When it comes to classic comfort food, few dishes can rival the irresistible charm of a homemade casserole. And when that casserole is none other than the iconic King Ranch Chicken Casserole, you know you’re in for a treat. Hailing from the great state of Texas, this mouthwatering dish is as synonymous with Tex-Mex cuisine as cowboy boots and wide-brimmed hats. But have you ever wondered about the origins of this delectable creation? Join us as we delve into the history of King Ranch Chicken Casserole and discover the flavors and traditions that make it a beloved staple in the Lone Star State and beyond.
Origins of King Ranch Chicken Casserole:
The King Ranch Chicken Casserole finds its roots in the legendary King Ranch, one of the largest and oldest working ranches in the United States. Located in South Texas, this sprawling ranch spans over 825,000 acres and has played a significant role in shaping the history and culture of the region.
The exact origin of the casserole is somewhat shrouded in mystery, with several stories circulating among food enthusiasts and locals. One popular account attributes its creation to Helen Corbitt, a renowned culinary figure who served as the food director at the Neiman Marcus department store in Dallas during the mid-20th century. It is believed that Corbitt adapted a traditional Mexican dish known as “Sopa de Tortilla” or “Tortilla Soup” and transformed it into the beloved casserole we know today.
The dish gained popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, largely thanks to the King Ranch itself. As guests visited the ranch and experienced the hearty, flavorful casserole prepared by the ranch’s skilled cooks, its reputation began to spread far and wide. Soon, the recipe became a cherished family tradition, passed down through generations and finding its way onto dinner tables across Texas and beyond.
Distinctive Flavors and Ingredients:
What sets King Ranch Chicken Casserole apart from other casseroles is its unique blend of Tex-Mex flavors. The dish typically consists of layers of tortillas, tender chicken, a creamy sauce, and a medley of spices and vegetables. The sauce is often made with a combination of diced tomatoes, green chilies, onions, garlic, and a touch of chili powder, creating a harmonious balance of savory and spicy notes.
King Ranch Chicken Casserole stands as a testament to the rich culinary heritage of Texas, blending Mexican and Texan influences into a comforting and delicious dish. With its origins rooted in the renowned King Ranch and its flavors embraced by families and food enthusiasts for decades, this casserole holds a special place in the hearts and kitchens of Texans. Whether enjoyed as a family meal or a crowd-pleasing potluck contribution, the King Ranch Chicken Casserole embodies the warmth and hospitality that define Texan cuisine. So, roll up your sleeves, gather your ingredients, and prepare to savor a taste of Texas history with every savory, cheesy bite.
King Ranch chicken casserole is a bit of a southern tradition, and a great dish to make for a new mom and dad to take as a gift! You can make this with purchased rotisserie chicken, and freeze! Simply thaw overnight and bake!
Try some of our other easy weeknight meals!
- Casserole pan
- Cheese grater
Ingredients for the King Ranch Chicken sauce:
- 1 stick butter
- 4 cloves garlic shredded
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne optional
- 2 cups of milk
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 7 ounce can green chilies
- 14 ounce can of tomatoes and peppers Rotelle
- 6 grinds fresh black pepper
Ingredients used to layer in the King Ranch Casserole:
- 3 cups chopped smoked chicken can also use purchased rotisserie chicken
- 15 corn tortillas
- 16 ounce freshly shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 7 ounce cheddar cheese freshly shredded, and divided
- 4.2 ounce can of sliced Pearl olives drained
- 2 fresh jalapeños seeded and sliced
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- Fresh cilantro for garnish
Instructions for making the King Ranch Chicken sauce:
- Melt butter in a large Dutch oven. Add in the shredded garlic. Sprinkle in flour, and stir with a wooden spoon and cook down for at least 5 minutes while stirring to form a roux. Add cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, pepper and stir to blend and cook down a few minutes more. If you like it hot, add cayenne.1 stick butter, 4 cloves garlic shredded, 1/2 cup flour, 2 tablespoon cumin, 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 6 grinds fresh black pepper
- Now it is time to add the milk and broth. Bring to a simmer, while stirring. Add in the green chiles and tomatoes. Add black pepper, and if you like it spicy add in the cayenne pepper. Continue to stir and cook to allow mixture to slightly thicken. It will still be a soupy consistency, but don’t worry, it will soak up in the casserole.2 cups of milk, 2 cups chicken broth, 7 ounce can green chilies, 14 ounce can of tomatoes and peppers
Instructions for assembling the King Ranch Chicken Casserole:
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and spray a large deep casserole dish with oil. Place the sliced jalapeños in vinegar to do a quick pickle while you bake the King Ranch casserole.2 fresh jalapeños seeded and sliced, 1/4 cup white vinegar
- Starting with torn corn tortillas, begin to layer as though you are making a lasagne. Overlap the corn tortillas in the pan. Now ladle on some of the sauce, and the chicken, and some shredded cheddar and monterey jack cheese. Be sure to save some of the cheese to put on top when you bake. Repeat these steps, with the final layer being tortillas. Now put a layer of sauce on the top of this.3 cups chopped smoked chicken, 15 corn tortillas, 16 ounce freshly shredded Monterey Jack cheese, 7 ounce cheddar cheese
- If you are going to make ahead, allow this to set up a bit, and then cover with plastic wrap to put in the refrigerator. To prepare, just remove the plastic wrap and place on a rimmed cookie sheet into oven. Bake for 40-50 minutes. You want to look for it to be bubbling on the sides to know it is heated through.
- At this point, remove from oven and put cheddar over the top, and then bake until bubbly. Remove from oven and scatter the olives, and jalapeños over the top. Sprinkle with cilantro. You can also serve the jalapeño on the side.7 ounce cheddar cheese
- We like to serve this with a few things on the table to put on top. We have sour cream, salsa, extra black olives, and sliced avocado. We also serve black beans on the side.4.2 ounce can of sliced Pearl olives, Fresh cilantro for garnish, 2 fresh jalapeños seeded and sliced