King Ranch Casserole

This King Ranch Casserole recipe is a lightened up, yet creamy, version of the classic that certainly hits the spot. It’s a comforting chicken and corn tortilla bake that would make anyone from Texas proud.

cheesy king ranch casserole on white plate topped with sour cream and pico de gallo with casserole dish in background

My good, good, friend Erin introduced me to King Ranch Casserole years ago when we were single girls living in Charleston. She is from Texas and this is a Texas staple. Many years have passed, now we have husbands and children, and I still love eating King Ranch Casserole.

Whole Foods makes a mean King Ranch and whenever we go there for dinner, I always have some. It is not something you can eat every day, but every once in awhile it hits the spot.

This is not a traditional version, but I think that even a Texan or two will like this.

Where Did King Ranch Casserole Come From?

King Ranch Casserole is named after King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas. It’s the largest size ranch in the world!

Ingredients //

Unlike many original recipes that call for cream of soup, this homemade ranch casserole is lighter, cleaner and so much more flavorful.

Gather together chicken breasts, butter, onion, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper, flour, chicken stock, green chiles, Rotel, corn tortillas and shredded cheese.

corn tortillas, chicken stock, shredded chicken, shredded cheese, cumin, garlic powder, chile powder, flour, rotel can, diced green chiles, butter, onion

Chicken Breasts. I like to cook the chicken 1-2 days ahead of time, if I have the chance. This is my absolute favorite way to cook chicken. Poaching keeps the breasts moist and tender. You can even strain the poaching liquid and use it as the chicken stock called for in this recipe.

Rotel. A can of the quintessential tomatoes and green chiles is easy to spot in the Mexican section of grocery stores.

Cheese. I like the Mexican blend from Trader Joe’s, but use your favorite shredded cheese. Sharp cheddar or Monterey Jack would work wonders.

How to Make // The Steps

This casserole bake is basically poached chicken tossed with green chiles and stock. Baked until bubbly and golden, it’s incredible.

  • Put the chicken in a large pot with a few carrots, celery, salt and peppercorns.
  • Cover the pot with water and bring to a bubble, then turn the heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Drain the chicken out and let cool. Take the chicken off of the bone and shred.
  • Saute the onions in the butter over medium heat until soft.
sauteing white onions in skillet with wooden spoon
  • Add the chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder. Cook for another minute.
chile powder, cumin and garlic powder with softened onions in skillet
  • Add the flour and cook for about 2 minutes.
flour and sauteed onions in skillet
  • Add the chicken stock and bring to a bubble.
pouring chicken stock into sauteed onions in skillet
  • Cook for about 5 minutes.
chicken and onion gravy cooking in skillet
  • Add the Rotel tomatoes and the green chilies. Simmer for a few more minutes.
diced tomatoes and green chiles in onion stock in skillet
  • Add the shredded chicken to the pan.
shredded chicken with tomato onion stock in skillet
  • Cut the tortillas into quarters. Line 1/3 of them on the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan.
quartered corn tortillas in baking dish with chicken and tomato filling in skillet
  • Layer the chicken and sauce on top of the tortillas. Sprinkle with cheese.
shredded cheese topped king ranch casserole
  • You should end up with 2 chicken layers, and three tortilla layers. Top with cheese.
shredded cheese topped king ranch casserole
  • Bake in a 375-degree oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
cheesy corn tortilla and chicken layer casserole in baking pan

What Makes This King Ranch Casserole So Good?

Even though this is not Texas Erin’s King Ranch Casserole, it is still really delicious and everyone in my family loves it. No easy feat. We love it because:

  • The lightened up version with homemade gravy is so much better in flavor and quality.
  • Chiles, cheese and corn tortillas – enough said.
  • It’s a wonderful make-ahead meal and freezes beautifully, too.
cheesy chicken and corn tortilla casserole in baking pan garnished with cilantro

Serving Suggestions

I like to serve it any night during the week with a generous dollop of sour cream and pico de gallo. A simple green salad helps balance the rich, creamy casserole.

Homemade cornbread never hurt either.

How to Store & Reheat Leftovers //

The casserole easily serves six, so we always have leftovers in my house.

The baked casserole will keep, covered, in the fridge for up to 4 days.

For longer storage, feel free to cool completely and cut into individual portions. Label, date and freeze in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the fridge.

To reheat, bake the whole casserole in a 350-degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until warmed through. Or, reheat individual squares on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 10-15 minutes. Add a few minutes to the baking time if reheating from frozen.

chicken king ranch casserole on white plate with sour cream and pico de gallo with casserole in background

Make-Ahead & Freezer Instructions

The Texas-inspired casserole can be prepped and assembled 1-2 days ahead of serving.

To freeze, double-wrap the casserole dish in plastic wrap (that is freezer-friendly), label, date and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the fridge.

More Casserole Recipes //

Originally published in April 2011, updated October 2020 with updated images and updated recipe card.

If you make this recipe, I’d love to know how it goes! Be sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, too!

cheesy king ranch casserole on white plate topped with sour cream and pico de gallo with casserole dish in background

King Ranch Casserole

Yield: serves 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

This King Ranch Casserole recipe is a lightened up, yet creamy, chicken and corn tortilla bake that would make anyone from Texas proud.

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts (poached with carrots, celery, salt and peppercorns - see steps)
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 1 small can green chiles
  • 1 package corn tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I like the Mexican blend from Trader Joe’s)

Instructions

  1. Put the chicken in a large pot with a few carrots, celery, salt and peppercorns.
  2. Cover the pot with water and bring to a bubble, then turn the heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Drain the chicken out and let cool. Take the chicken off of the bone and shred.
  3. Saute the onions in the butter in a large skillet over medium heat until soft.
  4. Add the chili powder, cumin and garlic powder. Cook for another minute.
  5. Add the flour and cook for about 2 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken stock and bring to a bubble, and cook for about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the Rotel tomatoes and the green chilies. Simmer for a few more minutes.
  8. Cut the tortillas into quarters. Line 1/3 of them on the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan.
  9. Layer the chicken and sauce on top of the tortillas. Sprinkle with cheese.
  10. You should end up with 2 chicken layers, and three tortilla layers. Top with cheese.
  11. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Notes

The baked casserole will keep, covered, in the fridge for up to 4 days. For longer storage, feel free to cool completely and cut into individual portions. Label, date and freeze in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the fridge.

Alternatively, prep and assemble 1-2 days ahead of serving. Store covered in the fridge. To freeze, double-wrap the casserole dish in plastic wrap (that is freezer-friendly), label, date and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the fridge.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 415Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 123mgSodium: 923mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 37g

All information and tools presented and written within this site are intended for informational purposes only.

Oh hey there!

Well, hello there! I’m Bree Hester, the Boston-based blogger and food photographer here at Baked Bree. Here you can get lots of weeknight meal inspiration, eat more plant-based meals, and still indulge in a decadent sweet treat. Baked Bree is a place where you will find great recipes and inspiration for your next family adventure.

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This Post Has 56 Comments

  1. Glocal Girl

    Mexican food, my favorite!! X

    1. bakedbree

      mine too!

      1. susan rodman

        I have been making King Ranch Chicken for many years. I got my recipe from a Cajun lady. She makes it pretty much like you do except she puts Ranch beans in it and uses cream of mushroom soup. I do not care for beans and I pick them out, but they add a great flavor. I am going to try your recipe and betting I will just love it. I found your website, when looking for a good King Cake recipe and I think I am going to become a big fan of yours. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Michelle

    Yum! You’ve got me again 🙂 I refuse to make casseroles because a) I won’t eat creamed soup out of a can and b) I didn’t grow up eating them. This however looks delicious and I think I’ll put it on next weeks menu, thanks!

    1. bakedbree

      My mom never made casseroles either, except that I kind of love them. They are so easy.

  3. Andrea

    This looks delicious! I’ve been stuck in a rut with boring dishes for dinner~Not any more! Thanks for another great recipe, Bree!

    1. bakedbree

      Glad to add something to the rotation!

  4. jenna

    i hate canned cream soups…they wig me out too. i love that you created is minus the canned soup….it looks so flavorful!! 🙂

    1. bakedbree

      It was really easy and how I will make anything that calls for a cream soup from now on. I actually got the idea from Rachael Ray. I remembered seeing her doing something similar.

  5. Gina Walker

    So, can I just ask what the fear of canned cream of soup is about? Very curious! 🙂
    This looks like a great recipe! 🙂

    1. bakedbree

      There are a lot of chemicals, I don’t like things that are creamy, and the way that it comes out of the can. The whole experience is something that I try to avoid.

  6. Becks

    Definitely going to try this! Delicious!

    1. bakedbree

      It is really good and easy. Everyone in my family ate it and that never happens.

  7. Amanda

    This looks so good, I have everything except the tortillas…I might have to make this later on in the week!

    1. bakedbree

      let me know what you think!

  8. Donna

    I have a question – isn’t Rotel a tomato, pepper & seasonings ingredient? So if so. why isn’t casserole red looking, not as picture shows? This does sound delish & I do want to make it as soon as I know if there is more than one Rotel or if there is only one ???? Thanks,

    1. bakedbree

      Because it is really diluted in the chicken stock mixture. There is only one can. I promise.

  9. Marie

    Suggestions for replacements for a) rotel (i live in Canada) and b) cream soups??

    1. bakedbree

      diced tomatoes and some jalapeno. And I would just use the thickened chicken stock method that I described in the recipe. You can add mushrooms and celery if that is the kind of soup that the recipe calls for.

  10. Barbara

    Just about every casserole recipe back in my day had canned soups as an ingredient. These days the only canned soups I have in my pantry are cans of chicken broth….for emergency use only when someone gets sick!

    This looks like a delicious casserole. Love the idea of layering with corn tortillas!

    1. bakedbree

      I know, that is why I rarely make them. I think that from now on, I am just going to do the thickened chicken stock. It was easy and tasted rich, but it isn’t really.

  11. ChloeB

    Wow! This looks very tasty. I’ve never heard of King Ranch Casserole, but it looks delicious and easy to make. I’m getting married on April 30 and I am so excited to use your recipes! I know my husband-to-be will be just as excited to try them 🙂

    1. bakedbree

      Congratulations! King Ranch is a Texas thing… I had never heard of it either until I met my friend Erin.

  12. ang

    i know what the warren’s are eating tonite! xo

    1. bakedbree

      yeah!

  13. Donna

    OMG, I make this for tonight’s supper & it was very good! My husband said to put it in my tried and true book. It did take me a while to make it but well worth it & I also used more cheese than called for in recipe but we love cheese though. The cheese got brown & crusty – soooo good! Thanks & I will be trying more of your recipes.

    1. bakedbree

      so glad!

  14. Robyn Marshall

    My boyfriend is in love with this! ( …and he insists it isn’t a “casserole”. haha)

    1. bakedbree

      lol… thanks Robyn!

  15. Melanie

    I got this recipe from a TX friend too! And haven’t made in so long because of those darn canned soups. Thank you for figuring out a healthier alternative – now I can’t wait to make it for the fam!

  16. Hunter

    Wow, looks amazing!

  17. Jen

    I’ve never heard of it either (and I’m Texan!). But, I do make something very similar that I call Mexican Chicken using cream of mushroom and cream of chicken and uses Nacho Cheese Doritos instead of tortillas. We ate it for Sunday dinner as kids. It was rotated with chicken and rice every other Sunday. It is heaven, but not so good for you. I am for sure going to try this one on my family next week!

    1. bakedbree

      How did your mom make chicken and rice?

  18. Brenda S

    This was DELISH! It was a little more labor intense then I am used to. My sister-in-law suggested putting it in two 8″ casserole dishes and freezing one since it is way too much for 2 people. Also, a time saver would be to use the chicken off of a rotisserie chicken. I used flour tortillas and they soaked up the broth and tasted like noodles.

    1. bakedbree

      so glad! good idea freezing half too.

  19. bobt

    You non texans always make the same mistake… FRY THE CORN TORTILLIA… or bake it, heat it on a griddle… The ones you buy a bloody raw and should be finished.

    1. bakedbree

      They cook when they are cooked in the casserole…

      1. Shannon Chin

        Hahaha. I didn’t see any mistake in the recipe. 🙂 To each his own.

  20. Lisa

    Sounds delicious! Would love to make this for a gluten-free friend who’s going through cancer treatments right now. Anyone know if there are gluten-free corn tortillas available anywhere?

    1. bakedbree

      I am not sure to be honest. I do not eat gluten free, so I cannot say with certainty. Sorry!

      1. faye saba

        Most corn tortillas are gluten free I think. I am allergic to wheat, oats and barley I buy either yellow or white corn tortillas all the time. There are also gluten free flour type tortillas now too I think made by Mission for burritos ect. they are good but they do have egg.

  21. KochFamily

    Bree,

    I’ve loved everything I’ve made from here. I”m about to try this for a dinner party. What dessert do you suggest to pair with it? My guest does not enjoy peanut butter.

    Thanks!

  22. mary

    Hi Bree, this casserole is in the works right now-I tweaked it a bit-instead of rotel I used fresh garden tomatoes and anneheims and pasillo peppers that I roasted and froze earlier this summer and i am using pepper jack/medium cheddar combo for cheeses. I am waiting for the chicken to come off the smoker so I can shred and assemble but so far all of the pieces look fab. Can’t wait for Greg to come home from work and so his happy food dance. Thanks again for the inspiration! Hope all is well in Kansas! mary e

    1. bakedbree

      Hi Mary, your tweaks sound delicious! Life is good in KC, but we miss all of our SJE friends.

  23. Debbie Caraballo

    I’m a Texan and have been eating King Ranch Casserole most of my life – which is a LOOONG time! So happy to find this lighter version! I have no aversion to the cream soups, really – but this looks delicious and much fresher. Thanks a bunch!

    1. bakedbree

      You are welcome Debbie!

  24. Colleen

    I’m excited to make this for dinner this week and I’m crossing my fingers that the kids like it! One question: How many tortillas do you use? I bought the thick package of corn tortillas, but I noticed smaller packages on the shelf, too. Could you be more specific?

    1. bakedbree

      Smaller package, but it depends on how large your your pan is.

  25. gdlemaire

    A couple comments:
    1. The man who wrote is right, you can and probably should dry fry with only a drop of oil or butter patted on the Corn Tortillas to finish them off properly.
    2. For the lady in Canada – use a can of “small dice” tomatoes and chop up a Jalapeno pepper (with seeds for more heat, without seeds and white interior pith for milder taste) then cook the Jalapeno or just throw it into the diced tomatoes and mix it up well. For that matter, you could add 2 cans of the diced Chili’s (Old El Paso, or Hatch Chili’s) and skip the Jalapeno all together.
    3. Baked Bree: You tell people in the body of the recipe to boil the chicken in a pot with carrots, celery, onion and peppercorns – but these ingredients are not listed in the recipe? Is it safe to assume everyone has celery and carrots? I think you need to list these items in the regular ingredient listing.
    4. For the lady who suggested using a roasted chicken from the store for a fast fix – great idea! Often the roasted chicken has a lot of flavor from that style of preparation, but of course the boiled version is good also!

    I’m from TX and make KRChicken from time-to-time only because of the creamed soups in it which I know are not good for your health… but I can’t wait to try your recipe, it’s sounds delicious and a lot healthier too! Thanks!

    1. bakedbree

      The recipe actually calls for cooked chicken, I just mention that my favorite way to cook it is with carrots and celery.

      1. Shannon Chin

        Gives the chicken, and the broth a much better flavor, like a quick stock. I always do this when I am doing chicken for shredding or making broth. 🙂 My favorite too. I also add onion, peppercorns, a bay leaf and some slices of lemon (a Rachael Ray additon that I always do now). 🙂

  26. Gerontologist

    I am a wife of 34 years to a retired United States Marine. I have been cooking meals for all of these years that are very tasty (I am told on a regular basis) and I have not been afraid to use canned soups in any of them that call for it.

    The only thing that I really have a distaste for and would never use is Spam.

    I make King Ranch Casserole and I have to tell you that your recipe does not look like King Ranch Casserole. It looks very dry.

    1. bakedbree

      Well I guess we have to agree to disagree. I am sure that they are tasty, I prefer not to feed my family chemicals and processed food.

    2. Shannon Chin

      If you only wanted to criticize, you should have just kept your opinion to yourself. Everyone has their own preferences and tastes. This happens to be hers. WHy take time to be negative?

  27. JWHW

    For richer flavor, you could instead make a roux with chicken broth. That’s what I use to make white sauce for chicken enchiladas. It would work really well for those who would prefer richer, creamier flavor without using canned soups. You have more control over consistency, for those who are interested. I don’t think it would interfere with the flavor. Just a thought!

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