When I was a young girl, my neighbor Mrs. Rodriguez would often invite my family over for dinner. She hailed from Mexico and had an incredible knack for creating the most authentic and delicious Mexican dishes. One evening, after returning from a family trip to Cancun, she surprised us with a dish that was neither traditional nor something we had ever tasted before. It was a Taco Bake Casserole. The layers of flavors, the melted cheese, and the crunchy taco shells left an indelible mark on my taste buds. Today, I’m sharing this inspired version of the Taco Bake Casserole, reminiscent of that beautiful evening spent with Mrs. Rodriguez.
Whether you’re tired of the usual taco recipes or just looking for a dish that’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, this Taco Bake Casserole is your answer. Imagine the rich flavors of a taco combined with the comfort of a casserole, all baked to perfection. Pour yourself a refreshing margarita, gather your loved ones, and let’s dive into this culinary adventure.
How to Prepare Taco Bake Casserole
Ingredients for Taco Bake Casserole
- Cooking spray (for greasing)
- 1.5 lbs of lean ground beef
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup of fresh water
- 1 packet of your favorite taco seasoning
- 1 can of creamy refried beans
- 1 small can of sliced black olives, drained
- 1 can of mild green chiles, diced
- 1/2 cup of zesty salsa
- Approximately 15 taco shells, crushed
- 2 cups of sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
Directions for Taco Bake Casserole
- Begin by preheating your oven to 375°F (190°C). Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with the cooking spray.
- In a large skillet, sauté the ground beef and onions over medium heat until the beef is thoroughly cooked. Drain any excess grease.
- Add water and taco seasoning to the skillet. Stir continuously until the mixture thickens, which should take around 2 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low. Mix in the refried beans, olives, green chiles, and salsa. Continue cooking until all ingredients are well-combined and heated through.
- Layer half of the crushed taco shells at the bottom of your prepared baking dish. Follow this with half of the beef mixture, and then half of the shredded cheese. Repeat these layers once more.
- Place the dish in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the casserole is bubbling hot.
- Remove from oven, let it cool slightly, and serve with your favorite taco toppings. Enjoy!
What can I serve alongside Taco Bake Casserole?
Complement your Taco Bake Casserole with traditional taco toppings like shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, sour cream, guacamole, and taco sauce. You can also serve it with a side of Mexican rice or a fresh salad.
How long does the Taco Bake Casserole last in the fridge?
When stored in an airtight container, the casserole can last in the fridge for up to 5 days. Ensure it’s cooled completely before refrigerating.
Can I freeze the Taco Bake Casserole for later?
Absolutely! Prepare the casserole in a freezer-safe dish, wrap it securely with plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil, and freeze for up to three months. Remember to thaw it in the fridge overnight before baking.
Is it possible to use ground chicken or turkey instead of beef?
Yes, you can easily substitute ground beef with ground chicken or turkey. The cooking process remains the same, but ensure the poultry is cooked thoroughly before assembling the casserole.
Can I add vegetables to the Taco Bake Casserole?
Of course! Feel free to add bell peppers, corn, or even zucchini to the mix. Just ensure they’re sautéed and cooked through before adding them to the casserole.
What type of cheese works best for this casserole?
While Cheddar cheese is recommended for its rich flavor and melting quality, you can also use Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, or a Mexican cheese blend for a different taste.
How do I know when the casserole is fully cooked?
The casserole is ready when the cheese on top is melted, bubbly, and slightly golden. The edges should also be bubbling hot.
Can I make this casserole spicy?
If you prefer a spicier kick, you can use spicy taco seasoning, add jalapeños, or use a hot salsa to elevate the heat level.
Is this dish suitable for vegetarians?
To make a vegetarian version, replace the ground beef with a meat substitute or add more beans and veggies. Ensure the taco seasoning and other ingredients are vegetarian-friendly.
Taco Bake Casserole
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 1 ounce package taco seasoning mix
- 1 10 ounce can refried beans
- 1 6 ounce can sliced black olives
- 1 4 ounce can diced green chiles
- 1/2 cup salsa
- 15 taco shells broken up, or more to taste
- 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
- Cook ground beef and onions in a skillet over medium heat until beef is browned, 7 to 10 minutes; drain grease.
- Stir in water and taco seasoning; cook, stirring often, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add refried beans, olives, green chiles, and salsa. Cook and stir until ingredients are warmed through, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Place 1/2 of the broken taco shells in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Pour in 1/2 of the ground beef mixture over broken taco shells.
- Sprinkle 1/2 of the Cheddar cheese over top. Repeat layers once more.
- Bake in the preheated oven until cheese is melted and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Serve hot and enjoy!