Lighter King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Why is it called King Ranch Casserole?

Many people think the famous casserole started at the King Ranch in Texas, but the origin of the King Ranch Chicken Casserole is unknown.  The casserole is likely named after the King Ranch and is a favorite Tex-Mex dish across the Midwest.  King Ranch is one of the largest ranches in the United States.  Located in Kingsville, Texas (near Corpus Christi), it is still a large working ranch with cattle, horses, farming, and much more.  Worth a tour if you are ever in the area.

Back to the casserole.  There are many variations of the recipe, but the main ingredients are chicken, creamed soups, veggies, cheese, and tortillas.  The Lighter King Ranch Chicken Casserole here has less Saturated Fat and Sodium than most recipes with a few ingredient swaps.  Sodium can be reduced by swapping rotisserie chicken for a salt free baked chicken you make yourself.  Saturated Fat is lowered with reduced fat soups and cheese.  There is so much flavor in this casserole you wouldn’t guess it’s also heart smart.

King Ranch Casserole served on a white plate.
Recipe Highlights
  • Low Saturated Fat
  • Low Sodium
  • Low Carb
  • High Protein
  • Make Ahead Meal
Make Ahead Options

Freezer Meal:  Assemble the casserole as per the recipe in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.  Cover with heavy duty foil or a tight fitting lid, label, and freeze for up to one month.  When ready to cook, place casserole with a foil seal in oven.  Set oven to 375°F and bake for 45-50 minutes, remove foil and bake another 10-15 minutes, or until casserole is bubbly.

Make Ahead and Refrigerate up to 3 days:  Assemble the casserole as directed in recipe.  Cover and refrigerate until ready serve.  Preheat oven to 350°F, remove cover, and bake for about 50 minutes, or until bubbling.

Ingredients for Lighter King Ranch Chicken Casserole:

  • Chicken Broth –  I like to use Herb-Ox® Sodium Free Chicken Bouillon Granules when the recipe calls for a cup of broth.  It’s much cheaper than canned broth and there are no leftovers to refrigerate.
  • Canola Oil – You can substitute Vegetable or Avocado Oil.
  • Onion – Brown or White work just fine.
  • Bell Peppers – Pick two different colors.
  • Condensed Creamed Soups – I used Campbell’s Healthy Request®, but any reduced Sodium brand will work.
  • Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies – I used Rotel® No Salt.
  • Sour Cream – Choose the Light version to reduce Saturated Fat.
  • The Spices include Cumin, Ancho Chili Powder, Chipotle Chili Powder, Oregano, and Salt.
  • Cooked Chicken – Any cooked and shredded chicken will work including a Rotisserie Chicken.  To reduce the Sodium make your own Salt Free Baked Chicken.  I used a “Butcher’s Rub” on mine.  It has a good, subtle flavor that works with the other seasonings in the recipe.
  • Reduced Fat Shredded Cheese –  Almost any blend of cheese works.  I have used plain Cheddar, a Mexican blend, or Colby-Jack. 
  • Corn Tortillas – There is no difference (nutritionally) between white or yellow corn tortillas.  Either one is fine.
  • Fresh Jalapenos – These are optional as a garnish.  You could also garnish with chopped Cilantro.
"King Ranch Casserole" in glass 13X9 baking dish, prepared for freezer meal.

King Ranch Casserole as a Freezer Meal.

The SMART Menu

What’s a SMART Menu?  I call them smart because the Sodium and Fat (specifically Saturated Fat) are lower than most meals.  Fast Carbs (FC) and Slow Carbs (SC) are balanced to keep blood sugars level.  Plus, the Food Groups give the meal variety.

Side Swaps:

Swap the Orange Slices for

  • 1/2 cup Fresh Pineapple chunks
  • 1/3 cup Peas
  • 2/3 cup Zucchini or Yellow Squash
Menu for Lighter King Ranch Chicken Casserole + orange slices.
King Ranch Chicken Casserole recipe baked and ready to serve.

Lighter King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Tonia Bloom
Classic King Ranch Casserole goodness made with reduced fat and sodium ingredients. Recipe calls for cooked chicken. Make the Salt Free Baked Chicken Recipe for less sodium than a store bought rotisserie chicken.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Resting Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Main Dish
Diet Green, Low Carb, Low Fat, Low Sodium
Servings 8
Cost $2.55 per serving



  • Preheat oven to 350℉.
    Stir chicken bouillon granules into hot water until dissolved and set aside.
  • Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and peppers. Sauté for about 5 minutes, or until veggies are softened. Transfer to a large bowl.
  • Stir in soups, tomatoes with chilies, chicken broth, sour cream, cumin, ancho and chipotle chili powders, oregano, and salt. Combine well.
  • Spread about a ¼ cup of soup mixture in the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Layer with half the chicken, half the soup mixture, half the cheese and half the tortillas.
  • Top tortillas with remaining chicken, half the remaining soup mixture, half of the remaining cheese, and the remaining tortillas. Spread remaining soup mixture over tortillas and top with remaining cheese.
  • Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until bubbling. Remove from oven and let rest at least 10 minutes.
  • Divide dish into eight servings and garnish with sliced jalapenos.


Cooked Chicken:  One Rotisserie Chicken will yield about 3 cups shredded chicken.  Or, reduce the sodium and make the Salt Free Baked Chicken Recipe with a Tex-Mex flavor.
Nutrition Facts
Lighter King Ranch Chicken Casserole
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
Carb Count
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Keyword Casserole Dishes, Chicken Recipes, Dinner Recipes, Heart Healthy, High Protein
Food Groups ***Meat = 3.5 servings, Starch = 1 serving, Vegetable = .5 serving
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Picture of Posted by Tonia Bloom
Posted by Tonia Bloom

Posted 6/6/23

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