This classic recipe from the Lonestar state is the KING of all chicken casseroles!
If you’re familiar with old-school American recipes, chances are good that King Ranch chicken rings a bell. Even if you’ve never heard of it before, you’ll fall in love with the delicious flavors in this classic casserole. We’ve placed a healthier spin on the traditional recipe by making a few simple swaps. The result is a King Ranch Chicken and Quinoa Casserole that’s ready in less than an hour and is loaded with your favorite southern flavors!
Why is it Called King Ranch Chicken?
Honestly, no one really knows how this casserole got its name. While King Ranch is a place in the Lonestar state (the largest ranch in the United States, for that matter), no one from that area has ever taken credit for creating this recipe. Although the origins are a bit of a mystery, one thing’s for sure: This creamy and delicious casserole can be found at country potlucks and on dinner tables all across the south, and beyond!
Our Healthy Swaps for a Healthier Meal
The original recipe calls for one can of condensed cream of mushroom soup and one can of condensed cream of chicken soup. To make this recipe healthier without sacrificing flavor, we decided to make a homemade version of condensed soup instead. Doing so not only makes the recipe gluten-free, but it also significantly reduces the amount of sodium in this casserole, too.
Furthermore, the original King Ranch casserole uses corn tortillas, but we swapped in cooked quinoa instead. The nutty texture works perfectly, and it adds an extra boost of protein and nutrients to the dish.
The Best Way to Prepare the Chicken
Classic King Ranch Casserole recipes often call for canned chicken. Because we love making things from scratch, we cooked chicken breasts and shredded them for this recipe. If you’re short on time, you can always shred a store-bought rotisserie chicken instead.
Our Slow Cooker Everything Chicken is a great method for preparing chicken for this casserole if you have extra time! This particular Crock-Pot recipe yields several cups of chicken, so it will provide you with leftovers that you can use in sandwiches, tacos, or even on top of salads for healthy lunches all week long.
Serve it Now or Serve it Later
Our creamy King Ranch chicken and quinoa casserole creates an excellent dinner any night of the week. You can prepare it the day of and bake it right away, or you can prepare it ahead of time! Prep the casserole and store it in the refrigerator overnight. Be sure to cover it with an airtight lid or foil before placing it in the refrigerator. Then, take it out of the fridge at least an hour before baking.
You can also prepare and freeze this casserole, unbaked, for up to three months. The day before you want to eat it, place it in the refrigerator overnight to let it thaw. Be sure to take it out of the refrigerator for a minimum of an hour before baking. Once cooked, this casserole will last for four to five days in the refrigerator.
The Perfect Side Dishes
This King Ranch chicken casserole is filling enough on its own, but if you want to make a full spread, we have some awesome recipe ideas to pair with it:
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 1 green bell pepper diced
- 1-1/2 cups chicken stock
- 1-1/2 cups skim milk
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 6 tablespoons cornstarch
- 10 ounces diced tomatoes with green chili peppers canned
- 2 cups cooked chicken shredded, see notes section below
- 1 cup low-fat shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 cups cooked quinoa see notes section below
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-inch square casserole dish and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the chicken stock, milk, cumin, chili powder, salt, garlic powder, dried oregano, and cornstarch to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a boil before reducing the heat to a simmer. Cook until the mixture is thickened, about 5 minutes.
Add the diced tomatoes with green chili peppers and shredded chicken to the pan and stir to combine.
Pour half of the chicken mixture into the prepared baking pan and top it with half of the cheese and half of the quinoa. Repeat the layers.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until bubbly and warmed through.
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa makes 2 cups cooked quinoa.
SmartPoints (Freestyle): 9
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