King Ranch Chicken was the number one daily special at the Lone Star Cafe restaurant that I worked at in college.
Regulars would rush to get there before it sold out, employees came in on their day off, and we often bribed the cooks to hold a bit back for us if we were working that day.
We served it with a side of salsa, and it was usually accompanied by green beans and a salad, but nobody paid attention to the sides… the King Ranch Chicken casserole was the main dish.. the star… with it’s cheesy, crispy, spicy goodness, nothing else served that day could hold a candle to it.
The doors opened at 11:00 AM, and it wasn’t unusual for us to be sold out by 1:00 PM
As a server, line cook, and eventually restaurant manager, I ate, served, and made this King Ranch Chicken recipe more times than I can count. At some point, I re-typed the stained pages of our recipe binder, so the recipe lived on a backup drive for a few years, because at that time, I was able to make this for a crowd of 100 or a group of 10 without a thought.
This recipe is still one of my favorites, and not just because it’s rich, savory, crunchy, cheesy, and spicy; but because some of my favorite memories from that time of my life involve this King Ranch Chicken recipe.
Hours of my life were spent scraping chips and cheese off a plate with friends, and co-workers, some of my regulars still hold a very special place in my heart, over a decade later, I could practically pinpoint the moment they’d walk in the door on King Ranch Chicken Day. I can tell you how many salsas they wanted, who wanted extra jalapenos, who liked theirs with sour cream, who had two beers with theirs, who wanted double green beans, and who’d finish off their double portion with extra tomatoes and leave a 25% tip.
Not only do I have the most wonderful memories of this recipe from the restaurant, but this is one of the first dishes that I started making for friends and family in our neighborhood when we were newlyweds and when Princess was a baby.
This is the recipe that forced me to learn how to write recipes for others to follow.
This Lone Star Cafe King Ranch Chicken Casserole recipe is a milestone recipe in my life, and 19 years later, I’ll still eat it 5 days a week with a smile on my face 😉
- About 4 lbs cooked chicken, breasts or whole de-boned, chopped or shredded, your choice.
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 10.5 oz can, cream of mushroom soup
- 2 bell peppers, diced
- 1 1/4 Cup vegetable broth
- 1 10 oz can jalapeño slices (add more if you like), chopped
- 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
- 1 10 oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies
- 2 medium tomatoes, 1 chopped, 1 sliced, divided
- 1 lb shredded cheese, sharp cheddar or Mexican Blend… whatever floats your boat.
- 12 corn tortillas or a bag of corn tortilla chips
- In a large skillet over medium high heat drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil: add the onions, peppers, jalapeños, chipotle peppers and tomatoes. Cook until the onions become slightly translucent and your kitchen smells like heaven. Add the soup, broth and chicken. Bring to a slow simmer. Add Spices. Bring to a slow bubble, stirring occasionally. The mixture should be hot.
- In a large baking dish (9x13) place a layer of slightly broken tortilla chips or tortillas, top with a layer of the ‘mixture’. Cover with cheese.
- Repeat the layers until done and topped with cheese
- Add fresh sliced tomatoes and jalapeños on top before baking
- Bake uncovered at 375° for about 30 minutes or until the cheese melts into bubbling golden goodness.
originally posted on A Southern Fairytale in 2008.
This is the picture that accompanied the original post.
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