Walking Taco Casserole is a 30-minute hearty and delicious Tex-Mex meal. Everything you love about classic beef tacos is baked into this kid-friendly Frito casserole! It’s simple to make, and a fun dinner idea for Taco Tuesdays or Cinco de Mayo.
Have you ever been to a county or state fair, and noticed people eating food out of a single serving bag of Fritos or Doritos? Well, they were enjoying walking tacos!
A walking taco is a delicious portable meal that is eaten right from a bag of corn chips. Along with the chips is a serving of taco-seasoned ground beef and usually, diced tomatoes and shredded cheese.
This walking taco bake puts a casserole twist on that fabulous fair food. But the best part of this dish is, there’s plenty of room for extra toppings, and it makes enough to feed six people, not just one!
Why We Love Walking Taco Casserole
- Quick, easy, and fun!
Making this recipe is easy, and if you have kids or grandkids, they can help assemble the layers into the pan.
- Can be made ahead for busy nights.
If your family is constantly on the go, this beef taco bake will save you a lot of time on busy nights.
Make it when you have a few spare minutes. Then, pop it in the freezer (without the chips) and it will keep for up to 4 months!
INGREDIENT Notes + Substitutions
- Lean Ground Beef – To prevent this dish from being greasy, we recommend using a lean blend of hamburger meat.
85/15 is a great choice because there is some fat (which adds flavor), but not so much that the grease soaks into the other casserole ingredients.
- Shredded Mexican Cheese – Because this is a Tex-Mex dish, we use a blend of Mexican cheeses.
Pre-shredded cheese is the most convenient, but if you can afford it, buy a block of cheese and shred it yourself. Freshly shredded cheese melts better than the packaged shreds, and it tastes better, too!
Need other make-ahead dinner ideas?
If you are short on time, set your slow cooker in the morning and come home to a fabulous crock pot chuck roast.
One of our popular freezer meals is chili tater tot casserole. Kids love it!
Or, if you need to feed a crowd, Instant Pot beef stew is a delicious, and it freezes beautifully!
Tips for Making a Fabulous Taco Bake
- Break up the taco meat as it cooks.
If you have big clumps of ground beef in the casserole, you’ll end up with pieces that don’t have enough seasoning.
- Let the mixture simmer until the pan is almost dry.
When you add the canned tomatoes to the skillet, there will be a lot of liquid. Simmer the mixture long enough for that liquid to cook off. This will prevent your taco bake from being wet and runny.
- Don’t be shy with the cheese!
Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over the taco casserole mixture. Scatter the Fritos over the that, then top it off with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese.
- Bake until the filling is bubbly and golden brown.
It’s important to cook your taco bake long enough to melt all of that wonderful cheese.
Kitchen Tools You’ll Need
Walking Taco Casserole FAQ
Unlike a traditional walking taco, which is taco seasoned beef and toppings eaten from a bag of corn chips, both Frito pie and walking taco casserole are baked dishes.
The ingredients are nearly identical, but some versions of Frito pie include a crust.
Use your favorite taco toppings to jazz up the casserole. Good choices are diced avocado, pico de gallo, jalapenos, and sour cream.
Make Ahead Instructions
Fritos (and similar corn tortilla chips) quickly soak up any liquids that are nearby, and then they become mushy.
So, to make the walking taco bake ahead for a freezer meal to bake later, it’s important to assemble the casserole without the chips. Make the recipe up to step 4, as written in the recipe card, below.
Then, a couple of days before you want to cook the meal, transfer the dish to the fridge so it can thaw out.
When it is thawed, add the chips and cheese. Then, cover the dish and bake in a 350°F. oven for 45 minutes, removing the foil for the final 15 minutes of cook time.
Need other Tex-Mex dinner ideas?
Our creamy chicken enchiladas taste fantastic, and are low carb! Serve them with a side of Instant Pot Black Beans.
Another favorite Cinco de Mayo meal is pork carnitas (pulled pork).
Feel free to leave a comment below with any recipe questions. After you make the taco bake, please come back and give the recipe a 5-star rating!
Walking Taco Casserole
- 2 cans (10 ounces) Mild Ro-tel tomatoes drained with 1/2 cup juice reserved (See Notes)
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion chopped
- ¼ teaspoon salt to taste
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 8 ounces Colby Jack cheese, grated
- 2 cups Fritos or other corn chips
- 2 green onions just green portion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup iceberg lettuce shredded
- 1 cup tomatoes chopped or petite diced
- Preheat the oven to 375° F. Mix half of the drained tomatoes and hot sauce together in a bowl, set aside.
- Heat the oil in an 11 – 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the beef and lightly brown, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 8 minutes.
- Stir in the remaining tomatoes and reserved tomato juice. Bring to a simmer and cook until the mixture is thickened and nearly dry, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Smooth down the ground beef with a spatula until level. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese. Scatter the Fritos corn chips over the top, then sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese.
- Bake until the filling is bubbling and the top is spotty brown, about 15 minutes. Let the casserole cool for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with the green onions and lettuce, along with your choice of toppings. Serve.
This post, first published in Dec. 2020, was updated with new content in Feb 2023.