30-Minute Walking Taco Casserole (One-Pan!)
If you’re a fan of walking tacos, you will love this easier version of walking taco casserole that can be made ahead and feeds a crowd with ease. Filled with slightly spiced beef and and topped with crunchy corn chips, this is the perfect 30-minute dish for a weeknight dinner.
5 star review
“I made this for a variation on our traditional Taco Tuesday and it was a hit with the fam (including three teens). The kids rated it a 10/10 and asked me to keep it in the rotation. Super easy, flavorful and easily customizable with the toppings. Love that it’s GF too since we eat gluten free. We used corn chips from Whole Foods that are slightly different than Fritos but it still turned out perfectly. Will definitely make this again!”– Ashley
Visual Guide: How to Make Walking Taco Casserole
Testing Notes from Robyn
And this version fits the bill for easy, quick, and make-ahead – it can be frozen for a future meal or it would be excellent to give to a new mom or someone in need.
Plus, this recipe is a little on the healthier side — think of a lightened up version of Taco Bell!
I focused on keeping the protein high with lean ground beef and adding a healthy dose of fiber with black beans.
And, there’s just enough cheese in there to give it a creamy consistency without being too heavy.
Really, this walking taco bake uses similar ingredients to many of my taco-inspired dishes like crockpot taco casserole and turkey taco skillet, which just shows how the same set of ingredients can be used in so many different ways.
Simplicity and deliciousness at its best!
Origins of Walking Tacos
Walking tacos, also called Frito boats or taco-in-a-bag, are made in a single-serve bag of Frito chips with taco meat and all the taco toppings added on top. They are popular at sporting events, fairs, birthday parties, and other big group events. My version uses many of the common ingredients found in walking tacos, but is made for a crowd.
Walking Taco Casserole Variations & Substitutions
Let your creativity and taste preferences be your guide with this recipe.
My recipe uses ingredients you most likely have on hand and keeps the prep simple, but there is so much you can do with the base recipe if you want!
- No beans: If you don’t like or have black beans (or another bean), you can leave them out. Just add another pound of ground beef.
- Switch up the meat: I use lean ground beef to keep the dish lighter, but you can use any ground beef you like. You could also use ground chicken or turkey.
- Dairy-free version: Use dairy-free cream cheese and shredded cheese.
- No cream cheese: If you don’t have cream cheese, you can leave it out, but the casserole won’t be quite as creamy.
- Use your favorite chip: Walking tacos traditionally use Fritos, but you can use Trader Joe’s Corn Chip Dippers, tortilla chips, or Doritos.
- Add spice: Add a can of diced green chilis to the ground beef mixture to boost the spice level.
- Walking taco salad: This casserole makes a great walking taco casserole! Simply serve the casserole on top of a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and any other toppings you want.
How to Make This Recipe Ahead of Time
As I mentioned, this is a perfect make-ahead dish!
You can freeze it unbaked by simply covering it with plastic wrap and placing it in the freezer.
To cook from frozen, simply add an additional 15 minutes to the cooking time.
If you plan to freeze or refrigerate the unbaked casserole, top with the cheese but not the Fritos as they will get soggy. Add the Fritos right before baking to keep them crisp.
This Recipe Is…
30-Minute Walking Taco Casserole (One-Pan!)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- ½ medium yellow onion, finely diced (½ cup)
- 1 pound 90% lean ground beef
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon mild chili powder
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese
- 2 cups grated Mexican cheese blend
- 2 cups corn chips, such as Fritos
- Diced roma tomatoes, shredded iceberg lettuce, sour cream
- Heat the oven to 375F.
- Heat a large, oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, onion, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Turn the heat to medium high. Add the ground beef, sprinkle with salt, chili powder, garlic, and smoked paprika, stirring to break the meat apart. Cook until browned and no longer pink, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add beans and tomato sauce, then turn the heat to medium low and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, add the cream cheese and 1 cup of cheese, and stir until the cheese is melted.
- Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of cheese and the corn chips over the top to cover evenly.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes until bubbling and the cheese is melted.
- Allow to cool slightly, then serve with toppings of your choice.