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King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Bring some Tex-Mex to your table with this delicious, easy King Ranch chicken casserole that’s been a favorite for generations of my family. This hearty and flavorful casserole is also a great make-ahead meal that can be frozen and reheated for a quick and tasty dinner any time.

By all accounts, King Ranch chicken casserole came from Texas kitchens as far back as the 1950s. While it is named for the famous South Texas King Ranch founded in the mid-1800s, there’s not an official connection as to why other than its flavors borrowing from south-of-the-border dishes.

Many say the original King Ranch casserole recipe – or the best version, at least – used to be on a Ro-Tel can label. Every King Ranch chicken casserole recipe I’ve seen calls for Ro-Tel tomatoes. Ro-Tel was founded in 1943 about an hour’s drive south of King Ranch in Elsa, Texas. Makes sense!

Besides the Ro-Tel tomatoes and obviously, chicken, the primary ingredients include two condensed soups, Mexican blend cheese, tortillas, onions, and bell peppers.

It’s truly a deconstructed enchilada casserole that takes less time to make than my Beef Enchilada Recipe with Cheese Sauce recipe but tastes equally as good. So, if you’re short on time and want enchiladas, try this casserole instead!

piece of king ranch chicken casserole

Ingredients needed to make King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Here’s what you’ll need to make this creamy cowboy chicken dish:

  • Chicken: This recipe calls for two cups of cooked, cubed, or diced chicken, which takes two or three breasts if you cook them yourself.
  • Flour Tortillas: While we prefer flour tortillas in this dish, many King Ranch casserole recipes call for corn. This is totally up to you!
  • Ro-Tel Tomatoes: Ro-Tel brand tomatoes bring the Texas flavor. Since the company offers several varieties, this is one area of the ingredient list where you can adjust the heat. I like either the original with diced green chiles or mild flavor.
  • Bell Peppers & Onions: While the “original” King Ranch casserole recipe calls for green bell peppers, I always go for red or orange because they’re sweeter. You can use white or yellow onion, with yellow giving more flavor.
  • Mexican Cheese: The easiest way to have Mexican cheese on hand is buy the pre-shredded blend. Scroll down to the tips section for a fresher alternative for a creamier result.
  • Condensed Soups: Few classic Southern casseroles are complete without a can of cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup. This one calls for both.
  • Garlic Powder: You’ll only use two teaspoons in the whole thing, but if you’re not a garlic fan, you can reduce the amount or skip it.
  • Olive Oil: For sauteeing your peppers and onions. The supposed original Ro-Tel recipe called for margarine. But I would substitute with butter instead if you want an alternative.
  • Cilantro & Green Onions: Of the many optional garnishes that can go with this creamy, cheesy baked chicken casserole, these two are our favorites.
king ranch casserole ingredients

Be sure to check out the full ingredient measurements and complete recipe below.

Kitchen equipment needed

  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Grater
  • Large saucepan
  • 9×13 Pan
  • Spatula

Tips for making this King Ranch chicken casserole recipe

  • If you’re not new to cooking things that call for chicken, you probably know this already. But just in case . . . If you’re short on time or simply don’t feel like cooking chicken breasts, pick up a rotisserie chicken and shred the meat. You can save any leftovers for a nice salad or quick wrap for lunch the next day.
  • I always recommend shredding cheese yourself for a creamier sauce and fresher taste. Don’t be intimidated by the fact this recipe calls for a blend. For a basic Mexican blend, buy three equally-sized blocks of pepper jack, Colby jack, and cheddar. Shred, blend, and add a pinch of taco seasoning if you prefer. You can freeze small bags for future recipes.
  • Black beans and corn are other ingredients you might add to this dish.
  • Offer salsa, sour cream, sliced jalapenos, and hot sauce as additional garnishes for those who prefer to adjust the heat.
  • If you prefer fresh garlic over powdered, mince two cloves and add to your olive oil while sauteeing the peppers and onions.

Frequently asked questions about King Ranch chicken casserole

I have rounded up the most common questions I get about making this chicken King Ranch casserole with answers below.

What to serve with King Ranch chicken casserole?

King Ranch chicken casserole easy side dishes keep it simple. A crisp side salad, fresh steamed corn, and tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole are all perfect.

This is a rich, cheesy, creamy casserole that’s a meal all by itself. You could skip sides entirely. Instead, serve our black bean salad with corn and tortilla chips as an appetizer. Then for each serving, add a dollop of sour cream, fresh cilantro and green onions. Tuck in a slightly sweet corn muffin.

king ranch chicken casserole recipe

What are the best things to substitute or add to King Ranch Chicken Casserole?

I’ve addressed this a bit already in suggesting things you might add to eat with this classic Texas chicken casserole. I prefer to play with the amounts of original ingredients to adjust the flavors. That way, you can keep the heat moderate in the main dish and let folks adjust the spice themselves with garnishes like jalepenó, hot sauce, green onion, and cilantro. This recipe is for a family-sized casserole, so offering add-ins makes it more likely to please a crowd.

How long can I store chicken casserole leftovers?

Your best timeframe for storing chicken casserole leftovers is three days in the fridge and up to three months in the freezer. For best results, always seal food in airtight containers. Reheating only takes about 20 minutes at 350°F in the oven or about 1-2 minutes in the microwave, stopping midway through to check.

Is King Ranch chicken a good casserole for meal prepping?

This is an easy chicken dish that is as delicious as it is simple. If you must, you can prep your fresh ingredients a day or so in advance and assemble it all when you’re ready. Once you have baked it, individual servings will be good up to three days after.

You may even want to double up and make two of these quick chicken casseroles. You can freeze one for later or pass it along to a lucky neighbor.

More Grandma-Approved Recipes To Try

If you like this recipe for classic King Ranch Chicken Casserole, be sure to check out these other recipes to make more delicous meals:

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King Ranch Chicken Casserole

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Bring some Tex-Mex to your table with this delicious, easy King Ranch chicken casserole that’s been a favorite for generations of my family. This hearty and flavorful casserole is also a great make-ahead meal that can be frozen and reheated for a quick and tasty dinner any time.
Print Pin Rate
Course: Entree
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: casserole, chicken dinner
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Laura


  • Cutting Board
  • Sharp knife
  • Grater
  • Large saucepan
  • 9×13 pan
  • Spatula


  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red or orange pepper diced
  • 1 cup onion diced
  • 10.5 ounces can cream of mushroom soup
  • 10.5 ounces can cream of chicken soup
  • 10 ounces can Rotel tomatoes
  • 2 cups cooked cubed or shredded chicken
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 3 cups shredded Mexican cheese
  • 12-14 6- inch corn or flour tortillas quartered
  • 3 Tablespoons cilantro chopped, optional
  • 2 green onions sliced, optional
  • sour cream topping, optional


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a saucepan heat olive oil and sauté pepper and onion until softened. 
    saute vegetables for king ranch chicken
  • To the sauteed vegetables, add in the soups, Rotel tomatoes, chicken, cilantro and garlic powder.
    king ranch chicken casserole
  • Stir until combined and heated through.
    king ranch chicken casserole
  •  In a 9"×13" greased pan layer a third of your tortillas, a third of chicken mixture, and a third of shredded cheese.
    first layer of king ranch chicken
  • Repeat with 2 more layers, finishing with the cheese.
    more layers of the king ranch chicken casserole
  • Bake 30-35 minutes uncovered. Top with green onion or additional cilantro if desired. Serve hot! 
    king ranch chicken casserole


  • Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Always use air-tight containers. 

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