King Ranch Casserole #SundaySupper

King Ranch Casserole

Welcome to another Sunday Supper! Today we bring you our theme of Captivating Casseroles! I have to admit, I struggled a little with ideas for what to make for this one. A long time ago, back when we were engaged, my dear husband told me that he hated casseroles and would be perfectly happy going to his deathbed not taking another bite of one. I think he may have had a scarring experience with a bad one at some point during childhood.

King Ranch Casserole

So as long as we’ve been together, I’ve never made one, which presented a little bit of a challenge this week! I knew that we could make lasagna or a baked pasta dish, both of which Matt loves, but for whatever reason lasagna just wasn’t calling my name this week. Despite the fact that I love it too.

King Ranch Casserole

King Ranch Casserole

So I thought, and I thought, and I thought about it. I pondered the casseroles I’d had growing up (not nearly as many as Matt, it sounds like), and then it dawned on me – King Ranch Casserole!! Of course! This is the one casserole I grew up eating. It’s a Texas creation and favorite, and I’ve always loved it. Problem solved!

King Ranch Casserole

I told Matt what I was making, and then had to break the news to him gently that no, King Ranch Casserole does not involve ranch dressing or flavorings. KRC was invented in rural Texas a very long time ago; most of those men were cattle ranchers, and one day someone’s wife threw together this dish of chicken, tortillas and cheese laced with a creamy white sauce. It became popular, then iconic, and lives on to this day as one of the defining dishes of the state of Texas. Thus, the name of the dish is referring to the men’s profession, not the ingredients therein.

King Ranch Casserole

It’s always typically been made using condensed cream of mushroom soup, but I’m thrilled to have found a from-scratch version, which I think is even more tasty than the original (if I can say that without committing blasphemy). And the ultimate good news? Matt absolutely loved it! He said he is not revising his overall stand on casseroles in general, but that I can make this one any time. And he’s right, it is incredibly comforting and delicious! Enjoy!

King Ranch Casserole

Don’t forget to see what other casseroles my Sunday Supper crew brought to the table today!

{One Year Ago: Broccoli Cheddar Quiche}

Source: The Homesick Texan Cookbook by Lisa Fain

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 tsp ancho chile powder, divided
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 tsp lime juice, divided
1 tbs olive oil
4 tbs unsalted butter
½ medium yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp cayenne
2 tbs all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup half-and-half
1 (10 oz.) can diced tomatoes with green chiles
½ cup sour cream
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
10 corn tortillas, warmed
8 oz. queso blanco or white cheddar cheese, shredded
8 oz. pepper jack cheese, shredded

Pat the chicken breasts very dry with paper towels, then sprinkle them on both sides with 2 tsp of ancho chile powder, plus salt and pepper to taste. Douse them with 2 tsp lime juice. Place a large skillet or large soup pot over medium-high heat and drizzle in the olive oil. Cook the chicken breasts, being sure not to crowd the pan, until just cooked through, 15-20 minutes. Flip them back and forth occasionally to prevent either side from burning. When done, transfer the chicken breasts to a plate and let cool a bit (until you can handle them).
If you want to use the same pot to make the sauce, I’d recommend shutting off the heat and then pouring in a little water to get the browned chicken bits up. Pour the water off, then let the residual heat from the pan evaporate any remaining drops of water. Alternately, you can simply use a different stockpot.
Preheat a medium-to-large stockpot over medium heat. Add the butter and once it has melted, add the onions, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the garlic, cumin, cayenne, remaining 2 tsp ancho chile powder, and flour. Cook about 1 minute. Now stir in the chicken stock and stir until thickened, about 1-2 minutes. Once the stock has thickened, stir in the half-and-half and tomatoes. Cover the pot, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, the chicken has probably cooled enough that you can handle it, so shred it into large shards at this point.
Uncover the pot and stir in the sour cream, remaining 2 tsp lime juice, and ¼ cup of the cilantro. Adjust seasonings if needed and add salt and black pepper to taste. Turn off the heat.
Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease a 9×13” baking dish.
Now we will assemble our casserole. Ladle ½ cup of sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Layer half of the corn tortillas on top of the sauce, breaking them to fit as necessary. Make sure the entire surface is covered. Add half the chicken on top of the tortillas, then half of the remaining sauce on top of the chicken. Now add the remaining cilantro, then ¾ cup of the shredded cheddar, then ¾ cup of the shredded pepper jack cheese. Repeat the layering once more, using up the rest of the ingredients and topping the whole thing with a cheese layer.
Cook uncovered for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is brown and bubbling. Let rest for a few minutes, then serve.

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60 responses to “King Ranch Casserole #SundaySupper

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  8. I have never heard of this before so that was neat to hear about! This sounds great and such a resourceful recipe! 😉

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  13. King Ranch was one of my top choices for the coming hometown favorite theme, Julie, so I was delighted to see that you were making it this week. For many years, any time my sister hosted a family gathering, we would request her King Ranch chicken casserole because she was so good at it. Truly one of my favorite dishes. Yours looks beautiful and delicious!

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  19. I can verify for everyone that us Texans do indeed love our King Ranch Casserole…yours looks so good!! We were thinking the same thing this week…if you want to try a mac and cheese version of King Ranch, I can hook you up ;)!

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  24. I never heard of a King Ranch casserole until today! It sure looks delicious. This is going on my list of new stuff to try!

  25. I was wondering how it got the name King Ranch.
    Anyway, it is on my to-make list now. Great flavors in it.

  26. Wow, this would warm me up in the frigid northeast!

  27. OMG – this looks so fantastic!

  28. I haven’t made a KR casserole in a long time b/c of the canned soup! I’m so glad to have your made from scratch recipe—delish!

    • Texan New Yorker

      Oh yes, I can identify – I didn’t make it on my own until I found a from-scratch version either. The wait was worth it though!

      Thanks Liz!

  29. Thank you for schooling me on King Ranch as I had never heard of it before. But I can tell you it will be part of my repertoire soon.

  30. Very interesting, Julie. Truly enjoyed reading about the history of this iconic Texan dish…Indeed this is the gift of Sunday Supper, we get to travel to different spots without leaving the sofa! And your revised sans canned soup recipe is yet another gift! Thank you =)

  31. I read through and saw all the southwest flavors and immediately decided I have to make this one! It looks divine! I’m drooling!

  32. I have never made king ranch casserole or king ranch chicken. For some reason, I see the word “ranch” and just tune out. Something about ranch dressing, chicken and cheese in a casserole that doesn’t sound good to me. However, I see that I’m wrong and this sounds FABULOUS! Definitely on my #tomake list.

  33. Yum. This looks so good, especially with the white sauce on top!

  34. This looks incredible!

  35. You got me. I was expecting ranch dressing! This sounds great!

  36. I was totally expecting ranch dressing too haha!

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  38. I love that you made a casserole that you grew up eating! I love that it seems so original. Well and yummy of course!

  39. I haven’t made a King Ranch Casserole in years. Now I need to.

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