Pastel Azteca Mexican Tortilla Chicken Casserole Recipe

Pastel Azteca is a traditional Mexican casserole prepared with layers of corn tortillas, shredded chicken, grated cheese and homemade chipotle chile salsa.

Our quick & easy Pastel Azteca recipe takes less than 1 hour to make, the perfect main course to serve at a Mexican themed dinner party.

We love serving slices of this Mexican Tortilla Casserole with guacamole, lime wedges and a thirst quenching tequila cocktail!

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Save our Pastel Azteca Mexican Tortilla Chicken Casserole recipe to Pinterest!
Save our Pastel Azteca Mexican Tortilla Chicken Casserole recipe to Pinterest!

What Is Pastel Azteca?

Pastel Azteca is a traditional Mexican dish, known in the United States as tortilla casserole or tortilla pie.

Pastel Azteca translates to “Aztec cake,” but it’s really more of a Mexican lasagna, and like lasagna, every cook has his or her own rendition, and you can mix and match ingredients to fit what you happen to have lying around. It’s often made in Mexican kitchens as a way to use up leftover cheese, meat and vegetables in the fridge.

The dish originates in Oaxaca and Chihuahua and is traditionally prepared by alternating layers of corn tortillas with layers of homemade chile salsa, shredded cheese and pulled chicken.

The dish can also be prepared with other proteins like ground beef or pork. Vegetarians can enjoy the dish by omitting meat and substituting refried beans and sweet corn.

Once finished layering in a casserole dish, Pastel Azteca is baked in an oven until the top layer of cheese has melted and is bubbling with glee! As part of Mexican culture, Pastel Azteca is one of the most widely recognized dishes throughout Mexico.

We love serving this easy Pastel Azteca recipe with guacamole and a refreshing margarita.

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Homemade Pastel Azteca recipe ingredients.
Homemade Pastel Azteca recipe ingredients.

Travel to Mexico by Cooking Pastel Azteca at Home

I love traveling to Latin America.

As a professional food and travel journalist, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy amazing meals in Central America, South America and the Caribbean, from traditional markets to award winning restaurants.

For over ten years, I’ve been on the hunt for the best Pastel Azteca recipe. I’ve embarked on culinary adventures at local restaurants in Cuba, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Curacao, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.

In Mexico, I’ve forked through steaming plates of Pastel Azteca at restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos, Mexico City, Merida, Chichen Itza and Playa del Carmen.

Mexican Tortilla Casserole is a chicken and cheese lovers dream. We suggest serving the hearty main course with fresh lime wedges, guacamole and your favourite tequila cocktail.

After enjoying your first forkful, you’ll realize why Pastel Azteca is a must-try when visiting Mexico!

This Mexican casserole is layered with corn tortilla, shredded chicken and cheese.
This Mexican casserole is layered with corn tortilla, shredded chicken and cheese.

Where To Eat Tortilla Casserole

If you live in a large city in Canada or America you’ll likely have access to a local Mexican restaurant that serves authentic Pastel Azteca.

Haven’t traveled to Mexico before? It may be helpful to first sample the dish at a local restaurant to better understand how it is served. You’ll get an idea for the ideal spicy heat level of the chipotle salsa, perfect cheese to tortilla ratio and authentic side dishes to serve at the table.

In Toronto, the best Mexican restaurants that may offer Pastel Azteca include El Rey, La Carnita, Playa Cabana, El Catrin, Campechano, El Trompo, Fonda Lola, Hot Mess Tex Mex, Rosalinda, Reposado Bar, Grand Electric and Milagro.

Bake the casserole until the cheese is melted into a delicious gratin.
Bake the casserole until the cheese is melted into a delicious gratin.

My Family Loves Mexican Chicken Tortilla Casserole

I love cooking Mexican food for my friends and family.

I first made this Pastel Azteca recipe for my family on a sunny summer day, which we enjoyed al fresco on our backyard patio.

I knew my parents would love this Mexican dish because they enjoy shredded chicken, easy to make casseroles and spicy Mexican flavours.

Since the recipe makes a large amount of food (for 6 hungry adults) it’s the perfect dish to prepare when company is coming. Or if you’re serving less mouths the leftovers make for easy lunches throughout the week.

We love to serve Pastel Azteca with fresh salsa, guacamole and craft beer or tequila cocktails.

Mexican Pastel Azteca Photo Image.
Mexican Pastel Azteca Photo Image.

Health Benefits

Our Pastel Azteca recipe is packed full of healthy ingredients!

Chicken is high in protein and provides B vitamins such as niacin, which helps your body access the energy in foods.   

Chili has been proven to help reduce the duration of sickness, prevent heart disease, and promote weight loss. 

Olive Oil is ranked as one of the healthiest fats and is a staple in the Mediterranean diet. It contains vitamins E and K and plenty of beneficial fatty acids and antioxidants.

Onions are a humble vegetable packed with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Regular consumption of onions can help boost digestive health and reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

It is only recently that scientists have begun to identify the components responsible for garlic’s myriad health benefits. Rich in phytochemicals and potassium, garlic helps boost your immune system, fight cancer and protect your heart.

Rich in a group of phytochemicals called carotenoids, tomatoes may help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, and provide protection against cancer. Tomatoes are also a good source of immune-boosting vitamin C.

Corn is rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps protect your cells from damage and wards off diseases like cancer and heart disease. Yellow corn is a good source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are good for eye health and help prevent the lens damage that leads to cataracts.

Consuming dairy products (such as milk and cheese) provides health benefits — especially improved bone health. Dairy foods provide nutrients that are vital for health and maintenance of your body. These nutrients include calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein.

A good source of bone-strengthening vitamin K, cilantro is also rich in antioxidants that help protect the eyes from damage by free radicals. 

We love serving this homemade casserole "Pastel Azteca" at Mexican themed dinner parties.
We love serving this homemade casserole “Pastel Azteca” at Mexican themed dinner parties.

Pastel Azteca Recipe Cooking Tips

Pastel Azetca is a delicious entree featuring our favourite Mexican flavours. Here are some helpful recipe tips and tricks:

  • We suggest layering Pastel Azteca in a large pyrex casserole dish but you can also use a disposable lasagna pan if you prefer.
  • Be sure to poach your chicken breasts rather than frying them in the pan as they will remain moist and are easy to tear apart with forks.
  • Many authentic Pastel Azteca recipes suggest that you lightly fry the corn tortillas in oil to make them crispy before adding them to the casserole. In an effort to reduce calories and make a healthy dish we’ve omitted this step. We’ve tried both cooking methods and honestly prefer the texture of the casserole without frying the tortillas.
  • If you don’t want to use shredded chicken ground pork or beef also works well. If you’re vegetarian substitute refried beans and sweet corn.
  • You can purchase canned chipotle chiles in adobo online or at a Latin American / Mexican grocery store.
  • We’ve used white onion in this recipe but you can substitute for Spanish cooking onions, red onions or sweet Vidalia onions.
  • We’ve used plum tomatoes in this recipe but you could substitue with a large beefsteak tomato or canned diced tomatoes.
  • We’ve used shredded mozzarella in this recipe but you can substitue with aged cheddar, Jalapeno Havarti or Monterey Jack Cheese.
  • We always finish the last layer of the casserole with nacho chips as they get nice and crunchy in the oven. You can simply add another tortilla if you prefer.
Garnish Pastel Azteca with finely chopped cilantro and sour cream.
Garnish Pastel Azteca with finely chopped cilantro and sour cream.

What To Serve with Pastel Azteca

There’s nothing more satisfying than forking through a steaming plate of cheesy Pastel Azteca.

The hearty dish serves 6 adults so we suggest preparing it when company is coming or if you have a large family. If you’re cooking for a smaller group enjoy leftovers for lunch throughout the week. You can easily reheat slices of the casserole in the oven or air fryer.

If you’re hosting a Mexican-themed dinner party you might want to serve our Pastel Azteca recipe with:

Pastel Azteca is a healthy main course which can be prepared vegetarian by omitting the chicken.
Pastel Azteca is a healthy main course which can be prepared vegetarian by omitting the chicken.

You May Also Enjoy These Chicken Recipes…

Now you're an expert on how to make authentic Pastel Azteca Mexican Chicken Casserole!
Now you’re an expert on how to make authentic Pastel Azteca Mexican Chicken Casserole!

How To Make Pastel Azteca (RECIPE VIDEO)

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Pastel Azteca Mexican Chicken Tortilla Casserole

How to make traditional Pastel Azteca. Our homemade Mexican Chicken Tortilla Casserole is served with sour cream and cilantro.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time50 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Pastel Azteca
Servings: 6
Calories: 315kcal


  • French knife
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • Casserole dish
  • blender
  • saucepan
  • Ladle


  • 2 Poached Chicken Breasts
  • 1 quart Chicken Stock
  • 2 Canned Chipotle Chiles in Adobo plus 2 tbsp of the sauce
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 4 Roma Tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1/2 White Onion chopped
  • 2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 12 Corn Tortillas
  • 1.5 cups Shredded Mozzarella or Cheddar
  • 1 cup Nachos
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • Fresh Cilantro minced


  • Using two forks, finely shred the chicken.
  • Oil a low-sided casserole dish and preheat oven to 350 F.
  • In the jar of a blender, combine the stock, chiles and adobo sauce, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, onion and 1 tsp of the salt and liquefy.
  • In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it's shimmering. Pour the contents of the blender over the hot oil and bring to a boil, then turn off the heat.
  • Ladle about 1/4 of the sauce over the bottom of the casserole dish. Add 4 tortillas to the bottom of the pan, arranging them in one layer. Distribute 1/4 of the chicken over the tortillas. Top with 1/4 of the cheese. Repeat to make two more layers of sauce, tortillas, chicken, and cheese, until you have used up all of the ingredients.
  • Top with nachos and finish with a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese.
  • Cover dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for another 5 minutes. As soon as it's bubbling on the sides and the cheese is golden brown, it's ready to eat!
  • Place a spoonful of sour cream and a scattering of cilantro on each portion. Serve hot and enjoy leftovers for up to a week.


Calories: 315kcal | Carbohydrates: 31.6g | Protein: 16.4g | Fat: 14.9g | Saturated Fat: 5.1g | Cholesterol: 40mg | Sodium: 1460mg | Potassium: 454mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 4.1g | Calcium: 129mg | Iron: 2mg

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