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An old-fashioned King Ranch chicken casserole is an easy dinner 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.
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How to Make King Ranch Chicken | 1-Minute Video
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, the easy meal comes together in just 10 minutes. If you love chicken casseroles as much as we do, be sure to check out our chicken and stuffing casserole, this chicken and rice casserole, and the crowd-pleasing chicken noodle casserole, too!
King Ranch Chicken
King ranch chicken is 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.
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 include a sauce made with RoTel diced tomatoes with green chilies, condensed cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups, diced bell peppers and onions, and chunks or shreds of chicken. Corn tortillas or tortilla chips create layers with the sauce, and the whole dish is finished with a layer of 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 a total of about 3 cups of cooked 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 15-20 minutes). When cool enough to handle, chop or pull the chicken.
- 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!
This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for our favorite King Ranch chicken recipe. As always, specific measurements are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.
- Chicken: cooked and shredded or chopped. Use a store-bought rotisserie chicken for a shortcut, or see my notes above to cook your own chicken at home.
- Condensed cream of chicken soup and condensed cream of mushroom soup: create the creamy sauce that binds the casserole filling together.
- Canned diced tomatoes with green chilies (such as Rotel brand): add zesty Tex-Mex “kick” to the casserole. For a less-spicy option, look for mild Rotel or use plain canned diced tomatoes and a can of mild diced green chiles.
- Green bell pepper and onion: fresh veggies that add savory flavor.
- Grated cheddar cheese: because every good casserole needs plenty of cheese on top! Swap out the cheddar for other good melting varieties, such as Mexican blend, Colby, Colby Jack, Monterey Jack, or Pepper Jack cheese.
- Corn tortillas: form the layers in the casserole. You can sub with crunchy corn tortilla chips or flour tortillas. The flour tortillas will have a softer texture and a different flavor.
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 recipe is the dish for you! I’ve included detailed directions in the recipe card below, but here’s the quick overview:
- Sauté bell pepper and onion until tender.
- Stir together the sautéed pepper and onion with the chicken, soups, and tomatoes and chilies. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if necessary.
- Arrange the tortillas in a casserole dish.
- 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.
- Bake for about 25-30 minutes. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, if desired.
What to Serve with this King Ranch Chicken Casserole Recipe
Here are some sides that go with a simple King Ranch casserole. It’s total comfort food!
- Tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole
- Ranch Style Beans
- Three Bean Salad
- Black Bean and Corn Salad
- Texas Caviar with chips for dipping
- Fluffy Bakery-Style Corn Muffins, Sour Cream Cornbread, Jalapeno Cheddar Mexican Cornbread, Southern Cornbread, Jiffy Cornbread with Creamed Corn, Sweet Cornbread, Pumpkin Cornbread, Cake Mix Cornbread, Skillet Cornbread, Corn Sticks, or Honey Cornbread
- 3-Ingredient Buttermilk Biscuits, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Flaky Biscuits, Cheese Biscuits, or Drop Biscuits
- Pumpkin Muffins, Pumpkin Bread, Cranberry Muffins, or Apple Muffins
- Crusty French Baguette, Soft Dinner Rolls, or Homemade Crescent Rolls
- Green Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette, Southern Caesar Salad, Wedge Salad, Mixed Greens with Dijon Vinaigrette, Caesar Salad, or our favorite House Salad with Candied Pecans
- Fried Corn
- Southern Fried Apples, Baked Apple Slices, or Applesauce
- Amish Green Beans with Brown Butter, Arkansas Green Beans with Bacon, or Southern-Style Green Beans
- Fritos chips
What’s the Best Casserole Dish to Use?
We rounded up the best casserole dishes you can buy, including 2 that I personally own and love! While I use different-sized casserole dishes for different meals, the Staub Ceramic Rectangular Baking Dish earned the top spot. You can buy it on Amazon for $78.95 or at Target for $79.95. That said, I also love the beautiful, Scandinavian style of the Dansk Kobenstyle Baker, available for $135.
Preparation and Storage Tips
- Make Ahead: 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: 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.
- How to Bake from Frozen: Cover the dish with aluminum foil for the first 30 minutes, and then continue baking the frozen casserole for about 15-30 more minutes (uncovered), or until heated through.
- Storage: 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.
- How to Reheat: Warm leftovers in a 350°F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until heated through. You can also reheat individual servings in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.
King Ranch Chicken Recipe Variations
- 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 or cayenne pepper. You can also stir in other spices like garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, cumin, and paprika for even more flavor.
- 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.
King Ranch Chicken
- 9 x 13-Inch Baking Dish (I love using this one that comes with a lid)
- Large skillet (Smithey Ironware Co. makes one of my favorites)
- 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°F (190°C).
- 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).