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King Ranch Chicken Mac and Cheese

A riff on King Ranch Chicken Casserole, a quintessential Texan potluck dish, this mac and cheese is just as creamy and comforting as you'd expect the casserole itself to be.  As a matter of fact, I've never even made the casserole...though it's something I've "meant" to make.  It's still on my list, but until then I'm happy as a pig in mud to eat another serving of this sinful dish.  When I received the January issue of Southern Living in the mail, this was on the cover.  It reminded me that Kim made it last month...and I wanted it.

So, I really started to wonder where King Ranch Chicken Casserole got its name...what are its roots.  And the best I answer I found is:  it's murky.  Huh.  One common thought is that it originates from the actual King Ranch in Texas.  This is a charge they deny.  Another theory is that it's size (think large casserole) relates to the wide open spaces of Texas.  Or perhaps it comes from a Tex-Mex twist on Chicken a la King (this idea comes from Lisa, The Homesick Texan...and it's as good a guess as any).  Which reminds me.  I've never talked about Chicken a la King here- and I LOVE it.  L.O.V.E.  LOVE it.  It's going on my reminder list.  Yes, I have numerous lists.  So many lists, in fact, that I think I should be called King Ranch List-Maker.  No?  Yeah, that was bad.  Anyway.

I don't know its exact origins.  And I'm okay with that.  As long as I can eat it.
King Ranch Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Keywords: entree side pasta cheese American Southwest

Ingredients (serves 6)
  • 8 oz. cavatappi pasta
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 (10 oz.) can diced tomatoes w/ green chiles
  • 8 oz. Velveeta, cut into chunks
  • 3 c. chopped, cooked chicken
  • 1 (10¾ oz.) can cream of chicken soup
  • ½ c. sour cream
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Preaheat oven to 350° F. Grease an 11"x7" dish or a 10" cast-iron skillet. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and reserve.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper and saute until tender, 3-5 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes w/ green chiles and Velveeta; cook, stirring constantly until Velveeta melts, 2-3 minutes. Stir in chicken, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, chili powder, and cumin along with the reserved pasta. Pour or spoon into prepared pan and sprinkle with the shredded cheese.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly.
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p.s... Yes, this contains Velveeta and condensed soup.  Throw caution to the wind and make it anyway.  If you like creamy, comforting mac and cheese with a hit of spice and juicy chunks of chicken, then you won't be disappointed.

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PPN #247 hosted at Cook. Craft. Enjoy.