This comforting and hearty King Ranch Chicken casserole is made with layers of corn tortillas, cheese, and a creamy chicken mixture loaded with bell peppers, tomatoes, and green chiles! Perfect for potlucks or family get togethers!
All about this King Ranch Chicken Casserole…
This classic southern casserole recipe is rumored to have started in Texas! This classic has earned a spot in most people’s heart thanks to the easy recipe, its comforting nature, and ability to feed the masses.
Although its namesake is the King Ranch, the largest Ranch in all of Texas, there’s no history linking the cheesy, creamy casserole to the ranch itself. In fact, there’s no written history of where the casserole DID come from. But Texans happily claim it as their comfort food mascot.
Notes on some ingredients:
- Chicken: this recipe uses cooked and shredded chicken, you can make this yourself ahead of time or grab a rotisserie chicken and shred it to save time. If you want to make your own, you can use the method I use here in this Shredded Mexican Chicken where the chicken is seared and then poached, it makes perfectly tender and moist chicken, just skip the seasoning mixture.
- Tortillas: corn tortillas are the best for this recipe, the texture of the corn blends in with the casserole. Flour tortillas tend to get a chewy, and have a less than optimal texture when baked in sauce.
- Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles: any brand will work, Rotel is a popular brand to use. Store brands will work just as well. If you are unable to find either, you can always use a can of diced tomatoes and a can of diced green chiles.
- Cheese: Monterey Jack is a classic Tex Mex cheese and that’s why it’s used in this recipe. Feel free to substitute with any cheese of your choice that melts well.
- Jalapeño: this dish has a very mild heat, if you are concerned about the heat amount, you can substitute the jalapeño with a green bell pepper or leave it out completely.
How to Make (step-by-step):
- In a large skillet over medium heat melt the butter. Once melted add the onion, and bell peppers. Cook until the veggies are tender. Add in the garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt, and black pepper. Stir to coat the veggies in the seasonings.
- Sprinkle the flour into the skillet. Stir to coat the veggies in the flour, will end up with a thick paste. Cook for a couple minutes to ensure the flour is cooked. Pour in the broth and stir. Bring mixture to a boil while stirring and let simmer while stirring for about 2-3 minutes until thick.
- Add the diced tomatoes with green chiles and sour cream to the sauce. Stir to combine.
- Add the shredded chicken to the sauce and stir, coating the chicken completely in the sauce.
- Briefly fry the corn tortillas in a small amount of oil. Not enough to make them crispy, just enough to soften and heat briefly. This brings out the corn flavoring of the tortillas and also helps keep some texture when baked in the dish. This is the same method that is used when making enchiladas.
- Layer the casserole: tortillas, chicken mixture, cheese and repeat. Ending with a layer of tortillas topped with cheese on the very top. Bake the casserole until bubbly and warmed throughout.
- Use corn tortillas. I think traditionally it would be made with flour, but I love using corn tortillas. The flavor and texture is perfect for casseroles!
- Fry the tortillas briefly before layering. This is the same thing I do when making enchiladas. A brief frying in a small amount of oil in a cast iron skillet helps bring out the flavor of the tortilla and helps them hold up a bit more against the liquid of the casserole so they’re not mush.
- Use leftover or rotisserie chicken. Having shredded chicken on hand makes this recipe come together quick and easy!
King Ranch Chicken Casserole: FAQS
It’s named after the King Ranch in Texas, the largest ranch in the state. Although there is no history of the dish originating there. No one has come with definitive information on who or where this dish was created.
Yes! Prepare the dish according to the recipe. Allow to cool to room temperature. Wrap tightly in two layers of foil and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To thaw, remove to the refrigerator overnight. Allow dish to warm at room temperature for 30 minutes before reheating.
Any Tex Mex side dish will pair nicely with this dish. Some ideas include: Charro Beans, Borracho Beans, Homemade Tortilla Chips, Cornbread, Salad, or roasted vegetables.
More Recipes To Enjoy:
- Pulled Pork King Ranch Casserole (Perfect if you have leftover pulled pork!)
- King Ranch Chicken Soup
- Skillet Chicken Pot Pie
- Chicken and Dumplings
King Ranch Chicken Casserole
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 cup yellow onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 1¾ cup chicken broth
- 1 (10 ounce) diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained
- 1½ cup sour cream
- 2 lbs chicken, cooked and shredded
- 4 cups monterey jack cheese, shredded
- 18 corn tortillas, yellow or white
- ¼ cup canola oil
- cilantro, chopped
- sour cream
- Preheat oven to 350℉ degrees. Spray 3 quart baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium heat melt the butter. Once melted add the onion, and bell peppers. Allow to cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and browned.
- Add in the garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt, and black pepper. Stir to coat the veggies in the seasonings.
- Sprinkle the flour into the skillet. Stir to coat the veggies in the flour, will end up with a thick paste. Cook briefly for 2-3 minutes.
- Pour in the broth and stir. Bring mixture to a boil while stirring and let simmer while stirring for about 2-3 minutes until thick. Remove from heat, allow to cool for about 2 minutes and stir in the diced tomatoes with green chiles and the sour cream. Stir to combine. Add the shredded chicken and stir until mixed. Set aside.
- Pour the canola oil into a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Once the oil is heated carefully lay the tortillas in the oil in batches. Cook until just lightly fried, they should be flexible still and not crispy. Remove from oil and place onto a plate lined with paper towels to catch the remaining oil.
- Once all tortillas are cooked layer 6 tortillas on the bottom of the baking dish. Layer the tortillas to cover as much of the dish as possible. Top with half of the chicken mixture then one third of the cheese. Repeat by layering 6 more tortillas, the remaining half of the chicken mixture, and one third of the cheese. Top with the remaining tortillas and the rest of the cheese.
- Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the oven allow to cool for several minutes then serve warm. Can serve with additional sour cream and fresh cilantro.
- Flour: recipe uses all purpose flour, use gluten free options as needed.
- Chicken: use cooked, shredded chicken. This can be made ahead of time or use a rotisserie chicken.
- Jalapeño: gives a mild heat, can be substituted with green bell pepper if needed or omitted completely.
- Monterey Jack Cheese: can be substituted with cheddar or other nicely melting cheese.
- Make Ahead: prepare the casserole according to directions, instead of baking, cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. Bake according to directions, increase time as needed to have warmed throughout.
- Freezing: Prepare the dish according to the recipe. Allow to cool to room temperature. Wrap tightly in two layers of foil and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To thaw, remove to the refrigerator overnight. Allow dish to warm at room temperature for 30 minutes before reheating.
- Reheating: Cover dish with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes, remove foil then continue baking the casserole for 15-30 more minutes, or until heated through.
Recipe first published August 28, 2019. Updated November 1, 2022 with new images and information. Recipe is unchanged.
Photography by the talented @KJandCompany.co
Don’t allow some Grinch to negatively react to your recipe, ’cause it’s GREAT!
I love your recipes! Question for this one though. I see “and stir in the diced tomatoes with green chiles” in the directions (#5) but I don’t see diced tomatoes in the list of ingredients.
Hi Jenny! Thanks so much! And you’re right that is a typo. It’s suppose to list a 10 ounce can of diced tomatoes and green chiles (rotel), not just diced green chiles. That would be a lot of chiles.. I’ll get that updated!
A great meal and not using canned creamed soup was perfect. I added black beans and kernel corn to the recipe. It was a big hit with my family.
I searched over 20 king ranch recipes before finding yours, as I was specifically looking for something without canned soups on it. Thank you!!
I’m a Texan and I’ve made several versions of this recipe but I must say this one is my favorite and definitely one that I will make again and again thank you so much for sharing
Thanks for the recipe. I searched online for King Ranch Chicken Casserole, and none of them “floated my boat”. I liked the looks of yours, easy. I followed your directions mostly, but I spread refried beans on each corn tortilla to add more protein and substance, I also added a cup of shredded mozzarella to the chicken mixture and mixed it all together.
Everything else remained the same, it turned out very well, my Ladies expressed their approval, so we’re good!
I made this dish for a potluck and it was delicious! Got so many compliments and I didn’t have to bring back leftovers. I made a tiny modification, however, instead of placing it in the oven, I layered it in a crockpot instead and I ripped the tortillas into smaller pieces so it would be easier to serve. I’ll definitely make this again!
Love that idea! So glad that you enjoyed the recipe! Thanks for sharing your tips 🙂
Serene gracias por tu aportacion saludos desde ECUADOR…
SIGO GASTRONOMIA 🙂
Wonderful!!!! This was my first time making King Ranch and my whole family loved it. They said it a keeper. I also appreciate there is not canned cream soups! Thank you for sharing this great recipe.
So glad you enjoyed! Thanks!
This is not the original King Ranch Casserole . I was looking for the original recipe. Original does not have sour cream.
Hi Marie. You’re right, this is not THE original. This is my version. The original uses canned of cream soups which I avoid in my home cooking. So the recipe I made has to take that into consideration, which is where the sour cream comes in.