This easy, homemade King Ranch Chicken from scratch is made without canned soup and opts instead for wholesome, good-for-you ingredients!
Making healthy versions of comfort foods from everyone’s childhood is among my favorite cooking challenges (see Chicken Alfredo Bake).
This healthy King Ranch chicken is my latest lightened-up love.
Made with just one pan, this sped-up skillet version of the original King Ranch chicken recipe offers lean protein, fresh veggies, and plenty of Tex-Mex comfort with less fat and fewer calories (like my favorite Taco Skillet).
Added bonus: if you hustle, this recipe is ready in 30 minutes or less.
What is King Ranch Chicken?
The name “King Ranch chicken” is an ode to King Ranch, a large ranch in Texas. However, the recipe and the ranch don’t seem to have any connection to each other historically (at least not one that I can find).
However, the ingredients would feel right at home on the ranch. The original King Ranch chicken recipe is a Tex-Mex casserole with layers of corn or flour tortillas, cheese, chicken, diced tomatoes, spices, and usually a can of cream of this or that soup.
It’s like an enchilada, pan of Chicken Nachos, and your grandma’s best casserole rolled into one gooey dish of comfort food bliss.
5 Star Review
“This was so good, better than the canned soup, heavy version. Absolutely loved it and so did my husband!”
— Jen —
How to Make King Ranch Chicken
The original King Ranch chicken recipe reminds me of my Chicken Tortilla Casserole, but with the creaminess factor dialed waaaaaaaay up.
My healthy King Ranch chicken recipe is made without canned soup and instead loaded with tons of fresh veggies, lean chicken breast, and opts for reduced-fat cream cheese and nonfat Greek yogurt. It’s King Ranch chicken light!
- Bell Peppers. Loaded with vitamin C, fiber, folate, and potassium, bell peppers add color and texture to the classic King Ranch casserole recipe. Stick with red or opt for a mix of colors (like in these Beef Fajitas).
- Poblano + Jalapeño Peppers. Add a little kick beyond the chiles in the can of Rotel-style diced tomatoes.
- Onion + Garlic. Add an extra layer of zippy flavor.
- Spices. A classic Tex-Mex blend of chili powder, cumin, and salt delivers all the depth, spice, and flavor this dish needs. (I use a similar blend in this Fiesta Chicken.)
- Flour. Thickens our healthy, homemade King Ranch chicken sauce.
- Chicken Broth. Hydrates the dish and forms the base of the lightened-up sauce.
- Reduced-Fat Cream Cheese. Just two ounces of reduced-fat cream cheese in the sauce was all I needed to eliminate the canned soup and create a healthy King Ranch chicken recipe that was still gratifyingly rich.
- Cooked Chicken Breast. This lean and healthy protein is my hack for getting this easy King Ranch chicken recipe (and this Chicken Enchilada Skillet) on the table in 30 minutes or less.
- Corn Tortillas. I opted for corn tortillas because I love how their texture breaks down and mixes with the creamy sauce, thickening it further.
- Rotel Tomatoes. Or your favorite brand of canned diced tomatoes with green chiles.
- Mexican Cheese. Choose your favorite store-bought blend of shredded Mexican cheese or grate directly from a block of Monterrey Jack, pepper jack, cheddar, and/or quesadilla cheese.
King Ranch Chicken Toppings
Use any of your favorite taco or nacho toppings to garnish this easy skillet King Ranch chicken. Here are a few of my favs:
- Nonfat Greek yogurt or light sour cream
- Avocado or a dollop of the Best Guacamole Recipe
- Sliced green onions or diced red onion
- Chopped greens such as kale or spinach
- Black olives
- Sauté the vegetables with the spices.
- Stir in the flour, then pour in the broth. Simmer until it thickens.
- Reduce the heat, stir in the cream cheese, then fold in the chicken, diced tomatoes, tortillas, and some of the cheese.
- Top the casserole with the remaining cheese, and then transfer the skillet to the oven. Broil King Ranch chicken until the cheese is melted and browned. Serve warm, garnished with cilantro and Greek yogurt. ENJOY!
- To Store. Store King Ranch chicken in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Gently heat leftovers in a large ovenproof skillet at 350 degrees F until warmed through. You can also reheat this dish in the microwave.
- To Freeze. King Ranch chicken may be stored in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
The Best Cast Iron Skillet
This Le Creuset 12″ cast iron skillet has an enamel designed for higher surface temperatures to enhance cooking performance, and is compatible with all cooktops and oven-safe up to 500 degrees F.
The name “King Ranch chicken” might not have anything to do with the monarchy, but feasting on it made me feel like a queen.
Try the recipe, and you’ll feel like kitchen royalty too!
Frequently Asked Questions
Personally, I prefer the taste and texture of making King Ranch chicken with corn tortillas or flour tortillas. Tortilla chips become mushy once incorporated, so they are better saved for guacamole.
I do not follow a keto diet, so I don’t feel comfortable advising whether or not this recipe aligns with a keto diet as it is written. That said, I’m sure this recipe could be adapted with some tweaks if you want to make a keto King Ranch chicken recipe. For example, try using low carb tortillas and omit the beans.
I think you could assemble the casserole up until the point of broiling, let it cool, then refrigerate it for 8 hours. Let come to room temperature, then rewarm it in a 350 degree F oven.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 red bell peppers chopped
- 1 small yellow onion chopped
- 1 poblano pepper chopped
- 1 small jalapeño seeded and finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1/2 tablespoon ground chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (substitute a 1:1 gluten-free flour blend to make gluten free)
- 1 cup unsalted chicken broth or water
- 2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups shredded or diced cooked chicken breast about 1 medium breast (for cooking tips, see this post on How to Cook Shredded Chicken, Baked Chicken Breast, Crock Pot Shredded Chicken, or Instant Pot Chicken)
- 1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles drained (10 ounces)
- 3 (6-inch) corn tortillas torn into rough 1-inch pieces
- 2/3 cup shredded Mexican-blend cheese divided
- Chopped fresh cilantro optional
- Nonfat plain Greek yogurt optional
Place a rack in the upper third of the oven (usually the second-most slot from the top) and preheat the oven to broil.
In a medium ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot but not yet smoking. Add the bell pepper, onion, poblano, and jalapeño. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 8 to 9 minutes.
Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and salt and stir constantly. Continue cooking and stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, still stirring constantly, until they are thoroughly coated and the white bits of flour disappear, about 1 minute.
Stir in the broth and bring to a boil. Stir and cook until the mixture is somewhat thickened, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low.
Break the cream cheese into the skillet in bits. Stir until melted. Gently stir in the chicken, diced tomatoes, torn tortillas, and half of the cheese. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.
Place the skillet under the broiler. Broil until the cheese is melted and browned, about 1 to 2 minutes. Do not walk away. Watch the skillet the entire time to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve hot with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
- TO STORE: Store king ranch chicken in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm leftovers in a large ovenproof skillet in the oven at 350 degrees F until warmed through. You can also reheat this dish in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: King ranch chicken may be stored in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Serving: 1of 4 (without toppings)Calories: 318kcalCarbohydrates: 26gProtein: 27gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 64mgPotassium: 716mgFiber: 5gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 2630IUVitamin C: 116mgCalcium: 316mgIron: 3mg
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