Casseroles are the perfect dinner dish: they feed the whole family, can be made in advance, and often result in leftovers that can be enjoyed for lunch the following day. Their only drawback is that they usually include unhealthy ingredients, which add unwanted calories and fat to your meals. If your casseroles typically contain full-fat, high-sodium ingredients and refined grains, it is time to give them a nutritious makeover, which you can do using reduced-fat foods, whole grains, and plenty of vegetables. Here are seven healthy recipes helping you revamp your favorite dinner casseroles.
1. Healthier Mexican Chicken Casserole
Consisting of fragrant spices, low-sodium broth, chicken, whole-wheat tortillas, and vegetables, Food.com’s casserole is a diet-friendly dinner dish the whole family will enjoy. This recipe, which was adapted from Canyon Ranch, yields 4 to 6 servings. Livestrong notes that whole-wheat tortillas are nutritionally superior to their white counterpart because they are less processed. Eating 3 servings of whole grains per day can reduce your risk of heart disease by 25% to 28%, lower your risk of stroke by 30% to 36%, and decrease your chance of getting diabetes by 21% to 30%.
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup diced red onion
- 1 cup diced red bell pepper
- 1 cup diced tomato
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1½ teaspoons chili powder
- 1 (4½-ounce) can diced green chilies
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 medium whole-wheat tortillas, about 8 inches in diameter
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat a large sauté pan with oil, add chicken and garlic, and sauté for 2 minutes over medium-high heat until chicken is golden-brown. Add onion, bell pepper, tomato, and spices and cook until vegetables are tender. Add chicken stock and chiles. Cook until stock is almost gone. Lightly coat an 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Place 1 tortilla in bottom of pan. Spread ½ of chicken mixture over tortilla. Top with ½ of cheese. Then top with remaining tortilla, chicken mixture, and cheese. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and lightly browned on top.
2. Light Shepherd’s Pie
Replacing full-fat dairy and fatty meats with leaner, reduced-fat foods results in a light shepherd’s pie. Food Network’s recipe yields 4 servings — each contains 448 calories, 19 grams of fat, 32 grams of protein, and 6 grams of fiber.
- 1¼ pounds small red-skinned potatoes
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped
- 1½ tablespoons chili powder
- Kosher salt
- ½ pound 93% lean ground turkey
- ½ pound 90% lean ground beef sirloin
- 1½ cups frozen peas
- ½ cup low-fat milk, warmed
- ⅓ cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
Directions: Put the potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl and add 2 tablespoons water; cover and microwave until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Let stand, covered, until ready to mash. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, tomatoes, ¾ teaspoon chili powder, and ½ teaspoon salt; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the turkey, beef, remaining ¾ teaspoon chili powder, and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring and breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in the peas and ¼ cup water; simmer 2 minutes. Spread over the vegetables in the baking dish, then cover to keep warm. Preheat the broiler. Add the milk and ¼ teaspoon salt to the potatoes and mash well; mix in the cheese. Spread over the meat and broil until browned in spots, 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Broccoli Quinoa Casserole
Toasted breadcrumbs and layers of gooey cheese pair perfectly with quinoa, chicken, and broccoli. Forbes writes that broccoli, which contains anti-inflammatory nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber, helps the body detoxify and supports eye and skin health. Damn Delicious’s recipe for broccoli quinoa casserole yields 8 servings.
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 head broccoli, cut into florets and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- ⅓ cup Panko
- 3 boneless, skinless thin-sliced chicken breasts
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups 2% milk
- 1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
- ⅓ cup Greek yogurt
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or coat with nonstick spray. In a large saucepan of 2 cups water, cook quinoa according to package instructions. Within the last 5 minutes of cooking time, add broccoli on top and steam until cooked through. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add Panko and cook, stirring, until browned and toasted, about 3 minutes; set aside. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the skillet. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper, to taste.
Add to skillet and cook, flipping once, until cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Let cool before dicing into bite-size pieces; set aside. Melt butter in the skillet over medium heat. Whisk in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk, and cook, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in quinoa, broccoli, chicken, 1 cup cheese and Greek yogurt; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spread broccoli mixture into the prepared baking dish; sprinkle with remaining ½ cup cheese. Place into oven and bake until cheese has melted, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately, sprinkled with Panko, if desired.
4. Buckwheat and Cottage Cheese Casserole
This hearty, stick-to-your ribs casserole contains several nutritious ingredients, including oats, buckwheat, and cottage cheese. Protein-packed buckwheat is great for digestion, may help manage diabetes, and is a healthy gluten-free option, according to Care2. Lorna Sass’s recipe via the Whole Grains Council yields 8 servings; each has 220 calories, 8 grams of fat, 12 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber.
- ⅓ cup rye flakes or old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1½ cups buckwheat groats
- 1½ teaspoons dried dill
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for preparing pan
- 1½ cups low-fat cottage cheese
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- ¾ cup sour cream
- About ⅛ teaspoon sweet paprika
Directions: Set a rack in the center and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish. Coat the bottom and halfway up the sides with the rye flakes. Set aside. In a heavy 2-quart Dutch oven or saucepan, combine 2¾ cups of water with the buckwheat, dill, ½ teaspoon of salt, and the pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the butter. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the buckwheat is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in another ¼ cup of water if the mixture gets dry before the buckwheat is tender.
Transfer the cooked buckwheat to a medium bowl. Stir in the cottage cheese, followed by the eggs and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan. With a rubber spatula, spread the sour cream in a layer on top. Dust with the paprika. Bake until the edges are firm and the center is set, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife along the edges and cut into 8 portions. Use a spatula to remove the pieces from the pan.
5. Parmesan and Root Vegetable Lasagna
Sweeten your supper spread with Cooking Light’s parmesan and root vegetable lasagna. Butternut squash, sweet potato, and onion blend together perfectly, while two cheeses and warm spices add creamy flavors to this vegetarian dish. The recipe yields 10 servings.
- 6 cups (½-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
- 2¼ cups (½-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato
- 2 cups coarsely chopped onion, divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Cooking spray
- 4 cups 1% low-fat milk
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 bay leaf
- 1.5 ounces all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1¼ cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 9 packaged no-boil lasagna noodles
- 1½ cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Directions: Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine squash, potato, 1 cup chopped onion, and oil in a roasting pan coated with cooking spray, tossing to coat vegetables. Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring once; set aside. Combine remaining 1 cup onion, milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, and bay leaf in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a simmer. Remove from heat; let stand 15 minutes. Strain milk mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids. Return milk mixture to pan. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Add flour, salt, and pepper to milk mixture, stirring with a whisk. Cook over medium heat 10 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently with a whisk.
Remove from heat; stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread ½ cup milk mixture in bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over milk mixture; top with half of squash mixture, ½ cup mozzarella, and 1 cup milk mixture. Repeat layer with noodles, squash mixture, mozzarella, and milk mixture. Top with remaining 3 noodles. Spread remaining milk mixture over noodles, and sprinkle with remaining ½ cup mozzarella. Cover with foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes.
6. Light-But-Hearty Tuna Casserole
Filled with mushrooms, red peppers, reduced-fat foods, pasta, and tuna, Taste of Home’s tuna casserole finds the perfect balance between hearty and nutritious. Canned tuna is both healthy and convenient, and one 3-ounce serving contains 11.3 milligrams of niacin, 2.5 micrograms of vitamin B-12, 154 international units of vitamin D, 0.3 milligrams of vitamin B-6, and 139 milligrams of phosphorus, according to SFGate.
- 3 cups uncooked yolk-free noodles
- 1 (10¾-ounce) can reduced-fat, reduced-sodium condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
- ½ cup fat-free milk
- 2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
- ½ teaspoon ground mustard
- 1 (6-ounce) jar sliced mushrooms, drained
- 1 (5-ounce) can albacore white tuna in water
- ¼ cup chopped roasted sweet red pepper
- ¼ cup dry bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook noodles according to package directions. In a large bowl, combine the soup, milk, mayonnaise, and mustard. Stir in the mushrooms, tuna, and red pepper. Drain noodles; add to soup mixture and stir until blended. Transfer to an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over casserole. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly.
7. Creamed Spinach Casserole
Frozen spinach, cheddar and cottage cheese, egg whites, and seasonings create a nutritious and flavorful dinner dish. Eating Well’s recipe yields 8 servings, with each containing 142 calories, 6 grams of fat, 14 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber. We suggest serving this casserole with a side of garlic bread.
- 3 (10-ounce) packages frozen spinach, thawed
- 1 cup low-fat milk
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon white or black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
- 3 large egg whites
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a shallow 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Press spinach in a mesh strainer to get out as much moisture as possible. Pulse in a food processor until very finely chopped. Combine milk, flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking, until thickened, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in ½ cup cheddar, cottage cheese, and the spinach.
Beat egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer, slowly increasing the speed, until they begin to foam. Continue to beat until the whites hold their shape; do not overbeat. Gently fold the whites into the spinach mixture with a rubber spatula until uniform. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Bake for 35 minutes. Top with the remaining ½ cup cheddar; continue baking until the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes more. Let stand for 5 minutes.