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King Ranch Casserole Shopping Tips
Ingredients like rice, pasta, and beans make for great casserole bases – they are inexpensive, come in a variety of sizes and flavors, and can stretch meat and vegetables a long way.
King Ranch Casserole Cooking Tips
Making two casseroles is just as easy as making one – freeze the second for busy days ahead.
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken breast (or thigh meat)
- 3 to 4 cups homemade or store-bought low sodium chicken broth
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 2 to 3 teaspoons hot chili sauce (see note)
- 1 teaspoon grated zest and 1 teaspoon fresh juice from one lime
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 2 small onions, finely chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 2 red, orange, or yellow bell peppers, finely chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 2 jalapeños, finely chopped
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained, juice reserved
- 3/4 cup light sour cream
- 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, divided
- 8 to 12 corn tortillas (see note)
- 10 ounces Monterey Jack or Colby cheese, shredded
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Grease 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Halve chicken breasts on the bias so that the pieces have approximately the same thickness.
In medium saucepan over medium heat, bring 3 cups chicken broth to a simmer. Add chicken, adding more broth if necessary so that chicken is just covered with liquid. Simmer gently until chicken is just cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate, strain and reserve 1 1/2 cups broth.
When chicken is cool enough to handle, tear into small bite size shreds. Place in bowl and add chili powder, cumin, cayenne, chili sauce, lime zest, lime juice, 1/4 cup reserved chicken broth, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss until well combined and set aside.
In large skillet, or dutch oven, heat butter over medium heat to melt. Add onions, peppers, jalapeños, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until vegetables have softened and are beginning to turn golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Sprinkle flour over vegetables and cook, stirring, for one minute. Stir in drained tomatoes and then whisk in remaining 1 1/4 cups chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Cook until mixture comes to boil and is thickened, about 1 minute.
Remove from heat and stir in sour cream, chicken, and 1/2 cup cilantro leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pour reserved tomato juice (up to 1/2 cup) into bottom of pan, spreading to coat evenly. Place 3 to 4 tortillas in single layer in pan. Spread 1/3 chicken mixture over tortillas. Sprinkle 1/3 cheese over top.
Layer another 3 to 4 tortillas over cheese. Spread 1/2 chicken mixture and 1/2 cheese over top. Top with tortillas, remaining chicken mixture, and remaining cheese. Bake until casserole is thoroughly heated through, bubbling, and golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before sprinkling with remaining cilantro and serving.
King Ranch bean casserole
The first time I cooked King Ranch casserole, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever had it before. While it’s a classic Texan standby, I’d been gone from the state for so long that some things had faded from my memory. This may sound strange, but it had been over 10 years since I lived at home, and an old-fashioned casserole made with canned soups had not been on my table or served to me in quite some time.
My grandmother gave me a recipe, one that she’d prepared for her 42 games with her friends back in the day. It called for said soups, tortillas, cheese, and chicken. There were also canned tomatoes with green chiles to give the heavy dish a kick.
I made the casserole, and the melange of flavors and textures between the soft corn tortillas, creamy sauce, and piquant tomatoes rang a familiar bell I’d eaten this dish countless times in my life. What was unusual, however, was that when my mom had prepared it, she replaced the chicken with beans. So, it wasn’t King Ranch chicken casserole that I’d enjoyed most of my life, it was King Ranch bean casserole instead.
When I called my mom to confirm my hunch, she admitted that she had indeed substituted her homemade pintos or canned Ranch Style beans for the chicken. My family had some frugal years, so using a less-expensive protein made financial sense. But we’re also a family that enjoys our beans, and even when we were flush we ate them often.
To this day, I’m still one to prepare a batch of beans at least once a week. Pinto beans are my favorite, but black beans are in heavy rotation as well. I will make enough to last a few days and ladle them into a bowl and serve them with cornbread or tortillas. Though I also include them in my queso, puree them and re-fry them, and toss them with peppers and aromatics for a hearty salad. But I had never cooked my mom’s King Ranch bean casserole, so I decided to give it a go.
Now, I’m known for having a fancier rendition of King Ranch chicken casserole, which I prepare mainly from scratch. It takes more time but it’s so full of flavor that you don’t mind the extra steps. I considered for the bean version to use canned soups to keep it more simple, but I wasn’t able to find any at the store that weren’t laden with fillers and ingredients I couldn’t pronounce, so I stuck with my homemade sauce.
For this version, however, I included mushrooms, which I don’t use with the chicken dish. Their meaty and savory nature give the sauce a lift, though in the final dish you can’t taste them. In the sauce, there are also aromatics, jalapeños, and cilantro, along with spices. It’s delicious and far better than anything that comes in a can.
Because I had homemade pinto beans on hand, the first time I cooked the casserole I used those. However, I made it with canned beans and it was also very good. As for the rest of the dish, it comes together quickly, as after making the sauce you layer it with the tortillas, beans, and shredded cheese. A half-hour in the oven and you have a bubbling, hearty dish. A dollop of cool, tangy sour cream makes it complete.
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About the recipe
If Texas were to have an official state casserole, it’d be the King Ranch casserole. Paying homage to traditional casseroles made from leftover chicken and condensed soups, this dish is set apart by its Tex-Mex flavors and flare. Easy, quick and comforting, this cheese-covered meal has become a staple in many Lone Star State homes and has spread throughout the entire South.
You can use any leftover chicken you’ve got at home for this recipe, or you can purchase a fully-cooked rotisserie chicken and use its meat instead.
King Ranch Casserole
If the Legislature were to declare a state casserole (and I’m surprised it hasn’t), it would have to be the King Ranch. A staple of school lunchrooms and church suppers, frat houses and funerals, it is, according to a particularly astute hostess quoted in 1966 in the San Antonio Light, “a hit with men as well as with women guests.”
As far as anyone can tell, the recipe does not hail from the real King Ranch how many yard birds have you seen in photos of that majestic spread? More likely it’s a Junior League attempt at chilaquiles or a Texas take on chicken à la king. And though it is a member in good standing of the condensed-soup canon, those bland, oddly comforting, Gerber-invoking turkey tetrazzinis and tuna noodles simply cannot compete with the exotic King Ranch, whose lively Tex-Mex flavors—spicy chile powders, zesty roasted peppers, earthy mushrooms—coalesce in one sublime, admittedly unattractive package. So lively are these flavors supposed to be, in fact, that I propose you ditch the cans (except for the wholly respectable Ro-Tel) and make this from-scratch version from Texas cookbook author Rebecca Rather. One bite of this “steaming mass of melted mush” (as this magazine once lovingly referred to the KRC) should put you right back in Mom’s kitchen—but not in your high chair.
Serves 10 to 12
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 mild green chiles, roasted, peeled (stems and seeds discarded), and diced
1 ten-ounce can Ro-Tel
18 corn tortillas
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 vegetables and sauté on medium-low about 7 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 the white is no longer visible. Whisk in 3 cups of the stock, 1 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 remaining 1/2 cup of stock into a bowl. Stack the tortillas in the bowl, 6 at a time, to moisten, then line the bottom of the pan with the tortillas, making sure they overlap each other by about one third. Cover the tortillas with half the sauce. Add half the chicken and sprinkle with a third of the cheese. Add a second layer of soaked tortillas, the remaining sauce and chicken, and another third of the cheese. Top with the remaining tortillas and cheese.
Bake for about an hour, until bubbling and lightly browned on top. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Adapted from The Pastry Queen, by Rebecca Rather. Ten Speed Press. © 2004 by Rebecca Rather and Alison Oresman.
The Best King Ranch Casserole
King ranch casserole is a Southern classic that traditionally includes chicken and plenty of Tex-Mex flavors. Our recipe for The Best King Ranch Casserole is guaranteed to become one of your favorite Southern chicken casserole recipes. This easy Southern recipe makes uses of several store-bought ingredients to help make your life even easier. This cheesy chicken casserole makes for a kid-friendly meal that everyone in your family will love. Seasoned chicken is combined with vegetables before being layered with corn tortillas, a creamy soup mixture, and cheese. The finished casserole is topped with crushed chips and more cheese before baking until golden brown and bubbly. To dress up this meal even more, you can serve the casserole with sour cream or salsa. Make this recipe for the Best King Ranch Casserole the next time you are craving some Tex-Mex flavor.
You'll find this recipe and many more in 15 Easy Southern Chicken Casserole Recipes.
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 1 cup diced green pepper
- 1 cup onion
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 16 ounces Mexican blend shredded cheese, divided
- 10 corn tortillas, cut or torn into quarters
- 1 (10-1/2-ounce) can cream of chicken soup
- 1 (10-1/2-ounce) can cheese soup
- 1 (10-ounce) can Rotel tomatoes or diced tomatoes with chilies, undrained
- 3 cups crushed corn chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly spray a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish with cooking spray.
Combine the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, the paprika, chili powder, cumin, and salt in a large bowl and stir well. Add the cubed chicken and toss to coat. Let stand 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, heat the remaining vegetable oil and cook the green pepper and onion over medium high heat, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and aromatic.
Add the chicken and garlic and continue to cook over medium high heat, stirring for another 10 minutes. The chicken should be browned and mostly cooked through.
Set aside one cup of the cheese for the topping. In a bowl, combine the chicken soup, cheese soup, and the tomatoes. Stir until well combined.
Make the layers in the casserole dish as follows: half the cooked chicken mixture, half of the remaining cheese, half of the tortilla pieces, and half of the soup mixture. Repeat.
Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and add the crushed corn chips and top with the remaining 1 cup cheese and continue to bake for 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
Sehar Nadeem from Stoke On Trent on December 10, 2019:
Looks yummy. Will give it a try
Margie&aposs Southern Kitchen (author) from the USA on March 07, 2018:
This is very good and very popular recipe! Hope you will like it! Have a great day!
FlourishAnyway from USA on March 07, 2018:
This recipe reminds me of a wonderful "packet" recipe that sells way overpriced at semiannual craft fairs around here. I would always get their King Ranch Chicken Recipe pack, just add canned chicken and cream cheese I believe. Yum. I always wanted the real recipe.
King Ranch Chicken Casserole That&rsquos Too Good Not To Share
This King Ranch Chicken Casserole is a Southern staple. It&aposs spicy, cheesy, and everything you&aposre craving when hunger strikes.
Start by sautéing the onion and bell pepper in a large skillet for about five minutes. Stir in chopped cooked chicken, cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, a can of diced tomato and green chiles, chili powder, salt, garlic powder, and pepper. Tear corn tortillas into 1-inch pieces and layer in the bottom of a lightly greased baking dish. Top with a third of the chicken mixture and 2/3 cup of cheese. Repeat the layers twice. Bake the casserole at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until it is bubbly, delicious, and you can&apost wait another minute to dig in.
Make our Tex-Mex chicken casserole company-worthy by topping with finely chopped cilantro, chopped tomatoes, and a side of guacamole. Mexican rice makes a delicious side, but we also love a simple green salad dressed with a light vinaigrette and full of crunchy fresh veggies to round out the meal.
Our recipe makes 6 to 8 servings, but don&apost cut the recipe in half if you&aposre only feeding two. Simply prepare the recipe as directed in step 1, then layer the ingredients between two casserole dishes instead of one. Freeze the extra casserole up to a month. When you&aposre ready to pull it out of the freezer, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and bake according to the instructions.
If you&aposre bringing this casserole to a friend who just had a baby or a church potluck, bake and cover with heavy-duty aluminum foil after pulling it from the oven. Wrap in a dishtowel and place it on a sturdy tray for easy transportation.
The casserole easily serves eight, so we always have leftovers in my house.
The baked casserole will keep, covered, in the fridge for up to 4 days.
For longer storage, feel free to cool completely and cut into individual portions. Label, date and freeze in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the fridge.
To reheat, bake the whole casserole in a 350-degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until warmed through. Or, reheat individual squares on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 10-15 minutes. Add a few minutes to the baking time if reheating from frozen.
This King Ranch Casserole is pure comfort food!
I mean, who wouldn&rsquot want casseroles every day? They&rsquore always so full of good stuff, like cheese. And cheese. More cheese. Extra cheese. All the cheese.
If you&rsquove never had a king ranch chicken casserole, it&rsquos a Mexican casserole that is so freakin&rsquo easy to put together. It&rsquos full of good stuff like Ro*Tel and corn tortillas and shredded chicken. And, of course, all that cheese I mentioned.
This recipe does use a couple cans of cream of chicken soup and I know some of you are not fond of that stuff. No worries! Just swap in my cream of chicken soup substitute and you&rsquore good to go!
Hope you guys love this one as much as we do. If you&rsquore looking for more casseroles, check out my sloppy joe casserole or my taco lasagna.