This easy taco casserole recipe gives you all the yumminess of a taco in one convenient dish.
It’s perfect for busy weeknights and great for kids.
Easy Taco Casserole
As much as I love all things taco, I don’t always have the time to prepare everything.
That’s why I love this dish.
It’s as easy as cooking the beef and layering it up with chips and cheese – kind of like a Mexican lasagna.
Trust me, if you’re on the hunt for a crowd-pleaser that’s packed with flavor, this easy taco casserole recipe is for you!
The ingredients here are what you might expect from a good beef taco. That said, you can change this up as you like!
- Ground Beef – I love the rich flavor you get from beef, but you could use pork or chicken if you want something leaner.
- Salsa – You can’t have Mexican food without good salsa! I like it spicy but use your fave.
- Onions – They’ll cook during baking, but feel free to add them to the beef to infuse the flavor.
- Mayonnaise – This might not be a typical taco ingredient, per se, but it works well to add a creamy note to the beef.
- Seasonings – You’ll use chili powder and cumin, which you can adjust to your own taste.
- Tortilla chips – Some will soften, and some with crisp up in the oven for a pasta-like layer.
- Cheese – You’ll use cheddar and Monterey Jack, a great pairing that will melt beautifully. But again, go with your faves!
How to Make Taco Casserole
This taco casserole bake is super straightforward, and you’ll find detailed instructions below.
But for now, here’s the highlights:
1. Preheat the oven and prep the ingredients.
This puppy bakes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175°C), and you want the oven hot before you start.
Take this time to shred the cheese and dice the onion too.
2. Cook the beef and add the extras.
Since the casserole will bake, you don’t need to worry about fully cooking the meat.
Instead, cook it until it’s no longer pink. Then, add the salsa, onion, mayonnaise, chili powder, and cumin, and stir until everything is well coated.
3. Assemble the casserole and bake.
Like lasagna, you’ll start with a layer of the meat mixture (about half) followed by half of the chips.
Sprinkle half the cheese over the chips, then repeat the layers, with the rest of the cheese going on top.
Cover the dish with foil, then bake for 30 minutes until it’s bubbly.
Serve and enjoy!
Tips & Tricks
When kept simple, this is excellent for the entire family. But go ahead and make it your own!
Need some inspiration? Here are a few tips and tricks to make this a stunner:
- Serve with pico de gallo, sour cream, and plenty of guac. It’s great as is, but it’ll be more taco-like with extras.
- Mix up the cheeses for different flavors. For example, Mozzarella will give you a nice cheese pull, and Gouda will give it a smoky finish.
- Shred your own cheese whenever possible. I know those bags are convenient, but they don’t melt as well.
- Use taco seasoning for ease. Go for any brand you like at any spice level.
- Make it extra filling with beans or corn. They’ll also add a bit more protein and color to the meal.
- Make it spicy. Use spicy seasoning or salsa, or throw in chopped jalapeños for a boost of heat.
- Add extra crushed chips when serving. They’ll give you a lovely crunch.
- Substitute ground meat with shredded chicken or pulled pork. Use leftover rotisserie chicken or make your own pulled pork with BBQ for a fun flavor contrast.
Substitutions and Variations
If you enjoy this taco casserole and want to make it more often with a few tweaks, I’ve got you covered!
- Make it vegetarian/vegan with mushrooms or tofu. Instead of ground meat, use chopped mushrooms or tofu crumbles in taco seasoning, and use vegan cheese.
- Add extra veggies. Beans and corn or great, but you could easily add a blend of diced peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, and even sweet potato,
- Use salsa verde and shredded chicken. This’ll make a whole new meal, but it will be the same basic layers.
- Add extra flavor with cheesy or spicy chips. Doritos are my go-to, but as long as they’re tortilla chips (regular potato chips will turn to mush), they’ll work.
- Make it extra filling with a layer or two of rice. This dinner will go even further with some tasty Mexican rice in the mix. Or serve it on the side, of course.
- Use cream cheese instead of mayo for a thicker filling. It’ll also keep the chips from softening too much.
- Drain the excess liquid from the salsa. If it’s too watery, the chips could go soggy.
- If you have leftover chili, use that instead of the meat mixture. It’ll save you prep time and should give you similar results/flavors.
Storing the Leftovers
This meal is best made and served on the same day because the chips will turn soggy if you store them for too long.
That said, you could keep leftovers in an airtight container overnight for the next day. And add extra chips to make up for the lack of crunch.
I don’t recommend keeping this for longer or making it ahead.
Though you could make the meat mixture ahead and store that in the fridge. Then assemble the layers the day you want to eat it.
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