cilantro lime chicken bake

Oh hey, bonus weekend post! I just couldn’t wait until Monday to share this yumminess with you all.

This week in Minnesota has been so offbeat in the weather department. The mornings generally have been damp and cool, but by the afternoon it is right back to being sunny and warm-hot (like hot, but less sweltering). Dare I say these cooler mornings have been making me excited for the fall? Though by midday, I’m enraptured again by the summertime sunshine and warmth. So really, it’s been the best of both weather worlds. Well done, Minnesota.

What does this weather-talk have to do with a cilantro-lime chicken bake, you ask? Well, it’s a casserole, which is a quintessential fall dish for me. But it’s not as heavy and rich as many tend to be; instead, this one is lighter, with bright, bold flavors and an awesome, flavorful roasted tomato sauce a la Old El Paso. In other words, it’s a perfect meal for these offbeat, late-summer days.

marinating chicken in baking dish
cooking chicken to add to cilantro lime chicken bake
adding some roasted tomato sauce to mixture

Have you had a chance to get your mitts on Old El Paso’s new line of cooking sauces [since discontinued, but have no fear, I plan to update this recipe soon!]? I have to be honest here — as much as I love a good homemade sauce, my laziness almost always gives in and I’m prone to serving pasta with the jar of marinara sauce, enchiladas with the canned enchilada sauce and now, casseroles with the Mexican-inspired cooking sauces. However, the latter is hardly a disappointment for me — when I want a dinner that I know will taste delicious (duh, always) but I don’t have a full day to dedicate to cooking up a homemade sauce, these packets of deliciousness come in handy.

topping cilantro lime chicken bake with cheese
cilantro lime chicken bake

This cilantro-lime chicken bake has become one of our favorite ways to incorporate the sauce (not THAT kind of sauce, sheesh) into our dinners. The chicken marinates for several hours in a zesty cilantro-lime marinade, which then gets mixed with homemade cilantro-lime rice. You mix it all up with Old El Paso Roasted Tomato cooking sauce, top it with cheese (ALL THE CHEESE) and bake it until everything is warm and the cheese is browned and bubbly. Don’t be surprised if you feel the urge to snuggle up with it.

spoon serving cilantro lime chicken bake

I know this dish takes a while to make due to the marinating, but what it lacks in time efficiency it makes up for in ease of preparation. Basically, that’s fancy-talk for: This dish is worth the wait. Go to the grocery store today, marinate the chicken and prep the rice tonight and by tomorrow morning, dinner is nearly made. Makes that whole “case of the Mondays” thing a little bit easier to handle, if you ask me.

cilantro lime chicken bake on plate

Cilantro-Lime Chicken Bake
A Girl Versus Dough original

Yields: 8 servings


For the chicken —

2 to 3 lbs chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch strips
3/4 cup canola or olive oil
1 cup cilantro leaves (no stems)
Juice and zest of 2 limes
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

For the cilantro-lime rice —

1 cup uncooked white or brown rice
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

For the casserole —

2 packets (8 oz each) Old El Paso® Roasted Tomato Mexican cooking sauce or any roasted tomato cooking sauce
8 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)
Lime wedges, for garnish (optional)


Place chicken strips in a single layer in the bottom of a large bowl or casserole dish. Combine canola oil, cilantro leaves, lime juice and zest, minced garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor and blend well. Pour mixture evenly over chicken; stir to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate in refrigerator at least 8 hours or overnight.

The next day, combine uncooked rice and vegetable broth in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Cover and cook until soft and all the liquid is absorbed, about 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat; add cilantro, lime juice, garlic and sugar and stir to combine.

Meanwhile, remove marinated chicken from fridge. Pour marinade and chicken into a large skillet; cook over medium-high heat until chicken is just cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 13-by-9-inch casserole dish with cooking spray. Spread cilantro-lime rice evenly in the bottom of the prepared casserole dish, then top with chicken (don’t add leftover marinade from the skillet). Top with cooking sauce, then sprinkle with shredded cheese.

Bake casserole until cheese is bubbly and browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle with cilantro leaves, if desired. Serve immediately with fresh lime wedges on the side, if desired.

Disclosure: I received compensation from Old El Paso for recipe development purposes. All opinions are my own.