Pastel Azteca – Layered Tortilla Casserole

Click here to go to printable recipe: Layered Tortilla Casserole  – Pastel Azteca

I was a little surprised when I realized  that I had not posted my recipe for this dish before, being a traditional choice for potluck and buffet parties in Mexico.  The name “pastel azteca”  translates as “Aztec cake”, also known as “budín azteca” – “Aztec pudding” a curious choice that might be catering to international audiences, since it is definitely a creation of modern Mexico, not ancient Aztec (Mexica) times, from the use of ingredients such as cheese, and being cooked in an oven.  The dish is sometimes compared to lasagne, because it consists of layers of meat, cheese and vegetables, only that instead of strips of pasta, they are separated by corn tortillas.  There are many regional combinations of ingredients and sauces; for example, in Jalisco it is made with ground meat and topped with avocado.  The sauce may be tomatillo based (green) or seasoned tomato (red), and some versions skip the meat and use extra vegetables such as zucchini, poblano peppers, etc.  One of the most traditional versions has chicken, huitlacoche (corn smut) and green sauce; my recipe is based on this version, but using readily available mushrooms instead of corn smut.

The cheese is usually chosen to melt and get stringy, such as Oaxaca style, Mexican manchego or mozzarella. I had a nice block of Chihuahua style cheese:

Layered Tortilla Casserole – Pastel Azteca

Printable recipe: Layered Tortilla Casserole  – Pastel Azteca

Ingredients (for a 9×13 inch, 23×33 cm pan)

18 corn tortillas
3 cups cooked chicken; shredded
1 lb (454 g) mushrooms, such as cremini or oyster; wiped clean
2 tbsp epazote, if available, or omit; washed 
¼ white onion; peeled, and chopped
3 cups cooked tomatillo sauce (click here for my recipe, or from jar)
2 cups cheese, such as Oaxaca, Chihuahua or mozzarella; shredded
2 tbsp oil, plus more (optional) for crisping tortillas
Salt, to taste

I had a mix of cremini and oyster mushrooms (photo below, left).  I always freeze epazote from my herb garden, so I can have it handy even during the cold months; it is easy to just take it out of the freezer, and slice finely (photo below, right):

Chop mushrooms and reserve.  In a large pan, heat up two tablespoons of oil over medium heat, then add the chopped onions and sauté until translucent.  Add chopped mushrooms and sliced epazote (if using), and continue cooking for a few minutes, stirring occasionally:

Season with salt, to taste, and reserve.

In another pot, warm up green sauce:


Warm up tortillas, either in the microwave oven, or in a pan on the stove; an option is to add a few drops of oil to the pan, to crisp each tortilla, just slightly, as shown below:

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

In a rectangular baking dish (9×13 inches, 23×33 cm), spread half a cup of green sauce, then arrange six corn tortillas, slightly overlapping, and slicing one in half to fit better, as shown below:

Spread half the shredded chicken, and half the sautéed mushrooms on top: 

Sprinkle half a cup of shredded cheese, then add another half a cup of sauce:

Repeat layers by stacking another six tortillas, half a cup of sauce, the rest of the chicken and mushrooms, half a cup of cheese, and another half a cup of sauce.  

Cover with the last six tortillas and the last cup of green sauce:

Finish with the rest of the cheese:

Bake in pre-heated oven for thirty minutes, until everything is hot and the cheese has melted, then switch to broiler for a few minutes, until the cheese on the top is bubbly and has browned a little:

Serve hot, cut into triangles or squares:

The layers meld so nicely, and the tortillas become soft from the sauce, but not mushy, especially if they were crisped:

During this holiday season, when many menus include roasted turkey, this casserole is also an ideal and delicious way to use up leftovers instead of chicken, and avoid waste.

I am sharing my recipe at What’s for Dinner? Sunday Link-Up #399 with Helen @ The Lazy Gastronome.

I am joining Fiesta Friday # 466 with Angie @ Fiesta Friday.

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