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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.

Overhead shot of a casserole dish full of king ranch chicken

How to Make King Ranch Chicken | 1-Minute Video

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.

Horizontal shot of a plate of the original king ranch chicken recipe

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!
Side shot of a plate of old school King Ranch Chicken 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!

Ingredients

  • Chicken
  • Condensed cream of chicken soup
  • Condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • Canned diced tomatoes with green chilies (such as Rotel brand)
  • Green bell pepper
  • Onion
  • 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.

Chicken filling for king ranch chicken casserole in a large mixing bowl

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.

Layers of corn tortillas in a casserole dish

Step 4: Layer Filling and Remaining Ingredients

Spread half of the chicken mixture over the tortillas and then sprinkle with half of the cheese.

Process shot showing how to make king ranch chicken

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.

Spatula serving a slice of easy king ranch chicken from a casserole dish

What to Serve with King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Here are some sides that go with a simple King Ranch Chicken casserole:

Overhead image of a plate of original king ranch chicken recipe on a wooden table

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 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.

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.

Close overhead image of a casserole dish full of the best king ranch chicken casserole recipe

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.
  • 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.
Side shot of a plate of old school King Ranch Chicken casserole

More Chicken Casserole Recipes to Try

Overhead shot of king ranch chicken casserole

King Ranch Chicken

4.75 from 16 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings 6 – 8 servings
Calories 477 kcal
A cozy and comforting King Ranch Chicken Casserole with just 10 minutes of prep!

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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).

Video

Notes

Make Ahead: 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.
To Freeze: 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 frozen dish with foil for the first 30 minutes, and then continue baking the casserole for about 15-30 more minutes (uncovered), or until heated through.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/6 of the casseroleCalories: 477kcalCarbohydrates: 39gProtein: 38gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 104mgSodium: 864mgPotassium: 762mgFiber: 5gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 682IUVitamin C: 22mgCalcium: 355mgIron: 3mg
Keyword: chicken casserole, King Ranch Chicken, King ranch chicken casserole
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. I am the exact same way! I thrive on routine, and if mine is thrown off, my day is out of whack! This casserole looks like a dinner routine that I could get into weekly. Love the peppers and rotel in here. Looks SO good, Blair!

  2. so one time in college i got sick off of king ranch casserole in the cafeteria. Haven’t touched it since. But this.. this looks it might be my comeback dish

  3. I have a similar recipe except instead of the soup and the Rotel tomatoes, I use 1 cup of salsa and 1 cup of milk! Everything else is the same. We love it here. My former SIL gave me the recipe many years ago and I’ve made it a lot. I love taking it to potlucks–it disappears quickly. It’s a great go-to recipe, I agree. (We call it Chicken Enchilada Casserole).

    1. That’s funny, Diane! I never thought about the fact that it’s basically an enchilada casserole! ???? Whatever you call it, it’s a keeper!

  4. 5 stars
    Life is just BUSY! With kids, even busier, with 3 boys…out of control.. LOL A few great recipes that are quick to throw together and into the oven and you can make in advance are sure to be a hit in all of our busy lives.

      1. 5 stars
        I made the king ranch chicken last night it was so simple and everyone loved it. Thank you for your recipe.

        1. Awesome, Judy! I’m so glad that it was a hit. Thanks for taking the time to come back here and leave me a note! 🙂

  5. Been making this for a long time. I make the sauce and halve it. Add half of the tortillas in a casserole for one night’s dinner and freeze the rest of the sauce. When I am ready for the second half, I thaw the frozen sauce and when thawed proceed to add the rest of the tortillas.

    1. Great tip, Teri! Thank you!!! I love when I can freeze food and get two meals for one effort. Genius!!!

  6. 5 stars
    I made this recipe exactly as directed Except I used plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, and I used canned chicken breast. It was absolutely delicious and so easy and quick to make! Regards Maria

      1. Hi, Kathryn! There’s no sour cream in the recipe. I think she may have used Greek yogurt in another King Ranch Casserole recipe in lieu of the sour cream called for in the other recipe. I make the cream sauce here with the condensed soup, but other recipes call for a cream sauce from scratch that uses sour cream. Hope that clarifies! 🙂

  7. Gee when I was the name of the recipe I thought it would have Ranch seasoning . I’d make it either way as it sounds good

  8. I am making this a day in advance for a teacher’s potluck meal. The cafeteria has a oven. Should I cook it the day before in the oven, or prep it have them place it in the oven? I am only concerned the corn tortillas may become soggy.

    1. Hi, Audra! You can honestly do it either way, since the tortillas will get soft no matter what (that’s how they’re supposed to be, so it’s nothing to worry about). Whatever is easiest for you or the cafeteria staff. 🙂

  9. 5 stars
    Another easy and delicious meal. I added black beans onto the 1st layer of tortillas. So good! Thank you Blair!

  10. 5 stars
    Amazingly delicious. I could not beleive something so simple could taste so good. I did follow the instructons for prep ahead and assembled it 24 hours before baking. I was worried the tortillas might go soggy but they were all god.

  11. Not a bad recipe…made this after the abnormal Texas winter storm. This recipe only mentioned salt and pepper. Being a Texan and all, that’s a no go in my house….therefore, I jazzed it up with some shakes of onion powder, pepper, chicken bouillon seasoning, and half a packet of taco seasoning. Lastly, not a corn tortilla in sight at the stores so I crushed up Doritos and used that as the tortilla base. Must have been a hit because there were not any leftovers.

    1. Your version sounds great! I’m so glad that you were able to make it work with the ingredients you had on hand! 🙂

    2. The original recipe calls for 1/2 to a whole packet of taco seasoning. I have a newspaper clipping from the Houston Chronicle with the original recipe. This is close, but not the real thing.

  12. I’m really glad you pointed out that there are no ties between King Ranch Chicken and the ranch itself. Growing up in south Texas, the father of a good friend of mine was the vice president/ general manager of the King Ranch. I mentioned King Ranch chicken around him one time and he put his hand on my shoulder (he’s a towering man that has over 50 years ranching experience) and said “Son, around here we don’t eat yard bird. Let’s not call it that, ok?” Never did that again.

  13. Had this exact recipe from 20 yrs ago. Got it from a woman at a Dude Ranch in Wyoming. It’s always been a family favorite, for special occasions or just a week day dinner! It’s always a very welcome meal!!!

  14. 5 stars
    This dish is always a hit in our house anytime I make it. My crew is not big on leftovers, but this is one dish that gets heated in the microwave oven until it is all gone (maybe the next day).
    When I am really tired and busy, I buy a prepared rotisserie chicken instead of boiling my own and still add some chicken broth to make it moist! I Always make one 9×13 and usually have enough to make a smaller dish to put in the freezer without baking it! Makes a great dish for 2 people with a salad!!

    1. Amazing! I’m so glad to know that it’s well-loved in your home, Brenda. Thanks for your kind note!

  15. I loved your chicken and dressing casserole, so I know I’ll love this one as well. It’s been a few years since I’ve had it and I’ve had a hankering for it.

  16. 5 stars
    I tried this King Ranch Chicken recipe about a month ago, and I couldn’t believe how easy it was and yet it turned out so tasty! I belong to a bunco group, where 12 of us take turns hosting/bringing the main dish! I usually make a zesty BBQ chicken in the crock pot when it’s my turn, but I’m thinking I might try bringing this next time instead! I think they would love it! I live in Texas & I’ve actually been to the real “King Ranch” – I think that’s why this recipe caught my eye!! I’m making this again tonight to share with our son – I know he’ll love it, too! I’m seeing some other recipes on your site that I can’t wait to try! BTW I like to serve this with homemade Mexican style rice 🙂

    1. Thank you, Sandy! I’m so glad that you like this dish. That’s really cool that you’ve been to the real King Ranch. 🙂 Hope your son enjoys the meal, and that you find some other new favorites on my site as well!

  17. 5 stars
    I made this last night and it turned out great! I used an orange bell pepper and a purple onion for color, smoked chicken, added a jalapeño, rotel original without salt so I could add my own smoked sea salt, then organic cream of chicken and mushroom, grated Monterey Jack and Colby Jack cheese, and only needed to use 6 cauliflower-corn tortillas; which was more than enough for my low-carb eating lifestyle but it definitely covered all the surface area with some overlaps in my baking dish. Just lovely! Thank you for the inspiration section with this simple recipe, I had everything already on-hand. 🙂

    1. 5 stars
      Oops I didn’t mean to write the word “section” on there. Go figure, trying key swiping for the first time versus typing ended with an error lol .

  18. 1 star
    Bland! No spices? No cumin? oregano? garlic? Salt? Nothing? Blah… I grew up in Texas eating this casserole, and your recipe is bland. Not trying to be rude… but I have a whole baking dish full of tasteless casserole. I guess I should be thankful I like hot sauce.

    1. My grandmother made this all the time (South TX) and it’s one of my faves. I was shocked to find there was very little in the way of seasoning in her original recipe too… but Tex-Mex is known for using very little seasonings. I went ahead and tossed a 1/2 can of southwestern style corn and a bit of salt and cumin in mine this go ‘round. Much better for my taste; but this recipe is the nearest to the original I’ve seen! Very tasty.

      1. Thanks, Elyse! Yes, the original doesn’t traditionally have too much seasoning. But that’s the beauty of cooking at home — you can jazz it up with as much kick as you like! Glad that you added some of the corn, salt, and cumin to make it your own. Thank you for your note!