This is the antsy time of year. Let’s scratch our itch to spend more of our time out of the house and less of it in the kitchen with this easy, healthy recipe for from-scratch King Ranch Chicken!

Healthy King Ranch Chicken from scratch. Just as creamy and comforting as the Tex-Mex original, lightened up with every day ingredients. Ready in 30 min!

An all-in-one meal that will leave you with just one pan to wash in the end, this sped-up skillet version of classic King Ranch chicken casserole offers lean protein, fresh veggies, and Tex-Mex style comfort.

Hustle, and this recipe is ready in 30 minutes. Use that free time to go for a longer walk, stay for one more round of patio drinks (a Skinny Margarita perhaps?), or just do what I’ve been doing and turn your face up to the sky and relish the sun.

Now that warmer weather has (finally!) arrived, I can hardly sit still. Fast, healthy dinners are on the move, especially if they taste great reheated. Your future self will thank you for cooking this tonight when you’re enjoying the leftovers tomorrow.

Healthy King Ranch Chicken. Made from scratch and ready in 30 minutes!

If you live anywhere in the Midwest, you know I’m ahead of myself here.

The month of April tends to be a heartbreaker, so I’m sure that Mother Nature has a few cold snaps still in store. This King Ranch Chicken casserole recipe suits me then too.

With its layers of gooey cheese, tortillas, and hearty chicken all bathing in a velvety, creamy sauce, it’s comforting enough to soothe my cold-weather-weary soul right into spring.

Add the ease/deliciousness factor, and I fully anticipate to still be cooking it this summer and on into fall too!

So, What Is King Ranch Chicken?

I first heard about King Ranch Chicken on an episode of The Pioneer Woman.

It’s a Tex-Mex casserole that layers corn or flour tortillas with cheese, chicken, diced tomatoes, spices, more cheese, cream of this, and cream of that.

It was like an enchilada, pan of nachos, and your grandma’s best casserole classics rolled into one and baked to gooey bliss.

The name “King Ranch Chicken” allegedly hails from King Ranch, which is a large ranch in Texas. The recipe and the ranch don’t seem to have any actual connection to each other (at least not one that I can find), but I feel like if I showed up at King Ranch with a big pan of it, they might let me in the front door.

Easy King Ranch Chicken. Lightened up dinner casserole the whole family will love!

Honestly, the more I read about King Ranch Chicken, the more it reminded me of my Chicken Tortilla Casserole, but with the creaminess factor dialed waaaaaaaay up. And the more I read, the more I knew I had to create a healthy version of it.

I imagine my love Tex-Mex is well established by now. (Ahem, Mexican Chicken and Rice, Mexican Shrimp, Crock Pot Mexican Casserole, Mexican Chicken Quinoa Casserole…)

With it comes a deep affinity for taking recipes that are traditionally heavy on the processed “cream of” soups and making them from scratch instead. I also adore finding ways to make true comfort foods like King Ranch Chicken better for you while staying true to their cozy roots.

The Best King Ranch Chicken—Made from Scratch

To keep the casserole creamy, I used a moderate amount of reduced-fat cream cheese in the sauce. Just two ounces was all I needed to eliminate the canned soup entirely, and the resulting casserole was gratifyingly rich.

To make the casserole healthy, I loaded it with lots of fresh veggies. Instead of sour cream, we topped our servings with nonfat Greek yogurt and big slices of fresh avocado.

For the tortillas, an essential King Ranch Chicken ingredient, I opted for corn because I love the way their texture breaks down and mixes with the creamy sauce, thickening it further. (If you prefer, you can certainly can make this King Ranch Chicken with flour tortillas instead.)

Lightened up King Ranch Chicken casserole. Made without canned soup for a healthy one-pan meal.

My other major departure with traditional King Ranch chicken casserole was to cook the entire recipe in a skillet that I popped under the broiler to melt the cheese at the end, instead of layering everything in a baking dish.

The skillet approach cuts the cook time in half and reduces dishes too!

The name “King Ranch Chicken” might not have anything to do with the monarchy, but feasting on it certainly made me feel like a queen. Try the recipe, and you’ll feel like kitchen royalty too!

What to Serve with King Ranch Chicken

A skillet of king ranch chicken with avocado

King Ranch Chicken

5 from 31 votes
Healthy King Ranch Chicken from scratch. Just as creamy and comforting as the Tex-Mex original, lightened up with every day ingredients. Ready in 30 min!

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 30 mins

Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 red bell peppers chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper chopped
  • 1 small jalapeño seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour substitute a 1:1 gluten-free flour blend to make gluten free
  • 1 cup unsalted chicken broth or water
  • 2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded or diced cooked chicken breast about 1 medium breast (for cooking tips, see this post on How to Cook Shredded Chicken, Baked Chicken Breast, Crock Pot Shredded Chicken or Instant Pot Chicken)
  • 1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles drained (such as Rotel)
  • 3 (6-inch) corn tortillas torn into rough 1-inch(ish) pieces
  • 2/3 cup shredded Mexican-blend cheese divided

For serving:

  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Nonfat plain Greek yogurt

Instructions
 

  • Place a rack in the upper third of the oven (usually the second-most slot from the top) and preheat the oven to broil.
  • In a medium ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot but not yet smoking. Add the bell pepper, onion, poblano and jalapeño. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 8 to 9 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and salt and stir constantly. Continue cooking and stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, still stirring constantly, until they are thoroughly coated and the white bits of flour disappear, about 1 minute.
  • Stir in the broth and bring to a boil. Stir and cook until the mixture is somewhat thickened, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low.
  • Break the cream cheese into the skillet in bits. Stir until melted. Gently stir in the chicken, diced tomatoes, torn tortillas, and half of the cheese. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.
  • Place the skillet under the broiler. Broil until the cheese is melted and browned, about 1 to 2 minutes—do not walk away and watch the skillet the entire time to make sure it doesn’t burn. Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve hot with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Nutrition

Serving: 1of 4Calories: 327kcalCarbohydrates: 26gProtein: 21gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 61mgFiber: 5gSugar: 8g

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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82 Comments

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  1. I had been wanting to try King Ranch Chicken/Casserole since i saw it on a Texas food program–it combines so many things our whole family loves. Unfortunately, every recipe used canned cream of something soups. Your recipe is a breath of healthy relief. The family loved it.

    Thank you for this fantastic version!5 stars

  2. Ran across this recipe (on Facebook i think) and cooked this dish tonight for my parents. We were all in love! We added a dollop of lemon-zested tzatziki and fresh guacamole in place of the avacados/dill dip. I’m definitely making this again with a hint of Tabasco sauce next time for a little more heat.5 stars

  3. This was a great, lighter take on the ultimate comfort food. I like more poblanos to red pepper ratio, but I’m a New Mexico girl. Great template to play with, thank you!5 stars

  4. This was a delicious healthy and easy recipe for this dish. I would never have thought of making it using the stove and broiler. Also, love that there isn’t canned soup in it. Great idea with yummy results!5 stars

  5. Great easy weeknight recipe and especially like having no “cream of “ soups in it! I added a little more chicken and also served it with additional mini corn tortillas (warmed in microwave). Thanks for sharing the recipe!5 stars

  6. I loved your lightened up version of King Ranch Casserole! I rarely go back for seconds but had to with this yummy dish! Do you think this would freeze well? I would like to double the recipe and freeze half for later. Thanks!5 stars

    1. I’m so happy that you enjoyed it, Elizabeth! Thank you for sharing this kind review! I haven’t tried freezing this myself, but I worry that the tortilla pieces would be soggy. If you decide to try it, I’d love to hear how it goes!

  7. Made this last night and yum! We have a major winter storm coming in so I wanted something cozy and comforting without the comfort food calories. This fit the bill! Despite all the prep of cutting and shredding, it came together quickly too. I’m excited for leftovers.5 stars

  8. I have tried a few King Ranch recipes, and in this one, I have found the best! Very easy to make, super delicious to eat, and the leftovers are excellent. This is now a regular in my rotation!5 stars

  9. I’ve been searching for a recipe that doesn’t call for canned soup! I’m planning to make this for dinner tonight! Will let you know how it w.

      1. I made it and my husband and I both thought it was delicious! I had no Rotel tomatoes so I added a little more of the seasonings and a few more chopped jalapeños and subbed a can of diced tomatoes (my husband won’t eat ANYthing containing bell peppers!) but followed the recipe exactly otherwise. The next time I make it (and there will be a next time!) I think I’ll eliminate the tortillas and serve it over tortilla chips for some added crunch.

        Thanks for a very good recipe!5 stars

    1. Hi Andrea! I’ve only tested the recipe as written, so you’d be experimenting. If you decide to play around with it, I’d love to hear how it goes!

  10. Really enjoyed this and was told by the family to keep it in the rotation. I followed the recipe exactly and used the “Hot” Rotel to kick it up a notch.5 stars

  11. So delicious! Made for a dinner party with friends so made ahead without last cheese and tortillas, then heated back up casserole for 20 min at 375 with the top on so it didn’t dry out. Added back torn tortillas and cheese to top and slightly mixed in, then broiled until cheese bubble and tortillas crisp! So great!5 stars

    1. So glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for the feedback and thank you for your kind review Elizabeth!

  12. Awesome meal!! Love that I could cook it in my iron skillet and then broil the cheese and have only one skillet to clean 👏🏻5 stars

  13. Love this! Can it be frozen after it’s made? Wanting to make this for my cousin who just had a baby but freeze for later if she has tons of meals when I deliver it.5 stars

    1. Hi Sarah! I haven’t tried to freeze this once made, but other readers have had great success in doing it. Hope that helps!

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