Spicy Beef Taco Bake

The spicy beef taco bake is essentially a Taco Tuesday casserole. Beef and onions are sauteed and then mixed with tomatoes, beans, cheese, broken taco shells, and spices and then the whole shebang is baked until bubbly. Utterly irresistible.

White bowl of spicy beef taco bake with ground beef, beans tortilla chips, chopped onions, and lettuce

Taco casserole. That’s essentially how we think of this easy, cheesy, crunchy, spicy taco bake. You’re welcome.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Spicy Beef Taco Bake

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 2 H
  • Serves 6 to 8
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Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until the onion has softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, garlic, and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no trace of pinks, 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in half the tomatoes, the reserved tomato juice, vinegar, and sugar. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until the mixture is very thick, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Mix the remaining tomatoes, refried beans, and cilantro together, then spread in 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle 1/2 cup Colby Jack over the beans. Spread the cooled beef mixture on the cheese and sprinkle with another 1/2 cup Colby Jack. Wrap the dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Unwrap the dish, scatter the crushed taco shells over the top, and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Colby Jack. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil slicked with oil and bake the casserole until hot throughout and bubbling around the edges, about 25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the topping is spotty brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with scallions and serve.

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    *Substitution For Ro-tel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies

    • If you can’t find Ro-tel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies, substitute 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained, and one 4-ounce can chopped green chiles, drained, reserving 6 tablespoons of the tomato juice and 2 tablespoons of the chile juice. 

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    This recipe works and can easily take the place of making regular tacos. It's really easy to do the whole thing in the oven and eating it (as an adult) is a whole lot neater. Probably kids would find eating an individual taco more fun. The one change I would make would be to use a bit more cheese. The cheese pretty much disappears when it's melted in the casserole. To remedy this, I would add more cheese throughout the layers and/or have some extra cheese on hand as a topping. I served sour cream, avocado, chopped tomatoes, some extra cilantro, and shredded lettuce as additional toppings.

    This recipe was a family favorite. I made this recipe for my family and they were demanding more and were pleasantly surprised with the overall taste and texture of this recipe. The overall impression of the recipe was that it was a great casserole and almost could be served as an appetizer dip for a football game or a large gathering. I believe this recipe was worth the work and ingredients that were involved. The recipe was not as spicy as I expected but for those I was sharing the recipe with the spice level was nice and balanced. I put out the remainder of the tortilla chips out for my family to use as utensils. Again, they suggested that this dish may be more suitable as a large party appetizer rather than a main dish. My family said that this dish would be a family favorite moving forward. The lean ground beef worked great. I think that for the future, I may substitute turkey, which has the same texture with that same lean quality of the lean beef. There were 3 to 4 tablespoons of fat that I did drain off prior to putting it into the baking dish. I really enjoyed the Ro-Tel ingredient. It had that semi-homemade component and saved some dicing in the end. For the chip topping, I used approximately 24 chips for the top. I served the remainder as a utensil for picking up some of the dish from the plate. I really enjoyed the aromatics that the spices brought to the kitchen when cooking the spices with the onion. Once the dish was completed, I set up a nice bar of pico de gallo, onions, sour cream, chips, cheese, and cilantro for folks to add their own spin to the baked dish. I also served with the remaining tortilla chips, which brought up the appetizer suggestion. Again, I loved this dish and will definitely be serving this again as both a main dish and an appetizer for future events.

    Our family loves Mexican food any way you can get it and this recipe was no different. It's quick and easy to put together with ingredients we always have on hand. My question on this recipe was, "Would it be good reheated or would the chips be soggy?" The answer is, yes, it is good reheated and the chips were not soggy. I always use 93% ground beef when I make casseroles because there is no grease to drain. I also like the way the cook the spices for a bit before adding other ingredients. It brings out the flavors so much more. We will make this recipe again and again.

    I had some trepidation about this recipe because its much more of a burrito than a taco but what's in a name? It was just as easy as making tacos but can be made ahead of time. The recipe is very good and easy to understand and uses ingredients that are readily available. I used a 12-pack of taco shells as directed but did not measure. It was a sufficient amount. You can use tortilla chips also the end result is a layer of crunchy goodness. As the recipe suggests, use the 93% beef I only drained off 1/4 cup with pressing on it with the back of a spoon. The timing is accurate give or take a couple minutes so keep an eye on it as every range can vary. This may sound like a lot of trouble recipe but its very simple and it will keep in fridge for several days if necessary so it can be made in advance. Leftovers keep well but should be heated in oven as the chips may loose the crunch. I found this recipe to be very flavorful and would make it often. As a base and some creativity it is a start to a home cooked night out. This recipe invites creativity so experiment a bit.

    This was a delicious casserole with traditional taco flavors. It doesn't replace your favorite taco recipe but if you're looking for a make-ahead casserole this is a great choice. (I would never make this instead of tacos. The whole point of tacos—for my family, at least—is that everyone gets to build the taco as they please. Plus, tacos are pretty kid-friendly but refried beans are not a favorite for my kids. Tacos come together fairly quickly. This casserole doesn't. It's still a convenient recipe, though, because it's make ahead. It's a different recipe for different needs.) Since the recipe indicated that you could let the casserole sit for up to 24 hours, I took that to mean that I didn't HAVE to let it sit that long. I let it sit for 6 hours because my family was eager to try it for dinner. I thought the flavors had developed plenty by then and was very pleased with the taste. I covered the whole casserole with tortilla chips, not taco shells. Taco shells are a bit thicker and harder than chips and I thought the chips would taste better.

    This was fantastic. Everyone in the house raved about it, and there is definitely something to be said for having a dinner in the fridge that can be popped in the oven! I would definitely make it again, and although the description seems long, it really didn't take any extra time to put together than regular tacos, and I loved that it was all ready to bake whenever and then there were no dishes after dinner! Serves 6. Probably not any more. We were 2 adults and 2 kids and there were a couple small servings left. I used 2 cups of crushed tortilla chips. My only issue was the dish size—I found that when I started to spread the refried bean mixture into the 9-by-13-inch baking dish, it seemed like the layer was really thin. I ended up moving it to a smaller 2.8L oval dish (approximately 8-by-10-inch baking dish) where the layers seemed to be thicker. I was worried that when spread so thinly they'd either burn or disappear into each other. In the end this worked well, and after baking, the bean layer was bubbling away (with a little peeking up on the sides), and everything was hot all the way through but nothing burned (or stuck to the pan!).

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