An old-fashioned King Ranch Chicken Casserole is an easy dinner that with just 10 minutes of prep! Serve it tonight with a side of chips and salsa, or stash it in the freezer for a later date. Your family will love the zesty, creamy layers of chicken, corn tortillas, veggies and cheese.
King Ranch Chicken Casserole
This King Ranch Chicken recipe is super comforting and has become a family favorite for busy weeknights! Made with a few shortcut ingredients like a store-bought rotisserie chicken and canned soup, this easy meal comes together in just 10 minutes. It's warm, cheesy, and totally kid-friendly. Show up at any potluck, church supper, or family gathering in the south and odds are good that someone will bring a King Ranch Chicken casserole to share with loved ones.
What is King Ranch Chicken?
The original King Ranch Chicken recipe is named for King Ranch in Texas -- one of the largest ranches in the United States. The Tex-Mex casserole doesn't have any known ties to the actual ranch itself, and the origin of the dish is unknown.
While there are many different versions of Texas King Ranch Chicken Casserole, most recipes generally a sauce made with RoTel diced tomatoes with green chilies, condensed cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups, diced bell peppers and onions, as well as chunks or shreds of chicken. Corn tortillas or tortilla chips create layers with the sauce, and the whole dish gets topped with cheese. What's not to love about that?! Unlike spicier Tex-Mex fare like beef barbacoa, this dinner is mild, creamy, and very family-friendly.
The Best Chicken for a King Ranch Chicken Recipe
You’ll need cooked, shredded or diced chicken for this recipe, and a variety of options will work. Pick the most convenient method for you:
- Boiled and Pulled Chicken: Boil about 1 ½ lbs. of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs until cooked through (about 20 minutes). When cool enough to handle, chop or pull the chicken. You’ll need a total of about 3 cups (more or less) shredded.
- Rotisserie Chicken: This is a great shortcut! Purchase a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, shred the meat, and use in the recipe as instructed.
- Leftover Chicken: If you have leftover grilled or baked chicken from a previous meal, put those extras to good use in this casserole.
- Canned Chicken: Yep, you can even use canned chicken in this casserole!
How to Make King Ranch Chicken
If you're looking for a quick and easy weeknight dinner, a freezer meal to prep ahead, or a satisfying and delicious option to share with friends, then this easy King Ranch Chicken is the dish for you!
- Condensed cream of chicken soup
- Condensed cream of mushroom soup
- Canned diced tomatoes with green chilies (such as Rotel brand)
- Green bell pepper
- Grated cheddar cheese
- Corn tortillas
Step 1: Sauté Bell Pepper and Onion
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, sauté bell pepper and onion until tender (about 5 minutes).
Step 2: Combine Filling Ingredients
In a large bowl, stir together the sautéed pepper and onion with the chicken, soups, and tomatoes and chilies. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if necessary.
Step 3: Arrange Tortillas in Pan
Spread half of the corn tortillas in the bottom of a greased 9 x 13-inch dish. Tip: cut the tortillas in half so that they fit evenly in the pan -- it's fine if they're overlapping in some places.
Step 4: Layer Filling and Remaining Ingredients
Spread half of the chicken mixture over the tortillas and then sprinkle with half of the cheese.
Repeat the layers one more time with the remaining ingredients, ending with the cheese on top.
Step 5: Bake
Bake the casserole in a 375 degree F oven (uncovered) for about 25-30 minutes. The dish is done when the inside is hot and bubbly and the cheese is nicely melted.
What to Serve with King Ranch Chicken Casserole
Here are some sides that go with a simple King Ranch Chicken casserole:
- Tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole
- Corn muffins or Skillet Cornbread
- A crisp green salad dressed with green goddess dressing or a zippy lemon vinaigrette
- Black Bean and Corn Salad
- Texas Caviar with chips for dipping
- Roasted broccoli
- Ranch Style Beans
- Arkansas Green Beans with Bacon
- Three Bean Salad
This is the ultimate prep-ahead meal to get dinner on the table quickly and easily — even on busy nights. Assemble the casserole, wrap tightly, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 day before baking. When ready to bake, allow the dish to sit on the counter and come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes before putting it in the oven.
How to Freeze King Ranch Chicken
Freeze the casserole before baking. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, cover with foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to enjoy, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, allow the dish to come to room temperature on the counter for 30 minutes, and then bake according to recipe instructions.
To Bake from Frozen
Cover the dish with foil for the first 30 minutes, and then continue baking the frozen casserole for about 15-30 more minutes (uncovered), or until heated through.
Leftover casserole will last in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can also freeze the leftover baked casserole in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
- Use any combination of condensed soups that you prefer -- only cream of mushroom, only cream of chicken, or try other flavors like cream of celery or cream of onion.
- Make it spicy. I typically use mild Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies, which have a little bit of kick, but don't overpower the dish and make it too spicy for the kids. If you prefer more heat in your casserole, use a can of spicy Rotel.
- King Ranch Chicken with Tortilla Chips: Instead of using corn tortillas in the casserole, substitute with coarsely crushed tortilla chips for added crunch.
- King Ranch Chicken with Doritos: Instead of plain corn tortillas, give the dish more flavor and crunch by layering the chicken filling with coarsely crushed Doritos (any flavor will work).
- Try different cheeses. Instead of cheddar, you can use Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack (for a spicy casserole) or Colby.
More Chicken Casserole Recipes to Try
- Chicken Spaghetti Casserole
- Chicken and Stuffing Casserole
- Doritos Chicken Casserole
- Chicken and Rice Casserole
- Buffalo Chicken Casserole
- Chicken Noodle Casserole
King Ranch Chicken
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 3 cups cooked and shredded chicken
- 1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup, not diluted
- 1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup, not diluted
- 1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chilies, not drained (I used mild Ro-Tel brand)
- 14 corn tortillas (about 5-6 inches in diameter each) (or as many tortillas as needed to cover the dish)
- 8 ounces (about 2 cups) grated cheddar cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190C).
- Spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, sauté bell pepper and onion until tender (about 5 minutes).
- In a large bowl, stir together chicken, condensed soups, tomatoes and chilies, and sautéed bell pepper and onion.
- Arrange half of the tortillas in an even layer in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. I like to cut the tortillas in half so that it’s easier to cover the dish. It’s fine if they overlap some, too.
- Spread half of the chicken mixture over the tortillas. Sprinkle with half of the cheese.
- Repeat layers with remaining ingredients, finishing with cheese on top.
- Bake, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes (or until heated through and bubbly).