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 23 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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62 Comments

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  1. Literally saw this post as I was walking into the grocery store. Guess what I’m making for dinner now?! 

    1. 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

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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

  5. We recently were treated to some King Ranch Chicken at a neighbor’s house. I got her recipe and comparing it with yours, I like that you lightened it up a bit. I’ll be making this soon. It is definitely a crowd pleaser!

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

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

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. My family loves King Ranch Chicken but I have never used this recipe . It sounds delicious . Can’t wait for our next family gathering so I can try this. It is so different from mine . I know they are gonna love it . Thanks !

  16. 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!

  17. 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!

  18. 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

  19. 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

  20. 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

  21. 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

  22. 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

  23. 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

  24. 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!