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This taco bake recipe is flavorful, filling and secretly healthy! Ground beef seasoned with my homemade taco seasoning layered with sautéed vegetables, black beans and shredded cheese.

taco bake being served with cheese pull.

This is the weeknight taco bake recipe you’ve been searching for! It is healthy, filling and so incredibly delicious not even your toddler will squawk at the kale! It is perfect on its own but I love serving it with guacamole, brown rice or wrapped up in warm tortillas.

If you and your family are taco fans (and I know you are), then you’ll also love these 30 minute chicken tacos, easy ground chicken tacos with chipotle, or these chorizo tacos with homemade sweet potato tortillas! Yes, I did! Or stay in the casserole lane and try this cheesy Mexican couscous casserole!

Why You Will Love this Taco Bake

  • It is flavorful and healthy! All the taco bake recipes out there use layers of tortillas, tortilla chips or even Doritos, and while they are no-doubt delicious, I like to serve healthier dinners most nights. This recipe still has the decadence of shredded cheese, but it also has sautéed peppers, onions and kale layered in with flavorful ground beef.
  • It is a versatile recipe that uses what you have on hand! Use sliced zucchini, broccoli or cauliflower in place of the kale, or use ground chicken or ground turkey in place of the ground beef.
  • A great way to stretch ground beef. The vegetables are filling as well as flavorful, so you can make that pound of ground meat go further.
taco bake served with rice.
stuffed shell on spoon in dish.
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Professional Tips for Making Taco Bake

  • To make it faster, cook the veggies and meat at the same time. You can make it in one pan but it is faster to simultaneously sauté the vegetables in a large pan while you brown and season the ground beef in another.
  • Just soften the kale in the pan. I prefer to just soften the kale in the pan and finish cooking it in the oven. That way it will still be green and not mushy when it comes out of the oven!
  • Cooking the spices in a little oil intensifies the flavor. Adding the spices when you add the beef allows the spices to bloom in the cooking oil and beef fat before the meat releases its moisture. I talk about this more extensively in my taco seasoning recipe post.

Ingredients & Substitutions

taco seasoning ingredients in bowls on marble.
taco bake ingredients on marble.
  • Taco Seasoning: I use my recipe for homemade taco seasoning, but you could also use a packet of taco seasoning instead. It will not be as flavorful, but it will still be delicious.
  • Bell Peppers: My family loves bell peppers, so I use a combination of orange, yellow, and red bell peppers, but green are also good if you enjoy them. I don’t and I’m the one cooking, so no green for us.
  • Yellow Onion
  • Garlic: I use the jarred minced garlic for this (and every) recipe. I prefer the one stored in water rather than oil, but sometimes that is all the store has! You can mince fresh garlic too.
  • Kale: I use 2 whole bunches of leafy kale! You can also use lacinato kale but I would use 3 bunches.
  • Kosher Salt
  • Lean Ground Beef: I use 90% lean ground beef in this recipe but I have also used lean ground turkey and ground chicken breasts. It is great with all of them!
  • Tomato Paste: When I open a can of tomato paste I store the leftovers in 2 tablespoons portions between folded parchment paper in the freezer. Making this recipe is as simple as pulling one of those frozen portions out and throwing it in!
  • Black Beans: I love the flavor and ease of adding a can of black beans, but I have used everything from kidney beans to great northern beans. Use what you have except lima beans. No one likes those.
  • Mexican Shredded Cheese: I use an 8oz bag of Mexican shredded cheese but you can also use a Four Cheddar Cheese Blend. It is also delicious with a 6oz bag instead.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

How to serve taco bake

  • Serve it in warm tortillas or with chips. You can serve this easy dinner like you would fajitas, dished into warm corn or flour tortillas (try these homemade flour tortillas) or served with chips. It is also amazing with those giant Fritos scoops.
  • Add some typical taco toppings. I love serving taco bake with an assortment of toppings like guacamole or sliced avocado, sour cream or light Greek yogurt, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, green onions or chopped cilantro. A squeeze of sliced lime is always welcome!
  • Make it a burrito bowl. Serve it on top of brown rice or Mexican rice in a bowl, refried beans and a dollop of salsa.

How to Make the Best Taco Casserole Recipe

All the flavor without the chips or tortillas. Follow these instructions to make this easy, filling and flavorful taco bake recipe!

Step 1: Make the taco seasoning. Mix all the spices and light brown sugar together in a small bowl. Set aside.

I double the recipe and store the leftovers in a little spice jar or a mini OXO pop container to make the next time quick and easy.

Step 2: Preheat the oven to 350°F with the fan (convection) or 375°F conventional. I often bake it in my air fryer. I don’t bother to preheat it, just set it to 350°F on the air fryer setting and pop it in!

Step 3: Cook the veggies: In a large pan or skillet, heat up 1-2 tablespoons canola oil and sauté bell peppers and onion over medium heat until softened and they have a little char. Stir frequently to prevent burning.

mixing taco seasoning.
cooking peppers and onions for taco bake. +
cooking vegetables for taco bake.

Step 4: Reduce heat and add minced garlic and chopped kale. Depending on the size of your pan you might need to add the kale in batches to allow it to soften and shrink before you add more. Season with kosher salt.

Step 5: Pour into a 2.5-3 quart casserole dish or even a disposable baking dish. You can use any size but 3 inches deep is better. Sprinkle with a little Mexican cheese blend.

Step 6: Add the drained black beans. You can use any canned beans that you enjoy. I’ve used kidney beans as well as some other “non-traditional” beans and they are all good.

adding cooked veggies to taco casserole dish.
adding black beans to taco casserole dish.

Step 7: Cook the taco meat: Season ground beef with 2 large pinches of kosher salt and the taco seasoning (2 ½ tablespoons).

Step 8: In the same sauté pan or large skillet, add a little more oil then sear ground beef.

If you want to speed up the process and you don’t mind the dishes, then you can simultaneously cook the veggies and ground beef. I always start the vegetables first because they take longer.

Step 9: Cook the meat almost all the way then add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Cook until ground meat is done. I use low fat meat so I don’t drain it. If you would like to drain your meat, add the spices after browning and draining, or you will pour out all the flavor.

Step 10: Add the beef mixture on top of the beans in the casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese. (6- 8 oz bag total) Cover with foil.

Step 11: Cook in preheated oven or in the air frier (set to air fry 350°F) for 15 minutes or until cheese has melted and the kale has rewarmed. Serve with your favorite taco toppings!

adding tomato paste to cooked ground beef and spices.
fully layered and unbaked taco casserole.
baked melted cheese in taco casserole dish.

Chef Lindsey’s Recipe Tip

While  you can bake this dish longer than 15 minutes, I find the kale wilts and is less appetizing. It’s just my opinion. That said, this makes excellent leftovers or served over brown rice for lunch. Make a big batch and consider lunch prep done! Reheat in the microwave.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to store leftover taco bake?

Store leftover taco bake covered or in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can freeze it but I prefer it baked fresh or from the fridge.

Can you make taco bake ahead of time?

Prepare the layered casserole, cool and cover well. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week before baking. Preheat the oven and bake as directed in the recipe. I would cook the kale less in the pan before layering so that it is perfectly cooked after reheating.

How to reheat leftover taco bake?

I reheat in the microwave because it is faster, but you could also reheat it covered in an oven preheated to 350°F.

taco bake in white serving dish with silver spoon.

If you tried this recipe and loved it please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it goes in the comments below. I love hearing from you; your comments make my day!

taco bake melted cheese being served.
5 from 2 ratings

Taco Bake

This taco bake recipe is flavorful, filling and secretly healthy! Ground beef seasoned with my homemade taco seasoning layered with sautéed vegetables, black beans and shredded cheese.
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 6 Servings

Ingredients  

For the Taco Seasoning:

For the casserole:

Instructions 

  • Make the taco seasoning by whisking all the spices and sugar in a bowl. It makes about 2 ½ tablespoons. I store the leftovers in a little spice jar or OXO pop container to make the next time quick and easy.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F with the fan (convection) or 375°F

Cook the veggies:

  • In a large pan, heat up 1-2 tablespoons canola oil and sauté bell peppers and onion until softened and they have a little char.
  • Reduce heat and add minced garlic and chopped kale. Depending on the size of your pan you might need to add the kale in batches to allow it to soften and shrink before you add more. Season with kosher salt.
  • Pour into casserole dish. Sprinkle with a little Mexican cheese blend.
  • Add the drained black beans. You can use any canned beans that you enjoy. I’ve used kidney beans as well as some other “non-traditional” beans and they are all good.

Cook the taco meat:

  • Season ground beef with 2 large pinches of kosher salt and the taco seasoning.
  • In the same sauté pan, add a little more oil then sear ground beef. [If you want to speed up the process and you don’t mind the dishes, then you can simultaneously cook the veggies and ground beef. I always start the vegetables first because they take longer.]
  • Cook almost all the way then add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Cook until ground meat is done.
  • Add the taco meat on top of the beans in the casserole dish.
  • Top with remaining cheese. (6- 8 oz bag total) Cover with foil.
  • Cook in preheated oven or in the air frier (set to air fry 350°F) for 15 minutes or until cheese has melted and the kale has rewarmed.

Notes

Yield – 2.5-3 quart casserole dish. Comfortably serves 6, or serve over rice to serve 8.
Variations – Delicious with typical taco toppings: sour cream, guacamole, salsa, diced tomatoes, pickled jalapeños, or tortilla chips.
Storage – Store leftover taco bake covered in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can freeze it but I prefer it baked fresh.

Nutrition

Calories: 328kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 416mg | Potassium: 723mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 1537IU | Vitamin C: 48mg | Calcium: 478mg | Iron: 4mg
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican
Calories: 328
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Before You Go

I hope you enjoyed this professional chef created recipe. Check out our other delicious dinner recipes! Tomorrow night make these juicy turkey burgers or healthy, flavorful ground chicken burgers!

Hi, I’m Chef Lindsey!

I am the baker, recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Chef Lindsey Farr. I believe in delicious homemade food and the power of dessert!

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