Fiesta Crunch Casserole

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I couldn’t resist sticking that “Fiesta” in the title: I think my mom had about a dozen Fiesta Casseroles in her cookbooks from the ’70s, all Tex-Mex do-ups, and most using lots of convenience items. The difference with this revamp is it’s mostly made from scratch (save for the canned green chiles and fire-roasted tomatoes) and uses ground turkey (or finely-minced leftover Thanksgiving turkey) and lower-fat dairy for a less-calorie-laden result. But the best thing about this casserole is the texture! Crunchy, chewy, soft and gooey all at once, this comfort classic is layered with crispy fried-tortilla strips that are a snap to make.

Makes one 9 x 13 inch casserole plus one 9 x 9 inch casserole

Spiced tomato sauce Ingredients

  • 2 tsp. canola oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsalted chicken broth or water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 Tbsp fresh garlic puree)
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, seeds removed, chopped
  • Chile arbol powder (or cayenne pepper) to taste: from 2 tsp to 1 Tbsp, depending on how hot you like it
  • 1, 14.5-ounce can fire-roased crushed tomatoes or fire-roasted tomato puree

Seasoned turkey Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 pounds ground turkey OR 2 pounds finely chopped leftover roast turkey, white and dark meat
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly-ground pepper
  • 2 tsp chile arbol powder (or cayenne pepper)

Spiced white sauce Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup 2 % milk
  • 1 small can green chilies
  • 1/2 cup non-fat sour cream
  • 1 package grated 2%-fat jack-cheddar blend cheese for topping
  • cilantro and lime wedges for garnish

Tortilla Crisps Ingredients

  • two packages flour, or whole wheat tortillas
  • canola oil or peanut oil and deep-fat fryer for frying


  1. Make sauce: Heat 2 tsp canola oil in skillet over medium heat. Saute onion, covered for 5 minutes. Add bell pepper, celery, garlic and chicken broth and cook until all are soft. Sprinkle spices over; stir in fire-roasted tomatoes. Set aside
  2. Make white sauce: Heat 1 Tbsp canola oil in skillet over medium heat. Whisk in flour and toast until slightly tan. Whisk in chicken broth until thick and smooth. Add seasonings. Whisk in milk. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream. Set aside
  3. Brown ground turkey: Heat 1 Tbsp canola oil in skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle seasonings over meat. Saute and crumble until cooked through. Drain well. Set aside.
  4. Make tortilla crisps: Slice stacks of tortillas into thin strips. Deep fry strips in canola or peanut oil in batches until crisp. Blot on paper toweling. Sprinkle with salt, and (if you like) squeeze a few drops of fresh lime juice over all.
  5. Assemble casserole: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Divide 1/2 of the white sauce between the two ovenproof casseroles, covering the bottoms of each casserole with the sauce. Using your hands, crunch handfuls of the tortilla crisp strips over the white sauce, leaving about half of the strips for later. Cover tortillas with ground turkey. Ladle spiced tomato sauce over turkey. Top tomato sauce with more handfuls of the tortilla crisps, pressing them down a bit into the casserole. Layer remaining white sauce over the crisps. Top with grated low-fat jack/cheddar cheese. Place casseroles in oven and bake at 350 for 1/2 hour. Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.

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