Recipe: Mexican chicken buckwheat casserole

Many good things begin with sauteed onions and peppers.
Many good things begin with sauteed onions and peppers.
The base: black beans and buckwheat!
The base: black beans and buckwheat!

I had a hankering for a protein-packed dinner with some vegetables and healthy grains, and this Unfortunately, quinoa is expensive and I didn’t have any. Buckwheat groats can also be expensive, but they have a similar cooking time and ideal grain:liquid ratio to quinoa, and I figured they can stand up to strong flavors like jalapenos and salsa. Most importantly, I had some sitting around in my room, and I hate to see fancy ingredients go to waste.

Just before adding the peppers and cheese.
Just before adding the peppers and cheese.

So, how did it go? Well…I’d use quinoa next time, to be honest. The buckwheat flavor isn’t bad, but it’s very distinctive, and while it plays really well with some flavors, the recipe as I followed it was a bit too mild. If/when I make this again, I’ll add more cumin and some jalapenos (from a jar) along with the chicken, or use some spicier salsa! That said, I still enjoy the nutty flavor of buckwheat, and this was nice and easy to pull together!

Done!
Done!

Mexican Chicken Buckwheat Casserole

Yield: 6-8 servings.

Adapted from: Pinch of Yum.

1.5 c uncooked buckwheat
1 (14-oz) can cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
1.5 c salsa
1.5 c chicken broth (plus 1/2 c more if needed)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 c shredded cheese, divided
1 Tbsp oil
1 jalapeño, minced (I minced about 2 Tbsp of jarred jalapenos)
1 onion, sliced
4 bell peppers, sliced
1.25 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 375 F/ 190 C. Mix the buckwheat, black beans, salsa, chicken broth, garlic, and 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese in a large bowl. Transfer to a greased casserole dish (something close to 9×13 inches; I used an approximately 8×10 dish with no problem). Bake for 20 minutes.

While the buckwheat is baking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the jalapeño, onion, and peppers. Saute until golden brown and tender-crisp, like you would for fajitas. Remove from heat and set aside.

Toss the raw chicken with the chili powder, cumin, and salt. When the buckwheat mixture is done with the first 20 minutes of baking, stir it up really well and add the raw chicken. Stir the chicken into the mixture to get the chicken mostly covered by the mixture, and return to the oven for another 30 minutes of baking. If you notice there are a few uncooked buckwheat pieces on top, just give it a stir and bake it a little longer (you may want to add a little extra broth at this point if it seems dry. The original recipe notes that “it’s usually fully cooked on the bottom but the top pieces sometimes need a little extra love.” I had no problems with this, but I like my grains on the chewy side.)

When the buckwheat is done, top with the pepper-onion mixture and remaining cheese – bake another 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted to your liking.

Serving suggestion: topped with fresh cilantro and hot sauce.

A bit blurry, and not the most photogenic...but still pretty tasty.
A bit blurry, and not the most photogenic of dishes…but still pretty tasty.
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