Healthy Taco Casserole (20 Minute Meal!)

Healthy Taco Casserole with ground turkey, pinto beans, corn, salsa, and cheese makes a healthy, easy, and filling meal your whole family will love.

This Healthy Taco Casserole couldn’t be easier to make but is one of those meals everyone will go crazy for. It’s got all the elements of a taco but made in one skillet and covered with melted cheese and all your favorite toppings. Serve it wrapped in corn tortillas, over rice, or even with baked chips as a dip.

I’ll be honest, the first time I saw a recipe for taco casserole, I wasn’t convinced. While I love tacos, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about everything being cooked together. But let me tell you – I am converted. This stuff is delicious and you will find yourself eating it right out of the pan.

Traditionally speaking, taco casserole is made with ground beef and a mountain of unhealthy toppings. To make this a healthier, more everyday option – we used all the same elements, just lightened up. Instead of beef, the base for this recipe is 99% lean ground turkey.

To that, you add onions, poblano peppers, pinto beans, corn, and salsa. Yum. Then instead of covering in a mountain of cheese, we use just enough to get a delicious cheesy topping.

Then you get to make this your own by piling on all the best taco toppings. Go super light and just use chopped lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and avocado. Add some crunch with some baked tortilla chips. Or since this recipe is pretty healthy, indulge with a small topping of crispy tortilla chips, Fritos, or Doritos.

Eat it as a meal over rice, serve it as a dip at a party, or use it as a taco filling. No matter how you serve it, this will become part of the regular rotation.

Why You’ll Love This Easy Taco Casserole

  • Twenty Minute Meal: This meal is so easy to throw together and is ready in 20 minutes with simple, easy-to-find ingredients. It is the definition of an easy, weeknight dinner.
  • Packed with Protein: With 46 grams of protein per serving, this meal is great for anyone looking to eat more protein. It’s also packed with 5 grams of fiber per serving a lots of veggies.
  • One Pan Meal: This whole meal is cooked in a single skillet for easy clean-up!

Looking for more amazing taco recipes? Try these Steak Tacos, Pork Tacos, or Fish Tacos.

Ingredients and Substitutions

Here is everything you need to make this easy taco casserole recipe.

  • Ground meat: To keep things light and healthy, I like to make this with 99% lean ground turkey. You could also swap in ground beef or ground chicken. This is also delicious with cooked, shredded chicken breast, or skip the meat and double the beans for a vegetarian option.
  • Onion, pepper, and garlic: Build flavor with a combination of diced onion, diced poblano peppers, and garlic. Swap in regular bell peppers if you prefer. For an extra easy option, use frozen peppers and onions and/or frozen minced garlic cubes.
  • Beans: Beans help make this dish super filling. Use any kind of beans you like including pinto beans, black beans, white beans, kidney beans, or refried beans. Skip the beans if you like.
  • Corn: Corn adds some natural sweetness to this casserole. Fresh corn, canned corn, or frozen can all be used.
  • Tomato paste: Tomato paste is a great ingredient to add a rich, tomato flavor to any dish. If you don’t have any on hand, you can skip it.
  • Taco seasoning: Instead of reaching for lots of different spices, taco seasoning is an easy way to add that Tex-Mex flavor with one spice blend. It contains chili powder, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, salt, and pepper.
  • Salsa: Make sure to choose a thick and chunky salsa or the taco casserole will come out too liquidy. Swap in canned diced tomatoes or Rotel tomatoes.
  • Cheese: Use any type of cheese you like for this recipe including cheddar cheese, a Mexican cheese blend, Monterey Jack cheese, pepper jack, or skip the cheese for a dairy-free option.
  • Toppings: Fresh cilantro is a must in our house to add some freshness to this casserole. We also love adding shredded lettuce, jalapenos, black olives, green onions, sour cream, avocado, diced tomatoes (or pico de gallo), or crunchy tortilla chips.

Ground turkey, pinto beans, corn, tomatoes, and taco seasoning in a skillet for taco casserole.

How to Make Skillet Taco Casserole

Make this quick and easy taco casserole right in your skillet. One pan dinner for the win!

1. Brown the turkey and veggies

Start by heating a large, oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey and cook, breaking it up as it cooks for 3-4 minutes.

Add the diced onions, peppers, and garlic. Continue to cook for 3-4 minutes until the turkey is fully cooked and the onions and peppers are softening.

2. Add beans, corn, and seasoning

Add the drained beans, corn, tomato paste, and taco seasoning to the skillet. Give everything a really good stir and cook for about 2 minutes until everything is well combined. Taste the mixture and adjust the flavor as needed.

Then add the thick and chunky salsa (or drained diced tomatoes). Taste again and season with salt and pepper as needed. Some taco seasoning is very salty, so don’t add salt until you have tasted the taco mixture.

3. Melt the cheese and add toppings

Add a layer of shredded cheese on top and place the entire skillet in a preheated oven until the cheese is melted, bubbling, and slightly golden brown.

You can also melt the cheese on the stove top by covering the skillet for about 5 minutes, it just won’t get that golden brown, slightly crispy texture.

Let the casserole rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Add all your favorite toppings and enjoy.

Healthy taco casserole with ground turkey and pinto beans being scooped up in a spoon.

Make a Traditional Baked Taco Casserole (With or Without rice)

The main difference between this recipe and a more classic taco casserole recipe is that everything is cooked in a skillet. Normally casseroles are made in the oven and many have things like rice, corn tortillas, or tortilla chips to make it a little heartier.

Here are some ways to turn this into a more traditional casserole.

  1. Start by sauteing the onions, peppers, and garlic until it is soft. Add the turkey and brown it. Mix in the taco seasoning.
  2. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Start with your casserole base. This can be a layer of cooked brown rice, white rice, or quinoa. For a low-carb option, use a layer of cauliflower rice or spaghetti squash. For something more indulgent, add a layer of slightly crumbled tortilla chips. You could also add a layer of corn tortillas cut into triangles.
  4. Mix the turkey mixture you already cooked with the beans, corn, salsa, and tomato paste. Make this the second layer of your casserole.
  5. Add the cheese on top.
  6. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until the sides begin to bubble. Remove the foil and cook for 10 more minutes until the cheese is bubbling.
  7. Let cool for 5-10 minutes. Add all your favorite toppings and serve.

How to Serve Healthy Taco Casserole: Best Toppings!

Taco casserole has a long history and almost all of it involves a boatload of fun toppings to bring this dish to life. Here are some popular choices.

Note – these aren’t all healthy options. One more fun idea, make the casserole and set up a toppings bar for everyone to build their own.

  • Lettuce: A layer of freshly chopped lettuce adds some nice crunch and breaks up the heaviness of the rest of the dish.
  • Tomatoes: Another great chopped element is fresh tomatoes. They add some sweetness and tang.
  • Avocado or guacamole: It’s hard for me to eat a taco without avocado so always add some chopped avocado or dollops of guacamole.
  • Diced fresh jalapenos: For some extra heat, serve finely diced jalapenos on top or on the side. Leave in the seeds for extra heat.
  • Black olives: For a salty element that will make you think of nachos, add some sliced black olives.
  • Red onions: For some crunch, add some diced red onions.
  • Sour cream or Greek yogurt: For a creamy element, add dollops of light sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.
  • Baked or regular tortilla chips: For crunch, serve crumbled tortilla chips with the casserole. It can be used as a topping for a pile of baked chips, as a dip, or just crumbled on top.
  • Fritos: Although not the healthiest option, many people love to serve this with crunchy, salty Fritos.
  • Doritos: Crumble just a few on top for an indulgent treat in moderation. You can also look for baked Doritos.

Popular Recipe Variations

Here are some of the most common variations of this casserole.

  • Add rice: Just grab a couple of cups of cooked rice (or frozen for a shortcut) and stir it right in with the beans and corn. Cooked quinoa will work as well. If you add rice, you will get 6-8 servings out of this recipe.
  • Use ground beef: Ground beef will work great in this recipe. Look for lean ground beef to keep the recipe healthier, like a 93% or 95% lean option. Drain off the extra fat after browning the beef.
  • Vegetarian: Double the beans in this recipe to make a vegetarian version.

How to Make Homemade Taco Seasoning

Instead of grabbing a packaged taco seasoning that is full of preservatives, make your own at home. Here is an easy recipe for taco seasoning.

  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 tsp onion powder
  • 3/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Leftovers, Storage, and Freezing

This dish freezes well. Simply store it in an airtight container in the freezer. Let it defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat in the oven or microwave.

Consider freezing it without the cheese if you plan on freezing it. Then add the cheese when reheating.

Side Dish Ideas

Since this dish can be on the heavy side, I like to serve it with light options like a big green salad or roasted vegetables. You can also turn this into a taco filling and serve it with warmed-up corn tortillas or lettuce wraps.

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