Crock Pot Taco Casserole
This easy Crock Pot Taco Casserole is simple dump-and-go slow cooker recipe (my speciality!) that everyone will love. The ground beef requires no pre-browning, so you can easily whip up a hearty and delicious crowd pleasing casserole for a crowd or for dinner tonight.
5 star review
“This has become a regular in our dinner rotation. This recipe is also a great way to use up stale chips! We love recipes that provide leftovers for lunch the rest of the week!”– Stacy
About this Crock Pot Taco Casserole
I’m known for easy slow cooker meals, and this slow cooker taco casserole is about as simple (yet flavorful) as they come.
Then, all you have to do is add store bought or homemade red enchilada sauce, black beans, shredded cheese, and your favorite corn chips; cook for a few more minutes, and dinner is ready!
This easy slow cooker recipe with ground beef works equally well as an easy dinner idea, or as an appetizer for a hungry crowd – perfect for game day or large parties.
My favorite part about this taco casserole recipe is that it’s made in the slow cooker, so you can make it without ever turning on the oven — plus it stays warm making it perfect for parties and game day.
If you want to get a jump on prep, be sure to check out my notes, below, for tips on making this recipe ahead, as there are a few tricks you can use to make sure the chips don’t become soggy.
As for serving, I love topping this ground beef slow cooker casserole with sliced avocado, easy guacamole, sour cream, fresh tomato salsa, and a shower of chopped cilantro; but feel free to top it with any and all of your favorites.
Visual Guide: Crock Pot Taco Casserole
Tips for Making Ahead
During testing I found that this recipe really tastes and has the best texture if served right away, making it a perfect taco Tuesday crock pot recipe for dinner tonight!
However, if you want to get a jump on prep, here’s what I recommend:
Make the taco meat only (see Part I in the recipe instructions, below), then cool and store in a container in the fridge or directly in the base of the slow cooker, covered, for up to 3 days.
When you’re ready to serve, reheat the meat on high in the slow cooker for about 30 minutes, or until hot.
Then proceed with instructions for making the taco casserole (Part II in the recipe instructions, below).
While leftovers will not have the same texture as the freshly cooked, this ground beef taco casserole will still taste good, and will last for about 3 days, covered and refrigerated.
Make it Gluten Free & Dairy Free
This recipe is naturally gluten free, though it’s always a good idea to double check individual ingredients for gluten contamination if you’re on a gluten free diet. For dairy free, use a dairy free shredded cheddar cheese.
Key Ingredients & Substitutions
Ground beef: The type of ground beef is up to you, either a 95% lean ground beef or traditional 80% lean ground beef will work. The extra fat from an 80% lean ground beef will lend extra flavor, but if you prefer leaner the long, slow cook time will still yield a delicious, tender result.
Salsa: Salsa is a fantastic convenience ingredient in this recipe. I tested it with a number of different salsas, all of which worked well. However, overall, I preferred a “thick and chunky” style jarred salsa (such as Trader Joe’s, Muir Glen), or a store brand that doesn’t contain added sugar. I found that fresh, refrigerated salsa made the meat a bit too watery, but if that’s all you have, just know you might need to drain off some of the liquid after cooking. Bonus, since the jarred salsa is shelf stable this becomes a wildly easy pantry dinner!
Garlic powder: I like the ease of using granulated garlic powder in this recipe, but if you prefer fresh minced garlic you can substitute 2 minced garlic cloves in its place.
Mild chili powder: The chili powder (along with the garlic powder, smoked paprika, and cumin) is the base for making our own homemade taco seasoning. If you prefer to use a pre-made taco mix, substitute the taco seasoning for the garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder and salt in this recipe. Use hot chili powder if you like things spicy.
Smoked paprika: The smoked paprika lends a smoky flavor that I love, but if you don’t have it regular paprika will work.
Kosher salt: Look for kosher salt with the regular iodized salt at the grocery store (it has a subtler flavor). Use less iodized salt if that’s what you have on hand.
Enchilada sauce: I used my homemade enchilada sauce, but this recipe is also a great way to use store bought red enchilada sauce.
Black beans: Drained and rinsed kidney or pinto beans will also work in this recipe.
Mexican cheese blend: Shredded Mexican cheese blend usually includes sharp cheddar, Colby jack, and Monterey jack cheese. If you can’t find it, feel free to use any shredded cheese blend. For dairy free, use a shredded dairy free cheddar cheese.
Corn tortilla chips: I used sturdy, plain, triangle-shaped tortilla chip for this recipe, but round would also work. I haven’t tested it with other types of chips, such as Fritos or Doritos, but if you give it a try let me know how it goes in the comments.
Tip: The heat level of this taco casserole will depend on the type of salsa, chili powder, and enchilada sauce you use. For a mild casserole, use mild salsa, chili powder and enchilada sauce. For a spicy casserole, use spicy salsa, enchilada sauce, and hot chili powder.
Crock Pot Taco Casserole
For the Taco Meat
- 2 pounds 85/15 lean ground beef
- 1 (15-oz) jar chunky salsa
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon mild chili powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Taco Casserole
- Make the Taco Meat
- Add the ground beef, salsa, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, chili powder and salt to a 6-quart slow cooker. Break the meat apart into small pieces and stir to combine with the other ingredients.
- Cook on high for 2 hours, or low for 4 hours. Do not remove the lid during the cooking process. Remove the lid and drain most of the cooking liquid. Stir the meat to break into small pieces.
- Part II: Make the Taco Casserole
- Add the enchilada sauce, beans, 1 cup cheese, and chips, stirring to combine, being careful not to break the chips too much.
- Top with the remaining ½ cup cheese. Turn the slow cooker to high (if not already) cover, and cook for 15-30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
- Serve immediately with additional toppings if desired.