Recipe credit = EatWell101
Prep + Cook time = 40ish (depending on how quickly you can chop!)
Servings = 2-3 (can easily be 4-5 if served over/with a side)
Categories = chicken, casserole, chicken bake, healthy, easy weeknight dinner
This recipe for Salsa Fresca Chicken, which I credit entirely to EatWell101.com (because mine is just a slightly cheesier version, naturally!), combines my favorite characteristics of comfort food--a cheesy, warm, flavorful casserole--with the fresh and bright flavors of a healthy pico de gallo.
Christian and I are great about infusing our weekly meal plans with variety, especially since COVID has us cooking at home so much more often! But despite changing up flavors and ingredients, our recipes are mostly ground turkey- or veggie-based (especially soups, be sure to check out the other recipes in the Foodie Forum for a ton of healthy plant-based soups!).
And while I’m proud of our transition to more vegetarian meals and leaner, non-red meat options--both for the environmental and health implications--we really just don’t do much chicken! Which is weird, given its versatility--it can be cooked + marinated + seasoned in so many different and fun ways--and it can be prepared pretty quickly and easily too (if you don’t mind handling raw chicken, I know that freaks some people out!).
Then along came this recipe! It’s so simple, flavorful, and mostly healthy (I say mostly because I’m a cheese fiend so we decided to add a second type of cheese...you won’t regret it!), it instantly put chicken back into our weekly/bi-weekly meal rotation! Plus, it’s low-carb. I personally don’t follow a low-carb diet (as you can tell by the pic--I like garlic bread with this dish, ha!) but I know many do--if you make this by itself or with a side of veggies, you’ve got a satisfying low-carb dinner!
Or, bump the chicken up to 2 lbs (as the original recipe calls for) and put it over rice or noodles to easily feed a family--see the Semi-Pro Tips below for more!
FUN FACT = Salsa fresca is another name for pico de gallo, the popular chunky-textured salsa commonly found in Mexican dishes. Pico de gallo translates to rooster’s beak. There’s a few different ideas for why the salsa received that name--two common ones are that pico was traditionally eaten with the thumb and forefinger, resembling a rooster using its beak to pick up its food, or that the chunky/minced tomato texture resembles chicken feed itself!
Chicken breast (boneless, skinless) - 1 lb (bump it up to 2 lbs to make 4 servings!)
Shredded Mozzarella - 1-1.5 cup
White onion - 1, chopped
Jalapeno - 1 small, chopped
Tomatoes (Roma or grape work great) - 2 cups, diced
Lime - ½, juiced
Seasonings (all to taste, amounts are just recommendations!)
Cumin - ¼ tsp
Garlic powder - ¼ tsp
Red pepper flakes - ¼ tsp
Salt + Pepper
Optional (to sprinkle on top or mix in!)
Preheat oven to 400℉.
Cut chicken breasts into small, 1-inch pieces and lay flat across the bottom of a large baking dish.
Season the chicken with salt + pepper, cumin, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes, and stir to distribute the seasoning evenly.
In a separate bowl, combine chopped tomatoes, onions, and jalapeno. Add lime juice and a few shakes of salt. Stir in the mozzarella.
Spread the mixture evenly over the top of the chicken.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is entirely cooked through (it has to reach an internal temp of 165℉).
Serve, and sprinkle with feta and/or parmesan cheese
SEMI-PRO TIPS (since let’s be real, I’m definitely not a “pro”):
You can easily make this a family meal by upping the chicken to 2lbs and serving it over/with a side, as the original recipe calls for. Since it’s just my spouse and I for dinner (and we’re often too lazy to prep side dishes!), we reduced the chicken to 1lb, but kept the rest of the ingredients the same so it was 1) more of a casserole and less of a chicken-heavy bake, and 2) still enough food to fill two people. The freshness of the chicken/cheese/tomato/onion combo would make this great over rice, noodles, with tortilla chips...we like ours with a side of garlic bread!
Is there a thing as too much cheese? NOPE. At least not for Christian and I! We sprinkle feta and/or grated parmesan over the top of our servings--adding a second cheese just gives it such a more in-depth flavor, and makes this healthy dish taste even more like a comfort food! Plus, we mix the shredded mozz in with the rest of the veggies/chicken, rather than just laying it over the top like the original recipe says--it tastes good both ways, but we like having the melty cheese mixed in rather than cooked over the top (where it kinda fell off after the first bite).
If you’re able to give this a try, let me know what you think! It’s a pretty simple combo--any variations you think I should try next? Also would love any other easy/quick weeknight chicken recipes you've got, always good to change up the weekly meal plan!