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Creamy King Ranch Mac and Cheese

Are you ready to change up your classic mac and cheese recipe? If so, this creamy King Ranch Mac and Cheese recipe with chicken is the perfect way to do that!

A serving of king ranch mac and cheese on a plate

Why You’ll Love My Easy King Ranch Mac and Cheese with Chicken

  • The Perfect Tex-Mex Mac and Cheese! If you’re a fan of Tex-Mex recipes, you are going to LOVE this macaroni and cheese. Inspired by King Ranch chicken casserole, King Ranch Mac and Cheese with chicken will blow your mind. It’s cheesy, it’s creamy, and oh so satisfying.
  • Make It Ahead! This dinner idea is perfect to make ahead and freeze. Which also means it’s a REALLY popular dish, just like my King Ranch Casserole recipe, to make to new moms, or for anyone in need of a dinner.
  • Flavor! This homemade mac and cheese is packed with chicken, peppers, diced tomatoes, two kinds of melty cheese, and more. It’s a recipe that will surprise you at how easy it is and how delcious!
A skillet with king ranch mac and cheeseA skillet with king ranch mac and cheese

What is King Ranch Chicken?

King Ranch chicken is a Texas-inspired recipe that is cooked in the form of a casserole. It’s made up of cooked chicken, tortillas, gooey cheese, creamy gravy, peppers, etc. However, while I love a good casserole, why not take a good thing and make it even better by combining it with mac and cheese? So, that’s what we’re gonna do.

Ingredients for ranch mac and cheese in white bowlsIngredients for ranch mac and cheese in white bowls

Recipe Ingredients

This King Ranch mac and cheese recipe has a couple of more ingredients than your typical mac and cheese does:

  • Pasta: I used cavatappi, but you can substitute with another pasta (something like rigatoni or elbow macaroni).
  • Butter: Salted or unsalted – whichever you prefer.
  • Onion: You’ll need 1 medium yellow onion, diced.
  • Pepper: I used a medium green bell pepper and a medium red bell pepper (both seeded and diced).
  • Garlic: Minced.
  • Diced Tomatoes: With green chilis, 1 (10- ounce) can.
  • Prepared Cheese: Cubed – something like Velveeta.
  • Sour Cream: To add extra creaminess.
  • Half and Half: A mixture of milk and cream could work too if you don’t have any half and half.
  • Seasoning: I used cumin and cayenne pepper.
  • Cooked Chicken: I like to use shredded Rotisserie Chicken.
  • Cheese: Grated cheddar cheese is best.

How to Make King Ranch Mac and Cheese with Chicken

Mac and cheese is one of my favorite weeknight dinners to make. Can one ever get enough cheesy pasta? (The correct answer: Nope!) There are essentially six parts to making this meal:

Preheat Oven to 400°F: Then boil the pasta according to the package directions and drain.

Sauté the Onion & Bell Peppers: While the pasta is boiling, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter in the skillet and sauté the onion and both bell peppers for 7- 8 minutes, until they are soft. Add in the garlic and cook for one more minute.

Combine with Tomatoes & Cheese: Add the diced tomatoes and cook until almost all of the liquid has evaporated, 3- 4 minutes. Next incorporate the cubed cheese into the mix and stir continuously until the cheese is melted.

Add Dairy & Chicken: Mix the sour cream and half and half into the cheese mixture, season with cumin and cayenne pepper and finally add in the chicken.

Combine Pasta & Chicken Mixture: In a 3- quart Dutch oven or baking dish combine the chicken/cheese mixture with the cooked pasta evenly.

TIP: If your skillet that you started with is large enough and oven safe, no need to transfer the mixture into a larger pan.

Add Grated Cheese & Bake: Sprinkle with the grated cheese and bake for 5- 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the mixture is bubbly. Serve immediately.

Baked king ranch mac and cheese in a skilletBaked king ranch mac and cheese in a skillet

What Kind of Cheese to Use

You’ll need two different kinds of cheese to make this mac and cheese. For the pasteurized prepared cheese I usually use Velveeta, but you could try Kraft instead. As for the grated cheese that you sprinkle on top, I generally stick to cheddar, but Monterey Jack could also work.

Variation Ideas

Are there other additions that can be made to this mac and cheese? Of course! Here are a few ideas:

  • Top with Breadcrumbs: Or crushed tortilla chips – something that will add extra crunch to each bite.
  • Adjust the Heat: If you like your mac and cheese on the spicier side you could add in a little chili powder.
  • Other Add-Ins: More peppers (like jalapeños) could be good, or you could toss in bacon bits, because they make everything better!
A spoon scooping mac and cheese in a skilletA spoon scooping mac and cheese in a skillet

Serving Suggestions

If you’re trying to think of things to serve with King Ranch mac and cheese, here are a couple of my go-to options:

  • Salad: A big green salad always goes well with this meal. I also love this Rainbow Crunch Salad with this recipe, the crunchiness contrasts wonderfully with the creamy pasta.
  • Vegetables: Sautéed mushrooms, broccoli, green beans, etc. Whichever veggies are your favorite! I like this simple air fryer asparagus because it is ready in minutes.
  • Garlic Bread: If you don’t mind a few extra carbs, these Garlic Knots are a great side to incorporate into this dinner! This cheesy stuffed garlic bread is also incredible with King Ranch mac & cheese.
A serving of mac and cheese on a plate with a forkA serving of mac and cheese on a plate with a fork

How to Store and Reheat King Ranch Mac and Cheese

You can store this mac and cheese in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

When you want to reheat the leftovers I recommend putting them back in the oven – uncovered – for 20 or so minutes until the desired temperature is reached.

Can I Freeze Leftover Mac and Cheese with Chicken?

Definitely! You can freeze leftovers in an airtight container for 1-2 months. Remember to let the container thaw in the fridge overnight before eating the pasta again.

Print

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Description

Tired of your regular mac and cheese recipe? Then turn up the heat a little and try this King Ranch Mac and Cheese, packed with Rotisserie chicken, grated cheddar cheese, bell peppers, creamy pasta, and more! 


  • 8 ounces cavatappi pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 medium green bell pepper. seeded and diced
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (10- ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chilis
  • 1 pound pasteurized prepared cheese, cubed (like Velveeta)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup half and half
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups cooked chicken (I like to use shredded Rotisserie Chicken)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Boil the pasta according to the package directions and drain.
  3. While the pasta is boiling heat a large skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter in the skillet and sauté the onion and both bell peppers for 7- 8 minutes, until they are soft. Add in the garlic and cook for one more minute.
  4. Add the diced tomatoes and cook until almost all of the liquid has evaporated, 3- 4 minutes. Next incorporate the cubed cheese into the mix and stir continuously until the cheese is melted.
  5. Mix the sour cream and half and half into the cheese mixture, season with cumin and cayenne pepper and finally add in the chicken.
  6. In a 3- quart Dutch oven or baking dish combine the chicken/cheese mixture with the cooked pasta evenly.
  7. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and bake for 5- 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the mixture is bubbly.
  8. Serve immediately.

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