King Ranch Chicken Casserole

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This dish right here is a Southern Texas staple dish. And with one bite, you’ll understand why.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a church potluck, or bridal shower, or even a tailgating party in the Lone Star State that didn’t include this amazing dish.

We love this version because we don’t include the typical canned condensed cream of chicken soups or processed cheese. This is the real deal. Texas-style.


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King Ranch Casserole is a Texas Tradition

We start off by sautéing some of our favorite veggies in the world: Onion, red and green bell peppers, jalapeño, and garlic.

King Ranch casserole in a large cast iron skillet with a spoon in it all next to festive napkins.

The dish is colorful and exploding with flavor.

You’ll notice this just right away.

Sautéed vegetables for King Ranch Casserole

Ro-tel is another Texas tradition.  It’s a combination of tomatoes and green chiles and it’s hard to explain why, but there is just some extra special about a can of Ro-tel tomatoes.

If you can’t find Ro-Tel, which is now widely available, you can use another brand of tomatoes and chilies, or order Ro-tel online.

We LOVE Ro-tel!

Can of Ro-tel tomatoes being dumped into skillet of king ranch casserole

For the chicken, we love to roast chicken breasts, skin-on, and then shred the meat.

You’ll need about 5 cups of cooked chicken.  If you are pressed for time, 2 rotisserie chickens from the supermarket work very nicely, too.

Mix the cooked chicken with the fresh cilantro.

chopped chicken with cilantro for king ranch casserole

The Filling is Creamy With a Touch of Heat

As you build the filling for this amazing King Ranch Chicken Casserole, you’ll be tempted to pull out a spoon and eat a bowl-full as is.

But try and wait.

The best is yet to come.

Filling for king ranch casserole in a large skillet

Once again, we’re all about making the best dish possible, but sometimes you might be looking for a shortcut.

We think quickly crisping up yellow corn tortillas in a non-stick skillet with a little oil is perfect for this King Ranch Chicken Casserole.

But, we have also found that roughly broken-up corn tortilla chips work great, too!  Corn tortillas are so good!

Filling for king ranch casserole in a large skillet

Where Did King Ranch Casserole Originate?

There is a very famous and massive ranch in Southern Texas called The King Ranch.  Most folks, understandably so, think the King Ranch casserole originated at the famed King Ranch.

It didn’t. Martin Clement, who manages the main house at the King Ranch is quoted: “You can be sure if we had invented it, it would include beef, not chicken!”

So, the mysterious origins of this iconic King Ranch Chicken Casserole remain a mystery. But, who really cares. All you need to know is it’s a huge crowd-pleasin’ casserole that just tastes incredible.

King Ranch casserole in a large cast iron skillet with a spoon in it

We absolutely love making this casserole in our large (12-inch) cast-iron skillet, but you can absolutely prepare it in a standard 9″x13″ baking dish.

This King Ranch Chicken Casserole feeds a hungry family, no problem.  Usually leaving leftovers for lunch and/or dinner the following day or two.

King Ranch Feeds a Hungry Family (and More!)

The King Ranch Casserole also freezes wonderfully.  Simply prepare as instructed, freeze, and then let thaw and cook as directed.  Or, bake frozen for an additional 45 minutes.

Obviously, we wouldn’t advise freezing this in your cast iron skillet.  But you probably figured that out.

Trust us when we tell you, King Ranch Chicken Casserole is Texas comfort food at its best.  You and your loved ones will be “yee-hawing” after each scrumptious bite!

Other Favorite Chicken Recipes

Braised Chicken and Savory Peaches
Chicken and Sage Casserole
Instant Pot Dijon Chicken
Chicken Gyro
Roasted Lemon Chicken with Vegetables
Cajun Chicken and Rice

These are fantastic! In the meantime, hurry and make this incredible King Ranch Casserole. You will NOT be disappointed!

A large cast iron skillet of King Ranch Chicken Casserole next to festive napkins

Ready to make the best King Ranch Casserole this side of the Rio Grande River?  Go for it!

And when you do, be sure to take a photo, post it on Instagram, and tag @howtofeedaloon and hashtag #howtofeedaloon!

King Ranch casserole in a large cast iron skillet with a spoon in it all next to festive napkins.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

This King Ranch Chicken Casserole is a Southern Texas favorite.  This version skips the canned soup mixes and process cheese, and is deep in flavor.  This can easily be made in advance.  Keep in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours, or freeze for up to 1 month.  This is always a huge crowd-pleasing casserole. 
5 from 12 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Casserole
Cuisine: Texas
Keyword: Chicken, Corn Tortilla
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours
Servings: 12 people
Calories: 459kcal

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs chicken breasts skin-on, bone-in, or, 2 rotisserie chickens
  • Olive oil for chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper divided
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1 jalapeño seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • cup chicken stock
  • 1 10 oz can Ro-tel or tomatoes with chiles
  • 1 7.5 oz can green chiles
  • cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup cilantro chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 4 cups cheese shredded, a combo of cheddar and Monterrey Jack is perfect
  • 15 corn tortillas or, 1 large bag of corn tortilla chips, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup vegetable oil for quick-frying tortillas
  • Cooking spray

Instructions

PREPARE THE CHICKEN

  • Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
  • Rub olive oil all over chicken breasts and then liberally sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until internal temp is 165°F.  Using an instant-read thermometer ensures proper doneness.  Let cool, then remove skin and then cut meat from the bone and roughly chop.  Set aside.
  • Alternatively, remove the skin from 2 rotisserie chickens, then remove meat and roughly chop, set aside. 

MAKE THE FILLING

  • Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large skillet.
  • Add onion, bell peppers, jalapeño and cook for 10 minutes, or until soft and starting to brown.
  • Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika, and 1½ tsp of salt, and ½ tsp of black pepper.  Cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant.
  • Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute.
  • Using a whisk, incorporate the stock into the vegetables.  Whisking to remove any lumps from the flour.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 2 minutes, or until thickened.  Mix in the tomatoes, green chilies and sour cream.  Remove from the heat.
  • In a separate bowl, stir together the shredded chicken with the cilantro and then add to the vegetable mixture. 

PREPARE THE TORTILLAS

  • Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  
  • Add about a tsp of vegetable oil to the skillet and then add a tortilla, and swirl around. Cook until lightly browned on the bottom and starting to crisp. About 1 minute. Flip, and repeat with the other side.  Repeat with each tortilla, adding more oil as needed.
  • Alternatively, use roughly chopped corn tortilla chips instead of the skillet-fried tortillas.

ASSEMBLE THE DISH

  • Spray the bottoms and sides of either a large cast-iron skillet, or a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Line the bottom of the skillet (or baking dish) with tortillas, slightly overlapping.  You can quarter another tortilla to fill the open spaces between the tortillas.  Or, if using chopped tortilla chips, line the bottom with a layer of them. 
  • Add half of the chicken/veggie mixture and then a third of the cheese.  Repeat this process once.  Top with remaining tortillas (or chips) and cheese.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  (375°F)
  • Remove foil and bake for another 20 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned on top.  Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.   

Notes

The casserole can be made a day in advance.  Cover and place in the fridge.  Add an additional 10 minutes to the initial bake-time before removing the foil.
Leftovers will keep in an air-tight container with a lid in the fridge for up to 5 days.  The casserole freezes just fine for up to 2 months. 
Be sure to check out the "How To Prepare King Ranch Casserole" video in the recipe card.  If you like the video, please subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Nutrition

Calories: 459kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 71mg | Sodium: 339mg | Potassium: 274mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 1447IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 349mg | Iron: 2mg
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35 Comments

  • 5 stars
    It’s in the frig now; waiting to cook up for a potluck at church tomorrow. I love King Ranch Casserole; not always great; this one looks terrific. I cooked up 5 lbs of skinless, boneless chicken breasts per your recipe & had about twice the amount your video shows. In reading the commentary you say 5 cups of chicken breasts. I’ll surely make this again but please clarify is it 5lbs of chicken breasts cooked up or 5 cups. Thanks guys.

    • Hi Sonja! We hope the casserole turned out great and everyone enjoyed it! And so so sorry about the confusion with the chicken. We usually go with 3 to 5 lbs of skin-on, bone-in chicken parts (breasts and/or thighs). In the instructions, we said boneless/skinless. That would definitely make too much chicken! So sorry about that! Hopefully you can find good use for the cooked chicken that was leftover. We’ve updated the recipe to reflect this! Thank you so much for sharing and for the 5 Stars! That means the world to us!!

  • 5 stars
    I had heard of King Ranch casserole, but had never tried it. It was AMAZING!!! I did all the measuring and dicing a day ahead so it went very well. Would it be horrible if I added a few black beans in it next time??
    Thank you for the recipe!

    • Hi Karen!! YES!! Don’t you love making new dishes that turn out great! Prepping the day before is the way to go!! And 100% YES! Black beans would be a wonderful addition!! YUM!!! Thanks for sharing your experience and especially thanks for the great review. That honestly means the world to us!! All the best, Kris & Wesley

  • Do you think I can use cassava flour tortilla chips or other types of tortillas? Cassava, almond flour or cauliflower tortillas? I was thinking the cassava flour chips might work out best but In the end, corn tortillas as also on the soft side as are the other tortillas I mentioned, so thinking any of that might work. Just wondering if you ever tried or have any thoughts 🙂 thank you for your input!

    • Hi Jess! We haven’t tried anything but corn tortillas, which become very soft. With that in mind, any chip you go with will work just fine. The cassava chips should be great! Let us know if you make it and how it turns out! Best, Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    I made this casserole and managed to mess it up. My fault completely. The onions I used had a lot of water in them because they had been frozen. I continued and I didn’t realize there were three layers at the end. My last layer was just cheese. Well, it turned out tasting great anyway. My large pan could hardly contain the chicken and everything else. I might have to use corn chips next time. I also made the chicken using a crock pot, so that was another step. Even with these issues, the result was a great tasting meal that my husband loved.

  • 5 stars
    I just found another dish I am going to make at Christmas! (I live in Texas :-)! I have about 30+ people coming and wanted something different in addition to ham, tamales, brisket….I am super excited and can’t wait to serve this! Thanks Kris and Wesley! I knew I could depend on you when I went searching for the best! I’ve tried many of your recipes and all have been next level!! Huggs!

    • Hi Kristy!! YAY!! 30+ hungry Texans is not an easy task to handle! No doubt you handle it like a champ! And, honestly, we serve this to when serving a crowd all the time, and it’s really perfect. Hard to believe it will be Christmastime in just a few months! Time flies when we’re having fun and making good food!! xoxoxo Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    Kris,
    Can I make this in two 8 x 8 pans and freeze one? If so, should I freeze it before or after baking?
    Cheers!
    Steve

    • Hi Steve! You can absolutely make it in 2 pans. I would freeze it before baking. Let thaw and then bake. Should turn out fantastic! Let us know if you make it and what you think!! All the best, Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    Fantastic recipe!! I cut a couple corners, using crushed tortilla chips and rotisserie chicken. I also added a brick of cream cheese. It’s very rich but great for special occasions.
    It’s become a favorite for my family! Thank you!

    Lisa M

    • Hi Lisa!! Crushed tortilla chips and rotisserie chicken are GREAT!! We do that often, as well. We agree, it’s a bit rich, but it is always such a hit when we serve to friend and family! Thank you SO MUCH for letting us know and for the wonderful review. That fills our hearts with joy!! All the very best, Kris & Wesley

    • Hi there! So sorry for the delayed response! Yes! Maybe let it sit out for about 30 minutes before baking, just to help remove some of the chill from the fridge. Let us know how it turns out and what you think!! We hope you love it! All the best, Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    I know I am late to the party but I FINALLY made this casserole. I followed your instructions to the T and packed it up and took it to a potluck and I might add, the FIRST time my band has played out since covid in over a year and also, the first time the group we played for got together to dance and party. I am here to say this dish was a HUGE hit!! Everyone gobbled it up. The funny thing is, my son won’t eat casseroles, but I brought the tiny bit of this that was left from the potluck and he said, “WOW! Can you make this again?” So, thank you Chris and Wesley for an AMAZING recipe. I highly recommend this!!!

    • Hi Anne!! That is AWESOME!! That is one of our favorite casseroles and it sounds like you hit it out of the park!! That’s wonderful! And thank you so much for letting us know and for the GREAT review! That means the world to us!!! All the very best, Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    Awesome recipe! I had leftover stuff from chicken fajitas that I didn’t want to go to waste! I wanted king ranch casserole but it’s not my husbands favorite. He loved it! I did have trouble with the corn tortillas and finally gave up and used crushed tortilla chips! This was great! Can’t wait to try more of your recipes.

  • 5 stars
    This is an awesome recipe! We had leftover chicken and peppers from fajitas and I didn’t want to waste them. My husband is not fond of King Ranch Casserole but he absolutely loved this dish. I did have trouble with the tortillas and after about 4 unsuccessful ones, I went the crushed chip route! This is delicious! I cant wait to try more of your recipes!

    • Hi Carol!! We are so so happy to hear that you and your husband loved the King Ranch Casserole! That is absolutely one of our most favorite dishes to prepare! And I bet the crushed chip route was delicious!! Thanks so much for letting us know and thank you for the wonderful review! That means the world to us!!! All the very best, Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    Being from California I had never heard of King Ranch Chicken casserole but your picture looked so good I had to try it.
    I didn’t have bell pepper so I threw in a cup of frozen corn instead. This was fantastic! My husband kept saying it should be on our top ten list.
    I can’t wait to make for family (after the quarantine).
    I’m looking forward to trying your other recipes.
    Hope you are both well.
    Lisa

    • HI Lisa! We are SO THRILLED you had such success with the King Ranch Casserole! It’s a Southern fav and so glad you enjoyed it. And you’re right, it’s great for serving a gathering of loved ones (when it’s safe!). Thanks so much for letting us know and the wonderful review. That means the world to us! Please stay safe and stay in touch. xoxo Kris & Wesley

  • Hey Kris,

    I’m a bit confused with one part of the recipe. For the stock you say 1 & 3/4 cup but for the sour cream you say 1 1/2 cup. Does that mean a total of 1/2 cup sour cream or 1 1/2 cups?

    Also, I am thinking of substituting a poblano for the green bell pepper. I think this will make for a little more heat and complexity. Thoughts?

    Thanks guys,
    Gord (Calgary, Canada)

    • Hi Gord! So sorry for the confusion. We went back and cleaned up the measurements on the recipe to make it more clear. It should be 1¾ cups stock and 1½ cups sour cream. And YES to poblano!! It will give a little more heat, but not that much. There’s already a little heat from the Ro-tel. We love cooking with poblano. Go for it!

      And let us know how it turns out!! All the best, Kris & Wesley

  • I will be making this for 50 people in a few weeks….. Can’t wait to try this. I live in Texas so you know we love our chili’s down here.

    • Cynthia, just do it! All 50 of your guests will be doing the Texas two-step after they’ve tried Kris’s King Ranch recipe. Since you are making a large quantity, please do allow for plenty, plenty of time to prepare. Sooooo worth it, and you’ll be the star of the show. I am thinking about making it again for Super Bowl Sunday. Please let all of us Kris & Wesley fans know how it turns out for you. I am curious to know since you are making for such a good crowd.
      In Kris we trust,
      Kathleen

  • This has become our new favorite King Ranch recipe! It definitely takes longer to prepare, but is soooo worth it! Being from Texas, this is a staple in our monthly menu, this new recipe is so much better! My husband loves it!

    • Hi Dee Ann! Awesome! You’re right, it takes a little more effort, but we agree, the end resut is so worth it! We are so so glad you had success with it and that the hubby loves it, too! Woo hoo!! And thank you very much for letting us know. We appreciate that so much! Stay in touch! Best, Kris & Wesley

  • I am a good cook and I have tried the King Ranch casserole a few times and it’s never been one I cared for. Well I will say the recipe is worth all of your time and very good. I did cut the cumin powder in half only because my boyfriend does not care for the spice. I used a rotisserie chicken and corn tortillas and crumbled crumbled tortilla chips on top followed by the cheese. I was told Do Not loose this recipe. 5 stars.

  • 5 stars
    Dear Kris and Wesley,

    I made your King Ranch recipe last Sunday for dinner to take to my parents’ house. This is a BEAUTIFUL dish with all the multi-colored vegetables, and very impressive to serve with fresh grilled corn on the cob. It’s a good thing I started early in the day, because I found it to be quite time consuming to prepare. However, there is nothing about this recipe I would short-cut. I have tried several recipes for King Ranch casserole, but NONE compare to yours. It’s the real deal, and I felt like I was making a true, authentic version. No more cream of yuck soup or processed cheese for my King Ranch casserole. I prepared this for a 9″ x 13″ baking dish; otherwise, I followed your recipe and instructions to an “L” (for “Loon”). I did 3 miles on my morning walk yesterday because I pigged out on this dish 😉 But oh my … it was worth it!

    Your adoring friend,
    Kathleen Benner

    • Hi Kathleen!! Please forgive us for the delayed response! That is SO WONDERFUL to hear!! It does take a little time to prepare, but we agree, the end results is worth the little extra effort! We are thrilled you had success with the recipe! And that’s the way to do it..eat..walk…eat…walk…repeat!! LOL!!!! Thanks again so much!! xoxoxo Kris & Wesley

  • Kris, the King ranch casserole was a big hit last night. Several asked for the recipe
    With all the peppers and chilies I thought it would be too spicy but it’s not. Great recipe, I will be cooking it again.

    • Hi Camille!! Woo hoo!! That’s so great to hear! And that’s always a good sign when people want the recipe! And thanks for letting us know!! I know you worked hard at preparing a lot of food, so glad to hear you had success!!

  • 5 stars
    Hey! Just made this for dinner last night. We were fighting over left overs for lunch so that should tell you it was a huge hit. I had always prepared it the standard way with mushroom/chicken soup but will never again!
    It was fab!
    Thank you!
    Chris

    • That is so awesome to hear, Chris!! We love making it this way, too!! So glad you guys liked it and thank you so very much for letting us know!! We can’t tell you enough how much that means to us! Stay in touch!!! All the best, Kris & Wesley

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