You are in for a real treat with this incredible Keto Chile Relleno Casserole! With just 5 ingredients, you can quickly and easily prepare this dish that’s better than take-out! Poblano peppers are charred over open flames, juicy chicken, cream cheese, and gooey cheddar jack in every fork full. This easy chicken chile Relleno recipe is also low carb, gluten-free, grain-free, and Trim Healthy Mama friendly.
If you find yourself in a rut and have no idea what to make for dinner or your next dinner party, I have exactly what you need. It’s absolutely a delicious family meal, a fantastic way to feed a hungry crew, or a unique meal to surprise dinner guests with.
Using chicken thighs makes the casserole even more filling for anyone who is feeling very hungry. Each satisfying bite will keep you filled up and your taste buds happy to go back for more. I'm sure it will become one of your favorite keto recipes. Don’t believe me? Give it a try and see for yourself.
This is my take on a stuffed chile I had in a local restaurant. It is not traditional but it is delicious. Chile Relleno originally was stuffed with ground meat and then coated with egg whites or egg yolks and fried.
Poblanos - Poblano peppers are the star of the show in this dish. After being roasted over an open flame they are baked.
Chicken Thighs - Boneless skinless chicken thighs keep this casserole moist but you can use breasts if you prefer.
Cream Cheese - The creaminess of the cream cheese balances the slight heat from the peppers.
Cheddar Jack - We like using this blend of cheddar cheese and Monterey jack cheese in Mexican dishes.
Heavy Cream - Heavy whipping cream thins the sauce and makes the dish rich and creamy.
How To Make Keto Chile Relleno Casserole
One thing I love about this home-style casserole is that it can be served to the family on a regular weeknight, or it can be sophisticated enough to serve guests at a dinner party. Let’s take a look at the steps:
Step One: You will need to begin by giving the poblano chiles a nice char. You can do this with a grill or even your gas stovetop. That’s how I always roast peppers. You can also do it with your oven broiler. Just watch them carefully. Flip halfway through so the uncooked skin side ends up against the gas flame as well. You want each side of each pepper to turn black.
After the skin has turned black, place the peppers inside of a paper bag. Then fold it closed and allow it time to rest for 15 minutes. The purpose of this is to steam off the skin. Once the 15 minutes are up, rub the skin to peel it off and remove the stems. Slit the peppers down the length and open up to remove the seeds.
Expert Tip: This part can be messy. To save on clean up rip open the paper bag you steamed the peppers in and remove the skins on top of it. Then just discard the bags and skin together.
Gently cut or rip open the peppers and rinse under warm water to remove any seeds. Cut the peppers into bite-sized pieces.
Step Two: Put the chicken inside of a casserole dish. Bake the chicken for 20 minutes while the peppers are steaming. Add the peppers to the chicken in the casserole dish and bake for another 20 minutes.
Place the chicken and roasted peppers in a large bowl. Then break the chicken apart with a fork into large pieces.
Step Three: Mix in the 1 cup of the shredded cheese, cream cheese, salt, and heavy cream to the chicken and peppers. Mix well until smooth and place the ingredients in the casserole dish.
Add the rest of the cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese on top and bake for the keto chile Relleno casserole for 15 minutes.
OPTIONAL: After baking, broil the easy chile relleno casserole for 1-2 minutes until the cheese has browned and begins to bubble.
Cheese - Add pepper jack cheese for more heat, sharp cheddar cheese, or try a crumbled cheese like cojita cheese.
Peppers - Swap out the type of peppers. Try whole green chiles, canned green chilies, anaheim peppers, or another type of chile peppers.
Breakfast Casserole - Prepare as directed but swap out the chicken for a dozen beaten eggs. Just add the egg mixture to the peppers and cheese, pour in the dish, and bake. This takes a classic egg bake to a new level!
What is Chile Relleno?
Although I have many low carb versions of global cuisine I never claim they are authentic. I just try to take similar flavors and make an original recipe based on a traditional dish that is both delicious and suitable for a keto diet. Instead of making individual stuffed peppers the traditional way I made the same flavors into a less time-consuming casserole. But, for anyone curious this is the definition of authentic chile Rellenos according to Wikipedia:
In Mexico, it consists of a stuffed, roasted, fresh poblano pepper (a large and mild chili pepper named after the city of Puebla), sometimes replaced with a Hatch chile, Anaheim, pasilla or even jalapeño chili pepper. In 1858 it was described as a "green chile pepper stuffed with minced meat and coated with eggs".
In current cuisine, it is typically stuffed with melted cheese, such as queso Chihuahua or queso Oaxaca or with picadillo meat made of diced pork, raisins and nuts, seasoned with canella; covered in an egg batter, simply corn masa flour and fried, or without any batter at all.
Are Poblano Peppers Spicy?
Poblano peppers do have a slight amount of heat to them. They store a lot of the heat in the seeds, so when you wash away the seeds, you will be losing some of the spice. Jalapenos are actually spicier than poblanos. I don’t know about you, but I have had some very bland jalapenos over the years.
So, if you like a LOT of heat in your low carb chile Relleno, use all 6 poblanos. You can really add as many or as few as you wish, depending on your preferences. We love Mexican food in my house but generally prefer it to be mild.
What Should I Serve With Keto Chile Relleno?
I typically serve this variation on chili rellenos with just a green salad with avocado and a dollop of sour cream or ranch dressing. It is so rich and creamy chiles Rellenos pairs better with a lighter side dish.
We also like making classic Mexican rice using cauli-rice instead. Or serve on top of a salad with spicy ranch (mix a little hot sauce into ranch dressing) or a drizzle of enchilada sauce.
If you aren't keto you can serve with regular cilantro lime rice, refried beans, flour tortillas or corn tortillas, or tortilla chips.
Can I Use Chicken Breasts Instead of Thighs?
For sure! Simply swap the chicken thighs for boneless skinless chicken breasts in this chile Rellenos bake. You may need to adjust the baking time, so keep an eye on the temperature of the chicken. It needs to be 160 degrees F. for it to be completely done and safe to eat.
You could also sub in cooked ground beef or ground turkey if you prefer that to chicken.
What Can I Use Instead of Poblano Pepper?
If you head to the market and discover you can’t get a poblano pepper, don’t worry, you can still make this keto chile Relleno casserole. Simply swap the poblano for an anaheim pepper. They are very similar and a fair amount spicier. You should follow the same steps as directed with the poblano and shouldn’t have any problems.
- Char the peppers over an open flame. I do this on top of my gas stove.
- Once all the skin is blackened put the peppers in a paper bag and fold it closed. Let rest for 15 minutes. This will steam off the skin.
- After 15 minutes rub the skin off and pull off the stems. Cut or rip open the peppers. Rinse with warm running water to remove the seeds. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375. Put the chicken in a large casserole dish. Bake for 20 minutes while the peppers steam. Once the peppers have been steamed and chopped put them on top of the chicken and bake for another 20 minutes.
- Transfer the chicken and peppers to a large bowl and discard any cooking liquid. Break the chicken into large pieces with a fork. You do not have to finely shred it.
- Add the cream cheese, 1 cup of shredded cheese, the heavy cream, and the salt. Mix until smooth and return to the casserole dish.
- Top the casserole with the remaining cheese and bake for 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
- OPTIONAL: broil for 1-2 minutes to brown the cheese.
Originally Published September 30, 2020. Revised and Republished February 17, 2023.