King Ranch Chicken Casserole is made from scratch with no “cream-of” soups! Layers of corn tortillas, a rich and flavorful sauce, chicken and cheese make up this famous Texas casserole.
What is King Ranch Chicken?
King Ranch Chicken is a Texas staple consisting of layers of corn tortillas, chicken, cheese and a semi-spicy cream sauce. The traditional King Ranch Chicken is made with a can each of Rotel, cream of mushroom soup and cream of chicken soup. I wanted to recreate the traditional flavor, but without using any "cream-of" soups. This version is made from scratch with sautéed vegetables and a homemade sauce.
Today, bloggers and readers alike remember this casserole much more fondly than in the 1980’s when Texas Monthly described it as “bland – but there when you need it.” The classic casserole had another resurgence in 2020.
Traditional Flavor without "Cream-of" Soups
It does take a little bit longer to make than just opening a can of cream of soup but I think it tastes better AND by making your own sauce you can control the amount of sodium in this recipe. Plus I think 2020 has shown us it’s handy to be able to make things from scratch.
This recipe has been around on My Texas Kitchen since 2015 but I decided this year, it was time to update with new pictures and more detailed instructions.
Healthier King Ranch Chicken Casserole
By omitting the “cream-of” soups, this version is lower in sodium and fat than the original. After many years working in clinical dietetics, I often think of my patients when developing recipes, and try to create lower sodium and reduced fat versions of recipes that they could still enjoy while following a heart healthy diet.
Rather than cutting out all the foods someone loves, I prefer to think, how can we make the foods someone loves more closely fit their prescribed eating pattern? I hope y’all find this Texas favorite nourishing for the body and soul.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Butter and Oil – I prefer the ratio of 1:1 butter to oil, but you can use all butter or all oil.
- ½ large white or yellow onion
- 1 large Bell Pepper – green or red
- 1 large Jalapeno
- Minced Garlic
- Flour and seasonings
- Chicken Broth – can substitute Water + 1 Tbsp. Better than Chicken Bouillion
- Milk – 2% or Whole
- Rotel (Diced tomatoes with green chiles) – can substitute fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- Mushrooms – I use canned stems and pieces.
- Yellow Corn Tortillas for the most traditional flavor
- Chicken – Traditionally made with meat from one whole chicken. You can also use rotisserie chicken. I usually keep Tex-Mex Chicken Thighs in the freezer for use in recipes like this.
- Shredded Cheese – Can use a blend of cheddar and monterrey jack. If you would like to reduce calories in this recipe, reduce to 2 cups of cheese by omitting the cheese on the second layer.
How To Make King Ranch Chicken Casserole from Scratch
- Prepare a large casserole dish. If you want to make this into three layers, grab a deep dish.
- Sautee vegetables in butter and oil until tender.
- Add flour and seasoning to the vegetable mixture. Stir and cook for one minute.
- Stir in chicken broth and milk. Cook until sauce thickens. Stir constantly.
- I like a more “soupy” sauce, if the sauce gets too thick, add additional chicken broth to thin it out.
- Remove from heat and stir in Rotel, mushrooms, and cooked diced chicken.
- Layer 5 tortillas on bottom of casserole dish.
- Start assembling King Ranch Chicken. Top with ½ of sauce and 1 cup of cheese. Repeat corn tortillas, sauce and ½ cup cheese. Top with corn tortillas and remaining cheese.
- Layers are: tortillas, sauce, cheese, tortillas, sauce, cheese, tortillas, cheese
- Cover with foil and bake! Remove foil and bake for additional 5 minutes .
Three Layer King Ranch Chicken
The more tortillas you use, the more structure this casserole will have. Some people prefer it this way, while others like myself, like it a little more “soupy”.
To make this into three full layers + the topping, start with a deep 9” X 13” casserole dish. Layer 4 corn tortillas, ⅓ of sauce, ½ cup cheese and repeat twice. Topping with remaining corn tortillas and 1 ½ cups shredded cheese.
Serving and Storage
I like to serve King Ranch Chicken with pinto beans and a simple garden salad.
This casserole freezes well. Thaw before baking, cover with foil and bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165F.
King Ranch Chicken Casserole
- 2 Tbsp. Butter
- 2 Tbsp. Grapeseed or Canola Oil
- 1 cup white or yellow Onion diced
- 1 cup Green Bell Pepper diced
- 2 Tbsp. fresh Jalapeno seeded and minced
- 2 tsp. Minced Garlic
- ¾ cup All-Purpose Flour
- 1 tsp. Chili Powder
- 1 tsp. Pepper
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
- 3 cups Chicken Broth
- 1 cup Milk (2% or Whole)
- 1 10 oz. can Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles
- ¼ cup canned mushrooms diced
- 3 cups Cooked Chicken, Chopped or Shredded
- 15 Corn Tortillas
- 3 cups Shredded Mexican Blend Cheese
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9″ X 13” casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
- Heat butter and oil in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno; cook for 7-10 minutes or until tender. Stir often. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
- Stir in flour and spices to vegetable mixture. Cook for one minute. Add chicken broth and milk. Turn heat to medium-high and cook until sauce thickens, stirring constantly. Remove sauce from heat and stir in diced tomatoes, mushrooms and chicken.
- Layer 5 corn tortillas on bottom of casserole dish, top with one-half of sauce and one-third of cheese. Repeat layering of tortillas, sauce, and cheese. Top with corn tortillas and remaining shredded cheese.
- Cover with foil, and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and cheese is melted.
My hope when I create and share these healthier versions of comfort food, is that a spouse will find this and make it for their loved one, a mom will find this healthier version of a childhood favorite and realize she can indeed serve it to her family, or a cook at a nursing home will find it and make it for their residents.
Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy!
King Ranch Chicken was originally published in August 2015. Updated in July 2021 with new pictures and text.
You may also enjoy Hatch Green Chile Chicken Spaghetti