I Tried the King Ranch Chicken Casserole Recipe and I'm Never Making Chicken Another Way (2024)

The creamy and cheesy King Ranch chicken casserole is famous in Texas, but it might be a new recipe for folks like me who live outside the South. I decided it was time to see what all the hype was about and whip up a King Ranch casserole at home in Vermont.

The History of King Ranch Casserole

It’s not known exactly where this dish got its name or who created it. But it’s believed that the dish has been around since the late ’40s, which makes sense considering that one of the two Campbell’s soups in the recipe, Cream of Chicken, debuted in 1947.

Many people have assumed that the recipe was created at King Ranch, a well-known cattle ranch in southern Texas. The owners refute this, however, noting that the ranch’s 168-year history has been focused on beef, not chicken.

Even though we don’t know its true origin, this dish is the unofficial casserole of Texas. It’s a staple for potluck dinners, funeral receptions, church suppers and, of course, kitchen tables. It’s a popular contribution to local Junior League cookbooks, too. Don’t miss our full list of famous Texas foods.

What’s in King Ranch Chicken Casserole?

In this Tex-Mex recipe, corn tortillas are layered in a baking dish with shredded chicken, a thick sauce made with canned cream soups, diced onions and canned, diced tomatoes with green chilies. (Think Ro-Tel brand.) Shredded cheese is sprinkled over the top and the whole thing gets baked to create a pan of bubbling, melty deliciousness.

Many versions of the recipe attempt to change King Ranch chicken casserole into a more modern creation, with homemade roux, fresh mushrooms and even Greek yogurt.

While this is certainly a dish that invites each cook’s personal touch, it’s OK to let King Ranch chicken casserole be what it’s meant to be: a Texas casserole that’s easy, cheesy comfort food. Or, as a 1966 edition of the San Antonio Light newspaper put it, “a hit with men as well as with women guests.”

Find the most famous casserole recipe from every state.

How to Make King Ranch Chicken Casserole

While looking for a vintage version of this recipe, I found one that belonged to Lady Bird Johnson, former First Lady and wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson. The Texas-born and raised Johnsons were known for their love of Southern comfort food. This is Lady Bird’s recipe from the LBJ Presidential Library Archives, slightly adapted to amp up the flavor and spice.

This recipe makes 6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 12 small corn tortillas
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 medium poblano peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chilies (like Ro-Tel)
  • 1 can (10.5 ounces) cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can (10.5 ounces) cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican-blend cheese
  • Optional garnishes: extra chili powder, chopped cilantro, chopped scallions, diced tomatoes, sour cream, salsa

Directions

Step 1: Toast the tortillas

One at a time, lay a corn tortilla in a hot, nonstick pan over medium-high heat. (If you have a glass-top stove, you can lay them right on the burner!) Toast the tortilla for 20-25 seconds until brown or lightly blackened spots appear, then use tongs to flip it and toast the other side. Repeat with the rest of the tortillas. Hold them aside.

Step 2: Saute the veggies

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray the inside of a 13×9-in. baking dish with nonstick spray.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then stir in the diced onions. Saute the onions for 5 minutes. Add in the diced poblano peppers. Stir and saute for another 3 minutes, until the onion looks translucent and the peppers have softened.

Step 3: Add the tomatoes and liquids

Pour the diced tomatoes and chilies, cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup and chicken stock into the skillet. Add in the chili powder, garlic powder and pepper. Stir everything together, then simmer the mixture for about 7 minutes, until the sauce looks thickened. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir the shredded chicken into the sauce.

Step 4: Assemble the casserole

Lay six of the tortillas across the bottom of the pan with the edges going up the sides just slightly. Spoon half of the chicken and sauce mixture over the tortillas. Lay the remaining six tortillas over the top and then spoon the rest of the chicken and sauce over. Sprinkle the Mexican-blend cheese evenly over the top.

Step 5: Bake

Place the pan in the oven and bake the casserole for 30 minutes, until it looks bubbly and the cheese has melted and started to brown. Remove the pan and let it cool for 10 minutes. Garnish with a little sprinkle of chili powder for color and scatter chopped cilantro, scallions or diced tomatoes across the top. Slice and serve with optional garnishes like sour cream or salsa.

I Tried the King Ranch Chicken Casserole Recipe and I'm Never Making Chicken Another Way (1)Nancy Mock/Taste of Home

What I Thought

My family and I eagerly tucked into the hot servings of King Ranch chicken casserole—and we loved it! This is definitely comfort food at its finest. The casserole was creamy and with a thick topping of melted cheese. The corn tortillas provided a nice bit of chewiness amidst the rich filling, especially along the edges of the casserole where the tortillas browned and crisped up a little.

The poblano peppers and spices give a nice flavor and just the right amount of chili pepper heat. I’m happy to add this Texas family recipe to my Vermont family’s dinner rotation! With Laura Bush’s Cowboy Cookies for dessert, of course.

King Ranch Casserole Tips

Make Ahead and Freeze

Another reason this casserole is such a favorite is that it’s a great freezer meal. To freeze, assemble the casserole. Then wrap the dish well and freeze it for up to three months. To bake, let the pan thaw overnight in the fridge and bake as directed above.

Toast the Tortillas

Toasting the tortillas brings out the delicious corn flavor and improves the texture. Believe me, it’s worth the time to toast them, but you can skip this step and use corn tortillas straight from the package.

Want to cook like a Texan? Check out these cowboy cooking tips we learned from a real cowboy!

The Best Recipes from Texans

1 / 29

Taste of Home

Pork Tacos with Mango SalsaI've made quite a few tacos in my day, but you can't beat the tender filling made in a slow cooker. These are by far the best pork tacos we've had—and we've tried plenty. Make the mango salsa from scratch if you have time! Yum. —Amber Massey, Argyle, Texas

Go to Recipe

Texas Chili FriesThe delicious chili goes together in minutes and then cooks while you run errands. The only way to make it even better is to pour it over crisp french fries and sprinkle with cheese to make Texas chili fries. —Joan Hallford, North Richland Hills, Texas

Go to Recipe

Taste of Home

Texas-Style Spanish RiceThe original version of this recipe was given to me by a Mexican friend, but I've modified the spices to suit my family's tastes. It's become a favorite at our house—see if it doesn't do the same at yours! —Melissa Pride, Plano, Texas

Go to Recipe

Cuban SlidersThese wonderful little rolls are baked until lightly toasted and the cheese melts. The leftover King's Hawaiian ham sliders keep really well in the fridge, and they make a lovely cold snack. Followers of my blog, houseofyumm.com, go nuts for these! —Serene Herrera, Dallas, Texas

Southwestern CasseroleI’ve been making this mild family-pleasing southwest casserole for years. It tastes wonderful and fits nicely into our budget. Best of all, the recipe makes a second casserole to freeze and enjoy later. —Joan Hallford, North Richland Hills, Texas

Go to Recipe

Taste of Home

Blueberry Angel DessertMake the most of angel food cake, pie filling and whipped topping by creating this light impressive dessert that doesn't keep you in the kitchen for hours. It's the perfect way to end a summer meal. —Carol Johnson, Tyler, Texas

Go to Recipe

Taste of Home

Texas Taco Dip PlatterWhen I'm entertaining, this colorful dish is my top menu choice. My friends can't resist the hearty appetizer topped with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and olives. —Kathy Young, Weatherford, Texas

Go to Recipe

Cheesy Fiesta Beef CasseroleOver the years I’ve tweaked this recipe to end up with a delicious, quick weeknight meal. Feel free to spice it up with jalapenos if you prefer a little heat. —Joan Hallford, North Richland Hills, Texas

Go to Recipe

Taste of Home

Roasted Green Vegetable MedleyRoasting vegetables such as broccoli, green beans and Brussels sprouts is a fantastic way to serve them, and almost any veggie combo works. — Suzan Crouch, Grand Prairie, Texas

Go to Recipe

Texas Black Bean SoupThis hearty meatless stew made with convenient canned items is perfect for spicing up a family gathering on a cool day. It tastes as if it's made with love and yet it requires so little time and attention. —Pamela Scott, Garland, Texas.

Go to Recipe

Taste of Home

Overnight Cinnamon RollsI like to try different fun fillings in these soft rolls, and each one is packed with cinnamon flavor. They are definitely worth the overnight wait. —Chris O'Connell, San Antonio, Texas

Go to Recipe

Taste of Home

Enchilada Stuffed ShellsI served this entree to my husband, my sister and my brother-in-law, who is a hard-to-please eater. He said he liked it and even took leftovers for lunch the next day—I was thrilled! —Rebecca Stout, Conroe, Texas

Taste of Home

Fiery Stuffed PoblanosI love Southwest-inspired cuisine, but the dishes are often unhealthy. As a dietitian, I try to come up with nutritious twists on recipes, which is how my stuffed peppers dish was born. —Amber Massey, Argyle, Texas

Go to Recipe

Taste of Home

Homemade GuacamoleI always judge a Tex-Mex restaurant by its guacamole. And although it's simple to prepare, it can go wrong oh, so easily. I've spent many years perfecting mine, to the point where I think it's better than most restaurants. —Joan Hallford, North Richland Hills, Texas

Go to Recipe

Texas Garlic Mashed PotatoesThese creamy potatoes get their flavor burst from garlic and caramelized onions. Their savory goodness makes any meal better. —Richard Markle, Midlothian, Texas

Go to Recipe

Buttermilk Pecan PieThis is the treasured "golden oldie" that my grandmother made so often whenever we'd come to visit. Grandma grew her own pecans, and we never tired of cracking them and picking out the meat when we knew we'd be treated to her special pie! —Mildred Sherrer, Fort Worth, Texas

Go to Recipe

Trust me when I say this hearty dish can be assembled in minutes, then devoured even quicker with no leftovers. —Karen Kuebler, Dallas, Texas

Go to Recipe

Creamy Braised ChickenA smooth, delicate cream sauce gives a special taste to these tender chicken breasts accompanied by pearl onions and sauteed mushrooms. This dish is so rich-tasting, you'll want to serve it to company. —Margaret Haugh Heilman, Houston, Texas

Go to Recipe

Hearty Tex-Mex ChiliI dreamed up this hearty chili with a Tex-Mex twist 25 years ago. It’s still everyone’s favorite and the go-to recipe in our family cookbook.—Martha B. Hook, Dallas, Texas

Go to Recipe

Taste of Home

Southwestern Pineapple Pork ChopsThis quick entree will instantly transport you to the Southwest. Salsa plays lively counterpoint to the juicy pineapple-sweetened pork chops.—Lisa Varner, El Paso, Texas

Go to Recipe

Savory Corn BreadWant to serve your favorite chili or stew with an equally amazing corn bread? Look no further than this simply perfect recipe. It's the best! I've brought it to potlucks many times. —Krista Klaus, Round Rock, Texas

Go to Recipe

One-Pot Bacon Cheeseburger PastaWhen the weather's too chilly to grill, I whip up a big pot of this cheesy pasta. Believe it or not, it tastes just like a bacon cheeseburger, and it's much easier for my young children to enjoy. —Carly Terrell, Granbury Texas

Go to Recipe

Green Chile Chicken ChiliThe prep work for this chili is easy thanks to several pantry staples. It’s loaded with shredded chicken and beans. The spicy heat can be tamed a bit with cool sour cream. —Fred Lockwood, Plano, Texas

Go to Recipe

This creamy mac ’n’ cheese is so simple it’s almost too easy! —Ann Bowers, Rockport, Texas

Go to Recipe

Chicken Potpie CasseroleI always have leftover chicken broth on hand and use it for many things, including this comforting family favorite. You can bake your own biscuits as I do or buy them at the store. I like to bake extra biscuits to eat with butter and jam. —Liliane Jahnke, Cypress, Texas

Go to Recipe

Taste of Home

S'mores Monkey Bread MuffinsWhen it comes to mini versions of anything, I'm sold! These muffins are ooey-gooey individual-sized monkey breads made with frozen dinner roll dough, graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chips and mini marshmallows. They couldn't be easier to make, and kids just love them. —Tina Butler, Royse City, Texas

Go to Recipe

Taste of Home

Potato-Topped Ground Beef SkilletCompared to other ground beef skillet recipes, the depth of flavor in this recipe is amazing, and I never have leftovers when I take it to potlucks. I love recipes that I can cook and serve in the same skillet. If your butcher has chili grind beef, which is coarsely ground, go for that; it lends an extra meaty texture. —Fay Moreland, Wichita Falls, Texas

Go to Recipe

Easy Chicken Tamale PieAll you need are some simple ingredients from the pantry to put this slow-cooker meal together. I love the fact that I can go fishing while it cooks. —Peter Halferty, Corpus Christi, Texas

Go to Recipe

Taste of Home

Southwestern Star DipI enjoyed this sensational dip at a holiday party and begged for the recipe. No others are the ones begging me! —Joan Hallford, North Richland Hills, Texas

Go to Recipe

I Tried the King Ranch Chicken Casserole Recipe and I'm Never Making Chicken Another Way (2024)

References

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Wyatt Volkman LLD

Last Updated:

Views: 5791

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (66 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Wyatt Volkman LLD

Birthday: 1992-02-16

Address: Suite 851 78549 Lubowitz Well, Wardside, TX 98080-8615

Phone: +67618977178100

Job: Manufacturing Director

Hobby: Running, Mountaineering, Inline skating, Writing, Baton twirling, Computer programming, Stone skipping

Introduction: My name is Wyatt Volkman LLD, I am a handsome, rich, comfortable, lively, zealous, graceful, gifted person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.