Taco Rice Casserole

A crowd-pleaser if there ever was one, this Taco Rice Casserole will be loved by everyone! This freezer-friendly baked rice dish is made with ground beef, beans, peppers, and salsa and it’s so delicious. It’s optionally dairy-free and customizable based on what toppings you add to it after it’s cooked. Trust us, you’re going to want to make this one.

Taco Rice Casserole

Easy Taco Casserole

As the due date neared for the birth of our baby girl, I planned all the meals to stock the freezer with for after her arrival, and I’m so glad to have this Taco Rice Casserole on-hand now that she is here and my hands are full doing everything but cooking! And let me tell you, homemade casseroles are the perfect freezer-friendly dinner! Unlike the casseroles of the 70’s, modern casseroles can be healthy and nutrient-dense. Plus, they’re simple to make, and so so comforting.

Making this Taco Casserole couldn’t be simpler. I love that it’s made with uncooked rice, so you don’t have to plan ahead, and it’s largely hands-off cooking time. White rice is cooked up with ground beef, bell peppers, beans, salsa and my famous homemade taco seasoning. It is optionally finished off with a bit of cheese, but it’s totally fine to skip it to keep this dairy-free. Top that finished casserole with your favorite taco fixin’s, or if you are like me and have your hands-full, keep it simple and eat it as is!

Easy Taco Casserole in a skillet before baking

Ingredients Needed

  • Ground Beef
  • Onion + Garlic
  • Bell Pepper
  • Canned Black Beans
  • Homemade Taco Seasoning
  • Salt + Pepper
  • Long Grain White Rice
  • Store-Bought Red Salsa 
  • Chicken or Beef Broth
  • Cheddar Cheese (optional)

Casserole Baking Times

With all the casserole testing I’ve been doing, I’ve noticed that the baking time can vary a bit based on what container the casserole is cooked in. Our recipe calls for baking this dish for a range of time between 35 and 45 minutes. When the container we used had good conduction of heat, such as the oven-proof cast iron skillet pictured here, the dish cooked faster. When the dish was baked in a disposable aluminum dish (which is great for storing freezer meals) it took a lot longer, closer to 45 minutes.

We recommend checking the rice at the 35-minute mark to check that the rice is no longer hard. If the rice is al dente, let it cook longer. The rice will continue to cook and absorb liquid for a few more minutes after it has come out of the oven, but you want to ensure it is just nearly cooked all the way before pulling it out of the heat.

Baked taco casserole in a skillet.

Taco Casserole FAQs

Can leftover cooked rice be used?

Technically if you wanted to use cooked rice for this casserole, it would be a different recipe. This recipe is based on the fact that the rice needs to absorb a certain amount of liquid. However, if you wanted to give it a go with cooked rice, you could try to omit the added broth here, and bake for 20-30 minutes until heated through. Though a full discloslure that we have not tried it that way.

Can brown rice be used?

Similarly to the question about cooked rice above, the short answer is no. This amount of liquid and cooking time is based upon the use of uncooked white rice. If you wanted to use brown rice, you’d have to adjust the cooking time and the amount of liquid.

Can the cheese be omitted?

Absolutely! The cheese is added in at the very end and just adds a nice finish to the dish, but it’s fine to leave it off.

Taco Casserole Toppings

We topped ours with fresh diced tomato, cilantro and avocado but the options are limitless for topping this casserole. Here are some more options:

  • Scallions
  • Avocado Slices
  • Diced or Marinated Onions
  • Guacamole
  • Tortilla Chips
  • Shredded Lettuce
  • Sour Cream

A plate of Taco Rice Casserole

How to Freeze Taco Rice Casserole

Casseroles are famously easy to make ahead of time and freeze and this Taco Casserole is no exception. To freeze it, bake it fully without cheese in a freezer-friendly container, according to the instructions in the recipe. Then, let the fully cooked casserole briefly cool at room temperature (remember, without cheese) before cooling completely in the refrigerator. Then wrap tightly in the container with plastic wrap twice and transfer to the freezer.

Once frozen, use within 3-4 months.

Ideally, you’ll need to plan at least 12 hours in advance before you want to reheat the casserole to defrost it properly. Hands down, the best way to defrost food is in the refrigerator, overnight. This is ideal in terms of food safety, but it’s also your best bet in preserving the taste and integrity of the food.

Once the casserole is defrosted add the recommended about of cheese, if desired, loosely cover it with foil and bake at 350ºF, for about 20-30 minutes until the center of the food reaches at least 165ºF.

How to Prepare it As a Gift

Bringing this to somebody as a gift? You can cook the ingredients on the stovetop in any skillet, and then transfer everything to a disposable oven-safe container.

Watch the video here:



If you like this taco-inspired meal, check out these others:

4.9 rating
8 reviews

Taco Rice Casserole

A crowd-pleaser if there ever was one, this Taco Rice Casserole will be loved by everyone! This freezer-friendly baked rice dish is made with ground beef, beans, peppers, and salsa and it's so delicious. It's optionally dairy-free and customizable based on what toppings you add to it after it's cooked. Trust us, you're going to want to make this one.


Prep Time 10 minutes
Yield 4-6
Cook Time 45 minutes

Total Time 55 minutes
Author: Lexi's Clean Kitchen

Ingredients

For serving: 

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Heat oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add onion, pepper and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add ground beef, and continue cooking until no pink remains, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add in the black beans, taco seasoning, salt, pepper, white rice, salsa and chicken broth and stir together until it is completely combined.
  5. Cover the skillet and cook in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, until the rice is no longer hard, and nearly cooked through. Remove from the oven and let the casserole sit, covered for 5 minutes. If using cheese, preheat the broiler. Then, top with cheese, and place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, until melted.
  6. Once ready to serve, top with optional garnishes.

Nutrition

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29 comments
June 28, 2020

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Join The Discussion

29 Responses

  1. As a busy mom of 2 little girls I’m always on the lookout for one pot nutrient dense meals and this looks delicious! Keep them coming please and Lexi, congratulations on your new little girl!

  2. This ones a winner – my husband has been making happy noises the whole time he’s been eating it ??

    I subbed a can of mexican ro-tels for the salsa and upped the seasonings a bit and it’s a winner. Will definitely make again.

  3. Another hit from Lexi + team. Easy, delicious, and large serving size meals lots of yummy leftovers. Thank you for these family friendly, simple meals!

    5.0 rating

  4. Tonight! It is so hot in Florida that even grilling outside is a chore. This looks easy and fast, and I can up the hot factor for my husband with a sauteed jalapeno. The baby is beautiful! Congratulations!

  5. This is one of my favorite recipes! Been making it for a long time. Congrats again, Lexi! Skylar is precious!

    5.0 rating

  6. Thankfully, I recently unintentionally discovered your blog. I got it later book-marked! Thank you so much for this recipe.

  7. This is soooooo good, and so easy to make. We added sour cream when serving, yummy. I’m wondering if there is something I can substitute for the black beans. My husband can’t not handle beans, and he loved this but it really caused him issues. So I’m looking for an alternative to the black beans. Thank you Lexi for another great recipe!

    5.0 rating

    1. Yay! So glad you loved it. You can simply omit the beans next time! Or you can replace with corn or another diced veggie!

  8. This was positively scrumptious! I topped mine with finely shredded cabbage, avocado, and a dollop of sour cream. Definitely a keeper.

    5.0 rating

  9. This was a huge hit and will most likely be in the weekly rotation! I used ground turkey and it worked just fine! YUM YUM YUM!

    5.0 rating

  10. This is such a winner! So simple yet so delicious. We’ve made it at least 3 times so far and we’ve had it as bowls, burritos, tacos, salads. You can do anything with this flavorful meal 🙂

    5.0 rating

    1. Yes, Jackie, but it will need to be started on the stovetop! Then everything can be transferred to the baking dish in step 5 and then baked from there!

  11. This is so good. My hubby likes it a lot. He requests it weekly. I have substituted a can of Rotel for the salsa and it turned out good. If I wanted to use brown rice do you think it would take longer to cook? I guess I could wing it lol.

    5.0 rating

  12. This looks great! If I’m bringing it to a friend after she has her baby, should I cook it on the stove, then transfer it to a disposable aluminum container and bake it that way?

  13. So this recipe, made in a dutch oven, turned out great! Definitely add sour cream and guac. Yum! My main issue is that I tried to make this a second time for a mom friend after she had her baby, and I baked it in an aluminum container with foil on top. It did NOT cook. I was 45 minutes late and ended up dumping the food into a dutch oven to actually finish cooking. The rice was hard. The liquid didn’t absorb. Do not recommend cooking this in a disposable container because it simply did not work. I was so frustrated!!!

    4.0 rating

  14. This is a great recipe, my husband and I loved it! Thank you so much! Just a few cooking observations; if using a cast iron Dutch oven as I did, I would recommend checking doneness at 30 minutes. Also, I didn’t need to put the dish back in the oven to melt the cheese. The residual heat melted it just fine.

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