King Ranch Chicken Casserole is a cozy, comfort food classic with melty layers of chicken, tortillas, and cheese...and this from-scratch version features a simple homemade sauce with NO canned condensed soup!
8ounces(2 cups) grated cheddar OR Colby Jack cheese
1(10-ounce) can Rotel (diced tomatoes & green chiles)drained
1jalapeñoseeds & membranes removed and finely diced (optional)
Adjust rack to center position of oven. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Make the white sauce by melting butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the garlic to the pot and saute until fragrant and light golden brown, about 1 minute. Stir in the flour and whisk continuously for 1 minute. Slowly and gradually whisk in milk and 1 cup chicken stock. Increase heat to medium and stir continuously for several minutes until sauce is smooth and thickened. Remove pot from the heat and stir in cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
Evenly scatter half of the shredded chicken in the bottom of the baking dish. Dollop half of the sauce on top of the chicken and use the back of a spoon to spread it in an even layer. Arrange half of the corn tortilla quarters on top, overlapping slightly and tearing in half to fill in any gaps, if necessary. Sprinkle half of the grated cheese on top. Drizzle the entire surface with 1/2 cup of the remaining chicken broth, including corners and edges. Repeat layers of chicken, sauce, tortillas, cheese, and final 1/2 cup broth. Evenly sprinkle Rotel and diced jalapeños (if using) over top of the casserole.
Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
You may use leftover chicken or cook it fresh by poaching, baking, grilling, cooking in the slow cooker, etc. I typically cook 4 (medium-sized) frozen chicken breasts for this recipe. Alternatively, a rotisserie chicken torn into chunks yields about 4 cups.
If you can't find Rotel, you may use a regular can of diced tomatoes plus a small (4-ounce) can of diced green chiles in its place. Or you can use an equivalent amount of fresh diced tomatoes and green chiles.