Walking taco casserole makes taco night even easier! Seasoned ground beef gets a tangy, creamy boost from cream cheese mixed in, topped with crunchy Fritos or Doritos and gooey, melted cheese. This easy taco casserole is an effortless weeknight dinner ready in only 25 minutes!
walking taco Casserole
If you are looking for easy dinner recipes that appease the whole family, you’ve come to the right place! This extra easy recipe for walking taco casserole is a crowd pleaser, while home cooks appreciate how effortless it is to throw together!
Just like this Mexican tater tot dinner casserole and chicken dinner casserole, a walking taco bake embodies all the robust taste, without having to assemble countless tacos! But just like a beloved Taco Tuesday, everyone can add their favorite toppings, like fresh lettuce, juicy tomatoes, creamy avocados, or spicy jalapeños!
This easy dinner casserole uses a seasoned ground beef mixture, but with an added tangy twist. Adding a dollop of cream cheese melds and mellow the flavors, meaning it’s especially appealing to finicky eaters. Plus, who can resist a dinner topped with crunchy Fritos and cheese?!
Not only have I served this for countless weeknight meals (because who ever feels like making a complicated meal?!), but it’s a great meal train or freezer meal option. When preparing extra meals, it’s best to land on something quick and simple!
Although a taco casserole recipe with ground beef appeals to all, this is also great option if you are looking for family-friendly gluten-free recipes. Check out the ingredient notes below for tips on picking out safe GF ingredients, modifications for making the recipe dairy-free, as well as other modifications, such as making walking taco casserole with Doritos!
The ingredients are simple and budget-friendly, while the flavor can’t be beat. See below for any workable substitutions, plus how to pick safe options for a gluten-free diet.
- Ground beef – Use ground chuck for more flavor, ground sirloin or lean ground beef for a healthier option. Alternatively ground turkey may also be used.
- Taco seasoning packet – Read label to make sure it is gluten free, or use homemade taco seasoning (recipe included below). McCormick, Old Paseo, and Ortega brands don’t contain any contain any unsafe ingredients, like wheat, but are not certified GF.
- Salsa – Pick your favorite brand and spice level. The taco seasoning does add a bit of heat, so I usually use mild salsa.
- Cream Cheese – Adds a touch of creaminess and tang to compliment the taco flavor. A 1/2 cup sour cream can also be used or omit for a dairy-free base. However, if you are looking for something besides a taco casserole with cream cheese it may also be omitted.
- Fritos – Puts the walking taco in the walking taco bake! Doritos may also be substituted for extra flavor. Like taco seasoning, Doritos don’t contain any unsafe ingredients, but are not certified GF. For more information on GF safe alternatives see this recipe for gluten-free taco salad.
- Cheese – I use whatever I have on hand, usually cheddar cheese, but monterey jack cheese, pepper jack, or a Mexican blend cheese will also work. For a dairy-free recipe, omit the cheese topping or replace with DF cheese.
- Toppings – When serving offer whatever your family enjoys for tacos. Some popular choices include lettuce, pico de gallo, green onions, black olives, sour cream, salsa, or guacamole.
How to make walking taco casserole recipe
(Note: This is a step-by-step tutorial with pictures. For more specific instructions, along with ingredient amounts, see the recipe card at the bottom of the post.)
- First, brown the beef in a large skillet. After the meat has cooked I prefer to drain excess grease through a colander, but this is a matter of personal preference. Add the beef back to the skillet after grease has been drained away.
- Add the taco seasoning, salsa, and water. Bring it to a simmer, lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
- Stir in cream cheese until well combined.
- Transfer the meat mixture to a 11X7 casserole dish. Top with Fritos, shredded cheese, and bake at 375ºF for 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is hot and bubbly.
- Scoop onto plates and serve. Top individual servings with fixings, such as lettuce, sour cream, jalapeños, and tomatoes.
Additions and substitutions
Another reason to love this recipe for walking taco bake is how versatile it is! Just like tacos, the possibilities are endless!
- Add 1 small diced onion to the ground beef as it cooks
- Stir in drained and rinsed black beans to stretch the dish further and add protein.
- Instead of salsa, substitute a can of red enchilada sauce.
- Replace the Fritos with Doritos, tortilla chips, or Chili Cheese Fritos.
- Leave out the cream cheese or replace with 1/2 cup sour cream.
- Make it spicy by adding cayenne pepper or diced jalapeños to the taco meat.
make-ahead and Freezing
To make this casserole ahed of time, prepare the seasoned ground beef mixture up to two days in advance. Cool and refrigerate in an airtight container.
When ready to serve, spread the beef in the baking dish, layer with Fritos, cheese, and bake. Since the meat will be cold, you will have to bake the dish about 15 minutes longer.
To freeze, assemble the taco bake as directed, but do not heat in the oven to melt the cheese. Cool completely and wrap securely with plastic wrap and a layer of foil. Freeze up to 3 months.
Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, remove the wrappings, and set at room temperature for 1 hour. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the beef is heated through. For perfectly rewarmed dishes, see this easy tips for how to reheat a casserole.
substituting homemade taco seasoning
This recipe uses a taco seasoning packet to add flavor easily and quickly. However, the store bought packet may also be replaced easily with pantry spices.
Homemade Taco Seasoning: 1 tbsp. chili powder, 1 tsp. smoked paprika, 1 tsp. cumin, 1/2 tsp. oregano, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
Are Walking tacos gluten-free?
All the ingredients are gluten-free, if using a GF taco seasoning or making your own. You may be wondering about the safety of Fritos. According to Fritos website, regular bag Fritos corn chips are gluten free. Chili Cheese Fritos do not contain gluten ingredients, but may have been cross-contaminated during processing.
Doubling the recipe
To make this easy dinner casserole for a crowd, double the ingredients and bake in a 9X13 baking dish. This will serve about 10 good-sized portions.
To add more bulk to the base or stretch the recipe for more servings, add a can of pinto beans, black beans, or kidney beans.
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25-Minute Walking Taco Casserole with Ground Beef
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- In a large nonstick skillet, brown the beef over medium high heat, breaking up with a spoon as it cooks. After the beef has cook through, drain the grease if necessary.1 ½ pounds ground beef
- Return the beef back to the skillet and add the taco seasoning, salsa, and water. Bring to a simmer, lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Stir in the cream cheese until smooth and well combined.1 packet taco seasoning,1 cup salsa,½ cup water,3 ounces cream cheese,
- Transfer the meat mixture to a 11X7 baking dish. Top with the Fritos, sprinkle shredded cheese over the top, and bake for 5-10 minutes, or until the cheese is hot and bubbly. Serve immediately with optional toppings.3 cups Frito corn chips,1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
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Doubling the RecipeTo make this recipe for a crowd, double the ingredients and bake in a 9X13 baking dish. This will serve about 10 good-sized portions. To add more bulk to the base or stretch the recipe for more servings, add a can of pinto, black, or kidney beans.
Make Ahead DirectionsTo make this casserole ahed of time, prepare the seasoned ground beef mixture up to two days in advance. Cool and refrigerate in an airtight container. It may also be frozen up to 3 months. When ready to serve, spread the beef in the baking dish, layer with Fritos, cheese, and bake. Since the meat will be cold, you will have to bake the dish about 15 minutes longer.
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