This turkey enchilada casserole is quite versatile to use up holiday leftovers, or just as a delicious and hearty meal. A layering of black beans, cheese, tortillas, and homemade enchilada sauce makes this flavorful dish a fan favorite for an easy weeknight meal.
If you’re like me, you’re pretty tired of eating the same leftovers everyday after a big meal like Thanksgiving. Make too little and everyone complains about not having leftovers, so then you end up with tons of dried out turkey and only sandwiches as an option.
For this recipe, I wanted a total switch from the traditional holiday meal which is why turkey enchilada casserole makes complete sense. It’s still using a leftover staple, but has a completely new flavor. And a lot of the ingredients in this dish don’t require a trip to the grocery store. Most of the time I have black beans and corn sitting in my pantry and freezer.
Obviously you don’t have to use leftover Thanksgiving turkey, but pretty much any ground meat will do. I think you could even make this totally vegetarian if you add more vegetables you enjoy to it, like perhaps zucchini squash!
For recipe testing, I actually just bought a pound of fresh ground turkey.
Some other proteins that would work here are:
- ground beef
- ground pork
You could even make this all vegetarian, I would just replace the amount of meat with extra vegetables or add some chopped zucchini.
Homemade Enchilada Sauce
I’ve post this recipe before for my Traditional Beef Enchiladas, but it’s a good reminder that enchilada sauce is so easy to make at home. Most of the canned versions contain flavoring, additives, and MSG, but this way you can avoid all of that. This sauce is so good on this enchilada casserole! It also gives the turkey a ton of flavor.
For those sensitive to tomatoes, simply leave out the tomato paste and I think you’ll find it’s still very flavorful.
- Cheese - If you’re following a migraine diet, I like to use a quality American cheese like Boar’s Head or Andrew & Everett for this turkey enchilada casserole. Most of these can be found in the deli area of your local grocery store.
- If you’ve been on the diet for a while and are feeling good, maybe give Monterey Jack a try. It’s less aged than most cheeses but is right on the borderline when it comes to aged cheese.
- Vegetables - I used canned black beans in water without salt, as well as frozen corn. All the other vegetables were fresh.
- Tortillas - I used fresh flour tortillas from Central Market/HEB, but TortillaLand also makes some great clean ones. If you’re gluten free, using an all corn tortilla would work here as well.
How to Make
This turkey enchilada casserole is really easy to build. Essentially you just start with a layer of enchilada sauce, then top that with tortillas that are cut into half moons so they can be layered sort of like lasagna noodles. Then spoon your meat and vegetable mixture on top of the tortillas. You'll finish with a layer of enchilada sauce. Continue to layer, reserving some of the sauce and cheese for the topping. I usually get about 2 full layers.
This casserole is great for freezing. I assemble everything together and put a plastic wrap over the top of my dish, flush with the top of the casserole. Then I'll wrap it in extra press and seal to store in the freezer. This will be good for up to 2 months. You can either defrost it in the fridge, or stick it directly in the oven.
The homemade enchilada sauce does "gel" a bit when frozen. It will loosen as it bakes, but may not look the most appealing. You can spread it around a little bit after it warms to get it to mix better...or just top with more cheese - ha!
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Turkey Enchilada Casserole
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 medium shallots, chopped
- ½ cup corn (fresh, frozen or canned)
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 jalapeño, de-seeded and minced
- 1 15oz can black beans
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 pound cooked leftover turkey, chopped up or ground turkey, beef, or chicken
- 2 cups enchilada sauce
- corn or flour tortillas
- ½ cup American cheese (or Monterey Jack if you can tolerate it)
- kosher salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour (or gluten free)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste*
- 1 tablespoon chili powder*
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a small pot, combine olive oil and flour over medium heat and stir until smooth and starting to bubble, about 1-2 minutes. Add tomato paste and spices, then pour in chicken broth slowly, whisking everything continuously so that it becomes smooth. Turn the heat up till I just begins to boil and then simmer over medium heat until thick, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste. This sauce can be made ahead and stored in the fridge.
- In a large pan, add olive oil over medium heat (if you have uncooked meat you can add it here). Add chopped shallots, corn, red bell pepper, and jalapeno, stirring till just cooked through - about 2 minutes. Drain the canned black beans and add them to the pan along with cumin and the cooked meat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- In a 9x9 inch baking dish add a little enchilada sauce to the bottom, enough to just cover it. Cut the tortillas into halves and layer it with the straight side sticking outwards so it forms a nice square and the rounded parts will overlap on the inside. Add a little bit of cheese, meat mixture, and a layer of sauce. Continue with this pattern until you reach the top of the baking dish, finishing with the remaining sauce and extra cheese. Cover with a sheet of tin foil.
- Bake at 375° for 25 minutes then remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes uncovered, 35 minutes total. The top should be bubbling and the cheese melted nicely and lightly brown. Serve warm.
- Look for chili powder that doesn't contain onion or cocoa. This is what I use.
- If you're sensitive to tomatoes, simply leave out the tomato paste.
- Use all corn tortillas and a 1:1 flour substitute for gluten free.
- Switch out the turkey for any cooked meat like beef, chicken, or even zucchini for an all veggie version.
- To cut down on the time, prep the sauce and the cooked vegetable mixture ahead of time and store in the fridge (see pic above for how I did it). Then assemble and bake when you're ready.