King Ranch Chicken Casserole

King Ranch Chicken Casserole 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.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole in a cast iron skillet

KING RANCH CHICKEN IS A TEXAS TRADITION

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

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

THE KING RANCH CASSEROLE DIDN’T ORIGINATE AT KING RANCH

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 lunche and/or dinner the following day or two.

KING RANCH CHICKEN WILL FEED A 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 it’s best.  You and your loved ones will be “yee-hawing” after each scrumptious bite!

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Chicken and Sage Casserole
Instant Pot Dijon Chicken
Braised Chicken with Tomatoes and Olives
Chicken Gryo
Roasted Lemon Chicken with Vegetables
Cajun Chicken and Rice

But in the meantime, hurry and make they incredible King Ranch Casserole. You will NOT be disappointed!

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

King Ranch Chicken Casserole in a cast iron skillet

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 2 votes
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Course: Casserole
Cuisine: Texas
Keyword: Chicken, Corn Tortilla
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours
Servings: 12 people
Calories: 564kcal

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts 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
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 & 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 10 oz can Ro-tel or tomatoes with chiles
  • 1 7.5 oz can green chiles
  • 1 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup cilantro chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 4 cups shredded cheese combo of cheddar and Monterrey Jack is perfect
  • 18 corn tortillas or, 1 large bag of corn tortilla chips, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 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, removed 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 1 & 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 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 other side.  Repeat wth 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.   

Nutrition

Calories: 564kcal
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9 Comments

  • 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.

  • 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!!

  • 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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