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King Ranch Chicken | Cookies and Cups

This creamy, cheesy King Ranch chicken casserole is brimming with juicy shredded chicken layered with corn tortillas, peppers, and melted cheese. It’s the perfect comfort food for weeknights and potlucks!

Love Tex-Mex-inspired chicken casseroles? Try my fiesta chicken casserole, too!

A serving of King Ranch chicken topped with sour cream on a plate.

Why You’ll Love This King Ranch Chicken Recipe

Today, we’re making the unofficial, official state casserole of Texas: King Ranch chicken. Every creamy, cheesy bite is bursting with zesty Tex-Mex flavors! This recipe has shredded chicken, corn tortillas, veggies, and cheese, all layered in a 9×13” casserole dish and baked until gooey and bubbly. Here’s why you’ll love it:

  • Hearty. Craving comfort food? King Ranch chicken is a Southern favorite. It’s perfect for busy weeknights, family dinners, and potlucks, with cheesy layers packed full of juicy seasoned chicken.
  • Adaptable. My King Ranch chicken recipe is mild, but it’s easy to adapt the ingredients to give this Tex-Mex casserole more kick. Take the heat up a notch with spicy chilies and extra seasoning.
  • Make-ahead friendly. This easy chicken casserole can be assembled and/or baked in advance and kept in the fridge or freezer. Cook once, eat it twice!
A slice of King Ranch chicken is lifted from a casserole dish.A slice of King Ranch chicken is lifted from a casserole dish.

What Is a King Ranch Chicken Casserole?

King Ranch chicken is a savory Tex-Mex casserole made with seasoned pulled chicken layered with veggies, cheese, and corn tortillas, a bit like Mexican chilaquiles. Like other retro casserole recipes from the 1950s, it’s made with canned soup.

It’s a bit of a mystery as to where the name “King Ranch Chicken” comes from. Some say it’s named after the biggest ranch in the US, King Ranch, in Texas. There are so many variations out there. And, I might be biased, but I think this one’s the best!

Ingredients for King Ranch chicken with text labels overlaying each ingredient.Ingredients for King Ranch chicken with text labels overlaying each ingredient.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Here’s what you’ll need to make this flavor-packed King Ranch chicken. Scroll to the recipe card for a printable list of ingredients.

  • Olive Oil and Butter – For sauteeing. I recommend a good quality olive oil and unsalted butter, this way you can better control the overall flavors.
  • Onion and Bell Pepper – Yellow onion works great here, as does any color of pepper. I opt for chopped red bell peppers for the sweetness, but yellow, green, or orange peppers all add delicious crunch.
  • Garlic – Freshly minced garlic makes everything better.
  • Cream of Chicken Soup – Would it be a retro casserole without a can (or two) of condensed soup? You can use cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup from your favorite canned brand. 
  • Chicken Stock – Low-sodium chicken stock or broth is best. Even better, use homemade chicken stock if you have a batch on hand. You can also use vegetable stock.
  • Shredded Chicken – I like to use rotisserie chicken, but any cooked, shredded chicken does the trick, whether it’s cooked at home or store-bought. See below.
  • Seasonings – This recipe uses a Tex-Mex blend of chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper. You can substitute the individual spices with taco seasoning or fajita seasoning.
  • Corn Tortillas – You’ll need about 12 corn tortillas for this casserole. Corn tortillas are sturdier than flour tortillas and won’t turn soggy as quickly.
  • Cheese – Grated cheddar, or a Mexican cheese blend. Other good options are Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, or Asiago cheese. For the meltiest results, grate the cheese from the block (rather than buying pre-shredded cheese).

What Kind of Chicken Should I Use?

King Ranch chicken traditionally calls for shredded roasted chicken, but when it comes to the chicken you use for this casserole recipe, there are a few options:

  • Rotisserie Chicken – My fave! Pick up a rotisserie chicken from your local deli or supermarket. This option is great if you’re short on time. All you have to do is carve it and shred it.
  • DIY Chicken – Boiled chicken is a quick and easy way to cook chicken for shredding. Alternatively, you can cook chicken breasts, chicken thighs, or a whole chicken in the oven or on the grill to use in this recipe.
  • Leftover Chicken – I love using leftovers in chicken casseroles. If you have leftover baked chicken or grilled chicken, go ahead and shred it for your King Ranch casserole. 

How to Make King Ranch Chicken 

Let’s get started! This easy casserole comes together in a few quick steps. Scroll down to the recipe card for printable instructions.

  • Cook the veggies. First, you’ll want to saute the onion and bell pepper in a large skillet with olive oil and a little butter. Afterward, stir in the garlic.
  • Combine. Next, stir in two cans of cream of chicken soup, about half of the stock, and then the seasonings.
  • Add the chicken. Dump in your shredded chicken. Stir to coat, and let that come to a simmer.
  • Assemble the casserole. Take the pan off the heat. To a greased 9×13” casserole dish, add the rest of the chicken stock. Tear the tortillas in half and arrange these over top, followed by ⅓ of the chicken mixture. Repeat, layering the tortillas between the chicken filling until everything’s used up.
  • Finish and bake. Finally, sprinkle on the cheese, cover the casserole tightly with foil, and bake at 350ºF for 40 minutes. Let the casserole rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
Baked King Ranch chicken in a casserole dish.Baked King Ranch chicken in a casserole dish.

Tips and Variation Ideas

Here are some final tips to make the most of your King Ranch chicken, plus some easy variation ideas.

  • Different veggies. Make this casserole with broccoli, sweet corn, or spicy jalapeños. Black beans, pinto beans, or chipotle in adobo would also taste amazing!
  • Add a can of Rotel. To make more of a classic King Ranch chicken casserole, toss in a can of Rotel diced tomatoes and chilies. You can use hot or mild.
  • Assemble in two casserole dishes. Instead of using a 9×13” casserole dish, make this casserole in two 8×8” (or 9×9”) baking dishes. Bake one now, and freeze the second one for later! See below for easy make-ahead instructions.
Two plates of King Ranch chicken next to a casserole dish.Two plates of King Ranch chicken next to a casserole dish.

What To Serve With King Ranch Chicken Casserole

I love to finish my King Ranch chicken with a dollop of sour cream and a garnish of fresh cilantro. Sliced green onions are also tasty. With its cheesy chicken and loads of veggies, this casserole doesn’t need much else! It’s delicious served on its own or with a side of cornbread, homemade garlic knots, or a simple green salad.

Overhead view of a serving of King Ranch chicken topped with sour cream on a plate, next to a second serving and a casserole dish.Overhead view of a serving of King Ranch chicken topped with sour cream on a plate, next to a second serving and a casserole dish.

Can I Make This Casserole Ahead?

Absolutely. Unbaked King Ranch chicken is great to freeze and reheat for last-minute dinners down the road. Prepare the casserole as directed, and then cover it with plastic wrap followed by a layer of foil. When you’re ready, remove the plastic wrap and bake the casserole under foil for 1 hour at 350ºF (if baking from frozen).

A fork cuts into a serving of Kinch Ranch chicken topped with sour cream on a plate.A fork cuts into a serving of Kinch Ranch chicken topped with sour cream on a plate.

Storing and Reheating Leftovers

  • Refrigerate. Store any leftover King Ranch chicken in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • Reheat. Warm the casserole in the oven under foil until it’s hot throughout. You can also reheat individual servings in the microwave.
  • Freeze. You can also freeze leftover cooked King Ranch chicken for up to 1 month. I recommend portioning the leftovers into servings to make them quick and easy to reheat. Freeze the casserole in freezer-safe airtight containers or double-wrapped in plastic wrap, and defrost in the fridge before reheating.

More Chicken Dinner Ideas

Print

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Description

This creamy, cheesy King Ranch chicken casserole layers juicy shredded chicken with corn tortillas, peppers, and melted cheese. It’s the perfect weeknight comfort food!


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup chicken stock, divided
  • 3 cups cooked and shredded chicken (I like to use rotisserie)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 Corn Tortillas
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray, and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter on medium heat. 
  3. Add in the onion and red bell pepper and cook for 7 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. 
  4. Stir in the cream of chicken soup, 1/2 cup of the chicken stock, chili powder, cumin, pepper, cayenne and salt. Mix in the chicken and stir to coat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and remove it from the heat.
  5. Assemble: Add the remaining 1/2 cup of chicken stock to the prepared baking dish. Tear 4 tortillas in half and arrange them evenly on the chicken stock in the pan. Spread 1/3 of the chicken mixture over the tortillas. Repeat this process 2 more times using all the mixture and all 12 tortillas. Sprinkle the cheese on top and cover tightly with aluminum foil. 
  6. Bake covered for 40 minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven and allow it to sit covered for 10 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • Store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Make ahead instructions: Prep and assemble the casserole as the recipe states. Cover tightly with cling wrap and then with foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to enjoy, remove the cling wrap and recover with the foil. Bake for 1 hour at 350°F from frozen.

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