King Ranch chicken is a popular Tex-Mex casserole with a mysterious origin.
Some speculate its name comes from the grand King Ranch in Texas. But the ranch has not exactly laid claim to the connection according to Southern Kitchen.
Despite the uncertainty, one thing is very clear: King Ranch Chicken is a classic favorite packed with bold, satisfying flavors.
The dish is often prepared into a King Ranch casserole, featuring repeated layers of chicken, cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, corn tortillas, melted butter, and shredded cheese.
But we transformed King Ranch Chicken casserole into one childhood favorite…
Mac and cheese!
While mac and cheese is one kid-friendly food for family dinner, it can fall short of nutrients such as protein and fiber.
But with the help of a healthified King Ranch chicken recipe with a mac and cheese twist, nutrients are more than ample!
Eat like a king (and queen) with this recipe the entire family will swoon over!
King Ranch Chicken Mac and Cheese Recipe
Yield: 8 servings
Nutrition per serving: 440 calories, 15 g fat, 38 g protein, 39 g total carb, 5 g fiber
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
• 1, 12-ounce box of whole wheat elbow noodles
• 2 Tbsp olive oil
• 1 yellow onion, chopped
• 1 green bell pepper, chopped
• 1 pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, skin removed and shredded
• 1, 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
• 1 cup low-fat milk
• 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, reduced-fat
• 1/2 cup chicken broth
• 1 1/2 cups reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Scallions, chopped (optional)
1. Prepare pasta noodles according to the package. Drain and set aside.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper and sauté 5 minutes, or until tender.
3. In the same pot, add the chicken, tomatoes, milk, yogurt, salt, and pepper. Slowly mix in the cheeses, combining until melted and incorporated.
4. Add drained pasta to the chicken mixture and gently stir until noodles are coated.
5. Garnish with chopped scallions and serve.
4 Bonus Tips for the Best King Chicken Ranch Casserole Pasta
From casserole to mac and cheese, king chicken ranch is a flexible recipe. And these bonus tips prove just how versatile it can be!
1. Experiment with different types of pasta.
When choosing pasta, opting for a whole grain variety is recommended over refined types. This is because whole grains offer more fiber, B vitamins, and other nutrients.
But there are other pasta types that offer plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These varieties are considered to be gluten-free:
• Brown rice pasta
• Chickpea penne
• Edamame pasta
• Quinoa pasta
• Red lentil rotini
2. Add other favorite veggies and nutrient-dense foods.
Round out the mac and cheese with more veggies, other nutrient-dense foods for that matter, such as:
• Black beans
• Corn kernels
• Green chiles
3. Tweak flavor with various seasonings and herbs.
The flavor is ample in the original recipe, though there are ways to tweak taste per liking. Some seasonings and herbs to get you inspired may include:
• Chili powder
• Enchilada sauce
• Ranch seasoning
• Red pepper flakes
• Taco seasoning
4. Bake the mac and cheese in the oven.
Baking the King ranch chicken mac and cheese requires a bit of patience on your end, as you will be tempted to enjoy right away. However, the outcome is well worth it!
A few simple steps more and baking the dish offers an element of crunch to smooth mac and cheese. Here is how to do it:
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Prepare the mac and cheese to liking then pour into a lightly greased baking dish.
3. Top with crushed tortilla chips or breadcrumbs and more shredded cheese.
4. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden brown.
How will you transform this Tex-Mex fare into your family's favorite dinner?