo! We totally hope you do give this a try! You’re gonna looooove it (bet those brothers of yours do, too!). It really is such an awesome, time-saving way to cook quinoa – we’re already working the method into other recipes we can’t wait to share! Happy weekend, friend! 😀 ~G&S

    • Yeah, that no pre-cooking thing is so awesome! Who needs extra steps on busy evenings? And I totally hear ya on not reading a lot of poetry. Actually, since having kids, my poets of choice now include Shel Silverstein (as we know!), and also esteemed masters of verse such as Dr. Seuss and Jack Prelutsky! You know … kinda like my list of favorite movies began to include “Finding Nemo,” “Despicable Me” and “Hotel Transylvania”! 😀 ~Shelley

  7. By golly! Your husband’s a poet! Maybe it was the no bake quinoa that inspired him? In which case, it really is magical 🙂
    Kidding aside, this is genius! Never thought about it before, you know, you just do what you’re used to….but it’s really good to know. Love the Mexican inspiration too.

    • Ha! He is actually so not a poet … but a totally math-minded engineer. I guess you’re right – the magic of this quinoa must have unleashed his inner creativity! (Or, well … we’ll just go with that thought, right!?!?! :D)

      And I definitely know what you mean about just doing what you’re used to! That’s why this recipe is so awesome – a much easier cooking method that totally works! Yay! Gretchen and I are so excited about it (as in … more recipes like this one are on the horizon … wink, wink)! Have a terrific weekend, Nazneen! ~Shelley

    • Ummmmm … Lori … super appreciating the pin, but let’s not be too hopeful about how much other people will enjoy the poetry … m’kay :D!?!? But, I DO think they will love this recipe! It’s so fast, easy and really, really yummy! We just love it! Please stop back and let us know what your family thought! 😀 ~Shelley

    • Oh, Kristi! Try it, try it! You’ll fall in love, for sure! It’s super easy and so nutritious, and it’s just perfect in lots of dishes where you might otherwise use rice, orzo and other grains. Yep – a no-brainer (don’t you loooove those!?!?!)! 😀 G&S

  8. Haha!! You are so adorable!! I love how you opened this post! So cute! But seriously… this looks amazing! Healthy and tasty!! Sounds good to me! i.e…. win-win!! 🙂

    • Lol – thanks for the very positive and kind words about my utter lack of poetry skills! Really, though – this fajita bake truly is amazing (as in, even those who can’t put together a decent five-line stanza can for sure manage to whip together this recipe! :D)! ~Shelley

  9. Made it for dinner tonight and it was super yummy. Just wondering if the grain Freekah could be substituted for the quinoa? I have a big bag of it, and it is very similar to quinoa.

    Thanks

    • Wonderful! So happy you loved this!! We’re big fans of this quick and easy dinner, too!

      Hmmm … that’s a fabulous question about freekah! As of right now, we haven’t tested this recipe with freekah … but I’m sure that will change very soon! I’m sure that this recipe would work, with just a few minor changes! To begin, I would definitely recommend cracked freekah. Cracked freekah takes just a little bit longer to cook than quinoa (about 5 extra minutes) where the whole grain variety needs up to 50 minutes to cook. Additionally, freekah uses just a bit more liquid to cook in. Quinoa uses a 2:1 ratio, while freekah uses a 2.5:1 ratio, so I would suggest adding an extra 1/2 cup of liquid and possibly opting for a thinner salsa.

      Remember that the cook time will also need to be increased slightly, so you’ll need to adjust as needed until the freekah is soft and cooked all the way through.

      Please let us know if you try this! The texture of the freekah will most certainly be awesome in this dish!

      Thank you so much for stopping by – and for the great comment! 😀 ~Gretchen

    • Hi Juliana! This meal is so fabulous … a totally fast and easy way to enjoy fajitas! I was so excited when Shelley mentioned this idea … and when it turned out so awesome … well, now I’m definitely inspired to try some new recipes using this method! Have a wonderful weekend, as well! 🙂 ~Gretchen

  10. I’m all for recipes that cut down on work. In fact to be honest that’s the only kind of recipe I like! And what a fabulous idea to combine easy-cook quinoa with Mexican. Just like a quinoa chili!

    • Don’t we all?!? I wish I had hours and hours to play in the kitchen, but sadly … that’s not an option! So yes, really fast recipes save the day (all the time)! 🙂 And you must be a mind reader … we’re testing quinoa in lots of different ways! Thanks Helen! ~Gretchen

  11. The Giving Tree is one of my favourite childhood books and I’d have to agree with you – I love Shel Silverstein as well!! Magic Quinoa? This dish is fabulous!! What an ingenious idea baking it directly in the casserole dish – amazing! I am going to make a veggie version of this next week for an easy weeknight meal! Thx for the wonderful (and easy!) recipe!

    • Hi Ceara! Yes … my poor copy of The Giving Tree is just barely in one piece! I recently just read it to one of my kiddos, and I got all teary-eyed! Yep – it’s a fave for sure!
      This quinoa will recipe will change your life!! Shelley is so smart – and not afraid to try something new in the kitchen! It was a fabulous idea … and it turned into an AMAZING meal! (And we’ve got a few more ideas in the works! hint, hint!)
      A veggie version would be delish, too! The seasonings are so flavorful and just bring the whole dish to life – meat or no meat!
      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂 ~Gretchen

  12. This dish looks perfect. I love the Mexican inspired flavours and love the no bake quinoa even more! Such a great idea. Thanks so much ladies! 🙂

    • I know, right!?!? Waste no time getting chummy with this awesome way to cook quinoa! Total lifesaver on busy nights (which you know we love, love, love! :D)! Thanks so much for the sweet comment! Have a fantastic weekend, Sharon! ~Shelley

  13. My first thought after stumbling upon your blog was how do you chop vegetables so perfectly? Do you use a tool? Anyways I found your blog after doing some mexican recipe searching. Glad I found it! I could see some chicken flavored tempeh being great in this!

    • Ha! Reba, I’ve gotta tell you – if my knife skills instructor ever read your comment, I think it’d for sure make her day! No tool except my chef’s knife. If you are truly curious, I’ll tell you that while I have both a fabulous 8″ and a 10″ I almost always, always reach for the 8″ first. I know I’m supposed to love the 10″ more, but I’m really pretty petite, and the 8″ just fits my arm length and range of motion so much better. Ughhhhh … is that really more than you truly wanted to know?!?!

      And hey – so glad you found our blog (so then I could find yours – love it! :D)! I noticed on your blog that you do try to eat vegetarian or vegan sometimes. Absolutely this could be very easily adapted for that. I honestly would be perfectly happy ditching the chicken, but my fam wouldn’t, so I leave it in to keep everyone happy. Still, the veggies are by far my favorite part! I haven’t actually tried a veg-only version of this yet, and didn’t write those suggestions into the post because we are very regimented in testing and researching whatever we recommend (even when the swaps seem obvious and straightforward). Still, I think you could for sure swap out the chicken broth for veg, or even water – although the broth adds another layer of flavor that water wouldn’t. Then, just go with your tempeh idea, or even go all veggie – add in more onions and peppers or even play around with other veggies. My favorite Mexican restaurant has fab veggie fajitas that include broccoli and I’ve had them with carrots, too! Super yummy!

      Thanks for stopping by, Reba!!! Have a wonderful weekend! 😀 ~Shelley

  14. Haha, I’d read poetry from you anytime. Particularly about easy-to-cook tiny quinoa that doesn’t require much attention at all! Big yay to that! As a Mexican food fiend, I adore this recipe Shelley. Perfect for busy evenings after getting home from work… it’s darn healthy, too! As for favourite poets, it’s gotta be Robert Frost. Particulary his pieces about trees… they live on in my memory (which is rare, for stuff that I read in high school!). Laura x

    • Wow, thanks, Laura!!! You’re totally right – this is super-fast for busy evenings, but so delicious that you won’t feel one bit like it could possibly have been that easy! And yep, yep – so really healthy, too! Thanks for the props on the poetry, but, ummmmm … stick with Frost, m’kay?!?!? So glad you stopped by! 😀 ~Shelley

    • Lol, Erin! Hurray for a tiny, ancient grain that can inspire an ode, right!?!? Especially when it’s so easy and delicious! Hmmmmm … perhaps it’s actually worthy of an entire sonnet? Oh dear … let’s just not even go there! 😀 ~G&S

  15. Wow! I’d attempt to write a haiku on how much I love this recipe, but that would take me forever to try to put together. Haha 😀 Seriously, this looks delicious! I love how easy it is to make. Any step skipping is always welcomed in my kitchen. Pinning!!

    • Thanks for the Pin, Cindy! And really – it’s sooooo easy and soooooo delicious! One of my friends called me yesterday to report that she’d just served this to her family for dinner (like … mere hours after we’d posted it … she works FAST!), and she was so excitedly astonished that it truly was incredibly delicious and absolutely worked so well, so easily! She gushed about how perfectly the quinoa was cooked, and throughout the conversation gave me blow-by-blow updates on which kiddo was giving her a big thumbs-up … and which kiddo was heading back for seconds …! Seriously – try this! It’ll knock your socks off!!!! 😀 ~Shelley

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