Homemade King Ranch Casserole
This homemade king ranch casserole recipe is loaded with shredded chicken, cheese, tortillas, and a creamy filling – made with a flavorful roux instead of canned soups!
When it comes to chicken casserole, my friends, homemade King Ranch Chicken Casserole just might be “king”. Casseroles are always a big hit with people, especially in the U.S. Midwest and South, where all of these wonderful flavors are mixed up in a single pan or dish and baked to guilty perfection.
A good chicken casserole is the ultimate comfort food. It warms the bones, makes you feel good, and hey, they’re HUGE on flavor. Especially the way I make mine.
This particular dish is a classic casserole recipe. It’s called King Ranch Casserole, and you’re going to love it. Let’s talk about it!
What is King Ranch Casserole?
King Ranch Casserole, also known as “King Ranch Chicken” or “King Ranch Chicken Casserole”, is a creamy Tex-Mex casserole made with shredded chicken, tomatoes, green chilies, bell peppers, and onions cooked down with canned creamy soups. It is layered in a baking dish or pan with corn tortillas and cheese, then baked.
The name is apparently associated with the King Ranch in Texas, though people from King Ranch say the recipe didn’t originate with them. It is interesting to note that King Ranch is known for its beef, and King Ranch Casserole is a chicken dish.
It is a common potluck dish, popular at parties and gatherings. As with any dish like this, recipes can vary from cook to cook and personal tastes.
The Original King Ranch Casserole
The original King Ranch Casserole recipe calls for a cans of cream of chicken soup and cream of mushroom soup for the creaminess, and Ro-Tel brand diced tomatoes and green chiles, all of which are cooked down with chicken broth, shredded chicken, onion and seasonings. It is then layered with corn tortillas or tortilla chips and shredded cheese and baked.
My version of the recipe skips the soup cans and starts with a roux that is so much more flavorful. It’s made from scratch, aside from canned tomatoes, though you can use fresh tomatoes. I’m using fire roasted tomatoes and cooking down peppers and onions in the roux instead of using a can of Ro-Tel, though Ro-Tel is fine here. I’m also using some of my favorite chili powders – ancho and pasilla – though you can season it to your preference, as discussed in the ingredients section.
Let’s talk about how we make it, shall we?
Homemade King Ranch Casserole Ingredients
- Vegetable Oil. 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (1/4 cup – or you can use butter).
- Flour. 1/4 cup all purpose flour.
- Onion. 1 medium onion, chopped – yellow onion is good, or use white onion.
- Peppers. 1 large bell pepper, chopped (I use jalapeno peppers for extra heat).
- Garlic. 4 cloves garlic, chopped.
- Chili Powder. 1 tablespoon chili powder (use your favorite blend, or use Tex-Mex seasonings like ancho, pasilla and/or chipotle powders).
- Other Seasonings. I use 1 teaspoon cumin and salt and pepper to taste.
- Chicken Broth. 1 cup chicken broth (or use vegetable broth).
- Tomatoes. 14 ounces fire roasted tomatoes (or use a can of Rotel).
- Sour Cream. 1 cup sour cream or Mexican crema.
- Shredded Chicken. 1 pound shredded chicken (cooked, or you can use chopped).
- Cheese. 4 cups shredded Monterey Jack Cheese (cheddar cheese is good, too, or any melty cheese of choice).
- Corn Tortillas. Use 12 corn tortillas for this recipe.
TOPPINGS: Sliced jalapeno peppers, red chili flakes, fresh chopped cilantro or parsley, extra sour cream or crema
How to Make Homemade King Ranch Casserole – the Recipe Method
First, Make the Roux. Start by heating the oil in a large pan over medium heat (or melt the butter if using butter). Add the flour and stir until it is incorporated. Stir constantly for 10 minutes until the roux begins to turn a light brown. Learn more about How to Make a Roux.
Add the onion and bell peppers. Stir. Cook them down for 5 minutes to soften. The mixture will be somewhat pasty.
Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
Stir in the seasonings – chili powder, cumin, and a bit of salt and pepper.
Stir in the chicken broth and fire roasted tomatoes. The mixture will thicken up slightly like a chunky sauce. Cook for 5 minutes to let the flavors develop.
Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream or crema and cooked shredded chicken.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Layer the Casserole. Set 4 tortillas into the bottom of a square casserole dish, then add a few scoops of the saucy vegetable and chicken mixture.
Add a layer of shredded cheese.
Repeat layers with two more layers of 4 tortillas, the chicken and vegetable mixture, and a final layer of shredded cheese.
Bake the casserole for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and melty.
Remove from heat and cool slightly. Garnish with your toppings and serve!
This will serve 8 people.
Boom! That’s it, my friends! That’s how you make a good homemade king ranch casserole with chicken. Pretty easy, right? Easy and tasty!
Recipe Tips & Notes
- The Chicken. I usually use chicken breast for this recipe, but shredded chicken thighs are great here. Use a combination if you’d like. You can also use store bought rotisserie chicken as a time saver, though I enjoy cooking and shredding my own chicken. Try my Easy Shredded Chicken recipe. It’s SO juicy.
- The Tortillas. Corn tortillas are traditional, though you can make this with flour tortillas if you’d like. Torn tortillas are often used to fill up the dish better.
- Freeze It. Homemade King Ranch Chicken Casserole can be frozen before baking. Simply prep the recipe in a freezer friendly dish, then bake it from frozen for 45-60 minutes, until it is cooked through.
- How Do You Spice Up Homemade King Ranch Chicken Casserole? It is easy to make a spicier version of this by incorporating hotter peppers, such as jalapenos or serranos, and using a hotter chili powder and spicy red pepper flakes.
- What Goes with Homemade King Ranch Chicken? A salad is a nice side to go with chicken casserole, as is your favorite green vegetable, such as broccoli, green beans or asparagus. Try a sweet potato on the side. Rice is good, too, like Cajun Dirty Rice or Mexican Rice.
I hope you enjoy the casserole! Such a great recipe.
Try My Other Popular Casserole Recipes
- Chipotle Chicken Enchilada Casserole
- Chicken Enchilada Casserole Verde
- Chile Relleno Casserole
- Huevos Rancheros Casserole
- Corned Beef & Tater Tot Casserole
- Pork-Hatch Chile Casserole
- Cheeseburger Casserole
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Homemade King Ranch Casserole Recipe
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil 1/4 cup - or you can use butter
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 large bell pepper chopped (I use jalapeno peppers for extra heat)
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 tablespoon chili powder use your favorite blend, or use Tex-Mex seasonings like ancho, pasilla and/or chipotle powders
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup chicken broth or use vegetable broth
- 14 ounces fire roasted tomatoes or use a can of Rotel
- 1 cup sour cream or Mexican crema
- 1 pound shredded chicken cooked, or you can use chopped
- 4 cups shredded Monterey Jack Cheese cheddar is good, too, or any melty cheese of choice
- 12 corn tortillas
- TOPPINGS: Sliced jalapeno peppers red chili flakes, fresh chopped cilantro or parsley, extra sour cream or crema
- First, Make the Roux. Start by heating the oil in a large pan over medium heat (or melt the butter if using butter). Add the flour and stir until it is incorporated. Stir constantly for 10 minutes until the roux begins to turn a light brown.
- Add the onion and peppers. Stir. Cook them down for 5 minutes to soften. The mixture will be somewhat pasty.
- Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
- Stir in the seasonings - chili powder, cumin, and a bit of salt and pepper.
- Stir in the chicken broth and fire roasted tomatoes. The mixture will thicken up slightly like a chunky sauce. Cook for 5 minutes to let the flavors develop.
- Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream or crema and cooked shredded chicken.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Layer the Casserole. Set 4 tortillas into the bottom of a square casserole dish, then add a few scoops of the chicken and vegetable mixture. Add a layer of shredded cheese.
- Repeat with two more layers of 4 tortillas, the chicken and vegetable mixture, and a final layer of shredded cheese.
- Bake the casserole for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and melty.
- Remove from heat and cool slightly. Garnish with your toppings and serve!
NOTE: This page was updated on 11/4/20 to include new information. It was originally published on 1/6/20.