Classic South Texas Recipes: King Ranch Chicken Casserole - The Bend Magazine

Classic South Texas Recipes: King Ranch Chicken Casserole

This King Ranch Chicken Casserole recipe is a condensed-soup-free, contemporary take on a classic South Texas potluck staple.

king ranch chicken casserole recipe

Photography by Jason Page | Props provided by 20/20 Vintage & Sweet Life Bake | Styled by Jarred Schuetze

Less than an hour’s drive from Corpus Christi, The King Ranch in Kingsville reigns as the largest ranch in the United States. The ranch is known for Brahman cattle, its famous running W brand and contributions to the community. What it does not claim, however, is any relation to the culinary dish of the same name, the King Ranch Chicken Casserole.

This Casserole became a South Texas potluck staple in the 1950s, when post-World War II women embraced canned soup and microwaves for easier food preparation. The casserole recipe began to pop up in Junior League cookbooks and regional cooking contests, but no single individual has been credited with its creation. While its origin remains a mystery, the creamy comfort of King Ranch Chicken Casserole is undisputed. Our contemporary version skips the canned soup, but still saves time by using rotisserie chicken.


Serves 12


  • 1 prepared rotisserie chicken (about 4-5 cups)
  • 1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 1/2 cups Monterrey jack cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350°F. Shred chicken and reserve bones for broth or another use. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, peppers and salt. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent. Add garlic, chili powder and cumin and sauté for an additional minute. Spoon flour over mixture and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until flour begins to brown. Fold shredded chicken, sour cream, whipping cream, diced tomatoes, lime juice and cilantro into the onion mixture. Remove mixture from heat.

Working in batches of 2-3 tortillas, tear the tortillas into 6-8 pieces. Place 1/3 of the torn tortillas in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish. Spread 1/3 of the chicken mixture evenly on top of the tortillas. Layer 1/3 of the grated cheeses on top of the chicken. Repeat the process two more times. 

Bake the casserole for 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the casserole filling is bubbling. Serve hot with additional sour cream, cilantro and lime wedges.

Next, a recipe for fried oysters Rockefeller.