King Ranch Chicken Pasta is a weeknight meal all in one dish! It’s creamy, hearty, and has a little Southwest flair that will have the whole family asking for seconds!
What is king ranch chicken?
It’s a popular chicken casserole made with Ro-tel diced chilies and tomatoes, cheese, and tortillas and a few other staples. There are so many varieties but this king ranch chicken pasta version is my favorite twist on the classic!
How to make king ranch chicken pasta:
The first thing to do is set your pasta to boil while you make the rest of the dish. (Don’t forget to salt the pasta water!) Then you’ll start cooking the seasoned chicken in a big skillet in some olive oil. A little side note here though…if you don’t feel like cooking the chicken, you can totally get away with using rotisserie! Cooking it only takes about 7 minutes so I just go ahead and do it while I’m making this.
Once the chicken is cooked, you can set it on a separate plate and cook your veggies in the skillet. I just add a little more olive oil in the pan and let the peppers and onions get nice and soft.
You’re almost done now! Next you’ll add in the ingredients to make the sauce and the seasonings. This is what makes this KING RANCH chicken pasta! And I know some people are not fans of velveeta cheese…I am not one of those people. It gets a bad rap but nothing melts better than this stuff!
Is king ranch chicken spicy?
That’s up to you! I use the mild can of ro-tel and it still has a very slight kick to it. My kids can handle it, if that tells you anything. But if you like spice…you can use the hot ro-tel!
Once stirred together, the sauce will look like this picture below. Tell me you don’t want to dive into that!!
After you’ve made the sauce, the chicken and the pasta can go back in and stirred until everything is combined. In the pictures here, I used the entire 16 ounce box of pasta BUT if you like A LOT of sauce in your pasta dishes, just take out a couple cups of pasta before adding it to the sauce. Weirdly enough, my kids love to snack on plain cooked pasta that I set aside…don’t ask me!
Now, you could stop here and eat this just how it is…but I would HIGHLY suggest this yummy topping!! It starts by sprinkling the top with shredded cheese. In the measurements below, I have listed “1 cup”, but we all know this gets measured with your heart…so add as much as you’d like!
Then you’ll cut up your bread pieces and coat them with melted butter. I tend to always have sandwich bread at home so that’s what I use. But almost any bread will work. Have left over hotdog buns…go for it! Sprinkle the bread bits on top and then it’s ready to go in the oven.
It gets baked for about 25 minutes and when it comes out, the cheese will be bubbling, the bread will be toasty, and this king ranch chicken pasta is ready to be devoured!
King Ranch Chicken Pasta
- 1 (16 ounce) package of cavatappi pasta (corkscrews)
- 2 large chicken breast (or about 2 pounds)
- 1 teaspoon each salt and garlic powder
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
- 1 diced green bell pepper
- 1 diced yellow onion
- 1 can of Ro-tel tomatoes and green chilies (10 ounces) (mild or hot...your preference!)
- 1 small package of Velveeta cheese (8 ounces)
- 1 can cream of chicken soup
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 6 slices of sandwich bread (or any leftover bread)
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- Prep: Pre-heat your oven to 375 and start cooking your pasta according to the directions on the box. (I always cook mine for the least amount of time given so it doesn't get mushy)
- Cut your chicken into bite-sized 1" pieces and season with the salt and garlic powder.
- Heat a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat and add in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté the chicken until cooked through. (About 7-10 minutes)
- Remove the cooked chicken from the skillet and set aside on a plate or bowl.
- Lower the heat on the stove to medium and add in another tablespoon of olive oil.
- Sauté the diced onions and peppers until they soften and turn translucent. (About 5 minutes)
- Add in the Rotel, cream of chicken, Velveeta, milk, chili poweder, and cumin and stir together until the cheese is completely melted.
- Add the cooked chicken and the cooked pasta to the skillet and gently stir until all of the noodles are coated in the sauce.
- Sprinkle the top of the skillet with the shredded cheese.
- Cut your bread slices into about ¼ inch pieces and toss in the melted butter.
- Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top of the shredded cheese.
- Bake everything in the oven for 25 minutes or until the bread is golden brown.