‘The Pioneer Woman’: Ree Drummond’s King Ranch Chicken Recipe Is a Perfect Make-Ahead Freezer Casserole That’s ‘Insanely Good’

Ree Drummond loves to stock her freezer with meals so she always has something she can heat and eat when life gets busy. On one episode of The Pioneer Woman, Drummond shared her easy king ranch chicken recipe, a hearty casserole she said freezes well.

Ree Drummond from 'The Pioneer Woman' smiling while wearing a brightly colored shirt
Ree Drummond | Tyler Essary/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Ree Drummond stocks her freezer with an easy casserole recipe

Drummond devoted an entire episode of The Pioneer Woman to prepping freezer meals and, of course, there was a casserole in the mix.

“I’m going to make one of the best freezer casseroles there is — king ranch chicken,” she explained. “It’s a really popular casserole around these parts. And I’m going to start with the weirdest part of the whole recipe.”

Drummond combined the liquid for the casserole: cream of mushroom soup and cream of chicken soup. “If you can get past this part of the recipe, you’re golden,” she said. “It’s just a really funny little combination.”

The Food Network host added a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles and two cups of chicken broth. “You know, like all comfort casseroles, I tried to put a from-scratch spin on this,” she said. “I tried to substitute the canned cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups with a homemade roux, a homemade sauce. It just was not as delicious.”

Drummond added, “I hate to say that, but some of these old-time casseroles taste better the way they were designed to be.”

She added chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper, and stirred the ingredients together.

‘The Pioneer Woman’ star assembles the casserole

Drummond shared, “You know, this casserole has been around forever,” but said the origins are unclear. “The funny thing is, nobody really knows where king ranch casserole came from. There’s the famous King Ranch in Texas, but there’s been some disputing whether it came from King Ranch or not.”

To assemble the casserole, Drummond placed ripped chunks of corn tortillas on the bottom of a foil-lined baking dish. She explained that aluminum foil comes in handy when she freezes the casserole.

She placed chicken on top of the tortillas. “For the chicken you can really use any kind that you have,” Drummond noted. “I roasted a whole chicken at 350 degrees for about an hour and fifteen minutes. You can also just roast chicken breasts. If you have some leftover chicken, you can use that.”

Drummond added diced bell peppers, onions, and jalapenos, then sprinkled Monterey jack and cheddar cheeses over the top. She slowly poured half of the soup mixture on next. “You know, I think casseroles are probably the best kind of freezer food that there is,” she said. “It’s just so comforting, so easy to just pull out of the freezer. There’s nothing like it.”

She repeated the layers, placing more torn tortillas on top, chicken, followed by the vegetables, the cheese, and the soup mixture.

Drummond has an easy trick for her casserole recipe

Drummond then pointed out her easy trick with the foil. “Now here’s what’s cool about this foil trick. I’ll fold the foil over and freeze the casserole until it’s solid,” she explained. “Then I’ll lift the foil part out of the pan, wrap it in plastic wrap, and freeze it for as long as I want. And that way I won’t tie up the dish.”

She added, “Then when it’s ready to bake it, I’ll put the foil back into a casserole dish and pretend it’s been there all along.”

To heat the casserole, Drummond thaws it then bakes the dish in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 45 minutes. She unfolds the foil and bakes it for another 15 minutes.

“I haven’t really met a casserole that I didn’t like,” Drummond said. “And this one is no exception. You have got to try it sometime — it is insanely good.”

The full recipe is available on the Food Network website.

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