King Ranch Chicken Casserole is one of the best and tastiest casseroles in the world. King Ranch Chicken is a southern family favorite stretching all the way to Mexico. The Casserole is a balance of onions, peppers, and cheeses with a luxurious sauce running all the way through the dish.
The Cheese 🧀
The classic King Ranch cheese of choice is Monterey Jack, which tops the casserole with cheesy goodness. We aren't stopping there with the cheeses. This dish gets a special Mexican cheese called Queso Fresco.
Queso Fresco is a slightly salty and drier cheese with a flavor like a mozzarella. It is awesome. If you haven't tried this cheese before, be sure to look out for it in your grocery store. It's common in grocery stores nowadays.
The next cheese selection, a blend of Mexican cheeses. Look for a 16 oz bag at the grocery.
Perfect Weeknight Make-Ahead Dinner
This recipe is quick and easy, the perfect make-ahead weeknight dinner. Stores in the refrigerator perfectly. This casserole will only get better in the refrigerator.
Roasting a Whole Chicken (Optional)
I purchased a grocery store rotisserie chicken and removed all the meat. In the video, I demonstrate how to remove all the chicken meat away from the bones.
🍗 Roast Chicken From Scratch
✏️ Planning Tip:
Start a day before and roast a chicken. The flavor will improve in the refrigerator overnight. The advantage of cooking your own chicken is controlling the size of the chicken. I like a lot of chicken in my casserole.
Plus the chicken will not be piping hot fresh out of the oven. Taking chicken meat off the bone when hot is very hard.
💭 Trussing a Chicken
Watch the short video and you'll learn an invaluable skill for life.
Cleaning the Chicken
Lay the chicken flat on a cutting board and start by cutting off the legs and thighs, next moving on to remove the breasts and wings.
Finish by using your fingers to remove the rest of the chicken from the bone. I demonstrate this in the video, found on the recipe card below.
I have 2 posts covering how to cut up a whole chicken ↩️
🍝 The Sauce
First, cut one large onion into small and medium dice. This will offer additional textures to the King Ranch casserole.
Next, clean and slice the red bell pepper and the poblano pepper. Begin by cutting off the top of the bell pepper, then remove the seed and rib.
Use a mandolin, if you have one, if not just slice thin or dice to a size you like.
Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the bottom of a medium-sized pot. In goes, bell pepper, poblano, and onions, over medium-high heat. Begin sweating the vegetables.
The idea is to remove some of the natural water. This will help the King Ranch Chicken not be soggy.
Tip: Add a solid pinch of salt to bring out the flavor and to help the peppers and onions release their natural waters.
The next ingredient is Rotel. A great ingredient that can be used in so many ways. Add 3 tablespoons, or to taste.
Rotel has new flavors: Serrano, Chipotle, Fire-Roasted, Mexican Style, Chili Fix'Ns
⭐ Link To RoTel's Website
Secret Ingredient Alert:
Ingredient: Chipotle Peppers in Adobo sauce - 1 Tablespoon
Add even more to bump up the spice profile.
Chipotles are not as hot as some like to believe. They're roasted Jalapenos. The roasting process sweetens the peppers. Still spicy...
Easy to make yourself at home. Here's our Adobo Sauce recipe. I always keep some in the refrigerator. The image below is of our Adobo.
Or, just buy chipotles in adobo sauce at the grocery store. The recipe does not use the entire can. It will keep in the refrigerator for few weeks stored in an airtight container. Works nicely with BBQ. Try using some in your BBQ sauce next time.
Time To Add Some Thickening Agents
The thickening agents will help create that luscious creamy sauce texture everyone loves.
- Add 1 ½ tablespoons of all-purpose flour to the pot with the onion, peppers and Rotel. The flour will start to thicken the sauce quickly. Be sure to stir while adding the flour to help reduce any lumps.
- Add in 1 can of cream of mushroom soup. Recipe: Cream of Mushroom Soup
- Then add in the chicken stock or broth to start thinning out the flour. Add 2 cups to start. Add in up to 4 cups. Add more if needed. Recipe: Le Cordon Bleu Chicken Stock
- Add 5 tablespoons of sweat cream corn.
Add The Dry Ingredients Next
- 1 teaspoon Chili Powder
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- ½ teaspoon Oregano
- ½ teaspoon Cumin
- black pepper - to taste
Evaluate... Does it need a splash of chicken stock? Now is the time to get the consistency where you want it.
The layering of the King Ranch Chicken casserole is equally important to the selection of ingredients to achieve the proper finished texture.
Start by soaking corn tortillas in chicken stock for about 40 seconds. Add cooking spray to the bottom of the casserole baking dish to avoid sticking.
Layout 6 tortillas in a 9 by 13 casserole dish. Then cover with a layer with roasted shredded chicken.
Add some of the amazing sauce we made right on top of the chicken.
After adding the sauce, sprinkle some of the Queso Fresco & Mexican cheese all over.
Repeat the steps above to create a second layer.
Use the same steps, starting with the soaked corn tortillas, followed by the shredded chicken, then more sauce, and lastly the cheese layer.
Now it is time to add Monterey Jack cheese right on top.
Finish by topping with more of the special Mexican cheese blend and garnish with tomatoes and jalapenos. The jalapenos will sweeten while baking, reducing the spice level.
De-seed jalapenos if you're concerned about them being too spicy.
Top each tomato with a sprinkle of Queso Fresco and black pepper to finish.
⏲️ Baking Temp & Time
Pics - Before Baking
Make sure to cover with an airtight container. The King Ranch Chicken is good for one week
Yes, select a cut of beef that will cook in the same amount of time as the casserole. Ground beef would be the easiest replacement protein.
If you want to reduce the amount of fat, you can par-cook the beef on the stovetop, then drain the fat away.
You could try something less spicy like hatch chile peppers. They have a mild to spicy profile. The "catch" is some of them can be hot, while others are not. Take a taste before using.
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King Ranch Chicken Casserole
- 4 cups Roasted Chicken shredded
- 16 Corn Tortillas / 4 extra in case some are broken, use the best looking pieces
King Ranch Sauce
- 2 tablespoon Butter / to saute the onion & peppers
- 1 large Onion / small and medium dice
- 1 Red Bell Pepper
- 1 Poblano Pepper
- 3 tablespoon Rotel / onion & peppers mix
- 1 tablespoon Chipotle In Adobo Sauce / be sure to try our recipe, so good!!!
- 1 ½ tablespoon Flour
- 1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
- 5 tablespoon Cream Corn
- 4 cups Chicken Stock / start with 4 cups and add more if desired
- Black Pepper / to taste
- 1 teaspoon Sea Salt / taste and adjust before construction
Dry Ingredients - The Sauce
- 1 teaspoon Chili Powder
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 teaspoon Sea Salt
- ½ teaspoon Cumin
- ½ teaspoon Oregano
- 16 oz Mexican Cheese Blend / 1 whole bag
- 6 slices Monterey Cheese
- 1 ½ cups Queso Fresco
- sliced Jalapeno
- sliced Roma Tomatoes
- Queso Fresco Cheese
- Roast a whole chicken or purchase a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Our link to "Roasting the Perfect Chicken".https://butter-n-thyme.com/perfect-roast-chicken/
- Once the roast chicken is at a temperature you can handle, shred the chicken away from the bone. The whole chicken will be used. Cut the chicken into medium pieces, then mix all parts of the chicken together evenly.Tip: Keep chicken bones for chicken stock
Building The Sauce
- Start by cutting the onion, poblano pepper, and red bell pepper into medium/small dice, use a mandolin if you have one. Add 2 tablespoon of butter to a medium-sized pot and melt, once melted add onion and sweat for a few minutes, then add the poblano and red bell pepper along with a pinch of salt. The salt helps the sweating process and releases the natural water.
- Next, add the chipotle pepper and Rotel (add to taste). Stir together, then add in the flour. Once mixed, add the cream of mushroom (you could use cream of chicken soup as well) add 5 tablespoons of cream corn. Then add 2 cups of Chicken stock to start, add up to 4 cups of chicken stock to get the consistency you enjoy.You can add more chicken stock if the sauce seems too tight/thick.
- Add all of the seasonings next, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, black pepper. Taste and adjust your season, salt level, etc.
Building the Casserole
- Spray 9 by 13 casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Then dip the corn tortillas into chicken stock for 40 seconds. Layout 6 corn tortillas per layer, then spread out half of the chicken, then sauce, then the Mexican cheese blend plus some Queso Fresco.Repeat the same layering steps over to build the next layer.
- On the presentation layer(top), use 6 slices of Monterey Cheese slices, then add the Mexican cheese blend on top of it, followed by laying out sliced tomatoes. If you like jalapenos add them to the top layer for presentation. Finish with Queso Fresco over the tops of the tomatoes.
Cooking / Backing
- Bake at 375 for 40 minutes. If you want to add additional browning you can then place the casserole under the broiler for a few short minutes. 5 or so minutes.
Video: How To Make King Ranch Chicken Casserole
- Make-ahead dinner plans. Prepare the full recipe, minus baking. Make sure everything is cooled down to around room temperature before baking. Then cover and seal with plastic wrap or an air-tight container. It will last in the refrigerator for 1 week.
- Ingredient IDEA: Adding different cheeses like parmesan, or pecorino to top the casserole.
- Using low-fat cream of mushroom soup will change the recipe to require a little bit more flour. Around ½ tablespoon more.