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

An old from college 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 true Texas 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 eight, 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 February 2021 with updated images and updated recipe card.

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 8
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: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 311Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 92mgSodium: 692mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 28g

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

Did you make this recipe?

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BakedBree was originally created by Boston-based blogger Bree Hester but is now run by a team of food bloggers with a passion for all things food. 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 adventure.

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