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30-Minute Taco Casserole

This 30-minute taco casserole recipe is a lifesaver for those busy weeknights when you need a quick yet delicious meal. It’s on the lighter side but has all the flavors your family will love!

A plate with a serving of taco casserole, garnished with chopped tomatoes, green onions, and black olives.
This 30-minute taco casserole is on the lighter side yet tastes absolutely incredible!


Why This Recipe Stands Out

We’re all about quick, easy, and delicious meals, and this 30 minute taco casserole is a perfect example. Here’s why we love this recipe:

  • Quick: This recipe comes together in just 30 minutes, making it perfect for busy weeknight, just like our other tasty 30-minute meals.
  • Healthy: With lean ground beef, brown rice, low fat cheese, and fat-free refried beans, this taco casserole is a meal you can feel good about serving like you would serving this Healthy Chicken Chili
  • Flavor-packed: Despite its healthy ingredients, this recipe doesn’t sacrifice flavor. It’s absolutely indulgent.
  • Easy to make: With simple layer and bake steps, this recipe is a cinch to put together like our Easy Enchilada Casserole.
  • Satisfying: Despite being healthy, this casserole is hearty and filling, ensuring you won’t be left hungry after dinner.

Key Recipe Ingredients

  • Brown Rice – The base of our dish, brown rice adds a nutty flavor and a hearty texture. You can also use white rice if you prefer.
  • Lean Ground Beef – We use 93% lean ground beef to keep the dish protein-rich and low in fat.
  • Taco Seasoning – The key to the flavor profile of this dish, taco seasonings add a spicy kick. We use a homemade blend, but store-bought works just as well.
  • Fat-Free Refried Beans –These beans add a creamy texture and a rich, savory flavor to the dish.
  • Low-Fat Sharp Cheddar – This cheese melts beautifully and adds a tangy, creamy element to the dish.

Substitutions And Variations

Feel free to try switch things up according to what you have in your kitchen:

  • Rice: You can easily substitute brown rice with white rice or even quinoa for a protein-packed twist.
  • Protein: Try using ground turkey, chicken, or even a plant-based meat substitute. The taco seasoning will still give it that delicious, spicy kick as it does in our Mexican Pasta Bake.
  • Cheese: If you’re looking for a sharper flavor, try using pepper jack or even a spicy habanero cheddar. Mexican blend shredded cheese also works well.
  • Spice: If you like your food extra spicy, consider adding some chopped jalapeños or using a hot salsa.
  • Garnishes: Try diced bell peppers, jalapeños, or sweet corn kernels would add a nice crunch. Diced avocado and lime slices work well, too.
  • Corn Chips: For an even healthier version, you can omit the corn chips and cheese. But if you’re a fan of a little extra crunch, try using tortilla chips or Fritos.

Step-By-Step Recipe Instructions

  1. Brown the ground beef in a large nonstick skillet with taco seasoning and water. Set aside when fully cooked. 
  2. Layer cooked rice at the bottom of a baking dish. Combine refried beans and salsa in a microwave-safe bowl and heat until hot. Stir and layer this mixture over the rice.
  1. Layer the brown beef over the beans and salsa. Sprinkle half the cheese over the beef, add chips, then top with remaining cheese and black olives.
  2. Bake for 10 minutes at 350F or until cheese is melted. Garnish with green onions, avocados, or tomatoes. Serve warm.

For full list of ingredients and instructions, see recipe card below.

How To Prep Ahead

This 30-minute taco casserole is a quick and easy dish to prepare, but we have some handy tips to make the process even smoother. Take a look at our favorite prep-ahead strategies for this recipe:

  • Prep the Rice: You can easily make the rice ahead of time and store it in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Prep the Beef: Similarly, you can brown the beef and store it and also prepare the bean mixture ahead of time. When you want to serve it, simply assemble according to the recipe and bake it in the oven.
  • Prep Entire Casserole: Want to make it even easier for a busy weeknight? Simply assemble the casserole, cover it airtight, and place in fridge for up to 2 nights prior to baking. Increase bake time to account for cold ingredients. Do not add chips until ready to bake.
A plate with a serving of taco casserole, garnished with chopped tomatoes, green onions, and black olives.
This 30-Minute Taco Casserole is the ideal weeknight dinner solution.

What To Serve With Taco Casserole


Rice and Guacamole

  • A side of Mexican Rice or Cilantro Lime Rice can complement the flavors of the taco casserole perfectly.
  • We also love serving this casserole with a side of extra refried beans or this creamy Guacamole.

Salsas and Dips

Commonly Asked Questions

What type of rice works best for this taco casserole?

Both brown and white rice work well for this recipe. It’s really a matter of personal preference. If you’re looking for a healthier option, go for the brown rice.

Can I use a different type of meat instead of ground beef?

Absolutely! You can substitute the ground beef with ground turkey, chicken, or even a plant-based meat substitute. Just make sure to cook it thoroughly before adding it to the casserole.

What can I use instead of taco seasoning?

If you don’t have taco seasoning on hand, you can make your own by at home by following your homemade taco seasoning recipe.

Can I omit the corn chips?

The corn chips add a nice crunch to the casserole, but if you’re looking to lighten up the dish even more, you can certainly omit them.

How long does this taco casserole keep?

This delicious casserole can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Make sure to store it in an airtight container to maintain its freshness.

Did you make this?

Please give us a rating and comment below. We love hearing from you!

A plate with a serving of taco casserole, garnished with chopped tomatoes, green onions, and black olives.

30-Minute Taco Casserole

5 from 38 ratings
This 30 Minute Taco Casserole is made healthier with the use of brown rice and fat-free beans. It comes together easily and quickly, and tastes absolutely delish! Nobody will realize it's on the healthy side.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 6
Author: Amy Dong


  • 2 cups brown or white rice, cooked
  • 1 lb ground beef, 93% lean
  • 1.25 oz taco seasoning , or 2 ½ TB
  • 15 ounce refried beans, fat-free
  • 1 ½ cup sharp cheddar, low fat
  • 1 cup salsa, your favorite
  • 1 can black olives, sliced and drained, 2 1/3 oz
  • cups corn chips, optional
  • Optional Garnishes: chopped green onions, diced avocado, diced tomatoes, cilantro, sour cream, or salsa


  • In a large nonstick skillet, add ground beef, taco seasoning, and 3 TB water. Stir together to incorporate. Brown until cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • In an 8×8 baking dish, layer cooked rice on the bottom of dish. In a microwavable bowl, combine refried beans and salsa. Microwave until hot, about 2 minutes. Stir and layer mixture over the rice.
  • Layer browned beef mixture over the beans/salsa. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the beef. Follow with all the chips, if using them, and top with remaining cheese and black olives. Bake 10 minutes at 350F or just until cheese is melted.
  • Garnish with green onions, avocados, or tomatoes. Serve warm.


  • This dish can be lightened up even more by using just 1 cup of low-fat cheese and omitting the corn chips.
  • When browning your ground beef, make sure to break it up into small pieces. This will ensure that it cooks evenly and mixes well with the taco seasoning.
  • Don’t skip the step of heating up the refried beans and salsa together. This not only makes the beans easier to spread but also allows the flavors to meld together.
  • Use a good quality, flavorful salsa. This is a key ingredient that adds a lot of flavor to the casserole.
  • We also love serving this casserole with a side of extra refried beans or this creamy 5-Minute Real Guacamole.
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and give it a rating. We ❤️ hearing from you! 
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Nutrition (per serving)

Calories: 596kcal | Carbohydrates: 71g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 67mg | Sodium: 870mg | Potassium: 587mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1359IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 313mg | Iron: 5mg
Course: Dinner, Main
Cuisine: Tex-Mex
Diet: Gluten Free
Method: Bake, Stovetop

More To Cook And Eat

  • Mexican Chicken Veggie Stew – Hearty, healthy, and hits the spot. Plus, it’s super easy and quick.
  • Mexican Rice with Chicken and Shrimp – Take One-Pot dishes to a new level with this flavorful Tex-Mex dish.
  • Best Easy Mexican Rice – THE Best Mexican rice ever. Fluffy, tasty, and the perfect side to any Tex-Mex-themed meal.
  • Mexican Taco Salad – This crispy and hearty salad is perfect for feeding a crowd. It’s easy to make a huge bowl of it and watch it disappear! The dressing is awesome.
  • Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork) – This is the most fork-tender carnitas you’ll ever sink your teeth into. Bursting with big flavors and incredibly tender, it’s perfect for tacos, burritos, or rice bowls.


Add a comment

Recipe Rating


    • Karen

    Is here something I can use instead of salsa, my daughter can not eat raw onions?
    Thank you

    • myblissfulmess

    This recipe is delicious as written! I love all the flavors and textures in this dish. We topped our’s with sliced black olives, sour cream and guacamole. YUM! Definitely a keeper!

      • chewoutloud

      Yay! So happy you like this dish 🙂 Sounds yummy with some guac – nice! Happy continued cooking!

    • Teresa

    Could you freeze this and serve another time? If so how long would you cook in the oven if frozen? Thanks!

      • chewoutloud

      Teresa, yes, you can freeze it. I would cover it airtight and freeze. If you cook from frozen, it’s typical to double the baking time. You may want to loosely tent the top with foil to prevent the top from over-browning while the rest of the casserole continues to cook.

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