This easy, homemade King Ranch Chicken from scratch is made without canned soup and opts instead for wholesome, good-for-you ingredients!

Healthy King Ranch Chicken from scratch

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Making healthy versions of comfort foods from everyone’s childhood is among my favorite cooking challenges (see Chicken Alfredo Bake).

This healthy King Ranch chicken is my latest lightened-up love.

Made with just one pan, 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).

Added bonus: if you hustle, this recipe is ready in 30 minutes or less.

a skillet of king ranch chicken recipe healthy with avocados and greek yogurt on top

What is King Ranch Chicken?

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

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

5 Star Review

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

— Jen —

How to Make King Ranch Chicken

The original King Ranch chicken recipe reminds me of my Chicken Tortilla Casserole, but with the creaminess factor dialed waaaaaaaay up.

My healthy King Ranch chicken recipe is made without canned soup and instead loaded with tons of fresh veggies, lean chicken breast, and opts for reduced-fat cream cheese and nonfat Greek yogurt. It’s King Ranch chicken light!


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.

Dietary Note

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

  • 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!

See this post on How to Cook Shredded ChickenBaked Chicken BreastCrock Pot Shredded Chicken, or Instant Pot Chicken for all my favorite methods of preparing cooked chicken breast for recipes like this one.

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

The Directions

  1. Sauté the vegetables with the spices.
  2. Stir in the flour, then pour in the broth. Simmer until it thickens.
  3. Reduce the heat, stir in the cream cheese, then fold in the chicken, diced tomatoes, tortillas, and some of the cheese.
  4. Top the casserole with the remaining cheese, and then transfer the skillet to the oven. Broil King Ranch chicken until the cheese is melted and browned. Serve warm, garnished with cilantro and Greek yogurt. ENJOY!

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Store King Ranch chicken 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. 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. 
homemade king ranch chicken from scratch made without cream of mushroom soup

What to Serve with King Ranch Chicken

Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe

The Best Cast Iron Skillet

This Le Creuset 12″ cast iron skillet has an enamel designed for higher surface temperatures to enhance cooking performance, and is compatible with all cooktops and oven-safe up to 500 degrees F.

A skillet of king ranch chicken with avocado

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you thought!

Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked the recipe.

The name “King Ranch chicken” might not have anything to do with the monarchy, but feasting on it made me feel like a queen.

Try the recipe, and you’ll feel like kitchen royalty too!

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 guacamole.

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 You Make King Ranch Chicken Ahead of Time?

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 degree F oven.

A skillet of king ranch chicken with avocado

King Ranch Chicken

4.98 from 43 votes
The BEST king ranch chicken recipe! This easy king ranch chicken from scratch is made without canned soup and uses only healthy ingredients.

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 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.

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 degrees 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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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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103 Comments

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  1. Oh, I so want to try this. Do you think I could use tortilla chips instead of the corn tortillas? It’s a consistency thing for me.

    1. Hi Jennifer! Once they are baked in the casserole, the texture of the tortillas changes—they break down and are part of what helps to thicken it up. You could use chips, but they will turn soggy and not stay crisp. The decision is really up to you based on what you think you would enjoy more. I hope you love the recipe!

      1. Ah, yes, I see. Soggy is not what we’re after. I will try the corn tortillas. Thanks for your quick response. I’m making this recipe this week!

  2. I’ve never heard of King Ranch Chicken before. But luckily, I saw your post yesterday. After working late tonight and racking my brain trying to figure out what to make for dinner that would be fast, healthy and delicious, your post came to mind. I made it tonight, and my husband and I loved it! The balance of flavors, creaminess and texture was great. It had just the right amount of heat for my husband — he can take a little, but not too much. Since I didn’t have a lot of time, I used a deli chicken to speed things up. The only thing I’d do differently next time is double the recipe so we have more leftovers! Thanks for another fabulous dish!5 stars

    1. I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed the recipe, Nena! Thanks for giving it a try and taking the time to report back!

  3. I made this last night and YUM! It was delicious and quick, a great combination. I did meed a bit more broth than in the recipe but other than that, ,I made it exactly as written. My husband is already saying that he’s looking forward to the next time this appears in the rotation!5 stars

  4. I made this tonight and it turned out very well. Probably a little hotter than we would normally do, however the yogurt helped to keep the temperature down. I didn’t change much and will definitely make it again. Thanks again for the excellent recipe and instructions.
    Roddy.5 stars

  5. Erin, this recipe was SO good! My mom makes a yummy King Ranch chicken but I don’t make it myself as it’s so indulgent. This healthified version still has the creamy, comforting tastes…without the guilt. Thanks for another repeat offender on the dinner rotation! :)5 stars

  6. I made this for dinner last night and it was delicious! I left out the jalapeño and poblano peppers – knowing it would be too spicy for my little one – and it was the perfect amount of spice for my family! Thank you for another easy, quick, delicious, healthy recipe that I’m proud to prepare for my family!5 stars

  7. I made this for dinner last night and it was delicious! My husband went for seconds and thirds. I only had two VERY minor changes. I used fat free but not salt free chicken broth and herb and garlic cream cheese because that’s what I had on hand. I don’t think it made any difference to the overall flavour and believe me there is flavour, tons of it! I have made other King Ranch Chicken casseroles and they were good, but this is the best one yet and it will be the last one because it is so good! Thank you for sharing this one.5 stars

  8. My roommate and I made this for dinner tonight. As we were cooking we couldn’t get over how pretty it was first of all which was making it that much more exciting to finish. Once we finished and started to dig in…. it was like a taste of heaven. We were in total shock since the carbs cals sugars and salt were so low! I was already full before finishing a whole serving with all the protein from the chicken which I did add about 1/2 a cup more of… and the same for the cheese since we are both cheese freaks! Will definitely be making this again very soon no doubt about that! 5 stars

    1. Hayley, HOORAY! I’m glad the recipe was a hit. Thanks for taking the time to share this awesome review!

  9. I’ve had the original version of King Ranch Casserole so I was a little skeptical, but I’m all about getting healthier so decided to give it a try. It was a hit at our house. I was all out of the plain Greek yogurt so we topped with avocados & cilantro. I didn’t have a poblano pepper on hand either so substituted a small can of diced green chilies. My husband & I both loved the outcome. 5 stars

    1. Donna, I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed this version too! Thanks for taking the time to report back.

  10. I followed the recipe and it was absolutely easy , & quite delicious – very filling. 

  11. This was AMAZING! We have a large family, so I ended up doubling the recipe. I probably should have tripled it, though, because it was a hit! I only added about 1 jalapeno and didn’t do the tortillas (Due to an incident with said jalapenos – to anyone reading this WEAR GLOVES WHEN CUTTING JALAPENOS!) but everyone loved it despite the mishap :) Awesome recipe as usual, Erin! Thank you!5 stars

    1. Kassidy, thanks for reporting back! (And I hope you’ve recovered!) I’m so glad to hear the recipe was a big hit.

  12. Another winner! Seriously this was so rich tasting and delicious. I love the vegetables and chicken base. So hard to believe that it tasted that rich with that small amount of cheese. You were right about the corn tortillas. I’m usually not a big fan but they really added to the dish. I upped the cumin but that’s because I love the taste of it. I froze five cup portions of it for lunches. Thanks for your creativity. I use your recipes at least once a week. Thanks!5 stars

    1. Thank you so much for sharing, Michele! Your comment MADE my day! I’m so happy you enjoyed this recipe!

  13. I made this today and all the produce(poblano, jalapeno, onion, and bell pepper) were grown in my garden. Thanks for the recipe!5 stars

    1. Meal prepped this today. It was delicious!! My husband even licked the plate. This will be a go to meal. Thanks so much for the recipe.5 stars

  14. Erin, I simply can’t say enough about this recipe! I’d never heard of the dish before and once I looked it up, I was shocked at how much healthier your version is! I followed your very clear directions (love your “tips”), watched the video, made no changes and my husband and I were in heaven with the first bite! You continue to amaze me with your delicious, healthy recipes made from everyday (for the most part) ingredients that won’t break the bank. I’ve been cooking for 55 years and you are now my go-to for good and good-for-you food!  Thanks!5 stars

    1. Thank you for sharing this kind review, Geni! I’m so happy you enjoyed the recipe, and your comment MADE my day!

  15. Did you use soft corn tortillas or crispy corn tortillas?  Excited to try your GF version of King
    Ranch Casserole

    1. Hi Janet! I opted for corn because I love the way their texture breaks down and mixes with the creamy sauce, but you could certainly use either one. I hope you enjoy the dish!

  16. Erin, I’d never heard of this dish before seeing it on your blog. I looked it up and, with the canned soups, etc. it wasn’t appealing at all, but your revamping was pure genius!  I topped my serving with cilantro, avocado, and a little low fat sour cream (hubby dislikes all of those) and we both went back for more and had to stop ourselves from eating the whole pan full! Typical of your recipes, it was easy to make, didn’t require any unusual ingredients (I did crank up the heat a bit with some Aleppo pepper), and was just plain scrumptious! Thanks yet again!5 stars

  17. 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

  18. 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

  19. 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

  20. 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

  21. 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

  22. 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!

  23. 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

  24. 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

  25. 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!

  26. 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

  27. 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!

  28. 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

  29. 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!

  30. Love this! I made it for dinner for my husband and I last night and he’s already requested it for his birthday dinner. I may have made it a little less healthy with more cheese and sour cream instead of Greek yogurt, but I’m sure it’s delicious either way!5 stars

  31. Immediately sent recipe to my mother and my coworkers after finishing my meal.

    Used hot rotel as a substitute. Texture and flavor are fantastic. I am sometimes leery of recipes from small websites but this one is the truth.5 stars

  32. Best King Ranch recipe ever and I live in San Antonio and have been eating this my whole life. Thank you for the recipe that is probably how it should be made without canned soup. Outstanding! And can customize now to change how I want.5 stars

  33. I am from Texas and we actually eat King Ranch casserole. This recipe is very tasty and easy to make. I leave out the bell peppers because it causes heart burn. Lol So glad to see a recipe from Texas on your website. Being a teacher I have been making it in a cast iron dish for years. Love how someone else thinks the same way. Another good recipe is Texas Hash. I make it much healthier than the traditional way and it’s a one skillet recipe too.4 stars

  34. I’m a Texan and I admit I do love the classic recipe for King Ranch Chicken made with “cream of soup,” tons of cheese, and minimal veggies. BUT this recipe blows that old fashioned processed food recipe out of the water. Lots more colorful veggies, all fresh whole food natural ingredients, and still gives you that indulgent creamy, cheesy satisfying feeling that comfort food should! This is a real winner.5 stars

  35. 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!

  36. 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”

  37. 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

  38. 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

  39. 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!