The Cozy Cook

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Taco Casserole

This Taco Casserole Recipe is loaded with all of your Mexican favorites and topped with Doritos, Fritos, or Tortilla Chips! It’s easy to assemble days ahead of time and bake later for an easy dinner!

Be sure to try my Taco Stuffed Shells and my Salsa Chicken recipes next!

Taco Casserole being scooped out of a casserole dish with a spatula.

I’ve been on a casserole kick lately, especially ones that you can make ahead of time. It’s amazing how much easier your life becomes when you do a little meal prep ahead of time.

The fact that you can assemble this up to 2 days ahead of time is really handy. And the ingredients are really easy to customize.

Overhead view of ingredients needed to make taco casserole on a white surface.

 


Layers in Taco Casserole

This recipe includes the following layers of ingredients, in order from first to last:

  • Refried Beans
  • Sour Cream – avoid using light sour cream as this can cause it to curdle and separate.
  • Seasoned Ground Beef and Onions
  • Cheese
  • Black Olives
  • Tomatoes
  • Crunchy Toppings. (Tortilla Chips, Doritos, and/or Fritos.)

Additional Ingredient Options:

  • Shredded Chicken, beef, or Pork
  • Finely sliced steak. (Sirloin, flank steak, or skirt steak is best.)
  • Ground chicken or turkey.
  • Guacamole
  • Salsa
  • Black Beans
  • Rice
  • Diced Jalapenos
  • Bell Peppers
  • Corn
  • Cilantro
  • Tator Tots (because, why not?!)

How to Make it

  • Let the sour cream come to room temperature while you prepare the meat. This will prevent it from curdling when baked as it won’t be going from cold to hot right away.
  • Cook/crumble the ground beef and onions in a pan over medium-high heat.
  • Drain excess grease, add water and taco seasoning. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
  • Spread the refried beans in an even layer over a 9 x 13″ casserole dish. Top with sour cream.

Side by side of a casserole dish being layered with refried beans and sour cream.

  • Add the seasoned ground beef and onions on top.

A big spatula spooning seasoned ground beef into a casserole dish for taco casserole.

  • Top with cheese. Bake uncovered at 350°F  for 15 minutes, until the cheese is hot and melted.
  • Add the black olives and crunchy toppings. Bake uncovered for 8 minutes.
  • Garnish with green onions, diced tomatoes, and/or shredded lettuce if desired and serve!

Side by side of casserole dish with cheese and then topped with taco casserole toppings.


Make-Ahead Method

This Taco Casserole can be made up to 2 days ahead. 

  • To do so, cook the ground beef and onions and layer all of the ingredients in a casserole dish. 
  • Let it cool and cover it. Refrigerate for up to 2 days.
  • Let it sit out and come to room temperature for 35 minutes prior to baking. This will prevent the sour cream from curdling.
  • Bake, covered, in a 350° oven for 25 minutes.
  • Uncover, and bake for 5 more minutes to fully melt the cheese.
  • Add black olives along with the crunchy toppings. Bake for 8 additional minutes.
  • Add the shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and green onions prior to serving.

Crock Pot Taco Casserole

  • This recipe is easy to assemble within a Crock Pot and heat right away or up to 2 days later.
  • You’ll still need to brown the ground beef first, then layer the ingredients per the recipe instructions.
  • Save the crunchy toppings and shredded lettuce/tomatoes/green onions until you’re just ready to serve.

Heating right away: High 2-3 hours or Low 4-5 hours

Heating from a cold state: Let it sit out for 35 minutes prior to heating to prevent the sour cream from curdling. Heat on high 4-5 hours or Low 6-7 hours

This Crock pot allows you to sear/brown meat right on the stove top. It also switches to warm once the cooking time is up.

Note that Crock Pots vary in terms on how quickly they heat up and how hot they get.

  •  

Overhead view of Taco Casserole in a casserole dish topped with fritos, tomatoes, and black olives.

Taco Casserole for a Crowd or Potluck

  • These aluminum foil pans make it easy to prepare this recipe for a crowd and the pans can be disposed of afterwards.
  • This recipe serves 6 people. Click the number of servings to reveal a slider. Move the slider right to increase the number of servings if you’re making this for a larger crowd.

Storing Leftovers

  • Leftovers should be refrigerated in an airtight container and are best if used within 3-4 days.
  • Reheat in a microwave or a 350°oven until heated through.

Pro Tip: Leftovers make a great dip or filling for burritos!


Freezing

  • Taco casserole makes a good freezer food and can be stored for up to 3 months, although I recommend that you leave out the sour cream and serve it on the side with this casserole if you plan on freezing.
  • Leave out the crunchy toppings  and shredded lettuce when you freeze as well.
  • Let it defrost overnight and bake as instructed, or bake it frozen and add 1 hour of baking time.

More Mexican Favorites


Try These Next

Taco Casserole on a white plate, topped with shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes.

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Taco casserole being scooped up from a casserole dish.

Taco Casserole

4.9 from 39 ratings
This Taco Casserole Recipe is loaded with all of your Mexican favorites and topped with Doritos, Fritos, or Tortilla Chips! It’s easy to assemble days ahead of time and bake later for an easy dinner!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground beef, I use 80% lean
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 oz. taco seasoning, equivalent to 2 Tablespoons
  • 16 oz. refried beans
  • ¾ cup sour cream, *see notes
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup black olives, sliced
  • ¾ cup crunchy toppings such as tortilla chips, Doritos, and/or Fritos

To garnish:

  • Green onions, (optional)
  • 1/3 cup lettuce, shredded
  • 1/3 cup tomatoes, diced

Instructions

  • Let the sour cream come to room temperature while you prepare the meat. This will prevent it from curdling when baked as it won't be going from cold to hot right away.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Add the ground beef and diced onions to a large pan and cook and crumble over medium heat until the meat is cooked through.
  • Drain excess grease.
  • Add ¾ cup water and taco seasoning.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  • Spread the refried beans in an even layer within a casserole dish. (Mine was 9 x 13" but varying sizes are fine.)
  • Spread the sour cream over the refried beans.
  • Top with cooked ground beef mixture, then with cheese.
  • If you’re preparing this head of time, let it cool and cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Baking:

  • If baking right away: Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is hot and melted.
  • If baking after the casserole has been refrigerated: Bake, covered, for 25 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Add the toppings:

  • Top the casserole with black olives and crunchy toppings. (Add additional cheese if you like as well.)
  • Bake uncovered for 8 minutes.
  • Garnish with green onions, diced tomatoes, and/or shredded lettuce and serve!

Notes

*Avoid using light sour cream as this can cause it to curdle and separate. Also ensure that it gets to near room temperature when adding to the casserole.

*A combination of Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese works well too!

Crock Pot Taco Casserole

  • This recipe is easy to assemble within a Crock Pot and heat right away or up to 2 days later.
  • You'll still need to brown the ground beef first, then layer the ingredients per the recipe instructions.
  • Save the crunchy toppings and shredded lettuce/green onions until you're just ready to serve.
Heating right away: High 2-3 hours or Low 4-5 hours
Heating from a cold state: Let it sit out for 35 minutes prior to heating to prevent the sour cream from curdling. Heat on high 4-5 hours or Low 6-7 hours
This Crock pot allows you to sear/brown meat right on the stove top. It also switches to warm once the cooking time is up.

Nutrition

Calories: 547kcal, Carbohydrates: 24g, Protein: 28g, Fat: 38g, Saturated Fat: 18g, Cholesterol: 108mg, Sodium: 1273mg, Potassium: 359mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 1175IU, Vitamin C: 4.9mg, Calcium: 374mg, Iron: 3.2mg

 

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121 comments on “Taco Casserole”

  1. I want to make this, but was wondering if you can make two 8×8 pans and freeze one?  It really looks delicious and I think my husband would like it too.  Thank you for the recipe.

    • Hi Bev! You absolutely can! I would serve the sour cream on the side though, as it doesn’t restore back to it’s original consistency after being frozen. Let the frozen casserole thaw in the fridge for up to 24 hours, then let it sit out and come to room temperature for 30 minutes prior to baking. Bake, covered, in a 350° oven for 25 minutes. Uncover, and bake for 5 more minutes to fully melt the cheese.
      Add black olives along with the crunchy toppings. Bake for 8 additional minutes. Add the shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and green onions prior to serving 🙂

  2. First off my family loved this recipe hence the 5 stars!! My only suggestion is to skip adding the sour cream and serve it as a garnish on the side. I did everything the recipe said to avoid the sour cream from curdling. It still did! My family loves sour cream and put a dollop on their plate so putting it in the recipe before baking  is not necessary in my opinion.

    • I am so happy that you enjoyed it Nancy, and thank you for sharing your tips on the sour cream. I have never had it curdle on me before, which is so strange! But I know it’s possible, so your tip is helpful! 🙂

  3. Could you please tell me how to keep my lettuce fresh in the refrigerator? No matter how air tight I think I have my container, it still turns brown. I was just thinking if I made this early, my lettuce would be brown before I served it. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Hi Betty, I refrigerate the whole head of lettuce and keep it in a tightly sealed freezer bag in the vegetable crisper drawer. You might have better luck if you wait on cutting it just before serving.

      • Hi, I have found if I add a cold wet paper towel in with my lettuce in a ziploc freezer bag in frig helps keep lettuce fresh for much longer…hope this helps

      • That’s a GREAT tip! I do that with all veggies, except for the lettuce! (Until now!) Thank you sharing! ❤️

  4. I added diced tomatoes to the skillet and used ground turkey 😊also didn’t have decried bras so used a package of Madras Lentils. Great football Sunday snack!

    • Definitely such a great football snack! I’m so happy you enjoyed Linda. I haven’t tried it with ground turkey yet but I bet I would love it! Thanks so much for the great review!😍

  5. I made this for dinner and it was a hit.  My husband and I loved it.  

  6. The whole family loved this recipe. I used Frontera taco sauce for a great rich flavor. I also added fresh jalapenos under the cheese, avocado with pico de gallo and lettuce, and topped with a little chipotle salsa. My room temperature sour cream (Daisy) did curdle – no big deal.

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