Hello again! It's been a while, but I'm back with a good one this week. Taco Casserole was a classic in the Heppner house while growing up. Just think of it as "Mexican Lasagna". It has easy-to-find ingredients that you will most likely be able to find in your pantry and doesn't take a ton of work. Also, I can promise that almost everyone will love it (except for those who are lactose-intolerant...sorry guys).
This is probably one of the easiest recipes that I have shared to date. This recipe takes about 1 hour to make, but that last half hour is baking time so it's not much work. It's a great weeknight family supper.
1 lb ground beef
1 bell pepper
1 jalapeño pepper (optional)
1/2 white onion
2 tbsp tomato paste (about 1/2 small can)
1 small can of corn niblets
1 can of black beans
1 can tomato soup
1 pkg of taco seasoning (see below for homemade taco seasoning)
8-10 hard or soft shell tortillas
1 1/2 - 2 cups of cheese (I used habanero but cheddar works great too)
1/3 cup diced tomatoes, for topping (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375.
Start by dicing the onion, jalapeño, and bell pepper.
Bring a large saucepan to medium heat. Add a tbsp of oil and the onions and peppers. Cook until onions are translucent and peppers are softened. If the pan seems to run out of oil and the pepper aren't softened yet, add a tbsp or 2 of water.
Once softened, remove the onion and peppers out of the pan into a bowl and set aside.
Using the same pan, brown the beef at medium heat until no pink remains. Turn the heat to low.
Once the beef is cooked, add the onions, peppers, and tomato paste and stir until combined. Then add the taco seasoning and combine.
Lastly, drain the extra juices from the beans and corn and add them to the beef mixture along with the tomato soup. Combine.
Remove the pan from the heat. In a large casserole dish (9x13), begin making the casserole by adding a thin layer of the beef mixture on the bottom just to keep everything else from sticking onto the pan.
Add a layer of tortillas on top. If you're using hard shells, just break in half and lay them down that way.
Place another layer of beef on top (about half of what's left) and then a layer of about 1/2 cup of cheese. Continue with one more round of layering, ending off with the tortillas. There should be 3 layers of tortillas altogether.
Add the tomatoes on top if you're using them and add a small handful of cheese on top - leaving about 3/4 cup for adding on at the end of baking.
Cover with foil and place in the oven to bake for 30 minutes. When you have 5 minutes left of baking time, remove the casserole from the oven and put the remaining cheese on top to melt. Place the casserole back in the oven uncovered for 5 more minutes.
Once done cooking, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes and top with sour cream, avocados, or hot sauce.
Homemade Taco Seasoning
2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp chilli powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
Stir all the ingredients together and enjoy it with your next taco recipe! I used this whole mixture with the taco casserole but it was quite spicy so feel free to change up the measurements to make it your own.
Story of the recipe
As I mentioned, this recipe was often enjoyed in my childhood. My mom made this recipe while we were growing up for many reasons.
First, it is dang easy and she could get one of us to make it if she was busy. Second, we almost always had all the ingredients needed in our pantry because the majority of them are canned and be bought in bulk - a true savour for families of 6. We also always had beef in the freezer (we were beef farmers if that makes more sense) so a lot of our quick and easy suppers included ground beef, rotating between beef burritos, lasagna, meatballs, and taco casserole.
I asked my mom where she got this recipe and her reply was "I honestly have no clue...probably from the back of a taco seasoning packet and changed it to fit whatever I had in my pantry at the time."
Anyone from rural areas will know that feeling of a) not being able to run to the grocery store for every little ingredient, and b) not even being able to find or afford half of the ingredients in the grocery store anyway so improvising almost every recipe. Also, when we were growing up, there was no Pinterest or googling what to substitute with so props to my mom for improvising and almost never getting it wrong - this casserole is a good example of that.
Just a tip from what I've learned from improvising this recipe: DO NOT skip the tomato soup. Trust me on this one. I obviously have some work to do to reach my mom's level because when I tried improvising this recipe last year when I was craving some comfort food during university, I tried it with canned diced tomatoes instead and it turned out dry and not very appetizing. The tomato soup just adds moisture and a bit of sweetness to it that nothing else can.
For a while, I thought that taco casserole was one of those things I just fantasized about being so good as a kid that really wasn't all that good. I was wrong though, after a chat with my mom to make sure I had the ingredients right, it's still amazing.
This recipe is great for busy weeknights. You could even prep the casserole the night before and set it in the fridge overnight and put it in the oven when you get home.
Thanks for checking this recipe out! I hope you get to try it out and enjoy it as much as my family and I do.
Let me know how it goes and be sure to send me a picture! Also, check out my Instagram to see this recipe in action. I will be posting the how-to to my stories.
Have a great rest of your week!