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This easy King Ranch Chicken Casserole combines juicy chicken, colorful peppers, tortillas, and Mexican-inspired spices together in a bubbly, creamy, cheesy sauce. It cooks in one pan, doesn’t use canned soup, and is begging to be topped with all of your favorites (more cheese anyone?).

Healthy King Ranch Chicken from scratch

Why You’ll Love This Comfort Food Recipe

  • It Cooks in One Pan. One-pan meals are a favorite in our house. There’s nothing better than using fewer dishes and still creating an exceptionally flavorful and deeply satisfying meal. Everyone at the table is happy and cleanup is a breeze!
  • Homemade Comfort You Can Feel Good About. Making healthy versions of comfort foods from everyone’s childhood is among my favorite cooking challenges. This sped-up skillet version of the original King Ranch chicken recipe offers lean protein, fresh veggies, and plenty of Tex-Mex comfort with less fat and fewer calories (like my favorite Taco Skillet).
  • It’s Ready in a Flash. If you hustle, this recipe is ready in 30 minutes or less. Meaning that it’s a fabulous alternative to more time-consuming recipes like Chicken Tortilla Casserole for a quick weeknight dinner.
a skillet of king ranch chicken recipe healthy with avocados and greek yogurt on top

5 Star Review

“This was so good, better than the canned soup, heavy version. Absolutely loved it and so did my husband!”

— Jen —

What Is King Ranch Chicken?

The name “King Ranch chicken” is an ode to King Ranch, a large ranch in Texas.

  • The recipe and the ranch don’t seem to have any connection to each other historically (at least not one that I can find). However, the ingredients would feel right at home on the ranch.
  • The original King Ranch chicken recipe is a Tex-Mex casserole with layers of corn or flour tortillas, cheese, chicken, diced tomatoes, spices, and usually a can of cream of this or that soup.

King Ranch chicken is like an enchilada, pan of Chicken Nachos, and your grandma’s best casserole rolled into one gooey dish of comfort food bliss.

one pan king ranch chicken without canned soup topped with greek yogurt, cilantro, and cheese

How to Make King Ranch Chicken

The Ingredients

  • Bell Peppers. Loaded with vitamin C, fiber, folate, and potassium, bell peppers add color and texture to the classic King Ranch casserole recipe. Stick with red or opt for a mix of colors (like in these Beef Fajitas).
  • Poblano + Jalapeño Peppers. Add a little kick beyond the chiles in the can of Rotel-style diced tomatoes.

Market Swap

If you would like a mild King Ranch chicken that isn’t spicy, you can omit the jalapeno and swap for extra bell peppers.

  • Onion + Garlic. Add an extra layer of zippy flavor.
  • Spices. A classic Tex-Mex blend of chili powder, cumin, and salt delivers all the depth, spice, and flavor this dish needs. (I use a similar blend in this Fiesta Chicken.)
  • Flour. Thickens our healthy, homemade King Ranch chicken sauce.
  • Chicken Broth. Hydrates the dish and forms the base of the lightened-up sauce.

Substitution Tip

Water can also be used if you don’t have chicken broth on hand.

  • Reduced-Fat Cream Cheese. Just two ounces of reduced-fat cream cheese in the sauce was all I needed to eliminate the canned soup and create a healthy King Ranch chicken recipe that was still gratifyingly rich.
  • Cooked Chicken Breast. This lean and healthy protein is my hack for getting this easy King Ranch chicken recipe (and this Chicken Enchilada Skillet) on the table in 30 minutes or less.

Tip!

Cut this recipe time even further by swapping in precooked chicken or leftover chicken made with one of these easy methods (or use store-bought rotisserie chicken):

  • Corn Tortillas. I opted for corn tortillas because I love how their texture breaks down and mixes with the creamy sauce, thickening it further. 

Substitution Tip

If you prefer, you can certainly make this King Ranch chicken with flour tortillas instead.

  • Rotel Tomatoes. Or your favorite brand of canned diced tomatoes with green chiles.
  • Mexican Cheese. Choose your favorite store-bought blend of shredded Mexican cheese or grate directly from a block of Monterrey Jack, pepper jack, cheddar, and/or quesadilla cheese.

King Ranch Chicken Toppings

Use any of your favorite taco or nacho toppings to garnish this easy skillet King Ranch chicken. Here are a few of my favs:

  • Nonfat Greek yogurt or light sour cream
  • Cilantro
  • Avocado or a dollop of the Best Guacamole Recipe
  • Sliced green onions or diced red onion
  • Chopped greens such as kale or spinach
  • Black olives

The Directions

  1. Sauté the Vegetables. Cook until softened.
  2. Stir in the Spices. Your kitchen is going to smell amazing.
  3. Add the Flour and Broth. Simmer until it thickens.
  4. Fold in the Remaining Ingredients. Top with the rest of the cheese.
  5. Broil. Broil until the cheese is melted and browned. ENJOY!

Dietary Note

You can substitute a 1:1 gluten-free flour blend to make King Ranch chicken gluten free.

homemade king ranch chicken from scratch made without cream of mushroom soup

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Store leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 
  • To Reheat. Gently heat leftovers in a large ovenproof skillet at 350 degrees F until warmed through. You can also reheat this dish in the microwave. 
  • To Freeze. Leftovers may be stored in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. 

Meal Prep Tip

I think you could assemble the casserole up until the point of broiling, let it cool, then refrigerate it for 8 hours. Let come to room temperature, then rewarm it in a 350 degrees F oven.

What to Serve With King Ranch Chicken

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t Burn the Cheese! Watch very closely while your cheese is broiling, as it can burn quickly. If you see it start to brown early, go ahead and remove it from the oven.
  • Use the Right Pan. Make sure you’re using a skillet that is oven-safe and broiler-safe. Since we’re taking this dish from the stovetop directly to the broiler, it needs to be able to handle both.
  • Use Pre-Cooked Chicken. One of the easiest ways to shave time off of this recipe is by using pre-cooked chicken breast. If you make a big batch early in the week, you can use it to prepare different recipes all week long (see the recipe card below or the blog post above for some of my favorite cooking methods).

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

4.89 from 78 votes
The BEST king ranch chicken casserole! This easy, from scratch version is made without canned soup. Cheesy, creamy, and ready in 30 minutes!

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 30 minutes

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, Air Fryer Chicken Breast, Crock Pot Shredded Chicken, or Instant Pot Chicken)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles drained (10 ounces)
  • 3 (6-inch) corn tortillas torn into rough 1-inch pieces
  • 2/3 cup shredded Mexican-blend cheese divided

For Serving:

  • Chopped fresh cilantro optional
  • Nonfat plain Greek yogurt optional

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. Watch the skillet the entire time to make sure it doesn’t burn.
  • Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve hot with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Video

Notes

  • TO STORE: Store king ranch chicken in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 
  • TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm leftovers in a large ovenproof skillet in the oven at 350°F until warmed through. You can also reheat this dish in the microwave. 
  • TO FREEZE: King ranch chicken may be stored in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1of 4 (without toppings)Calories: 318kcalCarbohydrates: 26gProtein: 27gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 64mgPotassium: 716mgFiber: 5gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 2630IUVitamin C: 116mgCalcium: 316mgIron: 3mg

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Make King Ranch Chicken With Tortilla Chips?

Personally, I prefer the taste and texture of making King Ranch chicken with corn tortillas or flour tortillas. Tortilla chips become mushy once incorporated, so they are better saved for Mexican Corn Dip.

Is King Ranch Chicken Keto-Friendly?

I do not follow a keto diet, so I don’t feel comfortable advising whether or not this recipe aligns with a keto diet as it is written. That said, I’m sure this recipe could be adapted with some tweaks if you want to make a keto King Ranch chicken recipe. For example, try using low carb tortillas and omit the beans.

Can I Use Chicken Thighs Instead of Chicken Breasts?

Yes, I think this recipe would work well with chicken thighs too. Use my Air Fryer Chicken Thighs, Grilled Chicken Thighs, or Chicken Thighs in the Oven for the cooking method.

Related Recipes

More flavorful and healthy one-pan recipes you can enjoy in 30 minutes or less:

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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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113 Comments

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  1. This was so good, better then the canned soup, heavy version. Absolutely loved it and so did my husband, thank you!5 stars

    1. Wow, this dish was incredible! I’ve never had the unhealthy version with soup, but this is a new favorite at our house! I have your cookbook and make your recipies all the time and this is one of the best!5 stars

      1. Hi Heather! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review! So glad you are loving the cookbook too! Thank you for your support!

  2. Good ideas but hailing from texas and having eaten this all over TX for over 60 years,it was never never made w flour tortillas. Gr-Grammas knew how to make the sauce without campbells. Thx for getting back to a sauce without “cream of”

  3. This is such a delicious king ranch casserole, but feels more fresh and less heavy than traditional. I cut down the pepper a abut and up the tortillas a tad, but it’s always a full family crowd pleaser. I usually roll it up in a taco for my small kids because everything in a taco is easier to eat :)5 stars

  4. Although I lived in Houston, Texas for 25 years and loved Tex Mex food, I never ate or made a King Ranch Chicken casserole. Never appealed to me with all that canned soup and what I imagined as soggy tortillas. This recipe was indeed very delicious! I do think I will add some crispy tortilla chips on the side next time, and there will be a next time. Loved it!5 stars

  5. I grew up with the heavy version of this and loved it. I was skeptical to change what I knew, but holy cow, this does not disappoint! I love that I get the same flavors, without so much guilt. I can’t thank you enough for developing an amazing alternative that produces the comforting dish I’ve always adored.5 stars

    1. Hi Jen, I’ve only tested the recipe with cream cheese, so not sure how the Greek yogurt would work. If you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes!

  6. made as per recipe…. but added sliced black olives…. tastes like the old casserole I had as a kid back when everyone was making this down in South Texas.5 stars

  7. Very tasty! This was perfect for using our leftover chicken. My husband is not a fan of King Ranch Chicken because of thecreamed soups that most recipes call for, but this recipe was so good!!5 stars

    1. So glad you enjoy it! Honestly, you can add anything. Diced zucchini could be yummy; tossing in some roasted butternut squash or sweet potato cubes or sauteeing spinach would be great too.

  8. Making this again for the 10th+ time tomorrow. 🔥 Never fails, yummy!!😋 I grew up in Houston and this was my childhood favorite dish. But this version is way way way better for you!5 stars

    1. Hi Cindy, once cooked it can be stored in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. Hope this helps!

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