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.
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!
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.
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.
- Add the chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder. Cook for another minute.
- Add the flour and cook for about 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken stock and bring to a bubble.
- Cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add the Rotel tomatoes and the green chilies. Simmer for a few more minutes.
- Add the shredded chicken to the pan.
- Cut the tortillas into quarters. Line 1/3 of them on the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan.
- Layer the chicken and sauce on top of the tortillas. Sprinkle with cheese.
- You should end up with 2 chicken layers, and three tortilla layers. Top with cheese.
- Bake in a 375-degree oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
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.
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.
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.