This Chicken and Zucchini Casserole is an easy and healthy dinner. A delicious meal made with chicken breast, fresh zucchini, fluffy quinoa, basil pesto, and topped with melty mozzarella cheese.
If you’re in need of pesto, here’s an easy 5-minute recipe!
For the last few weeks I’ve been putting zucchini in pretty much everything, from bread to pad Thai. It’s my first year growing zucchini in the garden (or growing anything, really) and I had no idea just how much my plants would yield. It’s overwhelming to have so much at once, but I’m grateful for the harvest.
Chicken and Zucchini Casserole just screams summer. The zucchini and quinoa make a nice base for the flavour of the basil pesto and I highly recommend sliced cherry tomatoes to top it off. This baked quinoa is a delicious way to use garden vegetables and herbs.
Here’s what you’ll need to make it. See the recipe card below for exact quantities and detailed instructions.
- Quinoa – I use the white variety. Be sure to rinse it. Rinsing will prevent the quinoa from clumping and help it cook evenly.
- Zucchini – quartered, then sliced about 1/4-inch thick
- Olive oil – for sautéing the onion and garlic
- Yellow Onion – small dice; sautéed to add depth of flavour
- Garlic – minced
- Chicken broth – this is what provides the quinoa with the liquid it needs to cook
- Salt & Pepper
- Basil pesto – provides the main flavour for the dish. Use your favourite store-bought brand, or make a batch of this one!
- Chicken breast – I use 1.5 pounds so the casserole can feed 6 people. It will work with just two breasts in a pinch.
- Mozzarella – grated, for the yummy, melty layer on top!
- Chopped fresh parsley and sliced cherry tomatoes – optional garnishes
First, preheat your oven to 375 °F and spray a 9×13-inch casserole dish with cooking spray.
Then, spread the rinsed quinoa in an even layer in the casserole dish. Top with an even layer of zucchini.
Next, heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 3 minutes until turning translucent, then add the minced garlic and continue to sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the broth to the sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the pesto until dissolved.
Carefully pour the pesto mixture over the quinoa and zucchini in the casserole dish. Use a spatula to push down any quinoa that’s not submerged.
Place the cubed chicken evenly throughout the casserole and top with grated mozzarella. Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
At the end of cooking time, let the casserole sit covered for 10 minutes to steam the quinoa. As an optional step, after the quinoa has steamed, you can broil the top to make the cheese bubbly.
Tips for Success
Be sure to rinse the quinoa. This prevents it from clumping once you add the broth mixture, which ensures more even cooking.
Cube the chicken fairly large, about 1.5-inch pieces. This will help the chicken stay more juicy and tender as the quinoa cooks.
Don’t skip boiling the broth. This would affect the cook time of the casserole. The hot liquid also helps disperse the pesto evenly throughout the dish. Be sure to take it off the heat right as it comes to a boil, as you don’t want a lot of the liquid to evaporate.
Steam for the full 10 minutes after baking. This will ensure the quinoa absorbs the liquid, resulting in a fluffier texture and the casserole won’t be “watery”.
More easy dinner recipes
- Stuffed Pepper Skillet
- Garden Vegetable Orzo with Chicken
- Lemon Garlic Instant Pot Chicken and Potatoes
Cheesy Chicken and Zucchini Casserole
- 1 cup white quinoa, rinsed (see note 1)
- 2 medium-sized zucchini, quartered and sliced (about 1/4-inch width)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, small dice
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 3/4 cup basil pesto (your favourite store-bought brand or linked recipe)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste, depending on saltiness of your pesto)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed (three 8oz breasts)
- 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
- chopped fresh parsley
- sliced cherry tomatoes
- Preheat the oven to 375 °F and grease a 9×13-inch casserole dish.
- Spread the rinsed quinoa in an even layer in the casserole dish. Layer the sliced zucchini evenly over the quinoa. Set aside.
- In a medium sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion until turning translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the minced garlic and continue to sauté another minute, until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the pesto until dissolved. Carefully pour the mixture over the quinoa and zucchini in the casserole dish. Use a spatula to push down any quinoa that's not submerged in the liquid.
- Place the cubed chicken evenly throughout the casserole dish, then top with the grated mozzarella. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Be careful transferring the dish to the oven – it's full of hot liquid!
- At the end of cooking time, remove the casserole from the oven, but keep it covered. Let the quinoa steam and absorb the liquid for 10 minutes.
- Optional step: After the quinoa has steamed for 10 minutes, remove the foil and broil for 2-3 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and starting to turn golden.
- Serve immediately with your chosen garnishes. Store any leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator and eat within 4 days.
- Even if your quinoa comes pre-rinsed, don’t skip the rinse – this prevents it from clumping and helps it cook evenly.
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