King Ranch Chicken Casserole

By: Cassy Joy Garcia

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A casserole that lives up to its name in both flavor and boldness, this King Ranch Chicken Casserole comes together so easily and delivers a delicious meal with Tex-Mex flair!

Baked casserole in a white casserole dish with cheese melted and broiled topped with sliced green onions on a table with a red and white thin striped towel draped above and one plate with a gold fork.

Why is it called King Ranch Chicken?

Did you know that the King Ranch Chicken Casserole is the official state casserole of Texas? There are some who think the casserole was named after the famous King Ranch in South Texas (it makes sense, a ranch larger than life seems appropriate for a casserole with larger-than-life flavor), but in actuality, the recipe was likely developed by the budget-savvy homemaker who wanted their casserole to leave a legacy (and it did). The bold flavors from chilis, peppers, and cumin, plus the heavy cream, make a tomato gravy that makes your mouth water in anticipation. Ultra-rich, creamy, and cheesy textures combine to make this Tex-Mex casserole a guaranteed crowd-pleaser!

King Ranch Casserole Ingredients

King Ranch casserole ingredients on a gray and white marble surface.
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 (14-ounce) can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • ¼ cup of all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons of chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 4 ½ cups of shredded chicken
  • 4 cups of shredded Mexican-style cheese blend
  • ¼ cup of chopped green onions, for garnish (optional)

Best Chicken for a King Ranch Chicken Recipe

This recipe is delicious using either shredded chicken breast or chicken thighs, depending on if you have a preference for light or dark meat, and made especially easy using this kitchen hack. A rotisserie chicken also makes for a great option or even canned chicken will work. Whichever you choose, you really can’t go wrong, so choose what works best for you in your kitchen!

Supplies Needed to Make this Recipe

How to Make King Ranch Chicken Casserole

White ceramic pot with sautéed red bell peppers and white onion with a wooden spatula.
Hand placing corn tortilla in the top of a white casserole dish.
Hand sprinkling a layer of cheese over red pepper and onion sauce mixture in casserole dish.
White ceramic pot with sautéed bell peppers, onions, and jalapeño in a creamy, seasoned sauce.
Hand spreading shredded chicken on top of a layer of corn tortillas on the bottom of a casserole dish.
Shredded cheese topping casserole layers in a white casserole dish.
White ceramic pot with sautéed bell peppers, onions, and jalapeño in a thickened creamy, seasoned sauce.
Ladle spooning red pepper and onion sauce mixture onto of shredded chicken in a casserole dish.
Baked casserole in a white casserole dish with cheese melted.
  1. Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 350℉. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with olive oil.
  2. Saute the vegetables. In a large skillet or pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and bell peppers and toss to combine. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until fragrant (your kitchen will smell amazing!). 
  3. Add remaining ingredients. Add the jalapeños, tomatoes, flour, broth, cream, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper, and whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer, then cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomato gravy starts to thicken.
  4. Build the casserole. Layer half of the tortillas over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with half the shredded chicken, then pour half of the tomato gravy over the top and sprinkle evenly with half of the cheese. Repeat to make a second (and final) layer of each ingredient.
  5. Cover and bake. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes.
  6. Broil. Remove the baking dish from the oven and remove the foil. Switch your oven to broil and place the baking dish under the broiler for 3 minutes, or until the cheese starts to crisp and brown just a bit. Keep a close eye here, it doesn’t take long! Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
  7. Serve and enjoy! Serve the casserole warm, garnished with green onions (if desired), and enjoy!

What to Serve with King Ranch Chicken Casserole

This casserole is a meal on its own with a good balance of vegetables, healthy fats, and protein, but is really delicious alongside a simple baby greens salad, lemony arugula, or Mexican corn salad

Side view of spatula with a slice of casserole and casserole dish blurred in the background.

Variations for this King Ranch Chicken Recipe

This casserole is traditionally made with shredded chicken and Tex-Mex flavors, but there are plenty of ways you can make this recipe your own. Here are some ideas:

  • Swap the protein. Use shredded pork (as featured in Cook Once Dinner Fix) or ground beef in place of the shredded chicken.
  • Make it gluten free. Use gluten free flour (our favorite is King Arthur Measure for Measure) as your all-purpose flour for a gluten free tomato gravy.
  • Add different veggies. Use corn, green chiles, or whatever you have on hand as the vegetable component for your tomato gravy.

Storing and Freezing this Chicken King Ranch Casserole Recipe

As with any casserole, this dish serves plenty, so there's a good chance you'll have leftovers! To store, let cool completely, cover, and pop into the fridge for up to 5 days. This casserole also freezes and reheats beautifully. To store in the freezer, place in an airtight container or in a covered casserole dish double wrapped in foil for up to 3 months. 

Plate with slice of King Ranch casserole and gold fork with casserole dish blurred in the background.

King Ranch Casserole Recipe FAQ

Do you have to pre-cook chicken in a casserole?

This recipe calls for the chicken to be precooked. This helps cut down on the time spent in the oven and preserves the texture of the rest of the dish so that the other ingredients don’t overcook in the process. It will be perfectly ooey, gooey, and delicious!

How long does it take to cook raw chicken in a casserole?

If you choose to use raw chicken in your King Ranch chicken casserole, you’ll want to increase the baking time to about 50 minutes or until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of at least 165℉.

More Favorite Casserole Recipes

Print

King Ranch Chicken

A casserole that lives up to its name in both flavor and boldness, this King Ranch Chicken Casserole comes together so easily and delivers a delicious meal with Tex-Mex flair!

  • Author: Cassy Joy Garcia
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: 68 servings 1x
  • Category: Casserole Recipes
  • Method: Oven

Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 4 ½ cups shredded chicken
  • 4 cups shredded Mexican-style cheese blend
  • ¼ cup chopped green onions, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350℉. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with olive oil.
  2. In a large skillet or pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and bell peppers and toss to combine. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until fragrant (your kitchen will smell amazing!).
  3. Add the jalapeños, tomatoes, flour, broth, cream, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper and whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer, then cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomato gravy starts to thicken.
  4. Layer half the tortillas over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with half the shredded chicken, then pour half the tomato gravy over the top and sprinkle evenly with half the cheese. Repeat to make a second layer of each ingredient.
  5. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes.
  6. Remove the baking dish from the oven and remove the foil. Switch your oven to broil and place the baking dish under the broiler for 3 minutes, or until the cheese starts to crisp and brown just a bit. Keep a close eye here, it doesn’t take long! Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
  7. Serve the casserole warm, garnished with green onions (if desired), and enjoy!

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Recipe rating

  1. Melanie McKinley says:

    Oh, my goodness….this recipe is DELICIOUS!!! I made this tonight and we all LOVED it. It was simple to make and FULL of flavor. So perfect and so yummy. I have been looking for a king ranch recipe and was excited to try it and now am even more excited to have it in my back pocket, for guests and family dinners.. It is fabulous. Thank you, thank you!!