Lightened-up Jalapeño Popper Chicken Casserole combines your favorite aspects of jalapeños poppers and packs it into a warm and comforting healthy casserole recipe. Loaded with shredded chicken, jalapeños, veggies, and a lightened-up cream cheese and greek yogurt mixture and then topped with shredded cheese and crushed pretzels. It makes a delicious and hearty one-pan recipe perfect for dinner, as a dip, or for a party!
Is it a casserole or a dip?! Either way, this jalapeño popper chicken is my new favorite thing!!
I loved fried jalapeño poppers growing up. I mean what’s not to like about cream cheese inside a jalapeño and deep fried?! Crispy and crunchy golden outside filled with a warm and melted cream cheese and a little kick from the jalapeño.
I decided to take those flavors and turn them into a healthy casserole recipe. Because everyone loves casseroles right?! Of course, I changed it up some and made a lightened-up and healthy version. It’s rich and creamy, loaded with protein and veggies, and absolutely delicious.
Totally feels indulgent, but you could eat this every day if you wanted (no judgment here)!
To help bulk up the recipe, I used cauliflower rice. I did this in my chicken fajita dip and you couldn’t tell it was there so did it again. I promise you can’t taste it and it’s a good way to sneak in veggies.
Second, I added greek yogurt and reduced the cream cheese. This adds the creamy texture while adding protein and reducing some fat. Finally, for the crunchy topping, I used a few crushed-up pretzels. They add the perfect amount of crunch without deep frying.
It’s hearty, filling, absolutely delicious, and totally hits the spot when craving something comforting, but still want to keep it healthy.
Jalapeño popper chicken casserole
Lightened-up, low carb, and keto-friendly jalapeño popper chicken casserole combine your favorite aspects of jalapeños poppers into a healthy casserole recipe. It perfect for an easy meal (it’s cooked all in one pan!), meal prep, or a way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo or game day.
Here is what you need:
- green pepper
- cauliflower rice
- shredded chicken
- greek yogurt
- cream cheese
- nutritional yeast
- cheddar cheese
- salt and pepper
First heat up a cast iron or enameled cast iron skillet and add your oil. Once hot, add in the onions, garlic, and salt and pepper and sauté for a few minutes. Then add the peppers and sauté for a few more minutes. Next, add the cauliflower rice and saute for a couple more minutes until slightly softened.
While the veggies cook, make the cream cheese mixture. Add the softened cream cheese, yogurt, nutrition yeast, paprika, and salt and pepper and mix well to combine.
When the veggies are softened, add the shredded chicken, diced jalapeños, and cream cheese mixture to the pan. Mix well to combine, making sure the mixture is evenly incorporated throughout the chicken and veggies and nothing is stuck on the bottom. Smooth out the top.
Pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and bubbling around the edges. While the chicken jalapeños popper casserole bakes, make the topping. The topping is totally optional, but I feel it really adds to the recipe and takes it to the next level.
Shred your cheese and crumble your pretzels. To crumble the pretzels, I just added them to a reusable bag and smashed them with my fist until broken up. Slice some more jalapeños as well. Evenly sprinkle the shredded cheese across the casserole. Then repeat with the pretzel crumbles and then nestle the jalapeños in there.
Finally, place it back in the oven for another 5 minutes until the cheese is melted. Then dig in!
How to make shredded chicken
We usually have shredded chicken in our house at all times. It makes for super easy meals during the week and for making this jalapeño popper casserole so easy. My go-to way recently has been the Instant Pot, but you can also make it in the slow cooker. Check out how to make shredded chicken both ways for all the details!
You can also boil chicken breasts in water until cooked through, shredding it when it cools a bit. If you don’t want to make it, or don’t have time, you can also use a store-bought rotisserie chicken!
To make it low carb (even more so)
This casserole is naturally low carb, but to make it keto, skip the pretzel topping on top. Or you can substitute something else like pork rinds.
Substitutions for jalapeno popper chicken
I haven’t tested this recipe any other way, but here are a few substitutions that I think will work!
- cream cheese – I used dairy-free, but you can use any kind you like.
- yogurt – you can use regular yogurt or dairy-free. I have not tried dairy-free, but think it would work. Look for an unflavored greek yogurt version that is thicker if you can.
- cheese – use dairy-free or leave it off
- pretzels – use gluten-free or leave them off to make it keto or even more low carb. You can also substitute crackers, tortilla chips, or even pork rinds.
How to eat jalapeño popper chicken casserole
There is really no wrong way to serve this casserole. Technically I called it a casserole, but to be honest, we just ate it with forks right out of the pan hot from the oven. But here are a few more ideas if being savage is not really your thing…
- serve with a side salad or some roasted veggies
- with sweet potato fries
- with chips – corn or plantain are my favorites
- cut-up veggies – I love carrots, peppers, celery, and cucumbers
More healthy casserole recipes
Beef Taco Casserole (Paleo/Whole30)
Ground Turkey Spaghetti Squash Casserole
Jalapeño Popper Chicken Casserole
- 1/2 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1 heaping cup diced onion (120 grams)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium diced green pepper (1 1/4 cup/150 grams)
- 2 cups cauliflower rice (200 grams)
- 8 ounces greek yogurt (1 cup)
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened* (1/2 cup)
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 cups packed shredded chicken (8 ounces)
- 3-4 medium-large jalapeños, diced**
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (1.5 ounces)
- 3 pretzels, crumbled
- salt and pepper, to taste
- for topping: sliced jalapeños
- Preheat oven 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Heat a cast iron, enameled cast iron, or oven-safe pan over medium-low heat. Add oil and let it get hot, about 30 seconds. Add onion, garlic, and salt and pepper and saute, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes until softened and browned. Add green pepper and saute for another 3-4 minutes. Add cauliflower rice, mix to combine, and saute for another 3 minutes.
- While veggies cook, make the cream cheese mixture. In a medium bowl, mix together the greek yogurt, softened cream cheese, nutritional yeast, paprika, and salt and pepper.
- Once veggies are done cooking and are slightly softened, add shredded chicken, cream cheese mixture, and diced jalapeños to the pan. Mix well to combine and make sure everything is incorporated. See the pictures above for reference. Place in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.
- While it bakes, shred your cheese and break up your pretzels. To do this, I added the pretzels to a bag and just pounded with my fist until broken up. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese. Then sprinkle with the crushed pretzel pieces. Add some sliced jalapeños if desired. Bake for another 5 minutes until cheese is melted and golden brown. Eat as a casserole or as a dip and enjoy!
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