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 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 build your own adventure with the 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, use it as a taco filling. No matter how you serve it, this will become part of the regular rotation.
How to Serve Healthy Taco Casserole
Taco casserole has a long history and almost all of it involves a boatload of fun toppings to really 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 you 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 healthy, many people love to serve this with crunchy, salty Fritos.
- Doritos: Another unhealthy option - Doritos. Crumble just a few on top for an indulgent treat in moderation. You can also look for baked Doritos.
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.
- Start by sauteing the onions, peppers, and garlic until it is soft. Add the turkey and brown it. Mix in the taco seasoning.
- Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.
- 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 or slightly crumbled tortilla chips. You could also add a layer of corn tortillas cut into triangles.
- Mix the turkey mixture you already cooked with the beans, corn, salsa, and tomato paste. Make this the second layer of your casserole.
- Add the cheese on top.
- Cover 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 cheese it bubbling.
- Let cool for 5-10 minutes. Add all your favorite toppings and serve.
Can I add rice?
Absolutely! 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. For those on Weight Watchers, if you add 2 cups of cooked brown rice to the dish and consider the recipe 6 servings, it will be 4 Smartpoints per serving with the rice.
Can I use ground beef instead of turkey?
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.
Can I bake this casserole in the oven?
This works baked in the oven as well. However, you will need to brown the turkey and cook the onions, peppers, and garlic first. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Then saute the onions and peppers until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the turkey and taco seasoning. Cook until the turkey is no longer pink. Add to a prepared baking dish and stir in the beans, corn, salsa, and tomato paste. Top with cheese. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Open the foil and cook for 10-15 minutes more until casserole is heated through and cheese is melted.
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
Can you freeze taco casserole?
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.
Healthy Taco Casserole
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- 1 pound 99% lean ground turkey
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 poblano pepper, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 15 oz. canned pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup canned corn (drained)
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 15 oz salsa (thick and chunky salsa)
- 1 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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