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William Ragsdale: Memaw's Mexican Chicken Casserole

About the Recipe

This is my grandmother’s famous (to my family) Mexican casserole. It was my favorite as a child and she would always make it, especially for me (or so I assumed). She was widowed early in her marriage and her home was a small, charming little cottage, simply appointed and well-ordered. But when she made this dish, it usually meant that there were going to be a lot of people in the house and extra card tables were going to be set up for everyone to have a place to eat and visit. I suppose the festive, crowded, family-style feel of those meals lent to my affection for the dish.

As a parent, this hearty, comfort food meal is a go-to dish for my three boys. I usually make two batches to accommodate their teenage appetites and, as a leftover (if there is any!) it’s always a welcome sight in the refrigerator.

I’m very much immersed in the warm, happy memories of my grandmother and parents whenever I make this dish, and enjoy hearing their echoing presence in the sound of my own children’s forks and plates scratching as they dive enthusiastically into the meal.


  • 2 lbs. cooked boneless chicken (cut up)

  • 2 bags 16 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

  • 2 large bags of tortilla chips

  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom soup

  • 1 can Cream of Chicken soup

  • 1 C. chicken broth

  • 2 can Ro-tel® diced tomatoes & chiles (drained)

  • 2 C. sliced carrots (steamed or blanched until slightly soft)

  • 1 C. sliced green olives

  • 1/2 C. sliced pickled jalapeños (optional)


  1. In a saucepan, combine and warm the Chicken and Mushroom soups and the chicken broth until well mixed.

  2. Lightly oil a 9x13 casserole dish, and line the bottom and sides with tortilla chips.

  3. Add a 1/2 inch layer of combined chicken, shredded cheese, Ro-tel® tomatoes, carrots, and green olives, then top with a layer of chips.

  4. Repeat the above combination for a second layer, again covering the mix with a layer of tortilla chips.

  5. Pour the warmed, combined soup and broth over all, then top with another layer of cheese and evenly distributed jalapeños (if desired).

  6. Refrigerate overnight, then bake a 350º f. for 45 mins or until the cheese on top is bubbly and brown. Let cool for 10 mins. before cutting.

This can easily be cooked without the overnight refrigeration if desired. The overnight “soak” just makes the tortilla chips more integrated as layer and allows the flavors to blend. A small amount of sour cream can be added to the layers as well for a little extra tanginess. Yum!

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