Its origins are uncertain, but this Texas dish is potluck royalty
It’s the star of potlucks, school cafeterias, funerals and church socials. Open any Junior League cookbook in Texas and you’ll likely find a version of this dish.
“It is said that if the Texas State Legislature were to declare a state casserole dish, it would be the King Ranch Chicken Casserole,” online culinary publication What’s Cooking America once quipped.
The casserole is named for a famous South Texas ranch covering more than 825,000 acres and 75 square miles. But the dish has no real connection to the King Ranch, nor do the owners acknowledge any, which makes sense, considering King Ranch is known for its beef, while King Ranch Casserole features chicken.
There are several theories about the origins of this casserole. One is post-World War ll cooking in the 1950s. Canned soups provided convenience and companies like Campbell’s encouraged sales by including recipes on its cans.
There are also reports of a woman who lived near King Ranch entering a chicken casserole recipe into a national competition, adding the King Ranch name for flair.
It reached higher popularity when former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson listed it as her favorite dish to serve at the LBJ Ranch.
King Ranch Chicken Casserole
Yields: 8-10 servings
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded with skin and bone removed, or substitute 4 cooked boneless chicken breast, shredded
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons chili powder
¼ cup butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 red or green bell, diced
1 (10.75-ounce) can nacho cheese soup
1 (10.5-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 (10.5-ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 (14.5-ounce) can Ro-tel tomatoes
1 (7-ounce) can green chilies
24 corn tortillas
4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan with butter or spray and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium/high heat, add oil and heat until warm. Add chicken and sauté until warm, then add chili powder, stirring to distribute. Remove from skillet and set aside.
Turn down heat to medium and add butter, heating until melted. Add onion and bell pepper, sautéing until softened and the onions are translucent.
Next, add the soups, Ro-tel and chilis. Stir until combined and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add chicken mixture, stir to combine and set aside.
In the prepared baking dish, spread a small amount of the chicken mixture in the bottom of the pan. Next completely cover the bottom with corn tortillas. Cover tortillas with half the chicken mixture and then half the shredded cheese. Repeat layer of tortillas, chicken and cheese.
Place the prepared casserole on a baking sheet and place on middle oven rack. Bake about 35-40 minutes until bubbly.
Remove from oven and let cool 10-15 minutes. Garnish with your favorite toppings and serve with tortilla chips.
Garnish options include sour cream, diced tomatoes, jalapeños or cilantro.