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King Ranch Chicken Shells

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A perfect finger food for your next party, King Ranch Chicken Shells are a outrageously good appetizer. With a flaky pastry bottom, these cute little bites are then topped with a spicy chicken mixture and melted cheese. A great addition to your other appetizer recipes, these will most likely be the first to go.



  • 1 skinless, boneless chicken breast half (about 6 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, diced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup seeded diced New Mexico or Anaheim chile pepper
  • 1/4 cup seeded diced red pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon light chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup Swanson Chicken Broth or Swanson Chicken Stock
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tomato, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 17.3-ounce package Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet), thawed
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar and pepper Jack cheese blend


  1. Drizzle the chicken with 1 tablespoon lime juice and season with the black pepper.

  2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 15 minutes or until well browned on both sides and cooked through. Remove the chicken from the skillet. Finely chop the chicken.

  3. Heat the butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, chile pepper and red pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

  4. Stir in the garlic, flour, chili powder and cumin. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.

  5. Reduce the heat to low. Stir the chicken and broth in the skillet and cook for 2 minutes.

  6. Stir in the milk and tomato and cook until the mixture boils and thickens.

  7. Stir in the remaining lime juice, the sour cream and cilantro. Season with additional black pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat.

  8. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  9. Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a 10x12-inch rectangle. Cut into 24 (2 x 2 1/2-inch) rectangles.

  10. Press the rectangles into 24 (1 3/4-inch) mini muffin-pan cups.

  11. Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown. Using the back of a spoon, press down the centers of the hot pastries to make an indentation.

  12. Spoon about 1 tablespoon chicken mixture into each pastry. Top each with 1 teaspoon cheese.

  13. Bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Let the pastries cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with additional chopped fresh cilantro, if desired.

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This is such a cute appetizer and I love the idea of using seafood or veggies instead of chicken Rosemarie...but I'm not sure how that would work out with the cheese. You'd probably have to leave it out which I'm sure would be ok unless of course, you like cheese with seafood. I'm thinking because these are so time-consuming to make, they can probably be made up in advance and frozen until needed.

These are really creative. I'm sure the recipe will work well with fish too, or even broccoli, in place of chicken. Lentils or shrimp might also be nice. It's good to make food attractive for special events and I find that the more often I use a recipe, the less time it takes.

These are a bit involved to make, but if you want to impress your guests, this is the appetizer to make. The chicken filling is nice and spicy and you'll be tempted to keep some back for yourself. I played with this and it's definitely worth the time and effort in the kitchen to make.


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