All of your taco favorites combined into one healthy and comforting beef taco casserole! Made with just 10 simple ingredients, this taco casserole recipe is great for a satisfying meal, meal prep, and is also paleo and Whole30 approved!
Who else is a fan of casserole?!
To be honest, I don’t think I really knew what a casserole was until I really started getting into cooking a handful of years ago! I grew up in the northeast and my mom never really made them growing up.
But I now love them! They make a hearty and cozy meal all packed into one big baking dish. So today I’m taking one of our favorite meals (tacos!) and sharing a paleo and Whole30 approved beef taco casserole!
We love this casserole because:
- it’s made from only 10 simple ingredients
- is a good balance of protein, carbs, and fat for a balanced meal
- makes a decent amount so we usually have leftovers and/or is great for meal prep! You can totally double the recipe if you are feeding a larger family though.
- it’s easy to make
How to make taco casserole
The beauty of casseroles is you literally mix all the ingredients together, place them in a large baking dish, and bake until all the flavors are melded together. It usually has some kind of binding agent to help it hold together. This does just that, and you only need less than 10 simple ingredients!
Beef taco casserole ingredients:
- ground beef – I suggest 93/7 or leaner
- yellow onion
- bell peppers
- cherry tomatoes
- sweet potato noodles
- taco seasoning
- salt & pepper
First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a large baking dish.
Next, heat up a large saute pan (it needs to be large), add beef and cook for 3-4 minutes until slightly browned. Then add the onion and 1/2 tablespoon taco seasoning and sauté for 2 more minutes.
Next, add peppers, kale, remaining taco seasoning, and salt and pepper and sauté for 3-4 more minutes. Turn off heat and mix in raw sweet potato noodles and cherry tomatoes. Transfer mixture to the baking dish, leaving behind the grease.
In a small bowl, mix together 1 cup salsa and mayo. Pour over sweet potato and beef mixture, evenly distributing. Use a fork to make sure it is evenly spread throughout the casserole. Top the casserole with the remaining 1/4 cup salsa and bake for 35 minutes until firm and crispy on the top.
Let rest for at least 5 minutes to firm up. Top with your favorite toppings and enjoy! I love topping it with avocado, more salsa, cilantro, and hot sauce, but whatever you like will work!
If you find it a little runny (more on that below), you can eat it out of a bowl!
Can I use different meat?
Yes, any meat will really work! You can substitute ground chicken or ground turkey, which will make the recipe lower in fat. I think even shredded chicken will work just fine. This will save you a step as you won’t have to cook shredded chicken beforehand.
Do I have to use sweet potato noodles?
Others have tried this Whole30 casserole and have used diced or shredded sweet potatoes and it works just the same (check out the comments)! If dicing, make sure they are small enough so they cook through in the oven. You can also use already cooked diced sweet potatoes too.
To make it low carb
To make this taco casserole lower-carb and keto-friendly, swap our sweet potato noodles for zucchini noodles. You will have to be mindful of the water they release when cooking though, as it could make the end result a little more watery than with using sweet potato noodles.
You could also try hearts of palm pasta which would work great!
How to meal prep
Ground beef taco casserole is a great dish to prep ahead of time or meal prep for the week! Depending on how much prep you want to do, you can either meal prep it all or just a few components. Here are a few suggestions for prepping and storage:
- partial prep – first make the beef and veggie mixture and store it in the fridge. I would suggest leaving out the cherry tomatoes until you are ready to bake. Next, mix together the mayo and salsa and store it in a glass jar in the fridge. Then, when you are ready to assemble, just put it in a large glass baking dish, mix everything together, and bake.
- full prep – just follow the directions as written. After it bakes and you let it cool, store it in the fridge for a quick meal during the week.
- storage – allow to completely cool and either cover the dish you baked it in with saran wrap or move to a resealable glass dish. To heat it up, pop it back in the oven or in the microwave until warmed through.
How long with it last in the fridge?
Taco casserole will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge in a tightly sealed glass dish.
Can you freeze beef taco casserole?
Yes! Depending on how you want to serve it, you can freeze two different ways:
- Bake the whole casserole per the instructions and allow it to cool completely. Freeze in the same dish you baked it in. You will need to defrost the whole casserole when you are ready to eat, but makes a great option for an easy meal in advance. To reheat, let defrost and bake in the oven until warmed through.
- Bake it and then cut it into serving portions and freeze them individually. To do this, wrap them individually in foil or saran wrap, or you can freeze them in individual glass containers. Then, just defrost each serving in the fridge when you are ready to eat. To reheat, you can either put it in the microwave for a quick option or bake it in the oven until warmed through.
You can freeze it for up to 3 months.
Tips to avoid a runny casserole
A few factors play into how this casserole will turn out. The goal for it is to stay together and not be runny. You will have a little excess liquid, but don’t want too much.
- To avoid a runny beef taco casserole, try to use chunky salsa. If it has too much liquid, it will transfer over when you bake it. If you can only find a more liquid salsa, add more mayo for a binder.
- Make sure you drain all the liquid/fat from the beef before mixing it with the rest of the ingredients. And I mean all of it! I use a slotted spoon and shook it a little when transferring it over.
- Use a leaner cut of ground beef if you can. I like 93/7 for this recipe. Too much fat will cause too much grease when baking.
Substitutions for beef taco casserole
This taco casserole recipe is super customizable. Here are some substitutions you could try:
- beef – you can use any kind of ground meat you like
- sweet potato noodles – zucchini noodles or hearts of palm will work for a lower carb option
- kale – spinach will work instead
- mayo – I haven’t tried it, but I think greek yogurt would work instead. This will up the protein content as well! If using greek yogurt, the recipe will no longer be Whole30 approved or paleo.
- taco seasoning – honestly, to change up the favors, you can use can seasoning you like!
More healthy casserole recipes
- Buffalo Chicken Casserole
- Ground Turkey Spaghetti Squash Casserole (Paleo/Whole30)
- Jalapeno Popper Chicken Casserole
- Chicken Fajita Casserole
- Sweet Potato Breakfast Casserole (Paleo/Whole30)
Beef Taco Casserole (Paleo/Whole30)
- 1 pound ground beef (I like 93/7 or leaner)
- 1 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced (185 grams/about 1/2 large)
- 2 large bell peppers, diced (400 grams/4 cups)
- 3 packed cups kale, roughly chopped (90 grams)
- 4 packed cups raw sweet potato noodles (300 grams)
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (300 grams)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons taco seasoning (divided)
- 1 1/4 cup salsa, divided
- 1/2 cup mayo
- salt and pepper, to taste
- optional toppings: avocado, cilantro, salsa, hot sauce...
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a large baking dish.
- In a large sauté pan (it needs to be large), add beef and cook for 3-4 minutes until slightly browned. Add onion and 1/2 tablespoon taco seasoning and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add peppers, kale, remaining taco seasoning, and salt and pepper and sauté for 3-4 more minutes.
- Turn off heat and mix in raw sweet potato noodles and cherry tomatoes. Transfer mixture to the baking dish, making sure to leave behind the grease (as much as possible).
- In a small bowl, mix together 1 cup salsa and mayo. Pour over sweet potato and beef mixture, evenly distributing. Use a fork to make sure it is evenly spread throughout the casserole.
- Top with the remaining 1/4 cup salsa, evenly distributing over the casserole, and bake for 35 minutes until firm and crispy on the top. Let rest for 5 minutes to firm up some more. Top with your favorite toppings and enjoy!
Recipe by Kelly Nardo, Eat the Gains | Photography by The Mindful Hapa
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