King Ranch Chicken

Chicken, Main Courses, Originals, Southern / Sunday, December 14th, 2008


Body glitter.  Year-round Christmas lights. Fake fingernails with palm trees painted on them. Some things are meant to be trashy. Same goes for King Ranch Chicken. I’ve made it with 50-cent canned soups and I’ve made it with a homemade mixture of cream, broth, fresh veggies and spices, and THE TRASHY VERSION WINS. Hands down. That’s why it’s been a potluck staple since the dawn of man. It’s quick, easy and I-ate-a-plateful-and-now-I’m-picking-at-what’s-left-in-the-pan good.

If you’ve never tried King Ranch Chicken, it’s like a Mexican lasagna. Layers of corn tortillas (or chips), shredded cheddar cheese and a creamy, spicy chicken filling. A filling that really and truly NEEDS a can of cream of chicken and a can of cream of mushroom.

That’s how the church ladies make it.

That’s how the Joonyah Leagues make it.

That’s how Mom makes it.

Because all of those additives and preservatives give it that certain Campbell’s je ne sais quoi that cannot be replicated with all-natural substitutions. I’m sure they’re good for the immune system.

FYI: The Anna Nicole Ultra-Trashy Nuclear Option is to replace the tortillas with Doritos. I don’t recommend it, since The Lord created Doritos to be savored one by one, but it would be irresponsible not to tell you that option’s out there.

King Ranch Chicken

Rebecca Crump (

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
  • 1 can (10 3/4 oz.) condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can (10 3/4 oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can (10 oz.) Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies
  • 2 cups cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • 12 corn tortillas (6-inch), torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Coat a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add onion and pepper, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add soups, R0-Tel tomatoes and chicken, stirring until well blended.
  3. Alternately layer tortillas, soup mixture and cheese, repeating for three layers. Bake until hot and bubbly, about 30 minutes.


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35 thoughts on “King Ranch Chicken

  1. Looks like great college kid food, to tell you the truth! We definitely do cheap casseroles made with canned/frozen veggies and 50 cent soup.
    Minus the bell pepper though, because my sister and I can’t eat them. Do you know how many delicious things people put bell peppers in? Gah! At least casseroles are good for tweaking!

  2. We got hit with snow in the Northwest this weekend – this looks like awesome comfort food! Perfect for a night in!!

  3. Ohhh, this looks really good!!! I’ll definitely have to make this soon…I, too, am a poor college student, so trashy-foods are right up my ally. :)

  4. I sometimes feel that allof my mom’s great recipes when we were growning up called for a can of cream of something. But I must say, I never had King Ranch Chicken. This looks like something good to warm you up on a winter day. Will try this soon. I am sure my mom would love to have a copy of the recipe for her collection.

  5. I so need this recipe right now. All this high falootin’ “food blogging assignment” food is darn well near killing me. I need can of this, can of that, trashy food. THANK YOU for posting this right when I needed it the most.

  6. Tina: To make it in a crock pot, mix 4 tablespoons of quick-cooking tapioca into the chicken filling. The layering works the same. Cook it on high for 3 hours or low for 4-6 hours.

    Joley: You don’t have to drain the Ro-Tel.

  7. Hilarious you are. We agree–those canned ‘cream of’ soups are the way to go! Now we haven’t been lucky enough to have anything with Doritos in it, but we’re not opposed.

  8. I bought one can and thought, “I can do this…” But, here it sits on the third day and I know I can’t…I just can’t open that can…it could be the veritable Pandora’s box and there would be no going back…someone would find out…my rep would be lost…I would never hear the end of it…the world would end…and Santa won’t bring me any new fancy cookware and utensils that scream “I know how to do more than open a can!” LOL LOL LOL. I wish I could…

  9. […] via Ezra Pound Cake Posted by hainesmorgan Filed in carbohydrate friday Tags: casserole, cheese, chicken, Mexican […]

  10. Made this casserole for my family tonight–exactly as instructed (except there’s no such thing as a 50 cent can of soup anymore)–and it was great. You have to understand; we do NOT do casseroles so this was a social experiment. Thank goodness for church ladies and the joohyah league.

  11. Yes, yes, YES! Same goes with the Campbell’s green bean casserole. I’ve made ritzy versions with wild mushrooms and bechamel, and then last year, in desperation, I used the canned soup. Everyone raved over it. That did it – back to the cream of mushroom soup it was!

  12. HAHA! Great post! I used to hate King Ranch Chicken when I was a kid, but now I love it!!

    I would love to write about your recipe on our blog! If you are interested send me an email :)

    Haley, KI Blogger

  13. Awesome! My family loved it. The cheese didn’t brown though, like in the picture. I think it would have to be cooked at a higher temperature for that.

  14. Hi, I love your Blog! This is a good ol’ Texas traditional casserole. I follow the same basic recipe, using 2.5 to 3 cups chicken sauteed with the onion and bell pepper, then spice the soup mixture up a little with 1/4 tsp garlic powder and 1 tsp chili powder. Also, I combine grated 4 oz Monterrey Jack (I like it with the peppers)and 4 oz extra sharp cheddar. Let the casserole set in fridge overnight to let the flavors come out before baking. THEN, make it extra special with a dollop of sour cream when served. Now that’s comfort food!

  15. Years ago I worked at a super premium health spa called King Ranch so when I saw the title of your post, I thought for one crazy second that you were going to feature one of our recipes!

    I’ve never heard of this dish before but I’m fascinated!

  16. Add some chile powder or ancho chile powder for some great additional flavor. I usually use plain tortilla chips for the crunch, but layering as with lasagna is great with soft tortillas, either corn or flour. (You don't have to drain anything – it's that easy!) To brown the cheese, either cook it longer or just put the broil on for a few minutes. Usually, cooking it longer works without burning the casserole.)

    I am a homesick Texan in New York so it is great to see everyone enjoy this! Experiment with this – I try all sorts of variations and the recipe is very forgiving!


  17. I bookmarked this LONG ago, when you first posted, because I knew one day all the weather fronts would collide into a Perfect Storm and I'd need a quick way to use up pantry staples and turn out something idiot-proof for dinner. That happened this weekend. It started with a bag of Trader Joe's Salted Tortilla Chips. They were just not my style. Thick, hard, not much flavor. Too natural tasting (hah! although I dislike Doritos as too fake tasting, so Im bipolar that way). I didn't like them as chips, but thought they'd make a great casserole addition. I had soup. chips. Leftover fried chicken. Salsa. I remembered this post and an hour later I ate this casserole for dinner and I'm actually embarrased that 1) it's the first time I've ever had it (where have I been?) and 2) that I liked it so damn much. I mean, way too much. I'm likely to finish the entire thing myself ina matter of days. Gawd, I loves me some King Ranch Chicken, too!

  18. Mixture of casserole ingrediients are good served over baked tortilla chips,crushed
    to med ium size instead of putting tortillias in casserole is my family's favorite way
    with this.

  19. I was looking for a recipe for King Ranch Chicken, and while I don't read your blog, so I don't know if you post over at Big Oven…but I'm fairly certain they are using your picture.

  20. Your hilarious, glad I found your blog! I grew up on this stuff but needed to find the actual recipe. I found you on google cuz your picture looked like the tastiest version.

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