King Ranch Chicken Casserole

image of King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Every place has its regional specialties, which became very obvious to me after moving to Texas. Certain dishes – like Red Velvet cake – I was aware of in California, but had no idea they were so very prevalent in other areas. And some things I’d never even heard of until I moved here.

One of those is King Ranch Chicken. This is a delicious Tex-Mex casserole layered with corn tortillas, chicken, tomatoes, a mildly spicy (or however you make it) creamy sauce and topped with cheese. Usually, the sauce is made using a can of condensed soup.

I have a lot of reasons for disliking recipes that use condensed soups. One is that I have high blood pressure, so I have to watch my sodium, and canned foods have sooo much sodium in them, it’s ridiculous. Another is that it just seems so artificial to use condensed soups. Finally, I don’t want to use up all my pantry space with can after can of the various condensed soup flavors.

I love casseroles, but so many of them call for those stupid condensed soups. After some research, I have found substitutes so I can still enjoy a creamy, delicious casserole without that can. Some cornstarch, dry milk powder and chicken broth gives me a lovely creamy result, without all the junk. If you want to use this method for any other recipe, just remember you may need to add seasonings to approximate the condensed soup you are replacing. Here, I didn’t add any, because the rest of the casserole has plenty of flavor. But if you were doing something milder, you would want to add some herbs and spices to round it out.

Here’s my version of King Ranch chicken, which even my anything-healthy-hating boyfriend loves! It’s hearty, delicious and very satisfying.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole


  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 bell pepper chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup dry milk powder
  • 1 pound cooked chicken breast chopped
  • 10 ounces (1 can) diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 1/2 cups light sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons thyme minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
  • 10 6″ corn tortillas
  • 8 ounces reduced fat cheddar cheese shredded


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a baking dish and set aside.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Saute onion and bell pepper 3-4 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and saute briefly, until golden. Remove from heat.
  3. Dissolve cornstarch into chicken broth, then add into skillet. Add next 8 ingredients (milk powder through pepper) to skillet and mix well.
  4. Tear 5 corn tortillas into 1″ pieces and layer bottom of baking dish. Pour half of chicken mixture into dish and top with half of the shredded cheese. Repeat layers with remaining tortillas, chicken mixture and cheese.
  5. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly.
  6. If desired, garnish with chopped tomatoes, green onions or jalapeno peppers.

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