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Usually made by layering creamy chicken and tortillas (lasagna-style), this classic Tex-Mex-inspired chicken casserole gets speedier for an easy weeknight dinner when we mix everything together in a skillet, then pop the whole pan under the broiler to make the cheese topping gooey. Serve this healthy chicken casserole recipe with a side salad for a filling meal.

EatingWell Magazine, March 2019; updated October 2022

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Read the full recipe after the video.

Recipe Summary

active:
25 mins
total:
30 mins
Servings:
4
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What Is King Ranch Chicken Casserole?

King Ranch casserole is a chicken casserole with a Southwestern spin. Originating in Texas, King Ranch casserole has layers of chicken, tortillas, peppers and tomatoes with green chiles all swimming in a creamy sauce usually made with a can of condensed soup. We made this classic chicken casserole with weeknights in mind by skipping the layering and mixing everything together in a skillet. The casserole is topped with cheese and then popped under the broiler so you can enjoy this ooey-gooey classic chicken casserole in just 30 minutes.

Is King Ranch Chicken Casserole Healthy?

It certainly can be! Here's how we gave King Ranch chicken casserole a healthier spin:

1) Add Veggies

We bulk up our King Ranch chicken casserole with plenty of onion, bell peppers and poblanos. Vegetables add color and flavor to the casserole without adding too many additional calories. Poblano peppers are usually mild, but if you want to keep the heat to a minimum, you can leave out the jalapeño and substitute extra bell pepper, red or green, for the poblano.

2) Skip the Condensed Soup

Condensed creamy soups like cream of chicken or cream of mushroom are convenient, but they can add a lot of sodium and calories from fat. You can get a silky, creamy sauce simply by sprinkling flour over the veggies right before adding unsalted chicken broth to the pan. The flour combines with the broth, creating a thick sauce as it heats up. We give it a creamy texture by adding a few tablespoons of reduced-fat cream cheese, stirring until it melts.

3) Use Cooked Chicken Breast

We like lean, cooked chicken breast for this recipe. Leftover chicken breast or poached chicken breast is the best option. Rotisserie chicken is convenient, but it tends to be high in sodium, so keep that in mind if you choose to go that route. Boneless, skinless cooked chicken thighs are also a good option, adding only a marginal amount of added fat and calories.

Additional reporting by Hilary Meyer 

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Preheat broiler to high.

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  • Heat oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, bell pepper, poblano and jalapeño; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 7 to 9 minutes. Add garlic and cumin; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, until they are thoroughly coated, about 1 minute.

  • Add broth and bring to a boil, stirring to combine. Cook, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Stir in cream cheese until melted. Stir in chicken, tomatoes, tortilla pieces and salt. Sprinkle evenly with cheese.

  • Place the skillet under the broiler and broil until the cheese is melted and browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Nutrition Facts

1 1/4 cups
332 calories; protein 29.5g; carbohydrates 20.7g; dietary fiber 3.8g; sugars 6.3g; fat 14.4g; saturated fat 5.6g; cholesterol 76.9mg; vitamin a iu 1974.3IU; vitamin c 65.3mg; folate 45.3mcg; calcium 165.2mg; iron 1.6mg; magnesium 44.4mg; potassium 443.1mg; sodium 376.4mg.

3 lean protein, 2 vegetable, 1 1/2 fat, 1/2 medium-fat protein, 1/2 starch

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