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Friday, April 8, 2011

King Ranch Chicken-Cowboy Comfort Food

A few days after we moved in, Ernest brought us a casserole made by his wife, Arlene. Ernest is our self-anointed ranch manager, a stalwart local resident who came with the ranch. He lives in town, but has a 200 acre ranch nearby.
Ernest grew up around here and works for most of the people who live in our general area. If something needs to be done, Ernest is your man. Anyway, along with the Hispano culture around here, you need to add a little smidge of cowboy since this is cattle country and we are only a couple hours from Texas. Ernest's ring tone is God Must Be A Cowboy At Heart. He ropes, rides, and brands with the best of them. Enough about cowboys, though. This post is about King Ranch Chicken, the ultimate southwestern cowboy comfort food.

In Texas there's a gigantic ranch the size of Rhode Island called King Ranch. Some folks think the casserole was developed there, but it's not been proven. No matter where it comes from, when we heated up Arlene's King Ranch Chicken and dug in, that old comfort food swoon fell over us both and before we knew it, only a teensy bit was left. Tom had it for breakfast the next day.

Here's a recipe I developed based on the myriad versions of King Ranch Chicken I found on the internet and the one I have used for years from an old Farm Bureau cookbook called Sunshine Tortilla Bake. This version is spicier, softer, and cheesier than the Farm Bureau recipe. Choose the mild version of canned tomatoes and chiles if you have a delicate palate.

King Ranch Chicken

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 or 2 T olive oil
1 large onion
1 bell pepper
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups shredded or chopped chicken
1 can Rotel tomatoes with chiles (I substituted 2 small cans of Herdez chunky Mexican salsa and it worked fine)
12 corn tortillas
1.5 cups shredded cheese, cheddar, jack, or a mixture (You can use up to 8 ounces of cheese if you want)
2/3 c chicken broth


1. Chop  onion and one bell pepper and saute for 5 minutes in olive oil. Use a big saute pan for this because you're going to to be adding a lot more stuff.

2. Add to the pan those tasty diced tomatoes with green chiles (like Ro-tel), the soups, and chicken. I poached a couple chicken breasts for this, but a rotisserie chicken would work just fine. Stir until nicely blended. (If you want a little more heat, add some green chiles, the state vegetable of New Mexico.)

3. Lightly grease or spray with nonstick spray a 13 X 9 X 2 baking pan. Tear corn tortillas into bite sized pieces. Place a layer of tortillas in the bottom of the pan. Spread one-third of the soup mixture over the tortillas. Sprinkle 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese. Add another layer of tortillas, another third of the soup mixture and another half cup of grated cheese. At this point, I took about 1/3 cup of chicken broth and poured it over the pan's contents. Then I finished up with one more layer of tortillas, soup mixture and cheese. Then I poured another 1/3 cup of chicken broth over the whole enchilada. (Pardon the pun.)

4. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes until your King Ranch Chicken is bubbly and starting to brown. Let it set for about 5 minutes and serve warm. Swoon with ecstasy.


  1. now if I can convince the hubby that the onions will not KILL him, think I'll give this a try~~~ S.S.

  2. I am wondering if I can use canned chicken. Bet I can. Gonna try. Shela

  3. i love this recipe! make it alot. gonna try ro-tel. am really enjoying your blog, theer. keep on keeping on!


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