This Walking Taco Bake Casserole is one of my favorite go-to recipes for an easy weeknight meal, or when I have a lot of kids or teenagers to feed. It seems almost everyone loves tacos, especially when there's the added crunch of Fritos chips! Or you can make this taco casserole with tortilla chips if you prefer.
In case you've never heard of walking tacos, it's basically a taco in a bag. A favorite among campers, it involves placing taco meat and all the toppings into an open snack-sized bag of Fritos corn chips. You can eat it with a fork or spoon, or even kind of squeeze/pour it into your mouth. They are perfect for around the campfire, especially if you want to take them on a short hike!
This is almost the same dish, just in a casserole format. All the same ingredients go into this Walking Taco Bake Casserole.
Why I Love This Recipe
My entire family loves tacos, and they're easy enough to make. This variation on a simple beef taco combines all of the same ingredients, but in a casserole form. And it replaces taco shells with Fritos for a little something "extra". It's easy to eat with a fork or spoon, and tends to be less messy than a regular taco. After all, you don't have to worry about the shells cracking or the fillings falling out!
It's also an inexpensive dish, especially if you shred the lettuce and dice the tomatoes yourself. If you don't mind spending a little more to save some time, many grocery stores offer diced tomatoes and shredded lettuce that can save you the work. Personally, I split the difference...I hate dicing tomatoes, so I buy tomatoes that are already diced. But I shred the lettuce myself. To each, their own!
If you want to save even more, look into making your own Taco Seasoning. It can save you money (do the math to make sure!) and you can make sure you aren't getting extra preservatives and MSG that you might find in the regular taco seasoning packets.
If you want to save some of this for leftovers, you might want portion out the part to save before you add the lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. That's because the lettuce in particular doesn't taste as good after it sits in the refrigerator for a day and then gets microwaved. Just keep those ingredients separate, and after you microwave the amount you want to eat as a leftover, add the produce and cheese to the top.
There are lots of ways to make this dish your own. You can add black or refried beans as a separate layer, or you can sprinkle sliced black olives over the top. If you aren't in the mood for ground beef, try some chicken cooked in seasonings, or even get a pack of frozen fajita strips to include instead. You can also add additional toppings, such as sour cream or guacamole.
Cast Iron Pans
This dish is a great time to use a cast iron pan. I know this is a matter of personal taste, but cast iron is my favorite thing to cook on. This dish releases easily from the cast iron skillet, because when you add the taco seasoning and water, it's almost like it deglazes the pan at the same time. So as long as you don't have the heat too high or leave the beef on the burner too long, it's really unlikely you'll end up with any stuck-on food.
If you love Mexican food, head on over to my copycat recipe for Lupe Tortilla Fajitas. They're quite a bit more work but SO good! I promise you won't regret it!
So whether it's Taco Tuesday or any other night of the week, enjoy this tasty Walking Taco Bake Casserole, a recipe that's inexpensive, quick, and easy to make.
Walking Taco Bake Casserole
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 packet taco seasoning
- 2 cups cheddar or Mexican-blend cheese divided
- 3 cups Fritos can substitute tortilla chips
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 3/4 cup salsa
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 head lettuce
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Dice tomatoes and shred lettuce
- Gently crush Fritos by placing them in a Zip-lock bag and going over them with a rolling pin.
- Brown ground beef in skillet over medium heat until no pink remains.
- Stir in taco seasoning packet as stated on packet directions (including any water)
- Grease bottom of 9x13" baking dish
- Microwave cream cheese about 30-45 seconds until soft but not liquid
- Combine cream cheese and salsa in a small bowl
- Spread crushed Fritos (or tortilla chips shown here) across the bottom of the casserole dish
- Spread ground beef and taco seasoning mixture over tortilla chips in the casserole dish
- Spread cream cheese and salsa mixture over ground beef
- Add 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar or Mexican-blend cheese on top
- Bake at 350° for 15 minutes
- Remove from oven, sprinkle with remainder of shredded cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes