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King Ranch Chicken Casserole

A King Ranch Chicken Casserole is just the kind of hot, bubbly comfort we’ve all come to expect from Southern cooking. It hails from Texas – named after the biggest ranch in the state even though there’s no actual link between the recipe and the ranch itself. It’s unabashed comfort food – cheesy, creamy, and usually reliant on a can of cream of mushroom soup. Our version skips the can but still brings you all the creaminess and flavor you could want, just in a more ‘from scratch’ manner.

Some versions use corn tortillas to add structure, but we opt for tortilla chips that have been lightly crushed. They hold up a little bit better to baking.

They’re layered with some chicken and cilantro…

… and also a creamy mixture of onions, bell pepper, jalapenos, and tomatoes and green chiles that comes together quickly on the stovetop. It’s seasoned with cumin and lime juice so it’s plenty zesty.

And then, of course, there’s cheese. (What’s a casserole without cheese, after all?) We use a combination of pepper jack and cheddar, which is just the right balance for a tex-mex bake like this.

For many Texans, King Ranch Chicken Casserole is quintessential comfort food and it’s easy to see why. It’s creamy, it’s cheesy, it’s filling, and it’ll feed a crowd, and you certainly don’t have to be from the Lone Star State to enjoy it.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

1 hour to prepare serves 6

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Juice from one lime
  • 1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
  • 10 oz tortilla chips, roughly crushed
  • 2 cups pepper jack cheese, grated
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
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Preparation

  1. Heat oven to 375°F and grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Melt butter and add onions, bell pepper, and jalapeño pepper. Cook until soft and fragrant, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.
  3. Stir in flour, chili powder, cumin and cook 1 more minute. Reduce heat to low, gradually stir in chicken broth and lime juice and cook until mixture has thickened.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in drained tomatoes and chiles and sour cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper and transfer to a large bowl.
  5. Add chicken and cilantro to bowl and toss to combine. Adjust seasoning as needed.
  6. In a separate bowl, toss the two cheeses together.
  7. Line prepared baking dish with 1/3 of the crushed tortilla chips, followed by 1/2 of the chicken mixture and 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat layers once more, followed by one more layer of chips and one more layer of cheese.
  8. Grease a sheet of aluminum foil liberally with nonstick spray and cover baking dish loosely. Bake for 30 minutes.
  9. Uncover and bake until golden brown and bubbly, 10-15 minutes more. Let sit 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Homesick Texan.

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