King Ranch Chicken Casserole

by Meghan

Sharing is caring!

Growing up in Texas, King Ranch Chicken Casserole is a household staple.  It was my Dad’s favorite meal, and given the labor involved to make it, my Mom only ever made it during the summer when she was off from teaching.  She used to boil a whole chicken, save the stock, pick the meat from the bones.  It was a day-long, labor of love.  This was also the first meal I ever made for my now husband – I cooked it for him and his roommate in his grad school apartment back when we were still at Notre Dame.  I have wised-up in the years since though, and streamlined my Mom’s labor intensive recipe, into a more family-friendly, efficient, but still just as tasty version.  So from my kitchen to yours, I give you my version of King Ranch Chicken Casserole.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole Title

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

The King Ranch, located between Corpus Christi and Brownsville, Texas, is one of the largest ranches in the world, and the namesake of this family favorite.  It is also known as Cowboy Casserole, or as I describe it to all my Yankee friends up here in New England, it is a like a Mexican lasagna.  There are many variations, but this is the recipe I have honed and simplified over the years, skimping only on labor, not on taste!  Many of my friends will recognize this as the dish I always deliver when you have a baby, since it both freezes and reheats extremely well.  So to all those who have asked me for the recipe over the years, now you finally have it!

Prep Time: 4-6 hours
Active Prep Time:
30 minutes (I promise it’s easy!)


2-2 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breasts or thigh
1 can Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Chiles (Original or Mild)

8 TBSP butter
8 TBSP flour
2 c milk
2 c chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 can Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Chiles (Original or Mild)
1 onion, chopped

16 – 24 corn tortillas
1 lb grated Monterrey Jack or Pepper Jack Cheese

Makes 9×13 casserole.  Serves 8-10.


Spray the inside of your crockpot with non-stick spray, and place your boneless chicken breasts or thighs in the crockpot along with 1 can of Rotel.  If I am preparing this for kids to eat, I tend to use Mild Rotel.  Otherwise, I use Original.  I also prefer to use chicken thighs both because they are more affordable, and they have more flavor.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6 hours.  When it is done, you should be able to shred the chicken with two forks.

When the chicken is done, preheat oven to 375, and grease a 9×13 casserole dish.   You can begin to make your roux-based cream sauce.  In a sauce pan, over medium heat, melt butter, add flour and blend until smooth.  Combine the chicken stock and milk and gradually add to the flour mixture, stirring until thickened, to make your cream sauce.  Remove from heat, and season with salt and garlic powder.  Add 1 can of Rotel and your chopped onion.

Cut your corn tortillas in half, and grate your cheese.  In a greased 9×13 pan, place a layer of tortillas, covering the bottom of the pan.  Spread shredded chicken over the tortillas, scoop 1-2 cups of your cream sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with 1/3 of your grated cheese.  If I’m preparing this for kids to eat, I use mostly Monterrey Jack cheese, and reserve a few sprinkles of Pepper Jack cheese just for the top layer.  Repeat to form two layers, topping final layer with tortillas, any remaining cream sauce and cheese.  Confession: on occasion, if I run out of corn tortillas, I have also finished off the top layer with tortilla chips (even the lime ones once!), and it makes for a delicious, crunchy topping as well.

Chicken, sauce, cheese
Top layer

Bake at 375F for approximately 30 minutes, until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.  I like to put on the broiler for the last 3-5 minutes to get a nice, browned crispy layer on top.  Allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.  In my family, we often serve it in the summer with a nice green salad, or top it with fresh tomatoes and sliced avocado.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole Full DIsh

To freeze, do it BEFORE baking, covering prepped casserole tightly with foil.  It will keep in the freezer for 2-3 months. When you are ready to serve, thaw casserole, then follow baking directions above.

¡Buen provecho! Or as they say in Texas, “Dig in!”

King Ranch Chicken Casserole Pin
My girls love to help “sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle the cheese”, and while Big M is still skeptical to eat it, Lil’ M scarfs it right up!  Do you have a family-favorite recipe?  We’d love to try it!

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also enjoy our Family’s Favorite Cookie Recipes!  You can find this, and all our favorite recipes from around the web on our Gotta Eat! board on Pinterest.

Follow Meghan @ PlaygroundParkbench’s board Gotta Eat! on Pinterest.

Blog Sign Off


Sharing is caring!


More to love on Playground Parkbench


Quick Tip Tuesday: 10 Favorite Crockpot Meals ⋆ Playground Parkbench November 28, 2015 - 2:18 pm

[…] Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos This is an easy, go-to favorite.  Literally 30 seconds of prep at naptime with two ingredients to make tacos the first night – double or triple the recipe and use the leftovers to make Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos the next day, or save the shredded chicken to top salads, make spicy chicken salad for lunches, or kids’ quesadillas.  Or use it to make my personal favorite, King Ranch Chicken Casserole! […]

Save that bird! A week of leftover chicken recipes. November 13, 2015 - 10:31 am

[…] Barbecue Chicken Dip Cups Mexican Lasagna Tetrazzini […]

Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos ⋆ Playground Parkbench October 22, 2015 - 9:36 am

[…] above to make leftovers for another two nights worth of meals. Chicken tacos on the first night, King Ranch Chicken Casserole (my hubby’s favorite) on night #2, and these awesome Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos for the […]

10 Lessons Learned Cooking with Kids - Playground Parkbench July 14, 2015 - 9:36 pm

[…] include Edible Pretzel ABCs, Red White & Blue Cookies, and my family’s favorite, King Ranch Chicken Casserole!  You can find these and all our favorite kid-friendly recipes from around the web on our Cooking […]

22 Lasagna Recipes to Celebrate National Lasagna Day - Optimistic Mommy July 1, 2015 - 8:12 pm

[…] Mexican Lasagna by Playground Parkbench […]

Linda at Mixed Kreations June 22, 2015 - 7:05 am

This looks so delicious. I will have to try this and freeze half since there’s just the hubby and I. And I will use the spicy Rotel. The spicier the better (-;

PGPBMeghan June 22, 2015 - 7:51 am

You could make one recipe in two 8×8 or 9×9 pans, then freeze one to make it super easy for yourself!


Leave a Comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.