King Ranch Chicken Is The Best Comfort Food

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Years ago, when I was a young momma, and not feeling well, a friend made me a King Ranch Chicken casserole.

I had never heard of King Ranch (as we call it in Texas) until that day.

I’m a finicky eater, so I poked at it with my fork, trying to discern what it was I was about to eat. As a Southern gal, I needed to take at least one polite bite before moving it around on my plate to disguise that I wasn’t actually eating.

Fork met mouth and I was immediately in love and instantly felt better.

graphic with king ranch chicken with a spoon holding one bite

It was creamy and spicy, carby and gooey, and filled with chunky chicken bits.

I felt loved and drifted into a dream-like state, as I continued to regain my appetite.

King Ranch Chicken is truly the best comfort food, y’all.

If you know someone ailin’ – if you yourself need a bit of comfort – get to cooking!

The thing about this recipe is that folks take it and make it theirs, meaning they put their own spin on it (as I do with almost every recipe I make!).

The main thing that doesn’t change is the comfort aspect: tortillas, cream soups and grated cheese.

I want to start you with the recipe that started it all, and then we’ll follow with the one I make.

 

The Original King Ranch Recipe is as follows:

I should also note here that there is a real King Ranch, as in a cattle ranch, in South Texas, but that most believe it’s not the place of origin for the recipe – you know – being a BEEF ranch and all.

Traditional King Ranch Casserole Recipe

Ingredients:

1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of chicken soup

1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup

1 cup chicken broth

1 (10-ounce) can of Ro-Tel tomatoes

1 teaspoon garlic salt

Cooking spray

12 (8-inch) corn tortillas cut into quarters

1 (3-pound) roasted chicken, boned and shredded

1 medium onion, diced

2 cups store-bought grated Mexican-blend cheese (8 ounces)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large saucepan set over medium-high heat, combine the cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, chicken broth, tomatoes and garlic salt. Stir until warm, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Put half of the tortillas in the bottom of the pan, layering half each of the chicken and onion, then sprinkle with one-third of the cheese mix. Pour half of the soup mixture over the top, and then repeat the layers. Top the casserole with the remaining third of the cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the cheese has melted and browned slightly.

Doesn’t that sound delish?!

NOT RHETORICAL!

Yes, yes it does – and is.

That is the recipe many many MANY South Texans have scribbled on index cards or scrap paper, stuffed in their cookbook files and pantries.

It’s also the recipe that we share, and then advise that we don’t quite follow the recipe exactly.

My variation of King Ranch Chicken Casserole is as follows.

baked casserole dish with king ranch chicken

Cook’s Note: When you see a recipe you *almost* love – change it to your family’s taste. Do it!

OMT’s Best Recipe for King Ranch Chicken

Printable recipe at end of post

Ingredients:

1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of chicken soup

1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup

1.5 – 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth

1 (14-ounce) can of diced tomatoes with green chiles

Cooking spray

12 flour tortillas torn into pieces (each piece is about 2 inches)

1 roasted chicken, boned and shredded

1 medium onion, diced

2 cups Monterrey Jack cheese (8 ounces), grated

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a blender on low, combine the cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, chicken broth, tomatoes.

Set aside.

Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish (2 1/2 quart casserole dish) with cooking spray.

Place 1/3 of the tortillas in the bottom of the pan, layering half each of the chicken and onion, then sprinkle with one-third of the grated cheese.

Pour half of the soup mixture over the top, and then repeat the layers.

Top the casserole with the remaining third of the cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the cheese has melted and browned slightly.

Oh. Momma.

Now, I know this is loaded with carbs (YAY!) and weirdo condensed soups, which I typically eschew in my normal day-to-day meals, but…

HOLY MOLY, THIS IS DELICIOUS!

spoon holding bite of king ranch chicken over a baked dish

It’s a popular casserole to take to any potluck (are potlucks still a thang?).

Share with a sick friend.

Make for new parents.

Welcome new neighbors.

If there’s a death – this.

Can you freeze a King Ranch Casserole?

Yay, baby!

You can freeze two ways.

#1: Bake, then freeze (up to a month).

Or…

#2: You can construct the casserole, then cover tightly and freeze up to a month.

When ready, pull out of freezer, thaw, then bake as per instructions.

So easy. So convenient. Especially if you know an occasion is upcoming, like the holidays or a family-specific holiday.

Can you bake King Ranch Chicken in individual servings?

A million times yes!

Look at the crusty cheese, just waiting to be crunched!

king ranch chicken in baking dish

This is my favorite way to make this dish, especially if you are having guests.

Fun AND easy!

#1: Prepare King Ranch Chicken per recipe.

#2: Using ovenproof bowls (my favorite is Fiestaware bowls – any size you need), grease bowl, fill, cook per instructions.

#3: Serve warm. Ever’body gets a bowl!

Is King Ranch the same as Mexican Lasagna?

Gaaaaaaaa!

~all South Texan cooks collectively gasp~

NO!

A Mexican lasagna recipe is similar in the use of layers, and some recipes actually use lasagna noodles, but, my sweet readers, King Ranch is NOT Mexican Lasagna!

Language matters to South Texans!

If someone tries to tell you these recipes are interchangeable, you must say to them, in your most Southern whisper, “Bless your heart.”

If you’d like to make a Mexican Lasagna, try this one, but I beg of you, don’t call it King Ranch.

King Ranch chicken reigns supreme in Texas, y’all.

I hope you jump in and try this dish.

It’s ooey, gooey and slap yo’ momma delicious (don’t slap you momma – that’s just wrong!).

~ A gentle reminder: OMT! uses Amazon referral links at no cost to you.~

Printable recipe follows.

OMT's King Ranch Chicken

OMT's King Ranch Chicken

Yield: 8-12 servings

It's creamy and spicy, carby and gooey, and filled with chunky chicken bits. King Ranch Chicken is truly the best comfort food, y'all.

Ingredients

  • 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1.5 - 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14-ounce) can of diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • Cooking spray
  • 12 flour tortillas torn into pieces (each piece is about 2 inches)
  • 1 roasted chicken, boned and shredded
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cups Monterrey Jack cheese (8 ounces), grated

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a blender on low, combine the cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, chicken broth, tomatoes.
  3. Set aside.
  4. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish (2 1/2 quart casserole dish) with cooking spray.
  5. Place 1/3 of the tortillas in the bottom of the pan, layering half each of the chicken and onion, then sprinkle with one-third of the grated cheese.
  6. Pour 1/3 of the soup mixture over the top, and then repeat the layers.
  7. Top the casserole with the remaining third of the cheese.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes or until the cheese has melted and browned slightly.

Notes

* 8-12 servings

* I like to use a bit more chicken broth than the original recipe, because we like our King Ranch a bit less structured - meaning: ooey gooey! This is why I included the original recipe above mine, so you can decide what your family prefers.

* Once the casserole is constructed, I usually take a spoon and squish the casserole around in dish to ensure the liquid is well dispersed throughout.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 432 Total Fat: 19g Saturated Fat: 8g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 9g Cholesterol: 40mg Sodium: 1193mg Carbohydrates: 47g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 1g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 18g
Happy cookin’, y’all!

 

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Comments

  1. Helen Allen says

    Wonderful. A little spicy, creamy and delicious.

  2. Ooo, how have I lived without this? Must make stat!
    Visiting from #happynow.

  3. LOL Ok I was reading the O.G. recipe and was thinking to myself weeellllll now hubster does not do corn tortillas (I LOVE them) but I eat like a bird he eats like a buzzard so I always go with what the buzzard eats lol and lordy looky there your recipe is just what I was thinking of changing it to!! HA GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE!!

  4. Sounds perfect for a cold day!

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