Taco casserole is an easy weeknight meal made with ground beef that is a great make ahead meal for those busy nights with all the things going on in life.

I’m in a different place in life all of a sudden. I’ve got three kids in totally different stages of life and while it should be better because they all go to school every day (well, half day on the Kindergartner) it’s actually crazy busy. High schoolers have so, so much going on, but 6th grade is all about the projects and busy work with school plus budding social lives and then Kindergarten. Well, you all know the busy work of Kindergarten!

I’ve been asking on instagram how I can help you get dinner on the table and the unanimous vote was for something with ground beef and that can be made ahead or frozen. Our cheesy ground beef and rice casserole checks all those boxes, but here is another option! Cue the taco casserole

a photo of a piece of taco casserole on a saucer piled high with layers of cheesy ground beef, melted cheese on top, black beans, diced tomatoes and fresh cilantro.

What Goes in Taco Casserole?

Think taco ingredients plus a few extra items for more flavor and layers! Here is what you will need with a little explanation of why it’s included:

  • Corn Tortillas: these give the casserole structure and flavor
  • Red Enchilada Sauce: keeps the tortillas nice and soft and adds so much flavor
  • Onion: flavor, flavor, flavor and some texture too
  • Red Bell Pepper: ditto
  • Garlic: flavor
  • Ground Beef: main source of protein and the real substance of the casserole, this can be swapped for ground turkey or chicken
  • Taco Seasoning: we love our homemade seasoning, but you can go with store bought too
  • Water: helps thicken the taco seasoning and keep the meat moist
  • Fire Roasted Tomatoes: flavor all day, a hint of smokiness and just the tiniest bit of heat
  • Refried Beans: another great source of protein and helps the meat stick together for the structure of the casserole
  • Colby Jack Cheese: all Mexican dishes should be topped with a layer of melted gooey cheese!
  • Monterey Jack Cheese: see above
  • Olives: flavor, texture
  • Red Onion: flavor, texture and a bright pop of color
  • Green Onion: that bright green color and fresh burst of flavor
  • Tomato: flavor, you could use fresh pico de gallo instead – yum!
  • Fritos: the crunch is all the texture you need!

The measurements for each ingredient can be found in the recipe card down below.

a photo of a casserole dish full of taco casserole topped with diced tomatoes, fritos chips, sliced black olives, chopped cilantro and diced green onion.

Steps to Making Taco Casserole

The best things about casseroles is that they are so easy to make and they make great leftovers! You can make them ahead of time and throw them in the oven when you’re ready to eat it or they make great freezer meals! They are just a win win all around. Here are the basic steps for making this casserole recipe:

  1. Preheat oven.
  2. Place the red enchilada sauce in a shallow dish and dip each side of the tortillas in it. Set them aside.
  3. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.
  4. Heat a few drizzles of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat then add the onions and bell peppers. Cook until tender.
  5. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Push everything to one side and add the ground beef.
  6. Brown the ground beef and break it up until small and cooked through. Drain the excess grease and add the taco seasoning, water, enchilada sauce and canned tomatoes.
  7. Stir everything together and let simmer until the liquid has absorbed and the mixture thickens.
  8. Place 4 of the tortillas on the bottom of the baking dish. Spread half the beans and half the meat on the tortillas.
  9. Combine the cheeses in a small bowl and then sprinkle half the cheese.
  10. Repeat the same layers one more time and then bake.
  11. Remove from oven and add toppings. Serve!
All of these instructions can be found in full detail in the recipe card at the end of this post.
a close up photo of a taco casserole in the dish and one piece is missing so you can see the layer inside.

Tools You Will Need

  • Meat chopper – this seems silly, but it seriously is a game changer! And they are so affordable!
  • Knives – for all the veggies that need to be chopped, a good set of knives will make all the difference.
  • Skillet – for browning the meat and sauteing all the vegetables
  • Casserole Dish – any 9×13 oven-safe pan will do

Other Optional Ingredients

You could really do any toppings you want! Whatever your favorite Mexican food toppings may be. Here are some more ideas:

a photo of about half of a casserole dish full of taco casserole topped with fritos, black olives, diced fresh tomatoes, chopped cilantro.

How to Make it Low Carb

I love that you don’t have to use the tortillas if you’re watching your carbs. Or you could totally throw in cauliflower rice to bulk it up.

Can I Substitute Ground Turkey?

You sure can! You could use ground turkey, ground chicken or even chorizo for your meat!

a photo of a piece of taco casserole sitting on a saucer topped with fritos, sliced olives, diced tomatoes, and chopped fresh cilantro.

Why You Will Love This Recipe

Besides just being so dang delicious, this recipe is quick and easy! It uses ground beef which is popular with the kiddos and a protein that most people usually have have on hand. You can also make it ahead of time and throw it into the fridge until you’re ready to bake it. You could make it up to 2 days ahead of time and just store it covered in the refrigerator.

It also makes a great freezer meal. You can freeze it baked or not baked. When you’re ready to eat it, let it thaw in the fridge and then bake as directed. To freeze it, wrap it twice in plastic wrap and then in foil. It will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer.

If quick and easy ground beef recipes is what you are looking for, look no further! This taco casserole has all the classic taco flavors you love all packed into a convenient family friendly casserole. Enjoy!

More Easy Ground Beef Recipes:

Taco Casserole

  • 8 Corn Tortillas
  • 15 ounces Red Enchilada Sauce (See note for a link to our homemade recipe)
  • 1/2 Onion (chopped)
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper (chopped)
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic (minced)
  • 1.5 pounds Ground Beef
  • 2 Packets Taco Seasoning (or 4 Tablespoons)
  • 3/4 Cup Water
  • 14.5 ounce Can Fire Roasted Tomatoes (drained)
  • 28 ounce Can Refried Beans (you can use just black beans)
  • 2 1/2 Cups Colby Jack Cheese (shredded)
  • 2 Cups Monterey Jack Cheese (shredded)
  • 1 Can Sliced Olives
  • 1/4 Cup Red Onion (minced)
  • 1 Green Onion (chopped)
  • 1 Tomato (chopped)
  • 1 1/2 Cups Fritos
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

    In a shallow dish, add the red enchilada sauce and dip each side of the tortillas. Set aside in a greased 9×13″ baking dish.

  2. In a large pan over medium heat, add a drizzle of oil and add the onions and bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds then push everything to one side and add the ground beef.

  3. Cook, breaking up the meat with a meat chopper until cooked through. Drain the grease. Add the taco seasoning, water, remaining red enchilada sauce and drained tomatoes. Cook, stirring the onions and peppers in as well until the liquid is absorbed and thickened.

  4. Place four tortillas in the bottom of the pan, setting the other four aside. Spread with half of the beans and half of the meat mixture.

  5. In a bowl, toss the cheeses together. Sprinkle half of the cheeses on the layer.

  6. Repeat the same layers one more time like a lasagna ending with cheese. Bake for 30 minutes.

  7. Remove from the oven and top with garnishes then serve!

100 + BEST Easy Beef Recipes for Dinner
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a photo of a piece of taco casserole on a saucer piled high with layers of cheesy ground beef, melted cheese on top, black beans, diced tomatoes and fresh cilantro.