King Ranch Chicken Recipe (Easy!)

This King Ranch Chicken Casserole is packed with incredible Tex-Mex flavors and of course loads of cheesy goodness. It’s perfect for a family dinner and can be made ahead of time.

king chicken ranch casserole


 

My family and I are massive fans of Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine. It is always a constant request from family and a huge hit with all of our friends. We may not be from Texas, but we sure do love this King Ranch Chicken Casserole.

I love a casserole, but I’m not always a huge fan of cream of mushroom soup or cream of chicken soup. This recipe uses neither!

What is King Ranch Chicken?

Easy King Ranch Chicken Casserole is a classic Texas casserole, with layers of cooked chicken, cheese, tortillas, and homemade gravy.

Why is it called King Ranch Chicken?

The name originates from the historic King Ranch in Texas.

Traditionally, this chicken casserole is made with canned condensed soup, but I decided to make a homemade gravy that is creamy and packed with flavor.

spoon dipping into king ranch chicken casserole

Ingredients

The ingredient list looks long, but all of these king ranch chicken ingredients are easily found at your local grocery store.

  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts– You can also use boneless chicken thighs, aim for about 1 pound of meat. If you don’t want to cook the chicken, grab a rotisserie chicken and shred it at home.
  • Yellow Onion– a tad more mild and sweet, white onion and red onion can also be used.
  • Bell Peppers (Color of your choice)-Choose your favorite color or colors so it is a rainbow of color and flavor.
  • Flour– To thicken the casserole. This can be omitted, but also swapped with cornstarch or arrowroot.
  • Low Sodium Chicken Broth– Low sodium allows you to alter the saltiness of the dish. Also use vegetable broth or plain water.
  • Cream cheese– For richness and creaminess in the base of the dish.
  • Cheese– We used a blend of cheddar cheese and other Mexican cheese blend. Freshly shredded is best because pre shredded has an anti-caking agent.
  • Sour Cream– For tanginess and creaminess. It is lighter than cream cheese so it helps to lighten the sauce. Also use plain Greek yogurt.
  • Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies– Or plain diced tomatoes, even fire roasted! Make sure o get diced, other varieties aren’t the right size- either too pureed or too large.
  • Spices– This dish uses a blend of chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Any of these can be adjusted for personal preference.
  • Olive Oil & Butter– Both types of fat and used for lubrication and cooking in the skillet.
  • Garlic– This calls for 4 cloves, but feel free to measure garlic with your heart! Use fresh, jarred is sweeter and won’t give you the full garlic flavor.
  • Flour Tortillas (Fajita Size) – Used as the layers, like a lasagna, flour tortillas work much better than corn tortillas.
king ranch chicken casserole on a white plate with sour cream and salsa

Variations

There are plenty of ways to make this king ranch chicken casserole recipe your own. Here are a few ideas.

  • Save Time: If you are looking to cut down on some prep work for this King Ranch Casserole you can use rotisserie chicken.
  • Layer it Up: Personally, I like to tear up my tortillas and layer the chicken casserole so you get bites of tortillas in each bite. Alternatively, you can lay the tortillas whole and create more of a Mexican lasagna effect. Also if you are not a fan flour tortillas you can swap in corn instead.
  • Healthier Swap: Okay, so this King Ranch Chicken is by no means a meal fit for a diet. But, if you wish to make it a tad healthier you can swap out the sour cream for Plain Non-Fat Greek Yogurt instead.
  • Cheese – You can use just about any cheese you’d like. Pepper jack, monterey jack and colby jack are all great options.
angle of melted cheese on a king ranch chicken casserole

How to Make King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Making this casserole couldn’t be easier.

  1. Cook chicken. Begin by seasoning and cooking your chicken breasts in a large pan over medium heat.
  2. Chop veggies. While the chicken is cooked, chop your bell peppers, and onion.
  3. Cook veggies until soft. In the same pan you cooked the chicken in, add all your chopped veggies and cook over medium heat until soft.
  4. Make gravy. Once soft add in the flour and chicken broth to create the creamy gravy. Once the gravy is thickened add in your spices and adjust to taste.
  5. Combine ingredients. Now, combine the gravy, chopped cooked chicken, sour cream, drained diced tomatoes, cream cheese and cheddar cheese then stir to combine. The mix will be thick.
  6. Layer into pan. In a 13×9 inch baking dish spread a thin layer of the chicken mixture then put torn tortillas over the top.
  7. Repeat this layering of gravy and tortillas three times then top with a generous amount of shredded cheese.
  8. Bake until bubbling and enjoy topped with green onion, cilantro or avocado.
king ranch chicken casserole with green onions

How to Serve this King Ranch Recipe

To serve King Ranch Chicken, scoop a generous portion onto individual plates or serving platters. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro and a dollop of sour cream, pico de gallo or guacamole and serve it alongside warm tortilla chips for a delicious Tex-Mex meal.

It tastes great with any number of side dishes, but I prefer something like refried beans, spanish rice or sauteed mushrooms.

Storage and Freezing

How to Store King Ranch Chicken

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. To reheat, place a serving of casserole on a microwave safe plate and heat for 30-60 seconds.

Alternatively, you can place the entire chicken casserole back into the oven at 350 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes until bubbling.

Can this Chicken Casserole be frozen?

Yes, the casserole can be frozen. Prep the recipe according to the post instructions, but instead of baking you can cover and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.

When ready to bake it let the chicken casserole come to room temperature then follow the recipe baking instructions.

Here are my tips for freezing casseroles!

King Ranch Chicken FAQs

Is this King Ranch Chicken Recipe spicy?

I would say the spice level of this casserole is mild. The peppers add a touch of spice, but nothing that would burn your lips.
Of course you can pump up the spice level if you wish by adding in some diced jalapeno, red pepper flakes, or cayenne pepper.

Will kids enjoy King Ranch Chicken?

Well, if they are anything like mine they will devour it! There is loads of melty cheese, chicken, and tortillas in the chicken casserole, which are all wins for most kids.
If you have a picky eater on your hands you could lessen the amount of bell peppers you add in or leave them out all together.

Who invented King Ranch Casserole?

The exact origin of King Ranch Casserole is unclear, and there are several theories about its creation. It is commonly associated with Texas and the King Ranch, but its precise inventor remains a culinary mystery, often attributed to home cooks in the mid-20th century who wanted to create a hearty and flavorful Tex-Mex-inspired casserole.

How many calories in a serving of King Ranch chicken?

This is really a one-dish meal that includes protein, carbs, dairy and veggies. One serving is about 1 1/2 cups and is about 350 calories without toppings or chips.

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cheesy king ranch chicken casserole for pinterest
king chicken ranch casserole

Easy King Ranch Recipe

4.34 from 42 votes
This King Ranch Chicken Casserole is packed with incredible Tex-Mex flavors and of course loads of cheesy goodness. This simple recipe is perfect for a family dinner and can be made ahead of time.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 8

Ingredients

For Topping

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. While the oven is preheating, season both sides of chicken breasts with salt, pepper and paprika. Add olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Place chicken in the heated skillet and cook chicken 5 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
  • While the chicken is cooking, chop your peppers (be sure to remove the seeds and ribs from inside), and onion. Once the chicken is cooked on both sides, remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
  • In the same pan you cooked the chicken in, add butter then all your chopped veggies and cook over medium heat until soft, about 7 minutes stirring occasionally. While the veggies are cooking, chop the cooked chicken into small pieces or shred.
  • Once the veggies are soft add in the flour and stir until dissolved. Next, add chicken broth to create the creamy gravy. When the gravy is thickened add in cumin, chili powder and cayenne pepper (optional) and adjust to taste.
  • Drain the juice from the canned diced tomatoes and green chilies. Now, combine the gravy, chopped cooked chicken, sour cream, diced tomatoes and green chilies, cream cheese and cheddar cheese then stir to combine. The mix will be thick.
  • In a 13×9 inch pan spread a thin layer of the chicken gravy mixture then put torn tortillas over the top. Repeat this layering of gravy and tortillas three times then top with Mexican shredded cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes on the center rack until bubbling and enjoy topped with green onion, cilantro or avocado. Enjoy!
  • If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was!

Notes

● Store leftover King Ranch Chicken in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
● You can use either flour or corn tortillas for this casserole. Personally, I enjoy flour but either work great.
● To make the chicken casserole spicier you can add in some cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes or diced jalapeno pepper.

Nutrition

Calories: 289 kcal, Carbohydrates: 8 g, Protein: 17 g, Fat: 21 g, Saturated Fat: 12 g, Cholesterol: 79 mg, Sodium: 571 mg, Potassium: 329 mg, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 2 g, Vitamin A: 901 IU, Vitamin C: 8 mg, Calcium: 245 mg, Iron: 1 mg
Author: Caitlyn Erhardt
Calories: 289
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: king ranch chicken casserole
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
king ranch chicken casserole for pinterest
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Chef Jessica Anne Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal, Mashed and more!

Read More About Jessica

4.34 from 42 votes (37 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    We love casserole recipes: they are so convenient to make. This chicken casserole is not an exception. We made it for lunch today: this is OMG-recipe! Thanks.

  2. 5 stars
    We love this chicken casserole. It’s easy to prepare, easily feeds my whole family, and I got requests to make it again soon from my kiddos. 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    This recipe is one that the whole family will devour and will ask to make time and time again.