If you’re looking for a dish that your family, friends and potluck guests will devour — and then beg you for the recipe — put this comfort-food casserole on the table.
Every bite of this hearty meal delights with flavorful layers of melted cheese, spicy chicken, Tex-Mex sauce and corn tortillas.
Unlike the original King Ranch chicken casserole recipes, our updated version replaces canned soup with a rich homemade sauce made with butter, cream and sour cream. We also brighten the flavor profile with lime zest and cilantro. In line with tradition, however, we keep the iconic combination of fresh peppers, canned tomatoes and green chilies.
A bit of history: The King Ranch chicken casserole hails from the 1950s, when casseroles were the rage for family dinners because of their easy preparation and money-saving convenience. The dish’s exact origin is hotly disputed, though. Texans claim it as their own — after all, the famous King Ranch is in Texas, and many Junior League cookbooks feature some version of it. You’ll find it served at homes, potlucks and restaurants across the Lone Star state. The owners of the King Ranch, however, take no credit for the recipe (the ranch is famous for its beef, not chicken).
Once you dig into this easy enchilada-like casserole, you won’t care where it came from. You’ll just be glad it’s on your table and in your belly!
Make-ahead tip: Double this King Ranch chicken casserole recipe and make two casseroles: one for now and one to put in the freezer for later. For the fix-and-freeze casserole, simply assemble the ingredients according the recipe and allow the casserole to cool. Wrap tightly in heavy-duty foil, label, and freeze for up to three months. To reheat, allow the casserole to thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours, then bake as directed.
King Ranch chicken casserole
Serves 6–8 servings
Courses Main Course
- 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
- 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
- 4 cups cooked chicken, shredded
- 2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 small poblano pepper, chopped
- 1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 1 can mild Rotel tomatoes with green chilies, drained
- 1 cup chicken stock or broth
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 teaspoons lime zest
- 1/8 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 15 yellow corn tortillas, cut in half, then in thirds
- Sour cream, for garnish
- Cilantro, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- In medium bowl, mix together the two shredded cheeses.
- In large bowl, place chicken, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and cayenne. Toss well and set aside.
- Melt butter in large skillet and stir in flour. Cook and stir for about 3 minutes, or until lightly browned.
- Add chopped onion, poblano pepper and yellow pepper; cook and stir just until tender, but not browned.
- Add drained tomatoes. Cook and stir another 2 minutes.
- Slowly add chicken broth, continuously stirring.
- Add cream, stirring until fully incorporated and heated through. Remove and set aside 1/3 cup sauce.
- Add chicken to skillet. Stir to heat through.
- Add sour cream, lime zest, cilantro, salt and pepper; mix well and remove from heat.
- Spray 9 x 13-inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
- Add reserved 1/3 cup of sauce to bottom of prepared baking dish using spatula to spread throughout bottom of pan.
- Add 1/3 of corn tortillas to bottom of dish, overlapping as needed. Spoon chicken mixture over top. Set aside.
- Sprinkle 2 cups cheese on top of chicken mixture. Repeat layers two more times, ending with remaining 2 cups cheese.
- Bake in casserole dish at 350F for 30 to 35 minutes, or until bubbly and lightly browned on top.
- Allow casserole to rest at least 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
- Serve with dollop of sour cream and freshly chopped cilantro, as desired.
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