King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Gluten-Free King Ranch Chicken Casserole Made with Non-Diary Cheese

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

This recipe from 2016 (our dairy-free phase) has been updated and I’ve added new pictures.  If you can handle goat milk you could easily swap out the vegan cheese for a goat milk pepper jack cheese and/ or use goat butter instead of ghee. 

And although I haven’t tried it in this particular recipe, you could also replace the sour cream with goat milk yogurt.  It worked really well in this recipe for Clean Eating White Chicken Enchilada Casserole.

So we love King Ranch Chicken Casserole!  I used to make the Homesick Texan’s recipe all the time before I had to give up gluten and casein/dairy.   It’s fancy and takes a little more work (because you make the sauce instead of using cream of mushroom soup).

Well actually a lot of work and some dishes are going to get dirty, but it is sooooo totally worth it.

Ingredients to Make King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Substitutions

This recipe tracks the Homesick Texan’s recipe for the most part with a few changes to make it dairy-free, gluten-free, and clean eating.  

  • use chopped tomatoes in BPA-free containers instead of Rotel diced tomatoes  
  • use Field Roast Chao Tomato Cayenne Vegan Cheese
  • find gluten-free and organic corn tortillas
  • we love organic Smart Chicken
  • gluten-free mayo works really well as a sour cream substitute 

It may sound a little weird to use mayo instead of sour cream, but it works.  And it was perfect in this dish.  So instead of half and half and sour cream, we used GF mayo.  

I originally used Vegenaise but then switched to a brand of mayo that didn’t contain xanthan gum.  The first time I used 1/4 cup and the second time I used about 1/2 cup and I liked the sauce a lot better, but it is up to you how much you want to add.  

Now we make our own homemade mayo with avocado oil and it tastes amazing.  

Making The Casserole

Ancho Chili Lime Marinated Chicken

The first thing you want to do is prep the chicken.  The chicken is cut into pieces and marinated in lime juice and ancho chili powder (you can use regular instead).  Marinate it for about an hour in the fridge.

Then fry it up with some olive oil in a skillet.  Once cooked through let cool and shred with two forks.  

Meanwhile, chop up your veggies (poblano, red bell pepper, green onion) and cook in the ghee for about 7 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds then add the gluten-free all purpose flour and the spices.  I like Bob’s Red Mill all purpose gluten-free flour (not the 1 to 1 with xanthan gum).

Mix together and let cook for about a minute before adding in the chicken broth.  Let that cook until it thickens.  Since I’ve started using goat butter, I’ve noticed that a roux will thicken a lot faster than ghee.  It also melts a lot faster.  So it should take about 2-5 minutes to thicken up.

Then we add the crushed tomatoes.  Stir well, cover, and let simmer for about 15 minutes.  When we take it off the heat, add a little more lime juice and the mayonnaise.  Then taste test for salt.  I usually add about a half teaspoon.  

Faux Queso

This is when we discovered that the sauce actually tastes like queso, which is usually made with Velveeta cheese and a can of Rotel tomatoes and green chilies.   I promise you this Faux Queso is so good.  And it can probably be made vegan if you use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

Once we have the shredded cooked chicken and sauce, we can assemble the casserole.  

If you want the tortillas to be a little softer you could heat them in a pan or wrap them in a wet paper towel and microwave them.  I usually break them in half and put the straight edge along the straight edge of the casserole dish.

Assembling the King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Start with a layer of sauce on the bottom.  Then add tortillas, half of the shredded chicken, half of the sauce, and a layer of cheese.  Add one more layer of tortillas and chicken.  

Next we are going to tear the cheese and place it on top of the chicken before adding the remaining sauce.  It doesn’t melt very well when placed on top of the sauce.  If you are using a cheese that melts well, you can layer it over the sauce.

Then we bake uncovered for about 25-30 minutes.  Make sure it is bubbling on the edges.  Let cool and set a bit before serving. Leftovers are really amazing, too.   Enjoy your decadent and fancy King Ranch Chicken Casserole!

Gluten-Free King Ranch Chicken Casserole Made with Non-Diary Cheese

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King Ranch Chicken Casserole | Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free

This is a gluten-free, dairy-free version of the popular Homesick Texan’s fancy recipe for King Ranch Chicken Casserole.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword king ranch chicken casserole
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 6
Author Deana Larkin Evans


  • 3 skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into long strips
  • 3/4 cup lime juice, plus a squeeze more
  • 5 tsp ancho chile powder (or chili powder), divided
  • 1 cup finely diced or chopped tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons ghee (or butter substitute)
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, stemmed, and diced
  • 1 large poblano pepper, seeded, stemmed, and diced
  • 1 tbsp green onions, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp gluten free all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup GF mayonnaise
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • 1 package Field Roast Tomato Cayenne Chao Vegan Cheese


  1. Mix together the lime juice and 3 teaspoons of the ancho chili powder in a bowl. Add chicken pieces to the marinade, cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  3. Melt the ghee (or butter substitute) in a large saucepan or 3.5-quart Dutch oven on medium low, and add the red bell pepper, poblano pepper and green onions. Cook for about 7-10 minutes, then add the garlic. Stir for about 30 seconds then add in the flour, cumin, cayenne pepper and the other 2 teaspoons of ancho chile powder. Cook for about 1 minute more.

  4. Pour in the chicken broth and cook on low until the mixture has thickened, about 2-5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cover the pot. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  5. Meanwhile, cook the chili lime marinated chicken breast strips in a skillet on the stove top for 15-20 minutes until done. When the chicken is cooked through, let it cool and then shred it and set aside.

  6. When the sauce is ready, remove from heat and add a squeeze of lime juice and the mayo. Stir until everything is well-combined. Add in salt and pepper to taste.

  7. To assemble the casserole, ladle enough sauce (about 1/4 – 1/2 cup) to cover the bottom of a baking dish. I use a deep 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 casserole dish from Crate & Barrel.
  8. Layer 3 tortillas on top of the sauce. Cut up the tortillas to make sure the entire pan is evenly covered. Add half of the shredded cooked chicken. Then about half of the remaining sauce. Cover with 5 slices of the Chao cheese.

  9. Next is another layer of tortillas. Then the remainder of shredded chicken. Cut the remaining 5 slices of the Chao cheese into strips and place them over the chicken (the cheese melts a lot better this way). Take the remaining sauce and pour it evenly over the chicken and cheese strips.

  10. Cook uncovered in the oven at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.
  11. Enjoy! The leftovers are delicious, too!

Deana Larkin Evans

You get one life - do your best to ENJOY IT! So hi, I'm Deana. This food blog is all about cooking wholesome real food and developing gluten-free recipes for some of our favorite comfort foods. I had to start eating gluten-free in 2010, then cut dairy and casein (except for the occasional Parmesan) in 2014. We learned A2 casein (goat, sheep and buffalo milk) is easier to digest than the predominate A1 form in cow milk. So we brought back goat milk dairy into our recipes in 2016. Thank goodness, right! So I'm kind of a science nerd, too. In the '90s, I earned an undergrad degree in biochemistry from The University of Texas at Austin. Hook 'em! Then followed up with a PhD in biochemistry and a law degree from the University of Houston. I recently earned a certificate in genomics/sequence analysis from Johns Hopkins University, where I also took a very cool food microbiology course. Currently, I'm learning about the microbiome and gut health. And trying to come up with healthy recipes to feed those gut bugs! #feedthegutbugs

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