One-Pan Chicken Tortilla Skillet

This easy and flavorful one-pan meal really takes me back. At the ripe age of twelve, I considered myself an expert in after-school snacking.

Vertical image of a skillet recipe topped with salsa and slices of jalapenos, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

And once my sister, exactly four years my elder, got her driver’s license, the possibilities for our post-class culinary expeditions were endless.

She would scoop me up in her white Chevrolet Blazer with its navy cloth seats – which soon became studded with sesame seeds after many-a-midday meal adventure – and once off campus, we would cruise to the closest Mexican cafe.

Okay. You got me. It was Taco Bell.

But man, did they make bomb Nachos BellGrande®. This was my regular order, as it was far more complex and substantial than chips and cheese alone, but not quite as close to a full-blown fiesta as, say, three soft tacos and a burrito would be.

My favorite elements of the dish (… do fast-food restaurants serve dishes?) were the different layers of texture involved. There were the creamy refried beans that pooled across the nacho mountain, giving many of the chips a spongy mouthfeel I adored. And there were the crunchy tortilla triangles that stretched over the sides of the container, just missed by the goopy drops of neon cheese sauce and diced tomatoes.

Vertical image of a white plate with a serving of a casserole dish topped with herbs, sour cream drizzle, and salsa in front of a cast iron pan.

Each bite of beef was perfumed by a subtle smokiness, and it was always fun to decide whether my plan of attack was going to be to go in with bare hands or the plastic spork that was provided alongside my order. I typically chose a three-finger approach, leaving a few fingers clean to brush my bangs out of my eyes.

I’m fully aware that this isn’t an exceptionally elegant culinary tale, but it’s a special food memory for me all the same.

And when I dig into this chicken tortilla casserole, a modernized, Mexican-motivated feast stacked with similar flavors, I can’t help but think back on those mouth-watering after-school moments in the car with my sister – when I may or may not have smudged everything from sour cream to honey mustard on the passenger side window.

Don’t get it twisted, though. This recipe is a far cry from fast food nachos. The addition of succulent shredded chicken spiked with smoky cumin, bold chipotles in adobo, and bright, fresh cilantro makes this one-pan masterpiece a meal to be reckoned with.

Vertical image of a one-pan recipe topped with salsa, a drizzle of sour cream, and slices of jalapenos

The entire cast of characters, chicken included, are cooked in the very same skillet, so every ingredient and its unique components are all wound up together so beautifully in the end.

It starts with juicy chicken breasts that are seared then braised in broth (or beer – hey, it’s your choice), which helps to build the flavor of the dish from the jump.

In a pinch, you could use rotisserie chicken if you must, but I strongly encourage you to start from the chicken up without cutting any corners in the cooking department.

Canned chipotle peppers in adobo – those smoked, dried, and rehydrated jalapeños that come in a tangy and vinegary tomato puree – give the sauce a fiery flair. The tangy chopped chilies also add color, while sweet red onions balance out those savory notes.

Vertical close-up image of a nacho chip covered in melted cheese, sour cream drizzle, salsa, and fresh cilantro.

Nutty sharp cheddar and melty Jack cheese keep everything creamy.

I like to tuck some additional dry chips into the top layer just before broiling, as a nod to the beloved BellGrande® of my youth. This results in some extra-crunchy bites, while others remain gooey and soft.

Thinly-sliced jalapeños and fresh, fluffy cilantro also adult-ify this advanced spin on your standard nachos. Zesty pico de gallo and lime-squirted avocado slices are also top garnish choices, but the final decision is yours.

Just keep your hands off any nearby windows.

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Horizontal image of a one-pan recipe with nachos, salsa, jalapeno, and melted cheese.

One-Pan Chicken Tortilla Skillet


  • Author: Fanny Slater
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings 1x

Description

Crunchy tortilla chips, gooey cheese, and juicy shredded chicken give every bite of this one-skillet Mexican mashup heaps of flavor. 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 12 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 small red onion, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo, finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed
  • 4 cups tortilla chips, broken into large pieces, divided
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced (about 1/2 cup), divided
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • Hot sauce
  • Pickled (or sliced raw) jalapenos
  • Lime wedges

Instructions

  1. Season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the cumin.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 10- to 12-inch oven-safe skillet or cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden-brown on both sides, about 3 minutes total. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside on a plate.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining oil to the skillet. Add the red onion and chipotle pepper. Saute until the onion is translucent and very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Season with the remaining salt and pepper. 
  4. Pour in the chicken broth, scraping up any stuck-on brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  5. Stir in about half of the tortilla chips and then nestle the chicken breasts (with their juices) into the broth. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the broth simmers gently and cook, flipping the chicken halfway through and adding more liquid if necessary, until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F, about 8-10 minutes.
  6. Preheat the broiler to high.
  7. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Shred with two forks when it’s cool enough to handle. Return the shredded meat to the skillet. Add half of the tomatoes, half of the cheddar and Jack cheeses, half of the cilantro, and the remaining tortilla chips.
  8. Thoroughly combine until the chicken and cheeses are evenly distributed and the chips are moistened, adding a few additional tablespoons of chicken broth if needed.
  9. Top with the remaining cheese. Place the pan in the oven and broil until the cheese is melted and lightly golden-brown, about 2 minutes. 
  10. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Divide among plates and garnish with the remaining tomatoes and cilantro, and the sour cream. Serve with hot sauce, jalapenos, and lime wedges.
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Chicken
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Tex-Mex

Keywords: chicken, tortilla, casserole, Mexican, Tex-Mex

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Prep the Aromatics

Slice the red onion, mince the garlic, chop the chipotle pepper in adobo and the cilantro, and dice the tomatoes.

Horizontal image of prepped vegetables and aromatics on a wooden cutting board.

Canned tomatoes could be used as an alternative to fresh, but you will need to add them all in at once (during step 5) instead of saving some for garnish if you go that route.

Using your hands, break the tortilla chips into large pieces. If they’re too small, they’ll soften and disintegrate into the mixture. For a more homemade alternative to store-bought chips, break out the fresh tortillas and fry them up yourself.

Step 2 – Season and Sear the Chicken

Season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the cumin.

Horizontal image of searing seasoned chicken breasts in a pan.

In a heavy-bottomed, oven-safe pan (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet) placed over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil. When it’s shimmering but not smoking, add the chicken and cook until it’s golden-brown on both sides, for about 3 minutes total.

It’s okay if it’s not cooked all the way through at this point, since it will finish cooking in the liquid that’s added later.

Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside on a plate that can catch all of the juices.

Step 3 – Add the Aromatics and Deglaze

Lower the heat to medium and add the remaining oil. When it’s shimmering lightly, add the red onion and chipotle pepper. Saute until the onion has softened and the mixture is very fragrant, for about 5 minutes.

Horizontal image of cooked peppers, onions, and garlic in a cast iron pan.

Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Season the mixture with the remaining salt and pepper and then deglaze the pan with the chicken broth, scraping the bottom with a spatula as you pour, to release any brown bits (aka fond) that are stuck on.

You want to remove the fond so it doesn’t burn, and loosening it also incorporates those tasty bits into the liquid and imparts more flavor.

Horizontal image of deglazing a pan filled with cooked vegetables with stock.

You can also use beer, veggie stock, tomato puree, or even apple cider to braise the chicken in this step.

Step 4 – Add the Chips and Finish Cooking the Chicken

Stir in about half of the tortilla chip pieces, and then make some space and nestle the chicken breasts (along with their juices) into the broth. They don’t need to be completely covered by the liquid, and you can cover the pan with a lid to speed up the cooking process.

Horizontal image of two seasoned chicken breasts on top of chips in a cast iron pan.

Reduce the heat to medium-low so the broth simmers gently and cook, flipping the chicken halfway through, until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F. This will take about 8 to 10 minutes uncovered, depending on the thickness.

If the liquid is evaporating too quickly, you can pour in about 1/4 cup more at a time so nothing burns.

Step 5 – Shred the Chicken, Add the Chips, and Toss

Preheat the broiler to high and prepare any garnishes you want to serve alongside your meal.

Horizontal image of a cast iron pan filled with shredded meat, cheese, nachos, and assorted chopped vegetables.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Once it’s cool enough to handle, shred it with two forks.

Return the shredded meat to the skillet, and add about half of the tomatoes, half of the cheddar and Jack cheeses, half of the cilantro, and the remaining tortilla chips.

Gently toss and combine until the chicken and cheeses are evenly distributed and the chips are moistened.

Add a few additional tablespoons of liquid at this point if you need to, as well. You want the majority of the chips to be moistened, but some of the ones on top to be partially dry so they get crispy in the oven, like what you would do if you were making chilaquiles.

Step 6 –Add the Remaining Ingredients, Broil, and Serve

Top the mixture with the remaining cheese. Place the pan in the oven and broil until the cheese is melted and lightly golden-brown, for about 2 minutes.

Horizontal image of a cast iron skillet with nachos topped with melted cheese.

Remove from the oven and allow the dish to rest for 5 minutes before serving, so everything has a chance to settle and cool slightly.

Garnish with the remaining tomatoes and cilantro, and top with the sour cream. Divide among plates and serve with hot sauce, jalapenos, and lime wedges. Or divide among plates first, and let everyone choose their own toppings.

Pack in the Possibilities

This skillet meal can be personalized to your heart’s delight, and that’s where the fun begins.

Horizontal image of a one-pan recipe with nachos, salsa, jalapeno, and melted cheese.

For a fully vegetarian version, skip the chicken and reach for canned beans instead.

Try roasted tomatoes for more richness, grilled scallions for a charred, oniony bite, and whisk up this smoky garlic cream sauce to take things from wow to holy wow.

Don’t leave the chips out of the fun! Opt for blue corn for more pronounced nuttiness and some contrasting color.

Chopped raw onions on top add an unexpected pop, and to boost the crunch factor up a notch, I like to top my portion with a pile of shredded green cabbage. How will you play with the texture to tinker it to your liking?

Share your serving suggestions in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.

If zesty flavors like bold chilies and pungent cilantro are in your wheelhouse, here are three other Mexican-inspired recipes for you to try next that are known to result in smiles:

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on March 11, 2014. Last updated on February 8, 2022.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Fanny Slater

Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

37 thoughts on “One-Pan Chicken Tortilla Skillet”

  1. I’m impressed with this one, it’s not that difficult but it looks like it will feed a small army if done right. I’m digging the flavors I can sense through this, and I’m impressed that there aren’t as many steps as you’d think it would take! I’ll definitely add this to my to-do cooking list, I think the girlfriend will be impressed!

    Reply
  2. Spacey,

    Yep, I’m all about quick and easy food preparation for day to day chores. I do like to drag out the ensemble on the weekends and cook up some intense dishes when the hubby is around to watch the kids.

    Cheers
    Lynne

    Reply
  3. I love all of the recent chicken dishes that you’ve been adding. I’ll probably prepare this particular one in a few days. Seems quite simple, and I already have most of the ingredients to make this delectable looking dish.

    Reply
  4. This sounds amazing and I am going to move it to the top of my ‘to make’ list! I totally agree with your statement of ‘where has this been all my life’, as I am sat here thinking the exact same thing. The use of the tortilla chips makes it a winner for me, as I am a huge fan of tortillas in meals! I find it bulks it out and makes it a lot more filling.

    Reply
  5. Am particularly sad for all those who have an allergy to chicken, just to know what one is missing here…anyway specifically speaking on behalf of a very close friend who can’t stand chicken, maybe i should cook one of the many chicken dishes on this site, she just might reconsider…the dishes written about on this site, i must say, spew boredom and routine from a plate and instead add life, color and ‘can i have more and more please’ :).

    Reply
  6. Actually, this recipe looks surprisingly easy. I’ll certainly have to try it out sometime, we have a lot of those ingredients but no instructions on how to make something special out of them. Doesn’t look like this dish will take long to make either. I can’t wait to try this one out, thanks for the recepie!

    Reply
  7. A chicken dish I would love to be eating right about now. That looks so good. I can just imagine the aromas in the kitchen while cooking that. Keeping this recipe in the back of my mind…for those special moments with that special someone…

    Reply
  8. This seems like one of those meals that look like it took a lot of effort and time, with the main secret ingredient being that it doesn’t! I think I’ll add this to my to-make list soon!

    Reply
  9. Can the chipotle peppers be substituted for something else? I know that they are the stars of the show, but a couple of people in my family don’t care for chipotle (I love it). I wish I could have a bite of this dish right now. It looks amazing. Thanks for sharing yet another wonderful recipe.

    Reply
  10. Thank you for this recipe! I’ve got a lot of chicken thawed in my refrigerator today so I’ve been searching around for something to make with it. I’ve found myself making a lot of casserole-type dishes lately. They’re so simple to whip together and throw into the oven. Plus I find that generally everybody in my house enjoys them. I have a few picky eaters in my house so that’s a rare find. I might add some rice or veggies into this to bulk it up a little for leftovers.

    Reply
  11. This recipe looks like one that my family would love! I am definitely going to make this one night this week. Just a note about shallots… if you buy a couple and let them sprout a little you can just pop them in a pot of soil and they will grow. Then you always have shallots, you can do the same with garlic, and spring onions.

    Reply
  12. I tried this dish. The taste is delicious, but for me it was a bit too dry. Reread the recipe, but I can’t figure out what I did wrong. 🙁

    Reply
  13. This looks really easy and it looks like it comes out great. I just bought some chicken today, so I might try to make this sometime this week, it would be a great meal for my group. Everyone loves chicken and I think that they would love this! This looks like it would be really filling and I bet I could get a few servings out of it.

    Love the tortilla chips with it. More recipes should include them, they are crunchy and can add flavor and texture to a meal in a snap.

    Reply
  14. So I made this for dinner tonight and I am SO glad with how it turned out! My boyfriend even helped and he ended up taking over since it was so easy. We didn’t use shallots either, and we added a few more handfuls of tortilla chips to the dish. It came out great.

    We also omitted the tomatoes because my boyfriend doesn’t like them. Everything turned out great, I will be making these again in the future.

    Reply
  15. I freaking love chicken! We never have shallots either (I don’t think my parents have ever even heard of shallots because they never cook with them!) I’m glad that the recipe is still do-able without them..I’ll probably try to get the ingredients for this the next time we go grocery shopping.

    Is there a recipe for Adobo sauce that I can follow or should I just find some premade?

    Reply
      • I was going to mention that this reminds me of a soup my mother used to make. I like the idea of a casserole better though, because I think it will be heartier. This sounds so good. I don’t know why I didn’t notice it on here before, but it looks yummy.

        I love simple dishes as well. This is one handy recipe that’s going to be kept on hand for a long time to come. I think everyone in my family will enjoy this.

        Reply
  16. I ate this dish Friday for the first time. My friend cooked it for our “girls night” and it was sooooo delicious. We all basically licked our plates clean. 😀 So, anyway, I’m really excited to see that you have a recipe for it. I can’t wait to try it out.

    Reply
  17. This looks and sounds delicious and something that would go down well in my household! As someone else commented, adding the chips just makes it 🙂

    But I have to ask what are “chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced”? I could use any chilli or capsicum as peppers but I have never heard of adobo sauce!

    Reply
  18. I love the idea of casseroles just as a comfort and convenience food, but I never imagine them as healthy meals. I really want to try this casserole because it looks amazing, but also looks healthier than other casseroles I have had. It would go really nice with a salad and rice and beans, as you mentioned.

    Reply
  19. I love finding recipes that requires the ingredients that I already have on hand. I should be able to prepare this dish tomorrow evening for dinner. Your going to make me a total hit in the kitchen!

    Reply
  20. I never considered adding tortilla chips into dishes themselves, but now that I think about it, that’s genius! 🙂 I feel like the chipotle peppers in adobos sauce would really bring everything together – and add a nice punch of flavor! I also love that this is quick and easy, and pretty much all the ingredients are either things most people already have or replaceable by things in the fridge. I’m definitely looking forward to trying this one out when I feel lazy or when I’m going to have a lot of people over. 🙂

    Reply
  21. I recently tried a chicken chili and just didn’t taste the same as beef. I think there is a real trick with making chicken Mexican food. I will consider trying this recipe and seeing if the flavors are just right to give a bit of kick to that chicken.

    Reply
  22. This looks delicous, I am concerned that it maybe a little too spicey for my taste. I do not like real spicey food. I have a turkey that this would be a great way to use this receipe.

    Reply
  23. I’ve always wondered about tortilla casseroles – I initially thought the tortillas were served on the side. I dodn’t realize that they went sraight in with all the other ingredients. Do they retain any texture at all or do they go all soggy?

    Reply
  24. Aww, why no shallots? I happen to think they’re very flavorful and distinct from the regular onions. I don’t easily replace the two with each other in my recipes.

    Anyway, chicken tortilla casseroles are one of my favorites, mainly because of the chicken meat. I also love the taste of adobo, but I’ve never heard of adobo sauce before. I’ve always made mine using soy sauce and vinegar, with pimento leaves.

    Reply
  25. I love tortilla soup, so I think this is going to be right up my alley! I already have everything except the shallot ( which I’m not stressing over since you didnt use them), and the chipotle. I think I’m going to have to add that my shopping list, and then try cooking this as soon as I can, lol

    Reply
  26. I’m always happy when I find a recipe that calls for ingredients I mainly have on hand, which this one does. This recipe sounds easy enough for a weeknight, and I have a feeling the leftovers will be gone before I know it. I’m putting this one on the menu for the coming week!

    Reply
  27. I like this recipe, but rather than making it as a casserole I decided to make it into nachos. It’s like a casserole but drier. I like my chips crispy!

    Reply
  28. I’m a big fan of Mexican food so this dish is right up my alley! I like how easy to make this recipe appears to be, how it has ingredients that can be usually found in the pantry, and how it is so kid-friendly. Of course, I’ll be spicing up a little hotter my own servings (which will be about 4 LOL). Thanks a lot for such a great dish!

    Reply
  29. This recipe is definitely going to be made. I may just make this with our left over chicken tomorrow night. It looks delicious. I will have to leave a few things out as I have a couple picky eaters, but I can’t wait to try this. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  30. This dish looks so simple and full of flavor. We are really big fans of Mexican food, and my daughter would love to help make this. Looks simple enough for a child to help do some preparation work. I think I might try this meal on our taco night…this would be a wonderful change.

    Reply
  31. I just love this type of food, It is quick and easy to make and also interesting! It does not take that many ingredients and you can always find something in your cupboard that you can use as a substitute if you don’t have the correct ingredient and need it right now.

    Reply
  32. Chicken is always a winner in my home. This looks amazing. It sound really healthy and full of flavour. I will be trying this within the week and I’ll let you know what the comments were from around the family table.

    Reply
  33. This looks great! It actually reminded me of the tortilla soup, it’s actually pretty common here in México and there’s a lot of variations of the recipe, you should do some research on it, I’m pretty sure that you are going to love it.
    My mouth watered while I was reading this, and you seemed really enthusiastic about it, which made it even better, I really need to try this one!
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  34. Cooking in the crockpot is my favorite way, due to its convience. My next go-to is a delicious casserole! They are much easier to make and I can throw it together, and throw it in the oven and its great, almost every time! We love tortilla soup, so we will try this recipe soon! Looks yummy!

    Reply

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