King ranch chicken. It’s a classic American casserole that many recall as the best thing from their childhood. It’s chicken and roasted peppers layered with tortillas and cheesy goodness. One taste and you may want to rewrite your early years.
CAN I MAKE KING RANCH CHICKEN IN ADVANCE?
One of the great things about casseroles is that you can just slide ‘em in the oven and forget about ‘em for a while. The trick, however, is that quite often some prep work has to happen before you get to that point of just effortlessly sliding the whole shebang in the oven, and this King Ranch chicken recipe is no exception.
You can, however, assemble the casserole ahead of time, or even in stages, by doing some of the prep—shredding the chicken, chopping the vegetables, even toasting the tortillas—earlier in the day or week so that when it comes time to bake the casserole everything is at the ready.
King Ranch Chicken
- Quick Glance
- 1 H, 20 M
- 2 H
- Serves 8 to 12
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Lightly slick a 13-by-9-inch (33-by-23 cm) baking dish with butter or oil.
Melt the butter or heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and the bell pepper, poblano pepper, and jalapeño peppers and cook, stirring frequently, until tender and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Sprinkle the flour over the vegetable mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Still stirring constantly, slowly stir or whisk in the stock and bring to a boil. Boil until the mixture thickens, which could take anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Add the tomatoes and sour cream to the skillet and stir to combine. Add the chicken and cilantro and stir again until blended.
Combine the cheeses in a small bowl.
Cover the bottom of the prepared baking dish with 6 tortillas, overlapping the tortillas slightly. Top with 1/2 of the chicken mixture and 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Repeat the layers once, adding 6 more tortillas and the remaining chicken mixture and 1/2 the remaining cheeses. Top with the remaining tortillas and cheese.
Lightly coat a sheet of aluminum foil with butter or oil and cover the baking dish, butter or oil side down. Bake the casserole for 20 minutes.
Uncover the casserole and continue to bake until bubbly and lightly browned on top, 10 to 15 more minutes.
Let the casserole stand 10 minutes to cool slightly and then sprinkle with cilantro, serve, and prepare to be serenaded by compliments. Originally published January 29, 2017.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
When my husband and I first moved in together, we were both transplants to the great state of Texas. Specifically, Georgetown, the home of the Monument Diner. In case you're unfamiliar with this almost holy institution, the food is second to none and their signature dish (which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, alongside the hottest Georgetown native, Matthew McConaughey) is the King Ranch chicken casserole. So we know our stuff.
Shockingly, I've never tried making King Ranch chicken on my own—perhaps because I had the idea that it was too complicated or that I'd totally ruin it. However, we left Texas in 2012 and I suppose nostalgia got the better of us, so I gave it a whirl. OH MY. While I grant that it's a little time-consuming, it's more than worth it. I'd eat this every single day if I could—piping hot out the oven for dinner, cold for a quick breakfast or lunch, or at 3 a.m. as a late-night dessert. But then I might weigh 600 pounds, so perhaps there's some merit to it being a little fussy to put together.
There’s not a thing I'd change with this recipe. This reminds me so much of the Monument's King Ranch chicken it's scary, and my husband has said multiple times (because I didn't believe him) that he thinks it's actually better. This is a winner. The two of us polished off the whole casserole (across several meals) in 3 days.
This more-or-less-from-scratch version of the classic King Ranch chicken casserole is much more labor-intensive than the original but produces a creamy, cheesy comfort food nonetheless—and without canned condensed soup.
Putting an entire cup of cilantro in seemed like overkill but it blended in and cooked through and wasn’t noticeable to me as a distinct element, though we like cilantro in this household.
It’s very important to have all the ingredients prepped before starting so you can put this together with some kind of efficiency. I slacked and had to grate the cheese last-minute before I could assemble the casserole and it made the whole process much less efficient. I think I might prefer the tortillas torn up so that they cover the pan more fully than they do whole, but that’s a minor quibble. To pump up the Tex-Mex element in this even more, I used pepper jack cheese. I also used grilled chicken breasts that had been coated with bbq sauce and thighs with smoked paprika.