I love to order chiles rellenos when I’m at a Mexican restaurant. But I tried making them at home once and, while it wasn’t a disaster, my version just didn’t measure up. The batter, the frying…it just didn’t come together. And the finished product was slightly soggy and a bit greasy.
But I recently watched Kenji make chiles rellenos on his YouTube channel. He mentioned that chiles rellenos aren’t supposed to be crispy. The batter fries up into a softer coating with the purpose of soaking up the sauce.
That gave me an idea: if a chile relleno doesn’t really need to be crispy, couldn’t something else do the work of soaking up the sauce. In fact, it kind of seemed like a job for a flour tortilla. So that’s what lead me to create this recipe for chile relleno casserole. Instead of frying stuffed poblanos, I layered them with ranchero sauce and flour tortillas (and a bit more cheese for good measure.)
The result is a super delicious casserole that eats like a lasagna but has all of the flavors I love in my favorite Mexican dish (ok, honestly, it’s one of many favorite Mexican dishes!)
I used the ranchero sauce from my cheese nachos with ranchero sauce and it worked beautifully here. This recipe will make a little more than you need for the casserole, but that just means you can whip up a small batch of nachos later in the week!
- Explore: Cheese Nachos with Ranchero Sauce
This recipe has a few steps, but none of them are particularly difficult. You can make the ranchero sauce and roast the poblanos ahead of time. If you’re making it in one go, and can multi-task, roast the peppers while you make the sauce to save time.
Chile Relleno Casserole
- ½ tbsp neutral oil canola, vegetable, or light olive oil
- ½ large onion roughly diced
- 1 medium red bell pepper roughly chopped
- 1½ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- ½ tbsp smoked Spanish paprika
- ½ tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ancho chili powder
- 1 tsp granulated garlic
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
- ½ tsp apple cider vinegar
Chile Relleno Casserole
- 8 large poblano peppers
- 6 oz Monterey Jack cheese full fat, block cheese cut into 8 even-ish slices
- 6 oz shredded mozzarella cheese whole milk, full fat
- 9 taco-sized flour tortillas 3 whole and 6 cut in half; corn tortillas will work too.
- 1 batch ranchero sauce see above
- Place an oven rack in the top most placement in your oven. Turn the broiler on high. Place the poblano peppers on a half sheet pan and place the pan under the broiler. Let the poblano peppers roast until they are fully charred on all sides. Turn them every 5-minutes or so to get an even char. If some peppers char faster than the others, take them out of the oven first. Place charred peppers in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Cool slightly.
- Add the olive oil to a medium pot and heat it over medium heat. Add the onion, red bell pepper, and salt. Cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables have softened and the onion turns translucent.Add the garlic, chili powder, paprika, cumin, ancho chili powder, and garlic powder to the pot. Cook for a minute to lightly cook the garlic and toast the spices.Add the chicken stock and diced tomatoes. Bring to a heavy simmer and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes.Once cooked, blend the sauce with an immersion blender until smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can use a stand blender, just be careful to keep the lid open a little to allow steam to escape. Use a kitchen towel over the slightly opened lid to keep the sauce from spraying everywhere. Really, just get an immersion blender.Once blended, stir in the apple cider vinegar.
- Once your poblano peppers are cool enough to touch, remove as much skin as you can. This should be easy, but if you have a few charred spots left on the pepper, it will add a little extra flavor to the dish.Remove the seeds by pulling the stem gently from the top and removing the very crown of the pepper. Most of the seeds should come along for the ride. Use a small spoon to scoop the seeds that are left. Again, you don't need to be perfect here.Once the peppers are peeled and seeded, stuff each one with a slice of Monterey Jack cheese.
- Preheat your oven to 375F and grease an 8×8 baking dish with non-stick spray (or lightly coat with oil) and start layering.First add about ½ cup of sauce to the bottom of the pan. Then layer on three tortillas by laying two of the halved tortillas, straight-side out/curved side in, around the perimeter of the pan. Add one whole tortilla to fill out the middle.Add a layer of 4 stuffed peppers, another layer of sauce, and ⅓ of the mozzarella cheese. Then do it again. The final layer should be a layer of tortillas, sauce, and cheese.
- Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 10.Then, this is the hard part, wait another 20 minutes before cutting into the casserole. It will cut better after a bit of a rest. Garnish with sour cream and salsa, if you'd like, but it's such a flavorful casserole, you don't really need it.
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