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King Ranch Chicken from Scratch

King Ranch Casserole from Scratch

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This King Ranch Casserole from Scratch takes an old classic and eliminates the canned soups. Much as I loved the original version, reducing the sodium load,  and nixing the  processed soup made this Tex-Mex casserole even better!

King Ranch Casserole from Scratch on a white plate with a sprig of cilantro

King Ranch Casserole from Scratch

For years, I would make the version of King Ranch Casserole with cream of chicken soup and cream of mushroom soup. It was spicy, creamy and comforting. I do love salty foods, and those canned soups are always loaded with sodium, but they don’t love me, making my fingers and eyes puffy. I figured that was a cue to scale back.

I know I could have made a bechamel sauce and created my own version, but when I saw a tried and true recipe for this classic Tex-Mex casserole referenced in a blog post, I took it as a sign to add it to our menu.

What is King Ranch Casserole?

King Ranch Chicken is a Tex-Mex Casserole named after the famous King Ranch, the largest ranch in Texas. There is no obvious connection, though, between this dish and the ranch, but variations of this casserole are found throughout Texas in community cookbooks.

My mom shared her recipe with me decades ago, and it was made with tortillas, a bell pepper, an onion, diced chicken, Rotel tomatoes, canned soups and cheese. To replace the canned soup, cooked up a thick sauce to mimic the soup’s consistency, plus I added some garlic and spices to amp up the flavor!

King Ranch Casserole from Scratch in a 9 x 13 casserole dish

Tips for Making this from Scratch King Ranch Casserole

I took a nibble of this Tex-Mex casserole before dinner for quality control, of course.  I was hoping the picky hubby would be able to handle the 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper as I thought this could easily be above his heat tolerance. I should be grateful that he has some nasty virus as he had no complaints. Well, except for all the coughing. Anyway, between the Rotel tomatoes, even though I purchased the mild version, green chiles and cayenne, there was a good, but not fiery, hit of spice!

  • If you don’t like too much heat make sure to buy the mild Rotel tomatoes, not the hot.
  • Adjust the cayenne pepper as needed. A sensitive palate may want less than the 1/4 teaspoon. You can shake things up by adding some chipotle powder for a little smokiness.
  • The original recipe called for the meat off of one chicken. I took the easy route and used a rotisserie chicken from the market. You can poach or roast your own, then shred the meat after it’s cooled.
  • I used Wondra flour to thicken the sauce. Wondra is a granulated flour that I use to make gravies as it doesn’t get lumpy like all purpose flour. Either is fine for this recipe, but if you have trouble getting a smooth gravy, you might want to give Wondra a try.
  • I used flour tortillas instead of the corn tortillas called for in most King Ranch recipes. If you’d like to use corn tortilla instead, make sure to dip them in chicken broth, just to moisten. Then layer as directed in the recipe.
  • If you’d like to brown the cheesy topping a bit, take the foil off the casserole for the last 15 minutes of cooking time. You may garnish with finely chopped parsley or cilantro if desired. This King Ranch Chicken from Scratch is worth going the extra mile!
King Ranch Casserole from Scratch on a white plate with a bamboo handled fork Print

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King Ranch Chicken from Scratch

King Ranch Casserole from Scratch

A homemade, no soup version of the classic King Ranch Chicken Casserole!

  • Author: Liz Berg
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x
  • Category: Chicken, Casserole
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American, Tex-Mex


1/2 cup butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup all-purpose or Wondra flour
3  cups chicken stock (use 1/2 cup more if using corn tortillas instead of flour)
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounce can diced green chiles
1 ten-ounce can Ro-Tel tomatoes (I used mild)
1012 flour tortillas (may substitute corn tortillas if desired. Dip them in chicken broth briefly to soften)
1 cooked chicken (poached or roasted), meat shredded
1+ cup shredded Jack cheese
1+ cup shredded cheddar


Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and sauté until soft, 5-10 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle in flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and stir until incorporated. Slowly whisk in 3 cups of the stock, about a cup at a time, until smooth. Whisk in cream and stir in chiles and tomatoes.

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with butter. Pour  a little of the sauce on the bottom of the casserole. Line the pan with half the tortillas, overlapping, cutting one or two in half or quarters to fill in the corners.

Cover the tortillas with half the sauce. Add half the chicken and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Add a second layer of tortillas, the remaining sauce and chicken, and the rest of the cheese.

Cover the casserole dish with non-stick foil (or spray regular foil with non-stick cooking spray). Bake for about 1 hour or until casserole is hot and cheese is melted. Uncover the dish for the last 15 minutes if you’d like to brown the cheese a bit.


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20 comments on “King Ranch Casserole from Scratch”

  1. What a great idea! A wonderful way to bring new life to an old classic.

  2. That sounds absolutely delicious Liz! This would be a great pot-luck casserole too. Also, great for using up the left over turkey? Yum.

  3. This is something my husband will love, he is a big lover of pot pie and this cassserole is right up his alley!

  4. Yum! This looks amazing and love the tip on how to forgo the cream of soup. I do love a convenience food, but I’m with you that they don’t always love me back! Thanks, Liz!

  5. Oh boy, rainy and starting to cool down here… This would be great:@)

  6. Hooray for classic recipes reimagined without dubious canned soups!! (we’re on the same wavelength this week. 😉 ) I am SO excited to try this! My kind of comfort food.

  7. my casserole has never looked this GOOD!

  8. Wow! This looks amazing. I have not heard of this dish before but it definitely looks like something I would like to try because we love tex- mex flavours. Ro-tel tomatoes are also new to me, will have to Google them. We are giving Keto a go, wondering if the dish would be as good without the carb laden tortillas and flour thickener, everything else looks easily convertible.

  9. Wish your king range casserole had a diving board as we want to dive right in! Fabulous idea and one I am certain the boys would inhale. Pinning for later this week and meal planning.

  10. Hooray for making a classic a little better for you! This looks so good Liz, I’m putting it on a weekend brunch menu soon! 🙂

  11. I love how you teach me American cooking, Liz. Never heard of King Ranch but reminds me a little (without the tortillas, spice and peppers etc) of a Mushroom Surprise my parents made mixing chicken or mushroom tinned soup and added potatoes and bacon. It was good, just like you say, but the sodium content would be sky high.
    This homemade from scratch version is SO much better and looks fantastic!

  12. I lived in Texas so many different times, and I remember hearing about this casserole. I was put off, knowing me, by the canned soup – I just wasn’t raised on them and thus I have a snobby attitude towards them. Plus I’m not a big casserole fan. I know. That’s just me. But, I have to say that this is something my meat-eating husband would absolutely love, and I know once I tasted all of the flavors I will love it as well. No canned soups!!!

  13. Like you Liz my body can’t handle too much salt anymore so I keep I to to an a minimum if at all. 

    Growing up in the 70s though Campbell’s soup was part of every meal in the US. 

    I love this King Ranch casserole id just have to scale to sodium back a ton. I know my family would love it. 

  14. I am not familiar with this casserole but it would be fun to try. The perfect dish for a hungry crowd. 

  15. Love the yummy one-dish meal, dear! xoxo 

  16. Oh, Liz, this sounds delicious! I’ve never had any version of this before and I do like your recipe without the canned soups much better. Hubby will love the spice!

  17. I made this recipe exactly as directed Except I used plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, and I used canned chicken breast. It was absolutely delicious and so easy and quick to make! Regards Jacklyn

  18. I would like to hear from someone who has a tually made this casserole. 

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